POWER GIRLMedium: Comic Books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1976
Creators: Gerry Conway (writer), Ric Estrada and Wallace Wood (artists)
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Earth-One and Earth-Two. The former was inhabited by the company's present-day superheroes, while the latter was the abode of the 1940s characters. Power Girl was the first new ongoing character created as a resident of the world where, according to the company's back-story, the superhero proliferation first occurred.
Many characters had separate versions in each plane of existence. In fact, the whole idea of making two in the first place was to explain how the original Flash could be a mere comic book character from the point of view of the more recent one, while not precluding the two having adventures together. Power Girl was the Earth-Two version of Supergirl. She first appeared in All Star Comics #58 (Jan-Feb 1976, which launched a continuation of the 1940s series of that name) as a member of The Super Squad, a newly-formed youth auxiliary of The Justice Society of America. Other charter members of the Squad were The Star-Spangled Kid (a '40s character, but youthened through time travel) and Robin, the now-grown kid sidekick of the Batman who operated in the '40s (postulated to exist so as to avoid credibility problems in regard to the age of the one active "today").
Like Supergirl, Power Girl was the daughter of Zor-El (tho spelled "Zor-L" in in her case) of the planet Krypton, whose brother, Jor-El (Jor-L), was the father of Superman. Like Supergirl, she survived the planet's explosion but arrived on Earth later and younger than Superman (in her case because her rocket took the long way, but was equipped with age-retarding devices). Like Supergirl, she was trained in the superheroing craft by her cousin, the Earth-Two Superman. Like Supergirl, her Kryptonian name was Kara, but she took on an Earth-style name as a secret identity (Linda Lee Danvers for Super, Karen Starr for Power). And like Supergirl, she had all the wonderful abilities of Superman himself.
Power Girl, like The Super Squad itself, was created by the team responsible for that '70s Justice Society revival — writer Gerry Conway (Werewolf by Night, Ms. Marvel), penciller Rick Estrada (Freedom Fighters, Sgt. Rock) and inker Wallace Wood (EC Comics, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents). Wood's inking was very strong, to the point where he generally imposed his style on his pencillers. Since Wood's style included drawing extremely sexy women (e.g., Sally Forth), and since the superhero audience, then as well as now, was strongly skewed toward male adolescents, it's not surprising Power Girl was the most popular character in the group.
This incarnation of All Star Comics lasted only until #74 (Sept-Oct 1978), but by the time it was gone, Power Girl was being tried out for a series of her own. Showcase, the DC title with a long history of testing characters (such as Sea Devils and The Atom) before the publisher committed itself to a series, featured her in its 97th through 99th issues (March through May, 1978). Later that year, tho, DC's management decided it wasn't a good time to launch new titles (in fact, a lot of existing ones were axed), so she didn't move from there into her own comic. To keep her in the public eye, tho, DC featured her in Infinity Inc., a second-generation superhero team, which started in 1984.
Then came the annihilation of Earth-Two. A decision was made that splitting the characters among various "Earths" was confusing to readers, especially younger ones, and that confusing the readers was having a negative impact on comic book sales. In Crisis on Infinite Earths, a 1985-86 crossover series/reboot involving most of DC's characters, the company arranged for a Cosmic Event to consolidate all of its parallel worlds into one. In many areas, this made things more confusing than ever. One of those areas was Power Girl, whose continued popularity dictated she not simply be left behind.
With only one world to fit everything into, and one Superman to be a relative/protegé of, there was no longer room for Power Girl to maintain her old back-story. It was retroactively decided she was a survivor (through time travel) of ancient Atlantis instead of the planet Krypton, and was the granddaughter of Arion, Lord of Atlantis, a minor character DC was running at the time.
Since then, they've put her in a four-issue mini-series, made her a member of a European offshoot of The Justice League of America, returned her to the Justice Society, and guest-starred her all over the place. They can't seem to be consistent about whether she's from Krypton or Atlantis, but that doesn't have any impact on her popularity — which ensures she'll continue to be seen frequently for a long time to come.