Thursday, January 8, 2015

Changes, changes

Soooo.....on your left is the original Power Girl aka Kara Zor El from Earth 2, and on the right is Tanya Spears the new Power Girl.  The internet has been hot today over this, mostly because this week's slate of DC Comics has a last page feature about it.  But the seeds for the switch were planted last fall in World's Finest #23 when Tanya found out about her new abilities moments after Kara went home to Earth 2.  The range of reactions has been somewhat predictable; there are enthusiastic supporters who love the move along with the usual change haters who despise any alteration to any existing character.  The funny thing is that they didn't really change the character.  Kara Zor El is still the same person she's always been with the same blonde hair and ample cleavage, it's just that the moniker she used on Earth 1 is being used by a different person.  This isn't much different than Dick Grayson becoming Nightwing and Jason Todd taking over as Robin.  (Or Tim Drake taking over Todd, or Damian Wayne for Drake, etc).  And Power Girl is a third tier character at best.  She usually has some presence in some DC title but it's not like she's Wonder Woman or even Batgirl.  What she is, and has been for decades, is something else:  major eye candy.  Power Girl was one of a few characters that appear to made for the sole reason of appealing to horny dudes who read comic books.  She doesn't have the detective skills of Batgirl, she isn't the icon of female empowerment like Wonder Woman, and she isn't a sultry, sly manipulator like Catwoman.  She also isn't a super spy type like Black Widow.  She's been an easy on the eyes, super-powered woman with a fun personality.  And some folks are wed to that.

By contrast the new Power Girl is a teenage girl genius, which seems to suggest that there isn't much chance that she's be played up as any kind of gratuitous sex symbol.  Her costume is decidedly different; she wears pants and a jacket vs the skimpy one piece, leg baring outfit that Kara is known for.  And the Kara's infamous "boob window" will not be replicated on Tanya's suit, which makes sense for a teenage character.  This is definitely a nod to a segment of the comic reading audience that is ripe for more representation; more girls and women are reading comics, and that includes women of color.  So we're going to see more characters like Tanya and the new Ms. Marvel and fewer 'thirst trap' kind of depictions like what was done with Starfire when the New 52 kicked off.  Some people are not going to like that, but it's due.  When the original Power Girl was drawn up, the creators admitted later that they kept making her breasts bigger every month to see how long it would take for one of the bigwigs to notice and say something to them about it.  That kind of thinking flew in 1976, but not so much in 2015.  Ultimately, the character will succeed or fail on how well she's written; she's starting off with the Teen Titans but that could all change if she takes off, or if she nosedives.  But it's a cool first step in my book; it will be nice to have a new character that my daughter can look at and see herself.

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