Okay lads, let’s have another post about one of my favourite female characters. This time we’re leaving behind the pink frills, capes, and generally visually acceptable Jewel Riders and going for the fashion discovery of my twenties thus far: boob windows.
I’ve not always been a fan of ol’ Pee Gee. Chat about not judging books and people by their covers and outward appearances aside, what is there to like about a character who historically has always looked as though she belonged on the front page of a pornographic website?
A lot, when she’s in the hands of the right writers and artists, apparently.
I picked up Power Trip on a whim one day. Beyond Pee Gee’s very special anatomical proportions, I knew little about the character beyond panel extracts I’d seen online, as well as dodgy fan art, and the character’s occasional appearances in Birds of Prey. I knew that I liked Amanda Conner’s artwork, so bit the bullet and reasoned that I could always pass it on to another comics-reading pal if it was atrocious.
As it turned out, the Power Girl drawn by Amanda Conner, and written by the likes of Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and Geoff Jones was one of the most human and sympathetic aliens I’d ever read. The poor girl (or Poor Girl?) was loyal, funny, and oddly very easy to relate to (must be the ‘having breasts and inevitably dealing with idiots’ responses to them’ thing). Both the writers and Conner embrace Power Girl’s (frankly ludicrous) body and costume, and I think that this is where the comic’s success truly lies. The comic’s script is highly self-aware, cheekily drawing readers’ attention to Power Girl’s body at every possible opportunity- there’s no subtlety. However, Conner’s ‘cheesecake’ art style really comes into play, rendering Power Girl’s proportions softer and more comical than her predecessors incarnations of the heroine. Equally, all of the comic’s supporting and background characters are portrayed in the same ‘cheesecake’ style, thus civilians, superheroes and other villains are as scantily clad and toned as Power Girl, and this further removes the otherwise sharper, distancing sexual edge other incarnations of the character have had.
The comic’s plots are also a key strength. Each story arc involves popular geek culture and science fiction, depicting ludicrous villains out to take over Power Girl’s body. In parodying 1960’s science fiction films, elements of the superhero genre, and the geeky ideals popularised by The Big Bang Theory, Johns, Palmiotti and Grey are able to subvert the comic’s traditional male gaze, and- forgive the wording- empower Power Girl. It’s fantastic! I could genuinely bang on about this point for ages, and I have plans for a paper on this very subject because apparently that’s how I roll.
I never, ever expected to like Power Girl. All outward signs suggest that as a feminist reader, I should want to avoid her at all costs. But Power Trip has allowed me to find a place for her on my bookcases, and as a slightly unusual fashion icon. This is easily the best incarnation of the character out there, and I could wax lyrical about how overjoyed I was when Conner and Palmiotti were able to add their Pee Gee into their New 52 Harley Quinn comic. The N52 DCU is a better place for having this character.
Go read the book. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.