Thursday, April 06, 2006

Power Girl's Phantom Pregnancy

eu·phe·mism Audio pronunciation of "euphemism" ( P ) Pronunciation Key (yf-mzm)
The act or an example of substituting a mild, indirect, or vague term for one considered harsh, blunt, or offensive: “Euphemisms such as ‘slumber room’... abound in the funeral business” (Jessica Mitford).

In comics (and other pop culture media) we often see a kind of symbolic euphemism; on the good side, allegory is used to address emotive issues by giving them a fantastic context, for example a racial issue might be played out amongst different shaped/coloured alien beings. On the bad side this is used to sugar coat unpleasant things to make them acceptable, thus robots are often used as antagonists that can be safely torn to pieces without any moral questions raised, and female characters can be made pregnant against their will without all the unpleasantness of having them raped.

When Power Girl announces that she thinks she's pregnant in Justice League International #52 it's a bit of a surprise, not least to her.
Over the next year there is very little visible sign of Power Girl's pregnancy (although it's a little hard to tell at times given how dreadful the art gets on occaision) and she continues to wear the same ghastly spandex outfit and get into fights. And then suddenly between JLI #67 (August 94) and Zero Hour #3 (Sept 94) she swells up like a beach ball having an alergic reaction and changes into a polo neck sweater.

Everyone else runs around and hits stuff, and Wonder Woman gets to tell Captain Atom to piss off while she delivers the baby. The only things wrong with this scene being that Diana grew up on an island that had zero population growth and has no experience of dealing with a birth, while Captain Atom explains that he helped deliver his own two children. You'd think she might at least think to get Karen a cushion or something, but the only pictures we see of her between this point and after the birth show her flat on her back on what appears to be a hard shiny floor, with no support of any kind.

And the next we see of her, the baby is born and all the messy stuff has been cleaned up. In fact she only appears for two small panels in the last issue of Zero Hour, and by the time we see her again in the following month's JLA #93 she has regained her figure and the child looks about a year old. The plot then kicks into gear as we meet the villain of this story and Arion shows up and explains that he was responsible for getting Karen up the duff. And I don't care how noble his cause was, or what mystical euphemism is used, getting your granddaughter pregnant without her consent is not okay, and the way it is treated here is pure misogyny (as is most of the storyline, for that matter).

Even under all the fantasy bullshit they can't get away from admitting that Karen has basically been raped by her own grandfather, so they just gloss over it as fast as possible and get back to the fighting.

In fact it gets worse. By the climax of the storyline it is revealed that Karen's entire life has been orchestrated purely to produce Arion's "mystical great grandson". Until this point she has had no true free will as she had simply been programmed for this purpose, her whole life directed by Arion and his mystics.
It is an utterly repellent and misogynistic storyline, written entirely by Gerard Jones (except for the few brief panels in Zero Hour), and in no way enhanced by a variety of terrible artists. I gather it had been written out of continuity even before Crisis 2 erased the whole Arion aspect of Power Girl's backstory. But brushing it under the carpet doesn't mean DC can pretend it never happened.


Sleestak said...

That's worse than the brainwashed Ms Marvel impregnation, where the Avengers really dropped the ball.

The villain admits he mind-controlled Carol Danvers into having sex and they just say "Oh, okay. Have a nice life, Carol."

Chance said...

Bad comic! Bad! Go to your crate!

Ragnell said...

I'd heard rumors the original father waqs going to be Hal Jordan, except they scrapped it when they decided he was going crazy.

Ultimately, it would have been a much less insulting storyline.

Marc Burkhardt said...

Great post Marionette! I had my own Power Girl profile ready to go - complete with commentary on the mystic pregnancy - but I'll bow off in deference to your skillfully written summary. Maybe some other time...

It's amazing how Ms. Marvel's and Power Girl's careers run parallel however. Both were intended to be strong, kick-ass heroines who were mystically raped, depowered and left searching for an identity.

Hopefully both will return to their kick ass mode now that they're being revitalized.

P.S. I'm not sure why certain writers feel its cool to make Wonder Woman look like a know. Just a reminder of how few writers really "get" that character.

Ragnell - Hal Jordan and Kara? Interesting...

Anonymous said...

Jones whole run on the Justice League was just god-awful. The man needed to be loaded into a rocket and fired away from the comics industry. This was just one atrocity among many, and I am so glad it's been evaporated.

Andrew NDB said...

But Wonder Woman DID have experience in delivering babies. See WW #84, not long before Zero Hour.