With the new show set to debut in May (unless something else changes, always possible these days), I thought this was a good time to do a profile on Stargirl. As with any character that’s been around a while (she debuted in 1999), her history has gone through a lot of changes and can be a bit complex, but I’ll sort it out the best I can.
One note about the importance of the character in the real world. She was created by Geoff Johns, one of the big names at DC Comics. She was based in part on Geoff’s sister, also called Courtney, who died in the crash of TWA Flight 800. So obviously, she means a lot to him, and all the subsequent writers and artists have treated her with some degree of care and respect which has been nice to see.
Her roots actually go back to two, arguably three, different Golden Age characters. One of the odder pairings back in the Golden Age was the Star Spangled Kid and Stripesy. Reversing the usual pattern, the Kid (young millionaire Sylvester Pemberton) was the main hero and Stripesy (adult chauffer Patrick Dugan) was the sidekick. They were part of the loose group known as the Seven Soldiers of Victory. Near the end of the Golden Age, the team fought the powerful Nebula Man, and were scattered in time. Rescued years later by the combined forces of the Justice League and Justice Society, they were brought ahead decades in time. The Kid became a member of the Justice Society, and later used a “cosmic converter belt” that was loosely based on the technology developed by Ted Knight, the original Starman. Stripesy decided he’d had enough and retired from the hero life.
Years later, the Star Spangled Kid changed his name to Skyman, got more powerful tech, and helped found Infinity, Inc, a team he helped lead until his death. Pat, the former Stripesy, inherited Sylvester’s equipment and tinkered with new inventions. He also met and married Barbara Whitmore. The two moved from Los Angeles to Blue Valley, Nebraska (childhood home of Wally West, the first Kid-Flash and later Flash), a very rural town. This move didn’t sit well with Barbara’s teenaged daughter, Courtney Elizabeth Whitmore. She didn’t like Pat, didn’t want to leave LA, and hated Blue Valley. Bored out of her mind, she began rummaging through Pat’s stuff, and found the late Kid’s costume and gear. Modifying the costume, she began a career as the second Star Spangled Kid, mostly to annoy Pat, who created the robotic exo-suit STRIPE to do his best to keep her out of trouble.
Courtney surprised everyone by growing in to the role, herself most of all. She joined the Justice Society in one of its later incarnations, meeting many legendary heroes. Among them was Jack Knight, the most recent Starman, using his father’s cosmic staff. Jack later retired to raise his son, and left the staff to Courtney, who changed her name to Stargirl. She had many adventures with the team, and confronted part of both her own past, and relatives of the heroes whose legacies she carries on. She ended up a sort of ambassador character between the older heroes and some of the new recruits as the JSA kept expanding.
In 2011, DC Comics did a line-wide reboot referred to as the “New 52” among other things. This version of Courtney was a cross between hero and celebrity, and joined one of the several different Justice League teams. Her origin was never really discussed, probably because it was initially rooted so strongly in the Golden Age that the reboot wiped out. Recently, the timeline was restored, and Stargirl was again seen with the JSA. She has been in several cartoons, and even twice in live action before the new show. She is rumored to have a role in the upcoming Black Adam movie.
In all her various incarnations Courtney has never had innate powers. The Star Spangled Kid’s belt enhanced her strength, speed, agility, and stamina and let her fire “shooting stars,” which were ill-defined weapons that were usually more visual effects than actually effective. The cosmic staff of Starman fame lets her fly and perform a series of energy related effects, including blasts, shields, and absorbing energy. Rebellious even before her heroic career, when her mother told her she needed to join activities, Courtney rejected cheerleading for kickboxing, which she was quite talented at.
The tv show version, from what I’ve seen, seems to be a streamlined version of her original history. I suppose we’ll find out next month, barring issues.
Stargirl, uniquely, will air on the DC Universe platform, and then again the following night on the CW.