Stargirl by Geoff Johns (2020)
Reprints Stars and STRIPE #0-14, JSA: All-Stars #4, excerpts from DCU Heroes Secret Files and DCU Villians Secret Files
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Lee Moder
I can remember buying the first issue of Stars and STRIPE when it came out. I was an awkward eighteen-year-old in the summer before college, I cannot believe how much I’ve changed as a person. This comic was on sale at Piggly Wiggly, one of the few stores in my rural American Southeast town that still sold comics. I was excited to get in on the ground floor of a brand new character and especially loved the connection to the Golden Age heroes. Anytime I read a comic that embraces the depth of a universe’s history, I get happy. I kept picking up the title as it came out until I moved off to college and began going down a different path for a while. Eventually, I would come back to the character through Geoff Johns’ JSA run. With the debut of Stargirl’s series on The CW, DC Comics has collected her earliest appearances and repackaged them here.
Courtney Whitmore has just been moved across the country from California to Blue Valley, Nebraska. The place used to be the home of Kid Flash (Wally West). Courtney is furious with her step-dad, Pat, for bringing her family here and tries to find something of interest to do, eventually stumbling upon a huge secret. Pat used to be Stripesy, the sidekick to the World War II-era hero Star-Spangled Kid. Courtney dons the Kid’s Cosmic Belt and gains his powers, which draws the attention of her step-dad and the villainous cabal hiding in Blue Valley. As the new Star-Spangled Kid, Courtney takes on a whole host of new menaces and is joined by Pat, who dons an armored battlesuit named STRIPE.
Geoff Johns created Stargirl as a tribute to his late sister, Courtney, who died on TWA Flight 800 when it exploded in 1996. Because of this, I’ve noticed very few other writers have worked with the character extensively likely out of respect for Johns. While this series isn’t my favorite of her adventures, those happen in the pages of JSA, this is still an example of a rarity in comics these days. This was a series that started without any connection to a well-known legacy. Star-Spangled Kid and Stripesy were not household names, so it was a bit of a risk to launch this book. Geoff Johns was also a new writer to the company but got his foot in the door by working for director Richard Donner (Superman: The Movie). I think it’s very telling that the writer decided to tackle not just a Golden Age hero but one that had little development since the mid-1980s (in the pages of Infinity Inc.) and then introduce a whole new character to hang that legacy on.
Courtney is a great character, she is everything you would want from a teenage heroine. She’s never written in a pandering out of touch manner that happens to so many youthful characters. Courtney is also not written as a mini-adult, a direction that plagues many of the Robins, in my opinion. She is a kid who is interested in kid stuff but also has to handle this massive power that falls into her hands. The book never approaches the quality of Spider-Man in handling that angle, but I really wish Johns had found a way to make Courtney that complex. Maybe given a more extended run, we would have gotten there, but after this series, she was absorbed into Johns’ JSA book, where the rest of her story played out.
Since the New 52 reboot, Stargirl has remained a side character. She was brought back as part of the Justice League of America and the subsequent Justice League United series. Neither of those really stuck, and the events of the title didn’t seem to have much an effect on the overall continuity of the DCU. However, with Johns muddled Doomsday Clock event, it appears that Stargirl and the classic Justice Society is back. It remains to be seen if we will see a continuation of any of the stories from this collection, but I would love to see Courtney back in a solo series.