Our tribute to Americana continues with another star-spangled heroine!
Publisher: DC Comics
Created By: Geoff Johns and Lee Moder
First Appearance: Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. #0 (July 1999)
Courtney Whitmore was none too happy when her mom announced that a) she was marrying her doofy boyfriend Pat Dugan, and b) the whole family was moving from LA (hot!) to Blue Valley, Nebraska (not). Courtney blamed Pat for the move, so when she discovered his secret – namely, that he had been the adult sidekick Stripesy to the deceased teen hero Star-Spangled Kid – she decided to get back at him by stealing the Kid’s Cosmic Converter Belt and wearing it, along with a modified costume, to a school dance. Naturally, bad guys attacked, and Courtney swung into action – and found herself hooked on the superhero lifestyle. Unable to dissuade her, Pat decided to fight crime beside her – and keep an eye on her – in a giant robot suit he called S.T.R.I.P.E.
Courtney soon joined the JSA, and there matured from a bratty kid with braces to a mature, heroic young woman…with braces. After Starman Jack Knight gave her his cosmic staff, she changed her name to Stargirl. While on the JSA, she dated both Atom-Smasher, who was much older than her, and Captain Marvel, who only looked much older than her. She also fought her deadbeat dad, who turned out to have become a hired thug, and when he was killed, acknowledged Pat to be the father she really loved.
As something of a mentor to the other young heroes in the JSA franchise, she split off from the main JSA to form the All-Stars with Power Girl, but that series was recently canceled. With the JSA benched in the new DCU, Courtney’s future is uncertain, but considering her connection to Geoff Johns (see below), it’s unlikely that she’s gone for good.
So What’s So Great About Her?
I first encountered Courtney in her own series, Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E.. Geoff Johns famously based Courtney on his own sister, who died tragically young, and perhaps that’s why Courtney is so appealing. She’s just such a believable kid, even when phrases like “Cosmic Converter Belt” are coming out of her metalmouth.
In fact, maybe it’s those selfsame braces that make her so gosh-darn likeable, or her goofy, Yankee Poodle-inspired costume with its godawful bike shorts. She’s a teenage girl who is trying so, so hard to be cool and coming off like a total goober, and how can you not love that? Even better, she’s a teenage girl who gradually matures and grows out of her gooberhood (though, unfortunately, not her bike shorts), and that’s so rewarding to watch. (Especially for those of us who remember our own bracefaced years. Bike shorts were the least of my problems.
Seeing Courtney as she was ten years ago makes me want to cringe with sympathy and give her a cookie. Seeing Courtney as she is now makes me want to give her a high five and then sit down with her and dish. And surrounded as she is by the most legendary figures in the DCU, Courtney’s very existence is loaded with potential; she’s always portrayed as a teenage girl who will one day be just as legendary. So seeing Courtney as she will be in another ten years will, I’m guessing, also be a joy.
Courtney Whitmore is proof that DC can depict a teenage girl in all her awkward, moody glory, and do it respectfully and well. Three cheers for the red, white, and blue!
Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. #0-14
Starman v2 #80
Justice Society of America v3 #1-50
JSA All-Stars #1-18