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In light of all the discussion about female characters recently, today I bring you the little known story of an all-female team book that was pitched at DC almost two decades before Birds of Prey debuted.
Recently I spoke to the writer who pitched it, former DC editor and writer Jack C. Harris, about the book and team - the Power Squad!
During the Bronze Age, Jack C. Harris became the go-to writer for female characters at DC. In another interview he states:
At one point, and I don’t know why this happened, I was doing every DC super heroine at the time. I was writing Isis, I was writing Batgirl, I was writing Supergirl, I was writing Wonder Woman and I was editing Starfire Those five female characters I was doing. Plus Hawkgirl and Hawkman that I was writing. All at the same time. For some reason I was the guy who writes the female characters. I don’t know how it happened I thought it was kind of cool.
Harris, working with artist Trevor von Eeden, came up with the idea of taking two of the DC’s top tier female characters and combining them with two up and comers. (All four of whom, I’ll note, are in the new 52) The result?
DCWKA: Jack, when did this get pitched?
JCH: I am not too clear on the dates, you’ll have to fill them in. I know it was sometime AFTER the infamous “DC Implosion”, because Vixen was a casualty of that mass cancellation, and BEFORE my departure from in 1982. [Ed. Note: This would be most likely around 1980 also see here for more on Vixen and the DC implosion]
DCWKA. It was interesting to see the idea of teaming up the women - can you talk about how the idea came about?
JCH: If I recall, the first two were obvious: Supergirl and Batgirl. I was playing off of the World’s Finest Comics team of Superman and Batman. As for the other two…see the next answer.
DCWKA: I know you wrote Batgirl so I wasn’t surprised to see her on the team, but how did you come up with the others such as Vixen.
JCH: I had written both Supergirl and Batgirl. Before the “Implosion” happened, I was the editor on Gerry Conway’s creation of Vixen, so I was very involved in her origin. Enchantress was a minor heroine whom I had used as a villain in a few of my Supergirl stories. I liked the mix. I liked the science-based powers of Supergirl and Batgirl, balanced with the supernatural origins of Enchantress and Vixen. I figured they’d have enough combined power to tackle really impressive threats. If you recall, that was the pitch: Power (Batgirl), Power +1 (The Enchantress), Power +2 (Vixen) and Power + Infinity (Supergirl)!
DCWKA: What was the Power Squad’s mission going to be?
JCH: Initially, I thought it would be like an “accidental JLA”, the group brought together by some threat that just happened to have crossed their collective paths. Then, after an initial success, they would depend on each other in times of need, but never actually make the team “official.” The press would give them the name, but they would never consider themselves an actual “team”, per se.
DCWKA: Did you get any feedback on why they passed on it? Who was the editor at the time?
JCH: I don’t recall the reasons the proposal wasn’t picked up. Trevor Von Eeden once said he thought it was due to racism because he was the artist. I don’t know if he was kidding or not, but I don’t agree with him. I really don’t think that had anything to do with it. Perhaps he knows something I don’t, but you’d have to ask him. There was no single ”editor” per se, since such proposals went to the publisher and were discussed by various editors before a joint decision was made.
DCWKA: You said in an interview that you were pegged as the writer of female heroes at one point. Did you see any editorial direction differences when writing stories for female heroes vs. male heroes?
JCH: I didn’t. In fact, when I was writing Wonder Woman, part of the “fantasy” of the character was that she never encountered any gender bias. I remember trying to put the heroines into different occupations. I made Wonder Woman an astronaut, Supergirl a soap opera star and I had Batgirl lose the election so I could give her a different job, but I never got around to it.
DCWKA: If you were doing all female team today who would you put on it?
JCH: Off the top of my head: What about: Wonder Woman, Black Canary, Mary Marvel and, just for an edge, Catwoman?
DCWKA: Given the news about Barbara Gordon in the DC reboot I have to ask — what were your thoughts when DC retired her as Batgirl and disabled her in The Killing Joke? Any thoughts on Barbara coming back as Batgirl?
JCH: I liked the Oracle concept very much. My hope is, that if Barbara Gordon does reemerge as Batgirl, someone else should become the new Oracle…perhaps the Enchantress, who could add magic to the technical network Barbara established….just a thought.
Thanks Jack! I also want to thank Scott Mateo for his help.