The Many Faces of Stargirl The Many Faces of Stargirl
Russ Dimino looks at the various media incarnations of Stargirl, including cartoons and TV series. The Many Faces of Stargirl

While teens and tweens are usually relegated to sidekick status in the superhero business, one youthful heroine has proven she can run with some larger-than-life living legends. Courtney Whitmore, better known as Stargirl, is a card-carrying member of the Justice Society of America, a team whose ranks tend to include seasoned superheroes who date back to the Golden Age. She may not have the brand recognition that comes with having an S-shield or bat emblem on her chest, but with a new show about to debut on DC Universe and the CW, this young hero just might be on the verge of becoming a household name.

Courtney Whitmore first appeared in “Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E.” #0 in July 1999 – although she wasn’t known as Stargirl just yet! Courtney began her superhero career as the second Star-Spangled Kid, an identity she initially took up to annoy her stepfather, Pat Dugan. Dugan had once been known as Stripesy, sidekick to the original Star-Spangled Kid, Sylvester Pemberton. With Courtney adamant about taking up Sylvester’s mantle, Dugan built a robotic super-suit known as S.T.R.I.P.E. (Special Tactics Robotic Integrated Power Enhancer) so he could protect her. Courtney would go on to join the Justice Society of America, and inherit the cosmic staff that once belonged to Starman Jack Knight. This essentially makes Courtney the successor to two star-themed heroes. In “JSA: All Stars” #4 in 2003, Courtney officially began using the name Stargirl.

In the animated “Justice League Unlimited,” Stargirl and S.T.R.I.P.E. made about a dozen or so appearances throughout the series, although most of them were non-speaking cameos during large group fight scenes. Notable episodes where Stargirl had a more prominent role include “Chaos at the Earth’s Core” and “Patriot Act,” which aired in 2005 and 2006 respectively. Giselle Loren provided the voice of Stargirl in both of these episodes. Phil LaMarr, who voiced Green Lantern John Stewart on the show, pulled uncredited double-duty and voiced S.T.R.I.P.E. as well.

Stargirl made her first live-action appearance in February 2010, when “Smallville” aired the special two-hour episode “Absolute Justice” in the show’s ninth season. In this episode, Clark, Chloe, and Oliver Queen investigate the murders of several members of a secret group of forgotten heroes known as the Justice Society. They meet Courtney Whitmore, a.k.a. Stargirl, who is the successor of the fallen Sylvester Pemberton. At one point Courtney recounts her origin to Chloe, and it’s almost beat for beat from the comic, right down to the detail about putting on the costume to annoy her stepfather. It should come as little surprise that Stargirl is adapted very faithfully here; the episode was written by Geoff Johns, who created the comic book character. Courtney was played by Britt Irvin. Britt reprised the role in the episode “Salvation” later that season, and “Icarus” and “Prophecy” in season 10.

The next time we would see Stargirl would be another animated appearance, when she showed up on “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” in the pre-credits teaser of the season two episode “Cry Freedom Fighters!” Stargirl attempts to summon Batman to help her defeat Mantis, and is dismayed when “the knockoff version of the Blue Beetle” shows up instead. Stargirl is voiced here by Hope Levy.

Stargirl would also appear in several episodes of the animated “Justice League Action” and its follow-up web series “Justice League Action Shorts.” Notable episodes featuring Stargirl include “Field Trip,” “Mxy’s Mix-Up,” and “Supernatural Adventures in Babysitting.” Stargirl was voiced by Natalie Lander, who had previously voiced the character in the multiplayer online video game “Infinite Crisis.”

Stargirl would appear in live action again on “Legends of Tomorrow,” in the show’s second season in 2016 – 2017. In the closing minutes of the season two premiere, “Out of Time,” the Waverider crew find themselves face to face with the Justice Society of America in 1942. Among the members of the JSA is Stargirl, played here by Sarah Grey. Though this initial appearance was essentially a quick cameo, Stargirl and her fellow JSA members have a larger presence in the following episode, titled, appropriately, “The Justice Society of America.” Later in season two a time-displaced Stargirl shows up in Camelot, guarding a piece of the Spear of Destiny in the episode “Camelot/3000.”

Although this was never overtly called out, it seems as though a version of Stargirl was killed off at the start of the “Elseworlds” crossover that ran through the various superhero shows on the CW in 2018. In the teaser that kicked off the crossover, the body of someone who sure looks a lot like Stargirl can be seen on the battlefield with many other fallen heroes. Was this the Britt Irvin version, the Sarah Grey version, or some other incarnation? Only the Monitor knows for sure.

A decidedly different take on the character showed up on the animated “Young Justice: Outsiders” in 2019. This time out Courtney Whitmore isn’t a superhero, but rather a television personality who hosts a pop-culture TV show called “Star Girl.” She is voiced by DC Daily host Whitney Moore, whose name seems only too perfect for playing Courtney Whitmore. Ms. Moore is also the host of a “Bringing Back Young Justice” special on the DC Universe streaming platform.

Viewers got their first glimpse at the latest version of Stargirl in early 2020, in the closing minutes of the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover. As Oliver Queen’s Spectre narrated the rebirth of the multiverse, Stargirl appears with the massive S.T.R.I.P.E. stomping into view behind her. They are surrounded by young versions of Doctor Mid-Nite, Hourman, and Wildcat on the newly-formed Earth 2.

This Post-Crisis cameo is a lead-in to the new series, “Stargirl,” on DC Universe and the CW. Brec Bassinger stars as Courtney Whitmore/Stargirl. Taking place at the start of her superheroing career, this version is even younger than the ones we saw on “Smallville” and “Legends of Tomorrow,” with Courtney still in high school here. Luke Wilson plays Courtney’s stepfather, Pat Dugan, who pilots S.T.R.I.P.E. – the first version where we’ve seen the giant robo-suit in live action. In an effort to simplify Stargirl’s origin a bit, the show seems to have combined Starman and the Star-Spangled Kid into a single character, played by Joel McHale. “Stargirl” will debut on DC Universe on May 18 and will air on the CW the following day.

As Clark tells Courtney in “Absolute Justice” when discussing the failing of the heroes that came before them: “It’s up to you to make it right. You’re the next generation.” That may be the true appeal of Stargirl, and the aspiration that lies in the hearts of so many. The responsibility of not only carrying the torch of those who came before you, but the hope that maybe you can find a way to do just a little bit better.

Visit StargirlTV.com for more on Stargirl and don’t miss the SERIES PREMIERE May 18 on DC Universe and May 19 on The CW!

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Russ Dimino