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Things in Stargirl only super fans notice

While every superhero show derived from DC Comics delves into its characters' extensive continuities, no show has been more faithful to its source material than Stargirl. Considering that its showrunner, Geoff Johns, is the creator of the show's titular character, this comes as no surprise. However, Stargirl's roots in the DC universe go far beyond the 15-issue run of Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E in which the titular character is introduced. Indeed, the show reaches all the way back to the Golden Age of Comics, with characters from the original Justice Society of America, the Injustice Society, and the Seven Soldiers of Victory

Stargirl is a love letter to its own comics, as well as many others — particularly those written by Roy Thomas. Thomas, who has long championed Golden Age characters, revived a vast variety of these classic characters, teams, and entities. Johns embraced this tradition, both with regard to Courtney Whitmore's own journey, and in his later revival of the Justice Society of America. In Stargirl, he takes this concepts to another level, and does it in a way that rewards long-time fans, as well as new viewers. While anyone can enjoy Stargirl, it boasts many Easter eggs, emotional tributes, and direct references to comics that only super fans will recognize. We're here to take a look at those interesting, fun, and enlightening details.

Now playing in Blue Valley

Here's a running gag in Stargirl you might not have noticed: All of the movies playing in Blue Valley are related to the DC universe. Posters referencing movies called G.I. Robot, Prez, and The Unknown Soldier are most clearly displayed. G.I. Robot refers to a number of different robots who have fought for the United States throughout DC history, including Joe, J.A.K.E., and Mac. Prez Rickard is a wild '70s creation from Joe Simon and Jerry Grandenetti. He's a normal teen who gets elected president, in defiance of the mobster, Boss Smiley, and various other threats to democracy. The Unknown Soldier is a warrior with a disfigured face, who becomes a deep cover operative for the US in World War II. 

Other movie titles seen in Stargirl go even deeper into the strangest crevasses of DC lore: A Killer Calls, The Rita Farr Story, Strange Adventures, Sgt. Rock, and Haunted Tank are among those glimpsed. A Killer Calls refers to Doomsday Clock and its actor character, Carver Colman, while Rita Farr is better known as Elasti-Girl of the Doom Patrol. In the comics, she dies tragically with her teammates. Strange Adventures refers to Adam Strange, the man who splits his time between Earth and the planet Rann. Sgt. Rock is a hard-bitten GI whose Easy Company took on the toughest missions of World War II. Haunted Tank is, of course, a tank possessed by the spirit of Confederate general J.E.B. Stuart.

My friend Jakeem

In an early episode of Stargirl's first season, Mike Dugan makes a comment about wanting to hang out with his friend Jakeem. On Stargirl, there are no throwaway lines, and this one sets up the possibility of Jakeem Thunder appearing in season two. In the comics, Jakeem Thunder is the successor to comedic JSA member Johnny Thunder, an ordinary man who has command over Yz, a nearly omnipotent genie (known as a Thunderbolt) from the fifth dimension. By uttering the phrase "CEI-U" ("see you"), Johnny can summon forth Yz and get him to obey his wishes. Of course, the genie is very literal-minded, so Johnny often finds himself in all sorts of trouble.

Jakeem Williams is given the pen that contains Yz by the Golden Age Flash, Jay Garrick. In order to defeat an evil Thunderbolt, Yz combines with another Thunderbolt named Lkz to create a new creature named Ylzkz. Its activating phrase is "So Cûl," or, "so cool." Jakeem eventually joins the JSA and becomes close friends with Stargirl and Hourman (Rick Tyler).

Given that the Thunderbolt's pen currently resides in a caddy in Courtney's bedroom, don't be surprised if Jakeem wanders in there one day, looking for something to write with. The new JSA will certainly be more interesting with his presence!

Courtney Elizabeth Johns

Geoff Johns' first comic book writing assignment was on a new series called Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E., which he pitched to DC. Johns' concept was a new version of the Golden Age Star-Spangled Kid and Stripesy duo. The pair had always been notable, because the Kid, who is a teen, is the hero, while Stripesy, an adult, is the sidekick. Johns added the additional wrinkle of bringing back the original Stripesy, Pat Dugan, and having his step-daughter Courtney Whitmore become the Star-Spangled Kid against his wishes.

But the story goes deeper than that. Courtney Whitmore is based on Courtney Elizabeth Johns, Geoff's younger sister, who died in a 1996 plane crash at the age of 18. "It is her spirit and optimistic energy that I wanted to put back in the world with Stargirl," Johns has remarked. Johns has spoken highly of his sister's drive, optimism, and kindness, recalling how she went out of her way to defend bullied classmates and push her own limits. Small nods to her brief, brilliant life are all over Stargirl: In addition to the finale being dedicated to her, an altered photo of Courtney Whitmore with Courtney Johns can be seen in the first episode. For her part, Brec Bessinger has said that it's been an honor to play a role based on Johns' sister and help "her light shine on." 

Starman

When Pat Dugan explains the strange nature of the Cosmic Staff to Courtney Whitmore, he notes that Starman, Sylvester Pemberton, didn't create it. The creator was a man named Ted Knight – but doesn't give any more details. Comic fans know, however, that Ted Knight is the original Golden Age Starman and a member of the JSA and the All-Star Squadron. 

Mentioning Ted Knight is important, as it opens up the possibility of him appearing on the show, and perhaps even introducing his sons, David and Jack. James Robinson, a writer for Stargirl, created Jack Knight in 1994. The character enjoyed a long run as a very unconventional Starman throughout the decade. Jack eventually quits being Starman to start a family, and gives the Cosmic Rod (as it is called in the comics) to Courtney. Given how important legacy is as a running theme in Stargirl, Starman's history offers up a true plethora of story ideas for the show to explore. Jack, David, or Ted himself might guide Courtney in the use the Staff — or they might balk at her possession of it. The possibilities are huge.

The next generation

One of the main themes of Stargirl is legacy: The show's intrepid teens step up to claim the mantle of various older members of the JSA. As comic fans will notice, every single member of the new JSA has their roots in the original comics. In the comics, Yolanda Montez is the goddaughter of the original Wildcat, Ted Grant. She takes over for him after he is injured and later joins the legacy superhero team Infinity, Inc. On the show, she acts as a Grant enthusiast.

Rick Tyler is also the son of Rex "Hourman" Tyler in the comics, but unlike his TV counterpart, this Rick grows up with his father. Unfortunately, Rex is addicted to superheroics and the Miraclo that turns him into Hourman. Rick eventually takes on the identity of Hourman to help save Beth Chapel, and goes on to serve with the JSA and Infinity, Inc. 

In the comics, Beth Chapel is the original Dr. Mid-Nite's protégé. She starts adventuring in that guise before her mentor passes away. However, superhero work isn't all she does: She's also a surgeon. The show makes her mom the surgeon instead, while cleverly recreating the relationship between Beth and Charles McNider by way of an AI interface. 

Where have I seen you before?

Eagle-eyed Stargirl fans might have noticed that many of the show's actors have appeared on other superhero shows. Eric "The Gambler" Goins even appeared on another CW show, as he played Dr. Henry Mayfield in an episode of Black Lightning. Christopher James Baker, who plays the intensely psychotic Brainwave, played a significant role in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., portraying an alien hunter named Malachi. He also had a one-off role on Gotham as a janitor hypnotized into becoming a serial killer called the Goat. Lexi Rabe, who had a brief role as a young girl whose father has his mind controlled by the ISA, is best known as Tony Stark's daughter, Morgan, from Avengers: Endgame.

Amy Smart, who plays Courtney's mom Barbara, is best known for her reality-shattering performance in The Butterfly Effect. The voice of Dr. Charles McNider is Henry Thomas, best known for playing Elliott in the classic film E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. Lou Ferrigno Jr., who plays the doomed Rex "Hourman" Tyler, is not only the son of the '70s TV Hulk Lou Ferrigno, he also had a brief role on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

These kinds of connections occur behind the scenes as well. The town of Blue Valley has a distinctly '50s feel to it, so it makes sense that Lea Thompson, star of Back To The Future, directed an episode of Stargirl. James Robinson, who created the Jack Knight version of Starman, has also written two episodes of the show. 

Heartbreaking reunion

Readers who diligently followed Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. took notice when Stargirl introduced Courtney's biological father, Sam Kurtis, who returns to see her. The show cleverly adds a subplot where Courtney thinks she's Starman's daughter, but the reality is the same as it is in the comics: Her father is just a con man, and his interest in reconnecting with Courtney is a ruse. 

Sam wants the locket that Courtney wears every day, with his picture in it. Kurtis knows how valuable it is as part of a set, and he has the other locket already. In both the comics and the show, there's a heart-rending moment where Courtney realizes what's happening. She lets him have the locket, because its real value to her, as a memento of the father she dearly misses, no longer has any meaning. The dialogue and framing of their final scene together in the comics is reproduced with extreme faithfulness on the show, which speaks both to the power of the original source material and the perks of having its original writer as the series showrunner. It remains to be seen if TV Sam will be revealed as a member of the criminal Royal Flush Gang, as he is in the comics.

Golden Age fidelity

The first scene in the first episode of Stargirl indicates to comics fans just how faithful the show is to its Golden Age roots. Most notable is the tragic final battle between the Justice Society and the Injustice Society, and the souped-up Star-Rocket Racer Pat "Stripesy" Dugan drives straight out of the Golden Age. While the show's teens make fun of some of the vintage heroes' and villains' names (especially the Injustice Society), Stargirl is absolutely devoted to paying homage to the smallest details of its source material.

This faithfulness continues throughout the series. Consider the episode where Pat Dugan takes Courtney to the old JSA headquarters — it's a treasure trove of comics references. The portraits of each member are done in the style of Alex Ross. Dr. Mid-Nite's owl Hooty is there, awaiting the return of his master. Jay Garrick's helmet, Alan Scott's power battery, Johnny Thunder's pen, Wildcat's cowl, and Dr. Mid-Nite's goggles and mask are there as well, right out of the comics. The photo of the Seven Soldiers of Victory also has a Golden Age feel, as characters like the Crimson Avenger and Wing, Green Arrow and Speedy, Vigilante, and the Shining Knight wear the baggier style of uniform common to Golden Age heroes. 

All about Blue Valley

Stargirl is set in the fictional town of Blue Valley, Nebraska. While this small town is also the setting in the Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. comic, keen readers might remember its much older legacy in DC comics. Blue Valley is the home of Wally West, better known as Kid Flash. After he endures a freakish accident that precisely duplicates the conditions that transformed Barry Allen into the Flash, Wally sets up shop as a teenage hero in his small town. For a California girl like Courtney Whitmore, Blue Valley represents boredom, but in time, she learns to love its throwback charms.

Most of the town scenes on Stargirl are filmed in Dallas, Georgia. It's old-school in the extreme, with diners, clock towers, and old-fashioned theaters. The red brick sidewalks and bustling streets are an important part of the show's aesthetic, providing a contrast between its idyllic 1950s look and the sinister machinations of the members of the Injustice Society. Scenes from Blue Valley High School are filmed in Douglasville, GA, at Douglas County High School

A not so Merry revelation

One of the most heartbreaking moments of Stargirl's first season is when Henry "Brainwave" King reveals to his son that it wasn't Icicle who killed his mom — it was him. Brainwave had married Sylvester "Starman" Pemberton's sister Merry, who had spent time as a superhero herself: She was "Merry, the Girl of 1,000 Gimmicks." On the show, Merry tempered King's sinister tendencies. Her thoughts were so unlike the demented and horrible ideas Henry had on a daily basis, and her  good influence began to rub off on him. Tragically, he killed her as a way of proving himself to Icicle. This revelation permanently severs the relationship between father and son.

Merry is a seriously deep cut character. In the original Golden Age comics, Merry is adopted into Pemberton's family, and takes on her superhero identity when she discovers that her big brother has become the Star-Spangled Kid. She uses gadgets and her own gymnastic ability to fight crime. She also marries Brainwave in the comics, not knowing he's a supervillain. Years later, she interacts with Stargirl as a member of Old Justice, a group of elderly ex-kid superheroes dedicated to preventing young people from making the same mistakes they did and encouraging them to lead normal lives instead. 

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