From sidekick to stepdad to sidekick again, the life of Stargirl’s mechanical sidekick is one of comics’ more unusual origins.
Thanks to the Stargirl television series on the CW, Courtney Whitmore’s mechanoid sidekick S.T.R.I.P.E. has gained more attention ever before. However, S.T.R.I.P.E is perhaps one of the weirdest sidekicks in all of comics. Not many teen superheroes like Stargirl have a sidekick, instead they often tend to be a sidekick themselves or part of a team of their peers. Not only does Stargirl have a sidekick of her own, but an adult one at that and not just any adult either — her stepfather Pat Dugan.
Dugan began his superhero career in Jerry Siegel and Hal Sherman’s Star-Spangled Comics #1 in 1941 as the sidekick to another teen superhero — the Star-Spangled Kid. After helping a young Sylvester Pemberton take down a group of Nazi spies, Dugan became the hero Stripesy to support his new crime-fighting partner. The pair would have many adventures as part of the Seven Soldiers of Victory and the All-Star Squadron.
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Pat Dugan entered the present day through his adventures with the Seven Soldiers of Victory. During their adventures in the ’40s, they were lost in time, with Dugan being stuck in Ancient Egypt until he was rescued by the Justice League of America. Dugan continued helping Pemberton and had a child, Mike, with his wife Maggie Shaw. Dugan’s life changed drastically when Shaw left Dugan, leaving him to raise his son on his own, and the death of Sylvester Pemberton at the hands of the Injustice Society.
Dugan was remarried to Barbara Whitmore, the mother of Courtney, and they settled in Blue Valley. While rummaging through Dugan’s belongings, Courtney found Pemberton’s old Cosmic Converter Belt. Courtney found this as a source of amusement, making fun of the fact her step-father was the only adult sidekick to a teen hero in history.
She found it so amusing that she put on the belt herself and wore the Star-Spangled Kid costume to her school dance to annoy her step-father even more. The pair were attacked by Dragon King’s Minions during the dance, which is when Dugan decided to deploy his new superhero identity — the superpowered armor S.T.R.I.P.E.
In Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. by Geoff Johns and James Robinson, the pair formed a new heroic duo. Courtney as the new Star-Spangled Kid and Dugan leaving the moniker of Stripsey behind for his armored one: S.T.R.I.P.E. (Special Tactics Robotic Integrated Power Enhancer). Dugan built the armor himself, it’s far from his first venture into engineering superhero tech. He also built Sylvester Pemberton’s Star-Rocket Racer as well as the Steel Eagle for the Justice Society of America when he worked with them in a supporting role.
Despite his role as Stargirl’s sidekick, S.T.R.I.P.E. has struck out on his own and supported other heroes in the past. As well as helping the JSA in a support role (a team Courtney was also a part of), he once teamed up with Shazam and Starfire on a mission to retrieve the Spear of Destiny. He also helped Superman ally Steel, with whom he shares an affinity for superpowered armor.
Now however S.T.R.I.P.E. mostly stays out of hero work, with Duggan focusing on family life and raising his young daughter Patricia. He still assists Courtney in her superhero career where he can (notably appearing alongside Stargirl and the JSA in issue 12 of Doomsday Clock) but remains a father first. That is not the case on the CW series, however, where S.T.R.I.P.E. is still very much in action, assisting his stepdaughter and the new teenage JSA as, once again, the sidekick to teen heroes.
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