Radia was created by Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel, and Rod Reis, first appearing in C.O.W.L. #1.
Like several other C.O.W.L. characters, Radia shares similarities with, and presumably is intentionally meant to recall, some classic comics characters. In her case, her powers, uniform, and statuesque “blonde bombshell” beauty are reminiscent of Sue Storm, Saturn Girl, and Jean Grey, among others.
Kathryn grows up in a well-to-do, cultured family, often exposed to the arts in Olympia, Washington. She gains her powers at the age of seven for unknown reasons. Her parents help her adjust to her new reality.
She studies political science in college, and eventually leaves the Seattle area for Chicago, where she joins the Tactical Division of C.O.W.L., the city’s superhero union, in 1958, in order to use her power to help people.
However, while she is one of the more powerful members of the team, she is often left feeling powerless due to the prevalent gender bias of the era.
Major Story Arcs
C.O.W.L. hears that Skylancer, the last member of the super villain group the Chicago Six, is going to kill Alderman Lowe. They show up to stop him. After he tries to escape, Radia grabs him telekinetically. However, he blinds her with a flash grenade, and she starts to fall. Luckily, Blaze grabs her with his own TK abilities. Then, Blaze’s gauntlet is shorted out by a stray blast, and they both fall, with Radia now slowing them both down before they hit the ground. Her colleague Recon then gives her Skylancer’s position in front of her, and she breaks his neck telekinetically, killing him and saving the crowd from his murderous rampage.
Unfortunately, now that the Six is gone, the city believes it has less use for C.O.W.L., and wants to renegotiate its contract with the union.
Union chief Geoffrey Warner later debriefs Kathryn and Arclight about the operation. He’s angry at Arclight for being sloppy, but happy with her performance. Then he wants to speak with her alone, and she has to endure Arclight’s sexist jokes about whether Warner just wants to sleep with her—a rumor she thinks is based in reality. He wants Radia to do a pictorial for Bombshell magazine (a stand-in for Playboy) to show off her new costume. She is frustrated that, despite her ability, she is often just used for publicity purposes: her skills are ignored, and her beauty focused on, because she is a woman.
Later, she and her “himbo” boyfriend, David, go to a ball game. When some fans want an autograph, she’s hesitant, but he pushes her into doing it. Then Alderman Lowe comes up and assumes they’re married, which many people do. He offers her some extra tickets in a good location, and once again she’s about to turn them down when David accepts. He’s clearly in love with her fame as much as he is with her, and doesn’t take her opinions into account; he’s a classic man of the time who assumes his woman will share his opinions, and just wants a man to take care of her.
She goes to do her photo shoot at Bombshell, something she’s very used to. When Arclight shows up to do an interview about the recent fight, she offers to join in, but the interviewer only wants to ask her fluff fashion questions, like whether she uses her power to give her hair extra volume.
Eclipse later sees her, and jokes about why she didn’t use her power to help the team win the ball game. Then he gets serious and says he wants her help to get revenge for his partner Grant Marlow, who was put in the hospital by a thug with super strength. He wasn’t wearing a costume, so his boss (Camden Stone) is out of C.O.W.L. jurisdiction, but Eclipse wants to get back at him anyway. Radia, angry about how she’s been used lately, thinks he wants her to use her beauty to get his guard down, but Eclipse actually just wants her help because of how powerful she is. She’s elated to be respected on her own terms.
They visit Stone’s hangout and rough up him and his men and threaten them, telling them to get out of town, with Radia doing most of the roughing up. She has finally found a context that she can throw her weight around.
She next picks up Eclipse at the strike line—the union has gone on strike during the contract negotiations. The rest of the members are surprised to see the relatively lowly Eclipse with her, a superstar seemingly out of his league. Now when they mess with Stone’s joints, they’re breaking the strike, so they wear ski masks to hide their identity. They break up a gambling house and between them they beat up James Macauley, who has forcefield powers. Eclipse starts to get nervous about breaking the strike, but Kathryn is just hitting her stride, and is excited to have something to do besides pose.
Meanwhile, things get out of hand in multiple ways. An unknown hero blasts City Hall in frustration during a riot on the strike line. Arclight kills C.O.W.L. detective John Pierce due to his plans to tell people about corruption in the union. Warner makes a secret deal with Stone to hire criminals in costumes to once again attack the city, taking the Chicago Six’s place and tricking the city into thinking that they need to accept the union’s contract. When Pierce is killed, Arclight burns “scab” into his forehead, making Eclipse even more nervous about breaking the strike by going after Stone.
Later Radia and Eclipse pick his partner, Marlow, up from the hospital. When Marlow makes a sexist joke at Kathryn’s expense, Eclipse sticks up for her against his partner.
Radia runs into Eclipse a few days later and wants him to join her in roughing up Macauley again, who is still working for Stone. Eclipse finally gets cold feet about the strike and tells her her wants to stop. She’s disappointed in him, but right afterwards Warner calls her in to talk precisely about their activities and to tell her to stop. She stands up to him and walks out, angry.
One of Stone’s new powered costumed criminals, Doppler, kidnaps Alderman Hayes, but due to the strike, no one does anything about it. Her boyfriend, David, tries to set up a romantic evening in the face of all this. He thinks her job is all too stressful, and she should just quit and be his at-home wife. She is horrified at how little he understands her. Instead, she makes another commitment, to herself: on her own, she tracks down Doppler, breaks in, and beats him up, first with her powers and then with her fists. She’s injured, but when people try to help her up, she levitates in the air, saying, “I don’t need your help! I don’t need anybody’s help! I’m a superhero, dammit!” She has accomplished what no one else was willing to do, and can stand on her own.
Unfortunately, while the public thinks of her actions as heroic, Warner is beyond angry for breaking the strike—and for stopping the villain that he secretly coordinated. Now that Doppler is stopped, there is less pressure on the city to resolve their contract. When he visits her in the hospital, she is proud of what she’s done, but he threatens to give her name and costume to someone else. Then he goes out and, lying, tells the press that he told her to save the alderman, to save face for the union. Later, he meets with Stone, who says Warner has to kill Radia for what she’s done. Warner reluctantly agrees, but puts it off.
The city eventually agrees to the contract that the union wants, but both Eclipse and Radia quit due to their frustrations with Warner. Eclipse apologizes about how he got cold feet on Stone. They soon open a private detective agency together, both seemingly happy to be working with someone who respects them.
Warner ends up killing Stone to keep him from talking about their deal, and so he doesn’t have to kill Radia.
Powers & Abilities
Radia is a telekinetic. She has fairly fine control of her abilities. For instance, she was able to break Skylancer’s neck while blind, even though he was in a crowd of people, after she was told that he was exactly 51’ away from her in a certain direction.
She is fairly creative in the use of her power. For instance, she has shot dice through the body of an opponent like bullets, stuck people to the ceiling by pinning them “down” with chairs, and deflected raindrops from falling on her head.
She often uses her telekinesis to fly.
The upper limit to what she can lift through her powers in unknown. She tends to move objects that are human-scale or smaller, but there's no indication that that is her actual limit.
Radio is also an effective hand to hand combatant, able to take down Doppler largely by hand.