Thursday, May 04, 2006

Who Is Linda Danvers?

While D.C. isn't printing Wonder Woman, I thought I would instead take this moment to talk about Supergirl (and, of course, to prompt women to send us pictures of themselves dressed as Supergirl). The problem with this is that different people mean different things at different times when they refer to "Supergirl." Most people don't even seem to be aware that there was more than one Supergirl, let alone the endless stream of Supergirls and the magnificent, limitless wellspring of insanity that is their origin stories. So I have prepared this handy reference guide to the Supergirls.

Supergirl (1944)
A.K.A. NotAppearingInAnyComicsGirl

D.C. copyrighted the name "Supergirl" in 1944, knowing that her appearance would be inevitable. I mean, it's such a brilliant, innovative idea - someone who's like Superman, but a girl!

You mean like Wonder Woman?

No, even more like a girl Superman!

They didn't take any chances with this. It took them almost 15 years to create a character worthy of wearing the Superman costume with a little skirt over it. Actually, after seeing what they came up with, maybe they should have worked on it a little longer...

Super-Girl (1958)
A.K.A. The Girl Of Steel
A.K.A. Who?



Super-Girl's first and only appearance was in Superman No. 123, in a story called, "The Girl of Steel." It was written by
Otto Binder, creator of Captain Marvel (right) and, more importantly, Mary Marvel (right), so there was nobody more qualified than Otto to create a female character who was just like an existing superhero.

The story goes that Superman was saving flood victims while reporters [Superman's Girfriend] Lois Lane and [Superman's Pal] Jimmy Olson watched from a helicopter. Lois, being the daring woman that she is, decided to get a first-hand look at the flood by jumping out of the helicopter. One could only imagine the kind of insight and perspective on the flood she could gain by jumping into it. I can see the headline now: "It's really wet. And cold." Naturally, her parachute didn't open, but, at this point, it's a wonder she even bothered to pack a parachute. She knew Superman was going to catch her. She used this opportunity to talk to Superman about when they would get married, but Superman told her that it would take some sort of Super-Girl to keep up with him, which is funny, because that's exactly what I usually say whenever my girlfriend brings up the subject of marriage.

One of the flood victims was an archaeologist who, in his gratitude, gave Superman a totem that, according to legend, could grant wishes. Superman gave the totem to Jimmy, who wished that there really was a Super-Girl, and almost as if it were some sort of lazy writer's convenient plot device, a Super-Girl appeared. Super-Girl tried to help Superman in his crime-fighting, but she just ended up getting in the way or messing things up, the way one would assume women always do when they try to do a man's job. She even gave away Superman's secret identity as Clark Kent to Lois, because she didn't know it was supposed to be a secret.

After a few pages of misadventures and self-pity, Super-Girl's career came to a tragic end. Superman was saving a train by holding the track over his head, when some criminals who just happened to be passing by in their plane and who just happened to have a large chunk of kryptonite (Superman's weakness) handy, dropped the kryptonite on him. Super-Girl flew in and grabbed the kryptonite, telling Superman that, since she wasn't from Krypton, she wasn't affected by its radiation. Once she was far enough away from Superman, she revealed to Jimmy that she was lying about the kryptonite not affecting her, and that she was actually dying. Jimmy could have revealed to her that once she had grabbed the kryptonite, she didn't have to keep holding onto it - she could have thrown it away or given it to a human to dispose of it - but he decided that she had suffered enough and merely wished her out of existence.

The best part of the story, though, came after Super-Girl's death. Clark Kent proposed to Lois Lane. Lois rejected his proposal, because she knew that if he were really Superman, he wouldn't propose to her, because he knew that she knew that he was Superman, and so he would know that she would accept the proposal. So Clark Kent couldn't possibly be Superman. Get it?

Supergirl (1959)
A.K.A. Linda Lee
A.K.A. Kara Zor-El
A.K.A. The Supergirl From Krypton
A.K.A. Superman's Secret Weapon


A year after the rousing success of Super-Girl, Otto Binder decided that the public was ready for a female counterpart to Superman who would live longer than 8 pages. This was the best known and best liked Supergirl (by everyone except me). Miss Linda Lee had all of the powers that Superman had, plus the power to love Lou Reed by the hour.

Kara Zor-El was from Krypton, the same planet that Superman originally came from. At the time Superman (then known on Krypton as Kal-El) was born, Krypton was on the brink of destruction. His father, a scientist named Jor-El (star of A Streetcar Named Desi-Ar), foresaw the planet's end and tried to warn the other Kryptonians, but they did not believe him. So, in his spare time, he built a small rocket capable of transporting the baby Kal-El off of the doomed planet to the planet Earth where he would be able to live.

Earth had lower gravity than Krypton, so Kal-El found that he was capable of incredible feats that the Kryptonians could not do on Krypton. He could leap tall buildings in a single bound, the way humans can jump really high in low gravity conditions. He could lift great weights, because things weigh less in lower gravity. He could run at super speeds, the way astronauts moved superfast on the moon. He had X-ray vision, because it's a damn comic book and maybe you shouldn't be thinking too much about this.

Some chunks of Krypton that had been irradiated by the explosion that destroyed Krypton landed on Earth. These radioactive rocks were called "kryptonite." Although humans felt no ill effects from exposure to kryptonite, chunks of his home planet were deadly to Superman, the way humans might die if they eat rocks and dirt, and, judging from all the times that Superman had been exposed to Kryptonite, it worked about as quickly.


Superman was taken aback when Kara's spaceship crashed to Earth. Of course, this wasn't the first time Superman had seen a flying girl (see left and right), but the sight was still shocking enough to make him shout out something embarrassingly stupid like, "Great guns!" I should explain that when surprised, sometimes people swear by what they hold sacred - "Jesus fucking Christ!" for instance. Wonder Woman would often swear by her heathen gods - "Great Hera!" or "Merciful Minerva!" Superman was not such a religious man. The only thing he truly believed in was his NRA membership.

It turns out that Superman wasn't the only survivor of Krypton. When Krypton exploded, a whole city remained intact. The residents of Argo City created an artificial atmosphere somehow and a food machine so that they would have been able to continue living there, except that the ground below the city had been irradiated by the explosion that destroyed Krypton. Jor-El's brother Zor-El, who was also a scientist, had the idea to cover the whole planetoid in lead to protect them from the radiation, because, as we all know, covering things in lead makes them perfectly safe.

On this precarious rock in space, Zor-El's daughter Kara was born. Everything was fine until a meteor shower punched holes through Argo's leaden surface, exposing the people to the kryptonite radiation. You might think that they would set to work repairing the lead shield, but Zor-El had a better idea. He would send his daughter away to live on another planet, leaving everyone else to die horribly. Zor-El was a bit of a dick. Looking through the Super Space Telescope, Kara found the planet Earth, where her cousin was already living. While Kara's mother made her a costume like the one Superman wore, Kara used the Space radio to pick up Earth broadcasts and learn their language. By the time she had to leave, she spoke English remarkably well, considering she had only been studying it for a month.

A year later, in Action Comics No. 262, Supergirl asked why the people on Argo didn't have super-powers, considering Argo had lower gravity than Earth. Superman explained that their super-powers came from the radiation given off by our solar system's yellow sun. The red sun that shone on Krypton didn't have the right radiation to give Kryptonians super-powers. Superman was blatantly changing his story here. He probably had no idea how his powers worked, but figured Kara would believe anything. However, at this point it was 1960, and in the sixties, all superhero origins had to involve radiation in some way. Thus, Supergirl was a pioneer among heroes whose origins can be explained as, "You can't prove that radiation can't do that."

Superman knew that Supergirl could be dangerous, since she had not had any practice using her super-powers. He decided that she would have to stay in an orphanage and live under a false identity until she had mastered her powers and gotten used to Earth customs. She wore a brunette wig to disguise herself and chose the name "Linda Lee." She also had to try to keep herself from becoming adopted, for fear that her foster parents would learn of her secret identity. Supergirl was a little confused and asked, "But Superman... weren't you adopted by an Earth couple who knew of your secret identity?" In response, Superman slapped her and told her never to talk back. This last part never made it to print, though.

Superman told her that the existence of a Supergirl must be kept a secret from the world, but in times of trouble, he might have to make use of her powers. Thus, Supergirl would act as Superman's "secret weapon." He later would tell her that his friends in The Justice League might call on her for blow jobs, which, as The Justice Society had assured Wonder Woman, was standard training for new superheroes. The perky and innocent Kara was fine with her life of anonymity, thinking that by helping people without being seen, she would be like a guardian angel. Yes, that will be important later.



Some people may have noticed that Supergirl chose the name Linda Lee, which has the same initials as Superman's girlfriend Lois Lane, Superman's childhood sweetheart Lana Lang, Superman's mermaid girlfriend from college Lori Lemaris, and the woman who Superman almost marries in the comic from which the above panel was taken Luma Lynai. Superman writers Otto Binder and Jerry Siegel would have you believe that it was all just a coincidence that all of the women in Superman's life have the same initials, but I know better. I think that back in Smallville, Clark used his heat vision to etch "C.K. + L.L. 4-Ever" into a tree trunk. Now, for as long as the tree stands, he can never love anyone whose initials aren't "L.L." or else he would be a liar and no better than the villains who he fights. It sort of makes you wonder about the true nature of his relationship with Lex Luthor. This issue is more thoroughly explored in my series of erotic fan fictions, "Man of Steel, Ass of Kleenex" (with apologies to Larry Niven).

Come to think of it, I apologize to everyone for that last joke.

Lesla-Lar of Kandor (1961)
A.K.A. Supergirl's First Awkward Phase
A.K.A. What the fuck?
A.K.A. No, seriously, what the fuck?


Here is a typical day at the Danvers household:


Here is the same scene on a much less typical day:


I love how proud Lesla is of her own trickery. Like any great subterfuge, it involves layer upon layer of deception:

LAYER 1 - Wearing a brunette wig
As a natural blonde, Lesla had to wear a wig to take Linda's place. It had to be in Linda's hairstyle, too, so as not to arouse suspicion.
LAYER 2 - Eating breakfast
Lesla knew from her intensive study of Earth culture that this is what "humans" customarily do in the morning. She would have to play along with this "breakfast" for her plans to work.
LAYER 3 - Not mentioning to the Danverses that she's really Lesla-Lar of Kandor
Considering that Linda's parents had never heard of Lesla-Lar, nor of Kandor, and that they did not consider it within the realm of possibility that an alien might kidnap their daughter and take her place, you'd think this would be fairly easy. However, we know from Lesla's internal monologue that she's the sort of person who has to constantly remind herself of who she is. She would have to be careful about this.

I'm getting ahead of myself. In order to understand Lesla-Lar, you first have to understand Brainiac, and in order to understand Brainiac, you have to have several psychological disorders.


Brainiac's ambition was to rule the world. I don't see why that automatically makes him evil. Hey, Superman, why don't you listen to some of his ideas before you punch him? He might be a really good world leader! Unfortunately, Superman has no time to discuss policy when there are villains to punch, so, like so many would-be world conquerors, we never really find out what Brainiac would do as ruler of the world.

What sets Brainiac apart among supervillains, though, is his admirable perseverance in the face of adversity. For most people, having their entire planet wiped out by some space disease would really put a damper on their world domination plans. Some would consider this problem insurmountable, but not Brainiac. For Brainiac, this was just an opportunity for his diabolical genius to shine through. His two goals became to repopulate his planet and then to conquer it. This would require travelling to other planets, shrinking their cities small enough to fit in bottles, carrying the bottles back to his home world, and restoring them to full size. You may say this plan is insanely convoluted, or vastly impractical, or just really stupid, but I know that deep down you're just jealous that you didn't think of it yourself.

Brainiac's tragic flaw was lack of research. If he had decided to steal Gotham from Earth, he would have gotten away with it. Really, what would Batman have done about it? Instead, he tried to steal Metropolis and Superman escaped from the bottle, restored all of Earth's cities, and even recovered Kandor, a city that Brainiac had taken from Krypton before it was destroyed. Superman kept Kandor in his Fortress of Solitude, right next to his ant farm, and swore he would some day find a way to return them to normal size, which would produce a city of unstoppable, indestructible superhumans, any one of whom could destroy the entire planet in seconds.

Lesla-Lar was one of the people living in the bottled city of Kandor. She watched Supergirl's exploits from her Earth Viewer (which, I guess, allows you to view Earth - it wasn't really explained how it worked without anything transmitting signals into the bottle) in her science laboratory and grew very jealous. After all, Lesla-Lar was a Kryptonian, so she would have the same powers as Supergirl outside of the bottle, plus she was a scientific genius. She even looked like Supergirl! So when Superman was finally going to reveal his cousin's existence to the world, Lesla shot Supergirl with a Kryptonite Ray (a ray made of kryptonite, as portrayed by a green Jamie Foxx) that took away her powers. Thus, Kara was Supergirl no more. Superman had to cancel the announcement, but he did decide that, since she wasn't a superhero any more, she would be allowed to have parents. Wasn't that nice of him? So it was that Linda Lee was adopted by a childless couple, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Danvers.

Then, Lesla started Phase II of her plan. Using her Teleport Ray (capable of transporting things from one place to another, and shrinking or enlarging them - needless to say, it could revolutionize the world of practical jokes!), she transported Linda into the bottle city, where she used the Brain-Wash Helmet (I think you can figure that one out on your own) to convince Linda that she was Lesla, while Lesla took Linda's place on Earth. Disguised as Supergirl, she told Superman that she had gotten her powers back, and Superman once again prepared to unveil Supergirl to the world. Her plan was to give criminal mastermind and fellow scientific genius Lex Luthor instructions to build his own Kryptonite Ray with which he could kill Superman. Then, with Superman out of the way, she would kill Luthor so that the crime couldn't be traced back to her and then she would be the only superperson on Earth.

You may see this as a fairly obviously flawed plan. You may wonder why she didn't just teleport and brain-wash Superman to get rid of him. She probably would have gotten away with killing him with her own Kryptonite Ray. It's not like the Earth authorities are likely to trace the murder back to a bottled city in a fortress hidden somewhere near the North Pole. You may question how wise it is, having recently acquired invulnerability, to entrust someone you know to be devious and disloyal with a weapon capable of killing you. Then again, maybe once you've invented your own Teleport Ray, then you can criticize her plan. She's a genius and her thinking is light years ahead of you. Just deal with it.

Fortunately, Superman's dog Krypto noticed something was amiss. He teleported Linda back to Earth and Lesla back to Kandor using the Teleport Ray that Superman left lying around the Fortress. This is exactly why you should always leave potentially deadly devices in places where your dog can easily reach them - for situations like this. Unfortunately, Linda was still under the effects of the Kryptonite Ray and didn't have any powers. With a heavy heart, she decided to dispose of her costume. While she was doing that, a magical imp named Mr. Mxyzptlk saw this girl with a "Superman" costume and thought it was pretty funny. That gave him the idea to magically grant her super-powers, because it would drive Superman crazy if there was a girl who was as tough as he was. Meanwhile, the police on Kandor arrested Lesla and smashed up her laboratory, so even after Mxyzptlk's magic wore off, Linda kept her super-powers.

So, through a needlessly circuitous series of events, it was finally time to introduce Supergirl to the world.

Supergirl Again (1961)
A.K.A. Linda Lee Danvers

Before the world could find out about Supergirl, she would have to reveal her secret identity to her new parents. Fortunately, she had Superman to explain everything for her. When the revealing-her-secret-identity-to-her-parents scene was replayed in the 90's, it didn't go so smoothly. When Linda said she had something to tell them, at first, they thought she was pregnant. When she assured them that she most certainly wasn't pregnant, they thought she was coming out of the closet. Frustrated, she cried out, Literary historians may recognize this as the greatest line of dialogue in American literature.

With that out of the way, Superman went on television to announce Supergirl and to explain her origin and her powers. Then, they had a parade.


Though they had just learned of her existence, they were all ready to accept that she was "The World's Greatest Heroine." Upon hearing of this, Wonder Woman issued a press release saying, "Up Yours, Metropolis!"

It was in this period that Supergirl got a pet horse named Comet. It was also in this period that Supergirl started dating Comet the Superhorse. There are so many things wrong with that. Actually, now that I think about it, there's only one thing wrong with it, but it's still pretty bad. I sort of see the logic in her having a pet horse - after all, girls love horses. However, I think Jerry Siegel might have missed the fact that they don't want to make out with horses. To be fair, I am aware that Comet was actually a centaur who had been turned into a horse by an evil witch. On the other hand, it's not like centaurs are exactly the same species either. Then again, considering that Kal and Kara were the last remaining kryptonians, technically nobody she ever dated was the same species as her. That's pretty fucked up, too.


Some people find it peculiar how often Supergirl's costume changed during this era, but, personally, I don't see why they make such a big deal every time a superhero changes his clothes. Superman was the worst example of this. His costume was made from indestructible Kryptonian fabric, taken from the blankets he was wrapped in when he came to Earth. It was thoughtful of Kal-El's parents to pack their baby's spacecraft with enough blankets to clothe a grown man with enough left over for a full-length cape, but that meant that he only had one costume that he always wore under his clothes and he could never change it.

In the Superman/Spider-Man crossover, when he faced Dr. Doom, he suddenly fell, drained of power. Unbeknownst to him, Doom had sprayed him days earlier with Doom's specially designed time-release Kryptonite. There are two notable things about this: First is that, by not using just regular Kryptonite, Victor Von Doom was setting himself up for failure. He should know that if you procrastinate killing Superman, Spider-Man or Wonder Woman or the Fantastic Four are just going to come to save him. More importantly, though, it means that Superman never washed his costume.

The real issue behind the changing costumes is that of secret identities, which is especially important among characters who are identified solely by their costumes. People give Superman a lot of shit for expecting nobody to recognize him when he wears glasses. (The glasses, by the way, were made of special Kryptonian glass taken from the spacecraft Superman came to Earth in, because Jor-El knew how important it was that an unpiloted spaceship have a hypnotic windshield.) I don't think it's that strange, especially considering I have a friend who looks just like Ben Affleck, and I never even thought to ask if he secretly was Ben Affleck, let alone set up a complex scheme to prove that they were the same person, even though they have never been photgraphed together. However, I do find it a bit far-fetched that Lois Lane never noticed that Clark Kent had the same overwhelming body odor as Superman.

Power Girl (1976)

A.K.A. Kara Zor-L
A.K.A. The Supergirl of Earth-2
A.K.A. I'm sorry. Were you saying something? I was a bit distracted...
A.K.A. Lady Jugs-A-Plenty


On Earth-2, the alternate reality where the Golden Age stories took place, 30 years had passed since Superman's debut. They had their own older version of Superman and he had a cousin named Kara who nobody knew about, least of all the readers. Superman had kept her existence secret through adulthood. She finally revealed herself to join the Super Squad alongside Robin and The Star-Spangled Kid.


That may be the stupidest name for a group of superheroes I have ever heard, but I think it suits them. Power Girl had all of the powers of her Earth-1 counterpart (Supergirl), but with one power that Supergirl had not yet developed: Giant superhero breasts. You see, comic book artists have a tendency to draw women as if they were smuggling basketballs under their shirts. I never found it that appealing. I sort of have a thing for women who can stand up straight. That's just me. So the message for everyone who liked that they had found a properly proportioned heroine in Supergirl was, "Just wait."

I should also explain the nomenclature. There was some controversy over calling superheroines "girls" when they were clearly adult women. Some said it was demeaning and it belittled the roles of women. It's what led the Invisible Girl of the Fantastic Four to change her name to the Invisible Woman. The same point does not exactly apply to Supergirl. The male Kryptonian was Superman, but the teenage male Kryptonian was Superboy, so the teenage female Kryptonian would be Supergirl. However, the only explanation for Power Girl's name is, "Fuck you, Gloria Steinem!"

Ms. Marvel (1977)
A.K.A. Binary
A.K.A. Rogue, sort of



In 1967, Stan "The Man Who Killed Bucky" Lee introduced Captain Marvel, whose name is very similar (in that it's the same name) to another comic book superhero whose name you might recognize from several paragraphs ago. Otto Binder's Captain Marvel Adventures had been out of print for a decade and a half, and Marvel Comics seized custody of the name that seemed their birthright.

Captain Marvel was Mar-Vell, captain of an alien army who defected to start his career as a superhero on Earth. Say what you will about Marvel, they have characters with the title "Captain" in their names who actually are captains, like Captain America and Captain Marvel, as opposed to, say Otto Binder's Captain Marvel or Flash villain Captain Cold (left), who wasn't captain of jack shit. He only made sergeant before Jack had him discharged.

When you're writing for a character who has the same name as an older prominent character, people are going to accuse you of being derivative. That is why it takes huge balls to have such a character work with a United States Air Force pilot (a flying woman, you could say) with a name like Carol Danvers. Carol was a frequent partner of Mar-Vell and she eventually got her own comic book, in which she became a feminist superhero.

You mean like Wonder Woman?

You know what, italics? I've had just about enough of your attitude!


Along with her oddly familiar name, she acquired some oddly familiar super-powers, including flight, super strength, and invulnerability. Her series was short-lived, and then, embittered but with her spirit still unbroken, she joined a group of superheroes called the Avengers. Then things got a little weird.

In The Avenger's 1981 annual comic, Chris Claremont, writer of Ms. Marvel and The X-Men introduced a character called Rogue. Rogue was the daughter of the Ms. Marvel villain Mystique and the newest member of the terrorist organization called The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. She had white streaks in her hair that were reminiscent of a black cat that had leaned against a flagpole with white wet paint on it in a Pepe LePew cartoon and the power to absorb someone's thoughts, memories, and certain genetic attributes (including super-powers) by touch, like some sort of... I don't know... parasite or something. In her first appearance, she drained Carol dry, leaving her mind blank and permanently absorbing her thoughts, memories, personality, and super-powers. This comic had some great dialogue, like the Scarlet Witch's brilliant comeback, which I use whenever I'm in an argument, no matter what it's about:

"DESTINY: We must act quickly, decisively, before the tide of battle turns irrevocably against us.
PYRO: Give me a few more seconds to collect me wits, Destiny, an' I'll fry those sanctimonious yobbos.
THE SCARLET WITCH: You want time, Pyro? How about a few more years?
IN PRISON!!
"
Rogue had trouble coping with having two minds in her head, and that's what led her to seek Professor Charles Xavier's help and to enroll at his school for young mutants. Sometimes, Carol would become the dominant personality and hilarity would ensue. Eventually, she got over it, but she retained those suspiciously Supergirl-like powers.

So, in a roundabout way, The X-Men's Rogue was part of the rich tradition of Supergirls and their insane origin stories, kind of. Anyway, she's close enough to justify posting a picture of Anna Paquin playing Rogue in the X-Men movie in order to make the point that dressing up as classic superheroines is not just for porn stars and pop singers. Academy Award winning actresses do it, too.

Captain Headband (1984)
A.K.A. The Headband Commando


It had been 25 years since Supergirl had arrived, and as an anniversary gift, D.C. gave her this new costume. They probably should have kept the receipt. They also gave her a movie ("... an unhappy, unfunny, unexciting movie." - Roger Ebert) and a new comic book series. For the series, they forgot about the last 25 years of her life and made her into a teenager again. That's one of the great things about being a comic book character - if the writer forgets how old you're supposed to be, you get to relive your childhood. It's entirely possible to remain the same age and watch all of your friends grow old. Just ask Bobby Drake. She also no longer wore a wig to change into her secret identity, because she got a magical comb that changed her hair colour. This was a boon to everyone who was worried that Supergirl comics weren't insane enough.

I haven't actually read much of this series, largely because I consider every panel featuring that awful costume that I don't have to look at a small victory. Seriously, just look at her! She looks hideous! The entire decade of the 80's ought to be ashamed of itself.

This was the second Supergirl to die in action. She was killed in the sense-shatteringly stupid Crisis on Infinite Earths. Her death was as brave and heroic as it was unnecessary. I know I'm not a superhero. The closest I come to fighting crime is when I'm too broke to buy pot and just get really drunk instead. Still, even without any "super-intelligence," I could figure out that if you're part of a strike force consisting of all of the strongest people from five different realities, you don't fly off alone to fight a guy who is powerful enough to destroy the entire universe without telling any of the other impossibly powerful heroes who you came with. It's not only suicidal, it's downright rude.

I'd imagine some of the comics readers in the audience might argue, "Well, maybe Kara's death could have been avoided, but it was necessary because it inspired Dr. Light to save the universe." You know, I wasn't going to bring Dr. Light into this, but since you mentioned her, let me just say - fuck that icy cunt. Fuck her up the ass with a rusty metal dildo. Don't get me wrong, I'm not so insensitive that I would blame this horrible tragedy on Dr. Light. Obviously it was the Monitor's fault - the whole situation could have been avoided if he had just thought to hire a minion who wasn't a total fucking sociopath. Maybe he could have found someone who wouldn't just stand there and watch Supergirl get killed. It wouldn't have to be someone particularly heroic - I'm sure that there are plenty of normal people who would decide that they want to help stop someone from destroying the universe, even without having to watch someone get murdered to motivate them.

Of course, Supergirl's death wasn't even the worst part of that stupid fucking comic, but I think I've already written enough about that. The bottom line is that not only did she get killed, but after the story was over, she never even existed. Man, she got her ass beaten.

Post-Crisis Supergirl, Take 1 (1988)
A.K.A. John Byrne's Supergirl
A.K.A. Lana Lang
A.K.A. The Matrix
A.K.A. Mae Kent
A.K.A. Morph Goo Supergirl



It was John Byrne who was responsible for Supergirl's death. He was restarting the Superman series and wanted Superman to be the last survivor of Krypton again, meaning that Supergirl would have to go. It was only suiting, then, that Byrne would have to come up with a replacement for her.

She was Lana Lang, Superman's girlfriend from his childhood, from an alternate reality. This reality had no superheroes before Lana, except for Superboy, who was missing, presumed dead. A problem arose when three space criminals escaped from the Phantom Zone. You see, instead of a normal prison, the Kryptonians would exile their criminals to another dimension called the Phantom Zone. This dimension was not destroyed when Krypton was. Everyone who saw Superman II knows about this. So much for Superman being the last survivor of Krypton. The three Kryptonians were able to take over the world, and the humans were helpless until Lex Luthor found a way to give Lana Lang super-powers. She wore a costume based off of Superboy's and called herself Supergirl, but she still was not able to defeat the space criminals, so she sought the aid of John Byrne's Superman in his home reality.

Superman traveled to Lana's world, where he was able to defeat the former Phantom Zone convicts, but not before they had killed everything in that reality except for Lana, who they had beaten so badly she became some sort of pinkish goo (which is not as badly as Captain Headband got beaten, but she'd certainly feel that in the morning). As Lex Luthor lay dying, he explained to Superman that actually Lana Lang had died years ago, and Supergirl was just that goo that he had created and imprinted with Lana's genetic matrix to make a synthetic person. With the whole world dead, Superman took the remains of the synthetic person back to his world's Smallville, where his adoptive parents the Kents could look after her while she recuperated. They called her "Mae," short for "Matrix" (isn't that cute?), and she eventually became post-Crisis D.C.'s first Supergirl.


Now, don't get me wrong - I have nothing against malleable living protoplasm (morph goo, as I call it). After all, the best X-Man ever was made out of morph goo. I'm just saying it's a really fucked up thing for Supergirl to be made of. Also, it sort of bothers me that Lex Luthor created her. It reminds me too much of Pandora, or - for those of you who aren't into Greek mythology - Smurfette. By the way, if anyone has any idea what a "mother pus bucket" is, feel free to let me know.

Not being from Krypton, Mae's powers didn't work exactly like Superman's. Like most morph goo-based beings, she had the ability to change shape, with the related ability to turn invisible. She could also simulate some of Superman's more famous powers using psychokinesis. For instance, instead of being invulnerable, she had a psychokinetic force field. Instead of flying, she could psychokinetically lift herself into the air. Instead of superstrength, she could use her psychokinesis to lift great weights or hit someone with great force. While we're on the subject, I'd just like to say that Superboy's very similar power that he called "Tactile Telekinesis" really pissed me off. Psychokinesis means moving objects using one's mind, whereas telekinesis means moving objects from a distance. They're usually used interchangeably to describe the phenomenon of moving distant objects with one's mind. However, if (as the term "tactile" suggests) you have to be touching something in order to move it, it's not fucking telekinesis! Asshole.


She didn't have the same name as Kara, nor the same origin. She didn't have the same super-powers. She didn't even look that much like Supergirl. Still, the logo says "Supergirl," and who am I to argue with the logo?

Post-Crisis Supergirl, Take 2 (1996)
A.K.A. Peter David's Supergirl
A.K.A. Linda-Mae
A.K.A. Earth Angel
A.K.A. Buzz's Girlfriend



Reading Peter David's Supergirl, I got the impression that Mr. David had been a big fan of Supergirl's old Action Comics adventures and he had a lot of fun writing for this character. It could be said then, that the series was a matter of wish-fulfillment. If this is the case, and Matrix is in a sense fulfilling a dream for Peter David, then it is only fitting that he would grant Mae's fondest wish - to be a real girl.

In Supergirl #1, we met a curiously familiar woman named Linda Danvers. She was an artist and a bit of a hellion. She had no direction or meaning in her life - by all accounts, she was someone in need of saving, in more ways than one. Perhaps the most significant way in which she needed "help" was because she had been kidnapped by a demonist cult who were planning to ritualistically sacrifice her. Matrix flew to the rescue, and was able to drive Linda's attacker away with her psychokinesis, but Linda was already bleeding to death. Then, when Mae went to carry Linda off, something curious happened. In a scene lifted from a Reese's commercial ("You're getting morph goo in my wounds!" "You're getting blood in my goo!"), they merged. It was pretty gross. Thus, rather than just staying with an existing character who was pretty far removed from the character who he was trying to write or creating a new character who was more like the old Supergirl, Peter David did both, or is it neither? Anyway, it worked.

You may think that when two people are suddenly sharing one body and one mind that you would have many crippling personality conflicts. Instead, Linda and Matrix combined to make a whole that was stronger than either of them alone, because each of them was missing something essential that the other provided. Mae gave Linda morality and a purpose in life. Linda gave Mae her humanity, her identity, and a cast of supporting characters, including her best friend Mattie, her parents Fred and Sylvia Danvers (remember them?), an aspiring reporter named Wendell "Mary Sue" "Cutter" Sharp (sometimes "Sharpe"), and her diabolist ex-boyfriend Buzz. Buzz would later turn out to be a demon in human form (or a human in demon form, depending on your perspective) and one of the all-time greatest villains. Come to think of it, he was one of the all-time greatest anything. You cannot possibly understand how much I love Buzz. If I ever have children, they will be named "Buzz," "Buzz, Jr.," and "The Other Buzz." This is one of the many, many reasons why the women I date are very conscientious about contraception.

Cutter's ex-wife Andy also showed up and tried to seduce Supergirl. This is a very delicate topic of discussion, not because Andy was a lesbian (as if I've never discussed sexuality in this blog before), but because I don't like her very much, and when you publicly don't like someone who is a known minority, people are quick to say that it reveals your own prejudices. Let me assure you that I would love to see Supergirl involved in some hot girl-on-girl... wait, scratch that... I mean, I respect and celebrate all forms of sexuality between any consenting adults, provided that nobody involved is or has ever been a horse. I just don't really like Andy.


By the way, do you remember when Kara mentioned in passing that she was sort of like a guardian angel? Peter David did. That's why Linda-Mae was transubstantiated into an actual angel (you know, the mythological creature - that kind of angel). She got wings of flame and spooooky divine powers.

She was able to change shape between her Supergirl form and her Linda form as part of her angel powers (which is sort of fucked up - more fucked up than the wig, but not as fucked up as the magical comb - sort of a medium level on the Fucked Up Ways to Change Between Blonde and Brunette scale), but she had lost her shape-shifting and invisibility powers because, as she would find out later, she was no longer made of goo. When she moved into Linda's body, she lost the gooey aspect of herself, and the goo washed off in the shower. It reformed into Supergirl shape in the sewer, then came back to the surface to fight Linda, because, hey, they're superheroes - it's what they do. The Morph Goo Supergirl had to be incapacitated, but the story eventually had a happy ending, because she found another angel to bond with.

So I guess this series was a little weird, but, then again, Supergirl was always weird. People have an unfortunate tendency to think of the series as not really being Supergirl because it wasn't Kara, but the fact is that the series was not so much a departure from the 60's Action Comics stories as a return to them. While the series was original (which is important, because too many series just do the same thing over and over), there were countless allusions to the old Supergirl comics, as well as several characters and plot devices taken directly from them. Although Kara was dead and never existed and couldn't be brought back, the series was Peter David's way of bringing the stories back into the D.C. Universe after the Crisis, even if he couldn't bring back the character. I mean, for God's sake, he even brought back that fucking horse!


Really, Linda, I don't care how he's hung - you could do better! When it comes to making out with ungulates, I vote, "Nay!"

Supergirl: The Cartoon (1998)
A.K.A. Kara In-Ze
A.K.A. Kara Kent


When such luminaries as Paul Dini and Bruce Timm (who are American heroes in their own right, of the same caliber as Nathan Hale or Scott Lobdell) worked on a Superman cartoon, they brought back a lot of characters and stories from the 60's. They wanted to include Kara (the "original" Supergirl), but D.C. was afraid that if Kara was brought back in one medium, goblins would come at night and steal their shoes. Actually, I'm not sure exactly what D.C. was afraid of, but they were adamant that Supergirl not come back, even in stories that had no bearing on the comics - including cartoons and Star Trek fan fictions (which I still believe is the only reason why nobody would publish my epic Kara/Uhura adventures). A compromise was reached, whereby Supergirl would appear in the cartoon, but she wouldn't be from Krypton. She would be from Argos, a sister planet inhabited by the same race of people. For some reason, this made a difference to them.


Anyway, she lived in Smallville with Mr. and Mrs. Kent. In her secret identity, she was Clark's cousin Kara (though D.C. insisted she only pretend to be his cousin - those goblins weren't going to get their shoes) and she wore glasses. As Supergirl, she wore a variation on the Superman costume that reflected the horrible clothing shortage of the late 90's, when families in Smallville, Kansas could barely afford enough fabric to cover their tits and ass. Her personality was neither that of the innocent and cheerful Kara, nor the introspective and self-deprecating Linda. She was an impetuous firecracker, loaded with spunk (which is sort of like goo, but not exactly the same). This ain't your daddy's Supergirl any more! Whoomp! There it is! Where's the beef?

Supergirl 1,000,000 (1998)
A.K.A. Ari-El


In November, 1998, D.C. published the one millionth issues of their comics, in which writers imagined what their series would be like over 999,000 months in the future. There may have been some reason why they did this, but if there was, it was explained in the miniseries D.C. One Million by Grant Morrison, and, as much as I admire D.C.'s heroic and inspirational hiring practices, I think I would be happier not reading it.

Supergirl #1,000,000 was sort of like a Warner Brothers cartoon. It was about aliens being terrorized by a rambunctious and indestructible 6 year-old Kryptonian. It was both funny and unsettling.

Her origin wasn't explained until the last issue of Supergirl before it was cancelled, as part of the storyline Many Happy Returns. I won't repeat it here, because those of you who have read Many Happy Returns already know the story, and everybody else doesn't deserve to.

Supergirl (2001)
A.K.A. Linda Danvers
A.K.A. Karaouac



This is my personal favourite Supergirl, and would be the most popular incarnation of the character, except for the fact that everyone else in the world is a complete fucking moron.

After the fiftieth issue of Peter David's Supergirl, the divine aspect of Supergirl was separated from her terrestrial self (Linda) and abducted by a malevolent spirit. It was up to a depowered Linda (not completely powerless, but without all of her strength or any of her angel powers) and Buzz to save her. So, they set off on a road trip to find and rescue the angel Supergirl. If you're into symbolism, Linda and Buzz's quest to find the divine Supergirl could be seen as a metaphor for the series' goal to recapture the magic of the old Supergirl comics, something that some readers would claim that the series so far had failed to do. Of course, those readers are idiots and I hate them.

Not having the ability to shape-shift at all any more, she had to wear a blonde wig to change into Supergirl (irony!). She adopted the cartoon Supergirl's "Super Tramp" look. Some people refused to accept her as the "real" Supergirl, and Linda, who had a seriously lacking sense of self-worth, never seemed to realize that it was Linda who made Supergirl special, not the other way around.

The series culminated in a beautiful story called Many Happy Returns. The set up was that Kara Zor-El was detoured on her way to Earth-1 and landed on post-Crisis Earth, where there already was a Supergirl. As I recently found out, some people criticize the story for being too esoteric because it draws from so many diverse sources in comics. I hope these people never try to read T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland." Their tiny little minds might snap.

Fallen Angel (2003)
A.K.A. Not Supergirl
A.K.A. Honestly, I don't know what you're talking about. She's not Supergirl.
A.K.A. American McGee's Supergirl



In 2003, Supergirl was cancelled. I'm not sure who made that decision, but I can only assume it was someone who enjoyed the wailing sound of broken-hearted children crying. Peter David, who - fortunately for us - doesn't know the meaning of the word "cancelled," started working on the fantastic series Fallen Angel, which, as the name implies, was about a fallen angel doing odd superheroics in the dreary town of Bete Noir. She went by the name "Lee" (wink, wink) and had very similar powers to Supergirl, even though she wasn't really Linda Danvers wearing a wig (or possibly dyed hair) with an assumed identity. Seriously. She's a completely new character. Really.

Then, in 2005, D.C. cancelled Fallen Angel, and the cruel soulless beast who works in comics publishing laughed at the thought of crushing the already broken-hearted children's dreams. I think it was the same guy responsible for cancelling Alpha Flight. At that point, the fabulous Mr. David seriously considered looking up the definition of the word "cancelled," but he was busy writing the new series Fallen Angel to be published by IDW. Now that it's being printed by another company, they legally cannot make reference to Supergirl. Still, just for fun, I'd like you to take a moment to compare the cover of Supergirl #16 published by D.C. to the cover of Fallen Angel #3 published by IDW:



There are only two words I can think of to describe these covers: coincidental and unintentional.

Cir-El (2003)


Superman and Lois Lane's daughter from the future called herself "Supergirl." Hey, "Supergirl," Rachel Summers called. She wants her origin back.

Supergirl (2004)
A.K.A. Kara Zor-El. Really.
A.K.A. The Supergirl from Krypton. We mean it this time.
A.K.A. The Guy Who Wrote
Teen Wolf's Supergirl
A.K.A. The Guy Who Wrote
Teen Wolf Too's Supergirl


Many Happy Returns had opened the door for Kara to be brought into the post-Crisis world, and with so much pressure from writers wanting to work with the "original" Supergirl, D.C. could only hold out for so long. They finally let Kara back into their comics. And who would have the honour and responsibility of creating a cousin for Superman who was born in the post-Crisis reality? None other than big-shot Hollywood screenwriter Jeph Loeb.

The story goes that Zor-El was the only one who believed Jor-El when he warned about Krypton's destruction. While Jor-El was building the prototype rocket to save his baby son Kal, Zor-El was building a larger rocket for his teenage daughter Kara. When Krypton was destroyed, Kara was put into suspended animation (for those of you who were doing something worthwhile while the ones who already know what suspended animation is were memorizing Star Wars, she was frozen in time) and sent off in her rocket, which was programmed to follow Kal-El's rocket (though, apparently, not too closely, considering it didn't land until 30 years later).

This time, when Kara landed, she was naked and didn't speak English. It makes sense that she wouldn't know English, because this time she didn't know she would be landing in America. Also, it makes sense that she wouldn't have landed wearing a Supergirl costume, considering that Mrs. Kent hadn't even made Superman's costume at the time she left, but why was she naked? I mean, didn't they wear clothes on Krypton? Oh, and speaking of not wearing clothes, after she had been on Earth for a while Mrs. Kent made Kara her own costume.


Apparently, Mrs. Kent is some sort of dirty old lady. I'm not sure why this bothers me so much. Maybe I have reached the age when I just can't understand kids these days and the crazy clothes they wear. Maybe I'm just not a stomach man. Maybe I'm saddened by how horribly malnourished she looks, and just wish I could reach into the comic and give her a sandwich. I'll stop thinking about it now.

Anyway, Superman was thrilled that he was no longer alone, that he had a newfound family. Batman didn't trust her and didn't believe her story, and who could blame him? She couldn't even remember her mother's name! (This was Jeph Loeb's little joke - you see, Kara's mother's name had never been mentioned.) Eventually, she regained her memories and remembered that her mother's name was Alura. So, 45 years after she first appeared in a comic, someone finally gave Kara's mother a name.

(OR SO I THOUGHT! A week after I posted this, intrepid reader Daniel told me that, in fact, in Action Comics No. 309, Supergirl's mother's name was revealed to be "Allura." At first, I wasn't sure I could trust him. I had read his profile, and according to the Chinese Zodiac he's a horse! Of course, I haven't read every comic that Supergirl appears in and this happened to be one that I had missed. So I tracked down the issue and read it for myself.


Sure enough, Daniel may be a horse, but he's a better nerd than I am. The issue not only featured Supergirl's parents, it also featured President John F. Kennedy, which is sort of weird considering it was printed in early 1964. At first I thought that perhaps it was a zombie President, or that Superman writers had believed Kennedy's assassination to be an elaborate hoax. The actual explanation - that the comic was written shortly before the assassination and didn't make it to newstands until shortly after - seems a bit less poetic. Fucking reality ruins everything.

I apologize to everyone for any confusion this may have caused. To be fair, though, I had read Askani'son and was under the impression that Jeph Loeb was very clever.)

The next morning, all of Jeph Loeb's shoes were gone, stolen by goblins.

Superwoman, Super-Sister, Bizarro Superwoman, Mighty Maid, Bizarro Supergirl, Marvel Maid, The Supergirl Emergency Squad, Bizarro Supergirl (yes, there were two of them), Superwoman, Superwoman, The Supergirl Clone Army, et. al. (1943-??)


They aren't Supergirl and you can't make me write about them. So there.

5 Comments:

Blogger Daniel said...

Wow.

However, Alura's (or Allura -- they couldn't keep the spelling straight) name was mentioned in Action 309, 1964, where it was revealed that she and Zor-el had actually survived the destruction of Argo City.

2:37 PM  
Blogger Syd Bernstein said...

Damn. I missed that comic.

And here I thought Jeph Loeb was clever.

9:44 AM  
Blogger HemlockMan said...

That's exceptionally messed up. Not just the bizarre situation of Supergirl and her various incarnations; but also the fact that you know that worthless crap.

8:41 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

That is seriously the greatest recap of all the Supergirls I have ever read.

2:29 PM  
Blogger Miami Vending Machines said...

The bizarre situation of Supergirl and her various incarnations.
Miami Vending Machines

1:17 AM  

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