In this week’s Everything But Imaginary, the characters from the long-defunct Atlas Comics will soon be returning to a comic shop near you! Is this a good idea? Well… it’s not unprescedented, at least.
But in this week’s Classic EBI, we’re headed back to the mysterious days of 2004, when there was no Supergirl, but rumor had it one was about to turn up in the pages of a little comic called Superman/Batman…
May 2, 2004
Everything But Imaginary #65: The Supergirls From Krypton
One of the things I like about our little Comixtreme home is how people can ask just about any question about any comic and, chances are, there’ll be somebody around who knows the answer. Where’s a good spot to start reading Aquaman? When did Triathalon quit the Avengers? Is that Lady Gaga’s real hair color?
But one thing that seems to come up over and over, especially since the current arc in Superman/Batman started, is how to reconcile the various incarnations of Supergirl. There have been, after all, several young ladies who’ve used that name, and some of ‘em just don’t jive with each other. So for this week’s course in Comic Book Minutia 101, I’m gonna walk you guys through the Supergirls so that even a new reader can get into the new storyline with little difficulty. Now keep in mind, I’m only talking about characters that were (at one point or another) official DC canon — no Elseworlds (Superman and Batman: Generations), crossovers (Superman/Aliens) or potential futures (DC One Million) will be covered, because nobody likes a migrane headache.
Now everybody knows the first Supergirl was Kara Zor-El, right? Wrong. Ha-ha. I love tricking you guys. Several months prior to Kara’s debut, Jimmy Olsen came into possession of a magic totem that would grant him three wishes. Pal that he was, he decided to use all three to help his buddy Superman, who immediately wished Jimmy had just wished for a cool car or something like a normal teenager, because all of the wishes turned into disasters. One of them was for a “Supergirl” who could be a suitable mate for the ol’ Man of Steel. A girl appeared, clad in a costume similar to Superman’s, and went on to cause lots of well-intentioned trouble before sacrificing herself in a valiant effort to wrap up the story so they could get on to the second wish.
The story proved popular, though, and in Action Comics #252, the new Supergirl debuted. Superman found a spaceship that crashed to Earth containing a girl wearing a variation of his costume (who looked eerily similar to the very woman Jimmy had tried to fix him up with earlier, adding a Freudian aspect to the whole thing) and who claimed to be his cousin. She escaped the destruction of Krypton when her whole city was blown away under a plastic dome. Her father sent her to Earth when a meteor shower killed everyone in Argo City by exposing them to Kryptonite, which makes you wonder why they didn’t try building a few more spaceships all those years they were drifting in the void.
Superman, displaying the sort of foresight that makes airport screenings in America such a rousing success, accepted Kara’s story and helped her build a life for herself by dropping her off at an orphanage. Fulfilling the contractual obligation to introduce one new Superman character with the initials “LL” every five years, she took the human name “Linda Lee,” later “Danvers” when she was adopted. She went on to be a beloved hero and part-time member of the Legion of Super-Heroes, where she had an on-again, off-again romance with Brainiac 5, allowing female fans to swoon over a green-skilled superhero years before males got She-Hulk to satisfy that urge.
It should be noted that, at the time, there were two DC Universes – Earth-1, which was the home of every character we read about regularly, and Earth-2, which was the home of the Golden Age versions of the characters. (Why didn’t the original characters get to be from Earth-1? Because no one at DC could count.) Anyway, someone decided that since Superman of Earth-1 had a cousin, so should his Earth-2 counterpart. Kara Zor-El’s origin was more or less duplicated on Earth-2, but for some reason she decided to call herself Power Girl instead of Supergirl, showing that she was definitely already more liberated and independent than her Earth-1 doppleganger.
All joking aside, this Supergirl is the one most fans remember, love, and rabidly salivate over in bizarre fan fiction that has no place on a family website like this. Interestingly though, like Tasha Yar in Star Trek: The Next Generation, it took her death to make people appreciate her. Kara gave her life to save the universe in Crisis on Infinite Earths #7, creating the most parodied comic book cover since Action Comics #1 and the biggest shocker of the series right up until the next issue when Barry Allen, the second Flash, died.
The big change of Crisis, of course, was merging Earths 1 and 2 and eliminating redundant characters. But with Supergirl dead, what was to become of Power Girl? Well, someone at DC decided to say that, rather than Kryptonian, she was Atlantean, which makes perfect sense when you think of all the times we’ve seen Aquaman flying around using his heat vision. That origin was also later abandoned, and currently Power Girl’s origin is so screwed up that even Power Girl doesn’t know what it is, and the only hope we have of straightening it out is for Geoff Johns to step in, so let’s stop discussing it before I get a migrane.
After the Crisis was over, John Byrne revamped Superman’s history from the ground up, wiping away his years as Superboy and making him, in fact, the sole survivor of Krypton — which meant that Kara, in the new universe, never existed, except for a cameo in a great Deadman Christmas story a few years later.
Not long into the new continuity, though, Byrne introduced a new Supergirl. With Superboy gone, Byrne explained the fact that the Legion of Super-Heroes in the 30th Century modeled themselves after him by saying a Superboy existed in a “pocket universe” created by their old foe, the Time Trapper. In that universe, a heroic scientist named Lex Luthor created a synthetic being with shapeshifting powers to fight a trio of Kryptonian villains that were destryoing the world. Christening her Supergirl, he sent her to our universe to bring Superman to help. When the smoke cleared, the new Supergirl was the only survivor of her world. Superman brought her back to his Earth where she roamed, got hooked up with Lex Luthor II (actually Lex in a cloned body), joined the Titans and was generally ignored until Peter David said, “Let me have a crack.”
In his new Supergirl series, Supergirl saved the life of a hopeless reprobate named — wait for it — Linda Danvers. In David’s theology, though, when a being of pure good sacrifices her life to save someone beyond redemption, the two souls are merged into one “Earth Born Angel.” He told some great comics about this new merged Supergirl until, fighting some demons, they were separated. Supergirl went missing and Linda was left with a fraction of her powers. She put on a wig and a costume based on the Supergirl of the Superman cartoon (which we’re not talking about since that’s an alternate continuity, blast it!) and set off to find her. Eventually she rescued Supergirl and set her spirit free with the help of Mary Marvel and a mysterious angelic being named — wait for it — Kara.
Unfortunately, no one could save the book from cancellation. David’s last storyline involved Linda finding the old Pre-Crisis Kara Zor-El transported to our dimension. David has said that, if he’d been allowed to continue the series Linda would have become a new Superwoman, Kara would have remained Supergirl and Power Girl would have joined the cast, making the book a Superman-family equivalent of the popular Birds of Prey. Unfortunately, the book was cancelled, Kara was sent back in time to die in the Crisis and Linda, consumed with guilt, left Superman a note asking him not to look for her and vanished, prompting many fans to speculate she is the mysterious protagonist of David’s new Fallen Angel series. (2010 note: She was not.)
Now what I’m about to say next I don’t know for sure, this is pure speculation, but with Supergirl sales on the rise at the time of her cancellation, it seemed to me that DC was just clearing that character out of the way to make a path for the biggest mistake in Supergirl history (and yes, I include Streaky, the Super-Cat in that)…
Cir-El. A mysterious girl appeared in Metropolis claiming to be the daughter of Superman and Lois Lane from the future, or possibly from last month’s X-Men, considering the backstory. She wasn’t. She was a pawn in a scheme of villains called the Futuresmiths and lasted about a year before Superman stopped them, then she either died or lost her powers or joined the circus or something. At that point the story was so messed up I didn’t even care anymore.
Then came Jeph Loeb. Dear, sweet Jeph Loeb, who at this point could generate buzz by writing a fortune cookie. In Superman/Batman #8, the World’s Finest duo found a lifeboat inside a Kryptonite meteor that fell to earth in issue #6 of the same title, and inside that capsule was a blonde girl with all of Superman’s powers. After a brief conversation in Kryptonese Superman, proving that he hasn’t learned anything about checking a passport in the past 50 years, proudly introduced her to Batman as Kara, his cousin from Krypton
The great thing about this story is that we readers have the same scepticism as Batman. Is she really from Krypton? Is she a threat? A Trojan horse? Or is this really a permanant return to the character, bringing us back where we were nearly 20 years ago when she died in the Crisis? Three issues left to find out that answer.
So to come back to the original question, “What’s the deal with Supergirl?” my reply would be, “This is why retcons suck.”
FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: May 2, 2004
Speaking of Legion my “Favorite of the Week” trophy goes to the end of the five-year run of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning with the preiminent heroes of the 31st century. In Legion #33, Live Wire, still trapped in the body of the late Element Lad, must save his team from revenge-crazed band of villains seeking retribution for the crimes of the Progenitor (Element Lad after he went crazy) back in the Legion Lost miniseries. For five years, now, this has been a great title, and I hate to see DnA leave. But things are bright — the future holds an arc by Gail Simone, a crossover with Teen Titans (explaining why Superboy is in both books) and a relaunch by Mark Waid and Barry Kitson — so I can smile, secure in the knowledge that the Legion of Super-Heroes is in great hands.
Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast and the weekly audio fiction podcast Blake M. Petit’s Evercast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.