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DC Rebirth Logo


History

Publication History is unknown.

Comics

Precursors

Soon after Superman's conception, DC started toying with the idea of creating a "Supergirl" character.

During the Golden Age, DC published a number of stories –imaginary or in-continuity- where Lois Lane or Lana Lang gained super-powers and called themselves Superwoman or even Power Girl.[1]

However, DC's first character named Super-Girl was Lucy of Borgonia, who made her only appearance in Superboy #5 (November, 1949). Lucy was a baseline normal human who pretended to have powers with Superboy's help.

At the beginning of the Silver Age, DC decided to gauge whether or not fans would want to see a "Supergirl" character. Thus, a new, temporary Super-Girl debuted in Superman #123 (August, 1958). This Super-Girl was created when Jimmy was given a wish-granting mystical totem staff and wished Superman might find a super-female partner. Super-Girl materialized out of nowhere, possessing the same strengths and weaknesses as Superman. Later she sacrificed herself to save Superman from a Kryptonite meteor, and Jimmy wished her out of existence before she died from Kryptonite poisoning.

Silver Age

Action Comics 252

Action Comics #252, Kara Zor-El's first published appearance

Superman 123 sold very well, and DC tasked Mary Marvel creator Otto Binder and artist Al Plastino with creating Supergirl.

In Action Comics #252 (May, 1959) debuted the primary and best known version of Supergirl: Kara Zor-El, Superman's Kryptonian cousin. Born in Argo City, a Kryptonian city that survived the cataclysm that destroyed Krypton, she was sent to Earth by her parents when Kryptonite radiation threatened the survivors of Argo. Designed to appeal young female readers, Kara had several traits that set her apart from Superman: she was younger and more inexperienced, therefore more flawed, more short-tempered, more impatient and more prone to make mistakes. She was also a true immigrant who struggled to adapt to Earth culture in contrast to his cousin who was a toddler when he came to Earth.

Supergirl proved to be popular among fans, generating a mostly positive reaction.[2] The first letter talking about Supergirl was published in Action Comics #255.

"Supergirl" was Action Comics' regular backup feature from Action Comics #252 to Action Comics #376 (May, 1969). During those ten years Supergirl's existence became public,[3] was adopted by Fred and Edna Danvers, became a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes, got her first romances and enemies and her own sidekicks, found her birth parents, graduated high school and got enrolled in Stanhope College.

Adventurecomics381

Supergirl becomes Adventure Comics main feature

In 1969, "Supergirl" was moved to Adventure Comics, switching places with the "Legion of Super-Heroes" strip. Jim Shooter explains that change in his blog:

"Some time around the summer of 1969, I was taken off of Adventure Comics, my one regular title, because the Legion of Super Heroes, my regular feature, was reduced to a second feature in Action Comics. That move made no sense to me. While other National titles had fallen precipitously, Adventure had remained fairly constant during my tenure, according to the statements of ownership printed in one of my first issues and in my last (the way I figured it, the ol’ “Marvel writer” had come through) — but Mort explained that falling sales on Superboy had prompted the shuffling. Supergirl would be put into Adventure, and presumably would hold the half million readers buying the title, while as a back-up, the Legion (which starred Superboy) would no longer “dilute” the sales of Superboy."[4]

"Supergirl" became Adventure Comics' lead strip from Adventure Comics #381 (June, 1969) to Adventure Comics #424 (October, 1972).

Bronze Age

Adventure Comics 410

First appearance of Supergirl's iconic hotpants costume

It’s generally considered that Superman’s Bronze Age started in 1971 with the publication of Superman: Sandman Saga.

Supergirl went through a lot of changes during the transition between both periods: Kara graduated college and moved to San Francisco, working as a junior photographer for news station KSF-TV. Starting with Adventure Comics #397 she constantly changed costumes until settling for the uniform she would wear during most of that era. She gained new enemies such as Nasthalthia Luthor, Starfire and Nightflame, and was depowered for a while during which she resorted to wearing an exoskeleton to fight crime. Her classic love interest Dick Malverne disappeared and was not seen again until the early 80’s. Her pets Comet and Streaky were consigned to comic limbo. Accidents stemming from exposure to Kryptonite became less frequent over time. And by and large, her stories’ tone gradually moved away from sci-fi and fantasy plots, shifting to urban crime and horror tales.

In 1972, Supergirl’s strip left Adventure Comics and the character starred in her own solo book for first time. Cary Bates wrote the plots and Art Saaf handled art duties. Published from November of 1972 until October of 1974 and spanning a total of ten issues, Supergirl (Volume 1) was an unfortunate victim of DC’s implosion, when DC cancelled all books featuring Superman’s supporting cast. According to the Supergirl: Life and Times of Kara-Zor-El website:[5]

“By the mid-70s, DC was looking for a new plan to support its superheroes, and it found it almost by chance when a publishing experiment revealed that readers were enthusiastic about 80 or 100 page comics, with wider profit margins.

Armed with this knowledge, DC developed a three pronged strategy: keep their profitable big-name (licensable) characters in their own regular comicbooks, cancel the worst selling titles outright, and merge everything in-between into super-sized anthology titles. As such, characters with decent sales but limited licensing possibilities found themselves uncomfortably sandwiched together into the pages of titles such as Superman Family, Batman Family, or Super-Team Family. And so inevitably, in March 1974, Supergirl was unceremoniously evicted from her own comic after just nine issues (a tenth would be published posthumously), to be lumped in with Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane in a new 100 page bimonthly anthology.”

Superman Family Vol 1 222

Supergirl eventually became Superman Family's main strip

Superman Family was published from May of 1974 until September of 1982. The numbering sequence began with issue #164 and the final issue was Superman Family #222. Supergirl soon became Superman Family's main feature and was the only surviving title when DC cancelled the book.

However, Supergirl's environment and supporting cast changed each time a new creative team took over. She quit her photographer work, enrolled in Vandyre College to take drama classes, worked as a student adviser and a soap opera actress. Back Issue! #17, published in 2006, reveals that "each time a new writer came aboard, he was allowed to write what he knew. So, when writer Jack C. Harris had access to a soap opera production studio, Linda Danvers became a soap opera actress. When writer Paul Kupperberg took over, he moved the strip to Chicago, where he had lived for four years."[6]

Supergirl Vol 2 1

Paul Kupperberg and Carmine Infantino's Supergirl

After the cancellation of "Superman Family", DC launched "The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl", later shortened to simply "Supergirl" with issue 13. Paul Kupperberg wrote the plots that were illustrated by Carmine Infantino art. In an interview, Kupperberg revealed he was a long-time fan of the character and looked to write her as a strong and confident woman, away from her cousin's shadow.[7] Supergirl (Volume 2) is widely regarded as Pre-Crisis Supergirl's high point.

DC cancelled Supergirl's second solo book with Supergirl (Volume 2) #23 (September, 1984). For first time in twenty-five years there was no monthly Supergirl strip. However, Kara Zor-El's adventures were going to continue in another title. Paul Kupperberg told:

"At the time I wrote Supergirl #23, we thought the character was going to continue in a new title, DC Double Comics, which she was going to share with a revamp of Superboy. I wrote the first issue (which got as far as being penciled by Eduardo Barreto, and lettered), which has a scene between Linda and Dick; he confesses his lifelong love for her, but she doesn’t want any part of it. After that, Linda took off for what was planned as a six month space adventure on New Krypton, but I don’t remember what we had planned for Dick."[8]

Nonetheless, Superman's books had been declining and selling poorly for a long time. Supergirl was considered expendable by several DC creative types like Marv Wolfman and Dick Giordano, who talked disparagingly about the character and considered that Superman should be the sole survivor from Krypton. Giving the failure of her 1984 live-action feature as an excuse to get rid of the character, they pushed for killing her. In a hand written note from Dick Giordano to then DC President Jenette Kahn, Giordano asked if they could kill Supergirl in the upcoming Crisis event. Kahn initially said no, but she changed her mind and gave the go-ahead.[9]

Kara Zor-El (Earth-One) dies

The Death of Supergirl

In Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 (October, 1985) by Marv Wolfman Supergirl sacrificed herself to save her cousin and the universe from the Anti-Monitor and was mourned by everyone; still, when the universe was rebooted, no one remembered she ever existed. In an interview published in Back Issue #17, Wolfman assures that everyone agreed with his decision and there was zero backlash.[10] However, in Back Issue #84, Jerry Ordway reported fans were actually mad, and Wolfman admitted that there was "some negative feedback", but he was sure that "90% either approved or understood".[11]

Although Kara Zor-El was officially exiled from continuity for eighteen years, she still made infrequent appearances in several ways: in a safety belt campaign,[12] as an invisible spirit trying to reassure Deadman[13], as an imaginary friend to her best friend Barbara Gordon[14], or a guardian ghost to another Supergirl.[15]

Concidentally, Supergirl artist Jamal Igle revealed in the Supergirl Comic Box Commentary blog that he worked in Christmas with the Super-Heroes #2:[16] Ok a little biut of personal trivia on that issue. If you look in the very end of the book amongst the staff signatures you'll see mine. I was a production intern at DC at the time and that's the first thing my signature ever appeared in.

Modern Age

Matrix

After the Crisis, DC hired John Byrne to reboot Superman. Although Byrne supported the mandate upon which Superman was to be the Last Child of Krypton, he decided to create another version of Supergirl:

“That was my idea. I felt it was probably not a good idea to let the copyright on the name slip away, and, what the heck! It was a chance to do a storyline guaranteed to mess with some heads, a significant part of my job description! Unfortunately, several coloring errors -- Supergirl being a redhead when she should have been a blonde, etc, tipped the hand and made the story, probably, even MORE confusing than it was meant to be! I planned to have her as a recurrent character in the Superman titles. When I left the book, Roger Stern came up with the "Matrix" angle, and progressed her story from there.”[17]

So, in Superman (Volume 2) #16 (April, 1988) debuted Matrix, a protoplasmic, shape-shifting being from a pocket dimension. She starred in the Supergirl and Team Luthor #1 one-shot published in April, 1993 and the short-lived Supergirl’s third volume published in 1994.

Eventually DC felt Matrix had grown stale and hired writer Peter David to retool her.

Linda Danvers

Supergirl Many Happy Returns

Two Supergirls from different worlds meet... and the DC Universe will never be the same.

Peter David thought a shape-shifting blob of matter was not relatable, so in Supergirl (Volume 4) #1 (September, 1996) Matrix merged with a troubled human girl called Linda Danvers to save her life.

Supergirl’s fourth solo book is regarded as one of the best eras of the character. Nevertheless, Peter David stated that sales were non-existent and Kara Zor-El was the only Supergirl that comic-book readers cared about. As a last ditch effort to save his book from cancellation he wrote Supergirl: Many Happy Returns, where the original Pre-Crisis Supergirl returned briefly to the main universe. Peter David had plans in case his attempt was successful:[18]

"People have been asking me what my plans were for SUPERGIRL had the series gone past issue #80. I'll tell you, but am putting it in the "extended" section of this entry so as not to spoil the issue for anyone who hasn't read it yet.

When I first embarked on the storyline, I was told by the powers-that-be that I could use Kara for six issues. That was it. Six issues, no more.

I hoped to change their minds. Because I was positive the addition of Kara would bring in readers in droves.

What I was hoping was that support and interest for the series would be so major, so undeniable, so impossible to ignore, that I could use it as ammo to convince the PTB to change their mind and allow me to keep the character around. If that had happened, my intention was to turn the book into, effectively, a team book. The "S" equivalent of "Birds of Prey." Linda would have been Superwoman (for want of a better name), Kara would have been officially Supergirl, and I would have brought in Power Girl to boot. The tone of the book would have been straight up fun--three super blondes getting into adventures. In my truly demented best-case scenario, I would have subtitled the book "Blonde Justice."

That was my "A" plan. Unfortunately, the lack of support up front torpedoed it. Had we seen the kind of support for issue #75 that we wound up getting with issue #80, and built from there, I might have been able to pull it off. As it was, I wasn't.

The "B" plan was a continuing storyline with Linda about which I will not, at this time, go into detail, except to say that "Supergirl" fans should keep reading my DC work."

Although “Many Happy Returns” failed to save the book, sales were very good, suggesting that there was interest in the original Supergirl.

Kara Zor-El

Kara Zor-El 004

Modern Age Supergirl drawn by Michael Turner

DC attempted to come up with a new non-Kryptonian Supergirl (Cir-El), but the character was rejected by the fandom.

Finally, Dan Didio decided that Supergirl’s backstory and origin involving protoplasmic beings and Earth Angels had become too convoluted and confusing, and another Supergirl was needed. Artist Michael Turner would play an important part in the return of Kara Zor-El to the mainstream universe.[19]

So, in 2004 Jeph Loeb and Michael Turner brought Kara Zor-El back in the pages of Superman/Batman Vol 1, retooling her origin slightly. The Supergirl from Krypton story arc was a big-selling success, and DC decided to publish a Supergirl solo book again, using Superman/Batman #19 as a launching point.

Around that time DC published a short story in Solo #1 featuring the Pre-Crisis Supergirl. Written by Diana Schutz and illustrated by Tim Sale, "Young Love" closed a plot thread left dangling by the abrupt and premature cancellation of the second volume. Although Tim Sale had absolutely no interest in doing a Supergirl story, he wanted to do a romance story with Diane Schutz and she chose Supergirl.[20]

Supergirl (Volume 5) #1 hit the shelves in October, 2005. The newest “Supergirl” book sold incredibly well at the beginning, but it lost momentum and began hemorrhaging readers due to a combination of shipping delays and ill-considered editorial mandates.

The Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle run
Supergirl v.5 34

The Beginning of the Gates and Igle's run

Sales improved again when Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle took over in Supergirl (Volume 5) #34 (December, 2008). Gates and Igle’s run (Supergirl (Volume 5) 34-59) is considered one of the best Supergirl’s runs ever, clocking in at #69 on The Hollywood Reporter's 100 Best Super-Heroes Comic-Books List.[21]

Sterling Gates became a big Supergirl fan when he read Crisis on Infinite Earths. Having cut his teeth in Supergirl (Volume 2) -the Paul Kupperberg/Carmine Infantino's run- and the Supergirl movie, he had a very clear vision of who Supergirl was and what he wanted do with her:[22]

"One of the things I talk about when we talk about Supergirl is she has lost a lot. She is strong because of those losses. She lost her planet, and then she lost her parents. That, as a teenager, that’s a hard road. Any normal teenager would be just awash with grief constantly, and that grief would probably color every action. Supergirl comes to terms with that and then decides that no one else should have to deal with that. She’s going to put on this costume and try to make life better for everyone on her adopted planet Earth. I think that’s a really interesting message and a very positive, positive message for a superhero to carry with them.

For us, it was really just about giving Supergirl a fuller life, spelling out what makes this teenager interesting and what makes her tick in a lot of ways, why she makes the decisions that she does, how she responds to adversity, either personal adversity or superhero-type situational adversity, really defining her actions and her reactions so that we, the readers, can really feel like, “Well, this is how a person would react to this type of stuff. This is how a person would react to these supersized emotions, because that’s one of the things that we do when we write superhero stuff is it’s reality turned up a level, right?” Superhero books are reality turned up to 11. Therefore, emotional problems that these characters encounter should be emotional problems turned up to 11, and their responses are what makes them heroic."

Supergirl Who Is Superwoman

"Who Is Superwoman?", one of the best Supergirl storylines

One of the first lenghty story arcs of his run was Supergirl: Who Is Superwoman?, a super-hero/mystery story which allowed Gates delve into Supergirl's mind and expande her cast and her place in the world:

"Again, that can be situational. That can be a hostage thing and how does Supergirl reacts to a hostage situation where she can’t reveal that she’s Kryptonian, or gosh, I don’t even know, how she reacts to her mother asking her to retrieve the man that killed her father. I don’t know how I would react to that if my father asked me to do that. I don’t know how you would react if your parent asked you to do that, but that’s what made, for me, the story “Who is Superwoman?” so interesting is figuring out how Supergirl reacts to that situation. Does she do it? Is it weird to forcefully extradite someone from the planet Earth no matter what his crime? What’s going to happen once she brings Reactron back to Krypton? It begs a lot of questions, and we get a lot of interesting character story out of that."

After Supergirl: Who Is Superwoman?, Gates strung together a good number of critically acclaimed story arcs: Supergirl: The Hunt for Reactron, Supergirl: Death and the Family, Supergirl: Bizarrogirl, closing his run with Supergirl: Day of the Dollmaker.

In Superman #700's preview pages[23] Gates detailed some of his plans for the book. Supergirl was going to college and would fight an alliance of her worst enemies, including Superwoman.[24]. Sadly, he was kicked out of the book and replaced with Nick Spencer.

Nonetheless, Nick Spencer left after plotting Supergirl (Volume 5) #60. James Peaty and Kelly Sue DeConnick wrote the final arcs of the fiftth Supergirl's self-named book: Supergirl: Good-Looking Corpse and Supergirl: This Is Not My Life, respectively.

Supergirl in other titles
Supergirl and the LSH 18

Supergirl has always been linked to the Legion of Super-Heroes

While Supergirl underwent big changes in her own book, she joined the Teen Titans and the Justice League for first time and rejoined the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Mark Waid, who has reportedly always been a big Kara Zor-El fan,[25] included Supergirl in his Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes book, and she soon became a prominent and beloved member.

After Waid left the Legion book, Tony Bedard assumed writing duties. Supergirl left the team in Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #36, and the book's title shortened to "Legion of Super-Heroes".

In the meantime, Landry Q. Walker penned the Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade mini-series, a love letter to the Pre-Crisis period.

New 52 Age

Supergirl Vol 6 1

Supergirl's redesign after the Flashpoint event

In 2011 DC rebooted their universe again. Supergirl’s fifth book was cancelled in October, 2011 and the next month a new Supergirl volume hit the stands, featuring a new Kara Zor-El with a new, slightly tweaked origin. Zor-El put her in suspended animation and sent her to Earth before Krypton's explosion. Her pod spent several decades orbiting the Sun until crash-landing on Earth. That version of Kara Zor-El was a lonely girl who didn't manage to adapt to Earth and was full of anger and grief.

Supergirl Vol 6 floundered for a while, hitting its stride during the Tony Bedard and Kate Perkins runs. During several praised story arcs -Supergirl: Red Daughter of Krypton and Supergirl: Crucible-, sales rose and Supergirl became a member of the Justice League United, but DC decided to cancel the book in May, 2015; right before the premiere of the Supergirl Tv-show.

Supergirl kept making appearances in Justice League 3001 and the Convergence books, but DC wasn't publishing a Supergirl book for first time in over ten years. In January, 2016 DC commissioned Sterling Gates to write Adventures of Supergirl, a critically-praised digital comic adapted from the TV show. A six-issue print edition was also published as from July, 2016.

Rebirth Age

Supergirl Vol 7 8

Supergirl redefined by Steve Orlando

In October, 2016 DC published Supergirl: Rebirth #1, a DC Rebirth tie-in special issue which served as a launch pad to a new Supergirl title written by Steve Orlando.

Supergirl (Volume 7) started publication in November, 2016, integrating several aspects of Supergirl live-action show without throwing past continuity out. Supergirl moves to National City and starts working for the Department of Extranormal Operations as tries to adapt to Earth helped by her foster parents, the Danvers:[26]

"This is definitely the same Kara you saw in the New 52 SUPERGIRL series, sixteen years old, new to Earth. In story time, she has been on Earth for less than a year, and in that time has gotten into some trouble, be it her skirmish in Siberia when she landed, or her actions as a Red Lantern. But she’s putting that anger in the past, and looking forward, thanks to some new friends and a fresh start as seen in SUPERGIRL: REBIRTH."

Nevertheless, Orlando moves further away from Kara's early characterization during the New 52 era, playing up her compassion and the immigrant aspects of her background:

"I have long been a fan! Probably my first live interaction with Kara was when she debuted on Superman: The Animated Series, with her distinct urge to explore and to “VROOM” everywhere she went. I had encountered her before, in trading cards, in Crisis on Infinite Earths, but those were all backlogs, collecting I did when I was voraciously reading up on the DCU as a young, erstwhile fan. But when she debuted in the Dini/Timm series, it was fresh, I was seeing it at the same time as the rest of the world, not playing catch up, and I loved it. I loved the energy, the positivity and the joy associated with the character – her unfaltering ability to stay positive despite the tragic circumstances that brought her to Earth.

And that’s really what first made me connect to Kara – her history is in many ways even more tragic than her cousin’s, with her being a teenager when she left Krypton, and having real, tangible things that she’s left behind. But I connected with that, she tries her hardest not to let it weigh her down, or weigh other people down. I think her tenacity is something we can all aspire to – and really, superheroes, icons, we want them to to aspirational figures. Kara to me is all about positivity in the face of adversity, and through her experienced with that, a wealth of understanding. For me, that all started with her animated series appearances, to the Earth-Born Angel run, to the return of Kara Zor-El, and the growing accumulating DNA that brought us to where we are today."

In 2017 Supergirl: Being Super, an out-continuity mini-series by acclaimed writer Mariko Tamaki and Joelle Jones started publication. Although Joëlle Jones wasn't very familiar with the character prior to the project, she came to enjoy working on Supergirl:

"She's young and there's a wonderful vibrancy to her. She's not as world weary as other characters I work on. There's a hopefulness about her that I love."[27]

In 2018, following Brian Michael Bendis arrived at Superman, DC decided to undertake a restructuring of the Superman line. Despite enjoying consistently decent sales, Supergirl's Rebirth book was discontinued together with several others. Steve Orlando's run ended up with #20.[28]

Shortly after it was announced Supergirl's book would return with October 2018's Supergirl #21, helmed by Marc Andreyko and Kevin Maguire.[29]

Movies

Kara Zor-El (Donnerverse) 003

Helen Slater as Supergirl

Television

Melissa Benoist Mug 1

Melissa Benoist playing Supergirl

Novels

  • "Supergirl" by Norma Fox Mazer, novelization of the 1984 film.


Related Articles

No Related Articles.


Notes

  • No special notes.


Trivia

  • Supergirl has many nicknames, including: the Girl of Steel, The Maid of Might, the Girl of Tomorrow, the Stanhope Sensation, the Princess of Power, the Last Daughter of Krypton, the Last Argoan and the Blonde Blockbuster.
  • Kara Zor-El has put in a greater number of appearances in Superman's comics than any character not created in the Forties.[30]
  • During his run with the character, Jack C. Harris wanted to create a team book featuring Supergirl, Batgirl, Enchantress and Vixen. Along with artist Trevor Von Eeden, Harris pitched a comic book called "Power Squad" that DC ultimately passed on.[31]


Links and References


Footnotes