Welcome to The Girls of Steel Week here at the Fortress. For five days I want to celebrate the various characters that have been given the name Supergirl. Instead of ranking them one to five I am going to go in chronological order, so sit back and enjoy the various Maids of Might that have been around DC Comics for over fifty years!
(Quick note here on Day One before we really get into things; I feel kind of bad for using the image you see above. Normally I don’t like using Ed Benes cheesecake images. Sure he can draw a mean Superman and Batman and such but nine times out of ten if he draws a panel or cover and there is a woman on that panel or cover she is shoving either her breasts or behind towards “the camera” and to me that is a bit gratuitous. However my Photoshop skills are poor and this image proved too perfect not to use, so as semi-hypocritical as it may be this will be the image you see all week long.)
The Girls of Steel Week Day One: Kara Zor-El (Silver and Bronze Age)
The original Kara Zor-El is kind of an odd character for me because on one hand I really like the character but on the other hand I haven’t read a whole heck of a lot of her adventures. Sure there were some stories featuring her in Superman: From the ’30s to the ’70s, which contained the very first Superman comics I ever read, and I have gone back and read various issues of Superman and Action Comics and Superman Family and Adventure Comics plus Daring New Adventures of Supergirl (which became just Supergirl with issue 13) but I don’t feel that I really know her all that well. This makes liking the character problematic because I can’t point to specific stories and moments where I can say, “Yup, that’s it. That’s why I like me some Kara-Zor-El.”
I think the main reason I like this iteration of Supergirl is that she’s kind of the kid sister to Superman even though Kara was his cousin. She’s his “kid sister” so in a way she is everybody’s kid sister. More importantly she’s family. While I am not the biggest fan of the Silver and Bronze Age incarnation of the Man of Steel I appreciate the heck out of the world the various creators and editors crafted for him and Supergirl was a big part of that. I dig on the concept of a character like Superman or even Batman for that matter having a “family” around him because by nature both characters are kind of on the outside looking in. For years Superman was the Last Son of Krypton and while Kryptonians seemed to pop out of the woodwork at a drop of a hat during the Silver Age he was still someone that was raised thinking that he was all alone in the universe. Supergirl’s importance is even greater when you consider the only other Kryptonians Superman knew when he was Superboy were a bunch of criminals in the Phantom Zone. When he reached adulthood Superman found the bottled city of Kandor during his first battle with Brainiac but even though he found a lost city containing thousands of people that came from the same planet as he did they were all out of reach since the city was, you know, tiny. So as Superboy he had friends and an adoptive family that loved him and as Superman he had friends that he worked with on a daily basis as well as those in the super-hero community but it must have been lonely for the Man of Steel to think that the only people out there like him were either scum bag criminals or the size of an action figure.
Then Supergirl came along.
When Supergirl first appeared in Action Comics #252 (May 1959) here was not only a full sized, non-villainous Kryptonian but a member of his own family as well and with a history that was every bit as tragic as Superman’s. Kara’s father Zor-El had covered their home of Argo City in a giant dome which saved them when Krypton went boom. When the ground beneath them turned to Kryptonite the people of Argo covered the ground with a lead shield and it was here that Kara was born, not on Krypton but on one of the last cities to survive the planet’s destruction. When a meteor shower pierced the lead shielding Kara’s parents placed her in a ship and rocketed her towards Earth to be found by her heroic cousin. Superman kept Kara’s presence hidden for years until he could train her in the use of her powers but once he was satisfied that she could use them safely he revealed her presence to the world in Action Comics #285 (February 1962).
Over the next few decades writers and artists added to Kara’s story. She was one of the many kids living at the Midvale Orphanage and concealed her true identity via a wig, which may sound a little silly but it was the Silver Age and because of that I accept and even like it on a weird level. Her secret identity of Linda Lee became Linda Lee Danvers when she was adopted by Fred and Edna. Eventually it was revealed that her biological parents had survived the Kryptonite poisoning via the aptly named Survival Zone and they went to live in Kandor. From what I can gather Kara’s life was kind of rocky from then on but I haven’t read those issues so I can’t say for sure one way or the other. I know she went to college for a time and then starred on a soap opera, which is actually kind of interesting as a concept, but whether or not those stories were good or not is unknown until I track down the issues or read the ones I already have.
I will say this for the character; like or hate the fact that it happened she had a great death. Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 (October 1985) was a fantastic story and Supergirl acted like a hero to the end. She sacrificed herself not only for her cousin but for the multi-verse as well and you couldn’t ask for a more fitting send off for a hero like Kara Zor-El.
The more I think about it the more I realize I need to get to know this version of Supergirl. She had a large fan base during her existence and while that didn’t translate into sales numbers it does count for something. Kara is an important part of Superman’s history and she is a blindspot in my own personal knowledge that I need to take care of.
This version of Supergirl had a number of costume changes over the years and I do have a favorite.
Yes, it’s the eighties one. I love this costume, especially when they added the headband. I can’t really tell you why but I do.
And that is it for today. Come back tomorrow for a special edition of YouTube Tuesday and as always…
More to follow….