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!
The Girls of Steel Week Day Three: Matrix/Linda Danvers
A week or so ago I chose the Matrix version of Supergirl as my second favorite supporting hero from the Superman titles circa 1990/1992. In that post I talked about what a great character I thought she was and how the Matrix iteration was all that and a bag of chips with ranch dressing on the side and gave a brief rundown of her early days, so I really don’t want to go over all of that again. If this is your first time here at the Fortress or if you just plain missed out on all of that you can read that post here.
What I really want to talk about today is the Peter David version of Supergirl.
As much as I liked Matrix I will be the first to admit that the character couldn’t have sustained her own series. After things went south with Lex Luthor the character wandered a bit. They tried to set her up in a new identity but it just didn’t work for one reason or another. This happens from time to time. A character works out great as a supporting player but doesn’t have enough to him or her to warrant their own book. So Peter David did what Peter David does best; he goes in his own direction without discounting anything that came before him. I like that type of writer because too often a creator will come on a book and say, “To hell with the past, everything I am doing right now is the only version of this character!” I can understand not wanting to deal with some aspect of a character’s history, but to me it is a disservice to the fans to throw everything out when you are starting anew and before you start pelting me with e-mails and comments saying that John Byrne did that with Superman I think there is a difference between a pre-planned reboot and starting over with a new number one.
Yes I’m splitting hairs, I do it all the time, big whoop, wanna fight about it?
When we are introduced to Linda Danvers she wasn’t the first person you would think of to become the new Supergirl. She hung out with the wrong crowd, did bad things and nearly got herself killed by way of becoming a human sacrifice for the demonic cult her boyfriend, Buzz, got her mixed up with. Matrix intervened and under some very mysterious circumstance the two were fused and after that Linda could become Supergirl at will and went about fighting crime and even darker forces.
This leads into another of my favorite aspects of Peter David’s writing; he makes you care about the characters you read about by establishing a supporting cast and a setting that seemed real and he did this in spades with Supergirl. Linda grew as a character over the course of the series and her relationships matured. She became closer to her parents. She had friends she cared about. David gave me a series that I could latch on and look forward to month after month even when he was constantly pulling the rug out from our feet from time to time.
This leads (yet again) into another hallmark of David’s work; he will keep you guessing. Once you are settled into a routine he’ll switch things up and surprise the hell out of his audience. Linda Danvers can become Supergirl? Sure, but guess what? She’s also an Earth-Angel, capable of all kinds of nifty things like flame wings and teleportation.
Good with that? Ok. How about after a climactic and epic battle the Matrix aspect is ripped out of her and suddenly she’s just Linda Danvers with half her former powers and none of the Earth Angel stuff? How about we add the costume from the animated series of the time for good measure?
Used to all of that? Fine. Next we’ll have the Silver Age version of Supergirl show up and all of the sudden we have alternate realities and Linda living on another Earth for an issue, even having a kid there with Superman. How does that strike your fancy?
It was a roller coaster ride of a series and I liked it from beginning to end, even when David’s stories would get sidelined by whatever crossover DC wanted to do at the time. It was one of the most satisfying comic book reads I was ever a part of and I was lucky to be there from the very beginning. Sure it was confusing at first, but once things got going Supergirl went to the top of the reading pile every time a new issue came out.
I was a fan.
I’m still a fan.
At the risk of sounding like I am just complaining about the current regime you could almost pinpoint the turning point from the DC that I grew up with and loved to what it has become today with the cancellation of both Supergirl and Young Justice. Oddly enough both were written by Peter David. In any case it was the end of those series and the introduction of a newer, meaner DC made popular by Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis that marked the beginning of the end for me. Don’t get me wrong. I thought both of those stories were well written and I bought into the hype along with everyone else. The thing is that just about every fan has a stopping point and in all honesty the end of the Peter David Supergirl series was the first nail in the coffin of me walking away from DC altogether.
But enough of the depressing talk. I come to praise Linda Danvers not bury the new all new, all darker DC. I am really looking forward to re-reading this series when Jeffrey and I get around to 1996 on From Crisis to Crisis. I will admit that as time has gone on I have forgotten some of the finer details of the series, so it will be like discovering it all over again. If you haven’t read this series yet I suggest tracking it down. Sadly there were only two trade paperbacks produced of the first several issues and the last storyline, so this will have to be a back issue bin/eBay dive for you. I honestly think you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.
By the way; I do know Linda was brought back during the Reign in Hell series. It was actually one of the reasons I stopped buying that series. I just couldn’t do it. I liked the character too much to see her handled by anyone but Peter David and I normally don’t do that. Linda was the exception and I stand by that decision.
That’s it for today. Tomorrow I will do my level best to find something nice to say about the Cir-El iteration of Supergirl.
No really. I will. Well, I’ll try at the very least.
More to follow…