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In the beginning, there was {{Franchise/Superman}}, and it was good.

Then somebody decided, in order to expand their product line, why not add in a [[DistaffCounterpart young, female version]] of Superman? Hey, it worked for [[{{ComicBook/Shazam}} Captain Marvel]].

!!!#0) "[[PoorlyDisguisedPilot Super-Girl]]"
As a test, they released ''Superman'' #123 (August, 1958), a JimmyOlsen story where he got three wishes. One wish was for a woman to keep Superman company, but though meaning well, this magical Super-Girl kept messing up her super-feats. Jimmy sadly wished her away when she sacrificed herself to save Superman from kryptonite, and was about to die anyway. (Note that in most later reprintings of this story, Super-Girl was intentionally miscolored to look different from Supergirl; originally, and as seen in DC Archives, she looks identical to Supergirl except that the skirt of her MiniDressOfPower is red[[note]]Funnily enough, years later, the Matrix version of Supergirl would wear a red skirt instrad of blue[[/note]].)

!!!#1) [[FirstInstallmentWins Kara Zor-El (Linda Lee Danvers)]]
The issue sold well and the DC powers that be decided that Supergirl's time had come. Thus was born Supergirl - a.k.a. [[LawOfAlienNames Kara]] Zor-El, Kal-El's cousin. She first appeared in ''Action Comics'' #252 (May, 1959). At first, she was "Superman's secret weapon". As Linda Lee, an orphan at the Midvale Orphanage, she hid the existence of Supergirl from the world, secretly doing good and helping those in trouble.

Eventually, as the audience for good female characters increased, Superman judged her ready, and Supergirl was unleashed on the world. She was adopted and became Linda Lee Danvers; she gained her own Smallville-esque supporting cast, becoming an occasional member of the ComicBook/LegionOfSuperHeroes and love interest to popular LSH member Brainiac 5.

Very unsually for DC Comics (at the time) Kara's adventures in ''Action Comics'' were serialised from the early 1960s onwards rather than stand alone as was the general practice (including for Superman himself who she shared the comics with.) Supergirl's status quo gradually changed over the course of the decade and she aged at a slightly slower than real time rate, going from a cute 15 year old to a high school graduate and then on into a college student.

!!!#1.5) [[AlternateSelf Power Girl]]
In the [[TheSeventies 1970s]], a fateful decision was made: If Superman had a cousin on Earth-1, where Supergirl had long been established to live, why not one for the original Superman, Kal-L of Earth-2? Thus was PowerGirl, aka Kara Zor-L of Earth-2, introduced (in ''All-Star Comics'' #58, Feb. 1976), with an origin much like Supergirl's, except for some {{scotch tape}} to the effect that her capsule had taken much longer to reach Earth. Power Girl used a very different costume, an all-white one which highlighted [[MostCommonSuperpower her breasts, large even by comicbook standards]]. [[note]]This has given rise to the urban myth that her original artist, Wally Wood, increased her bust size with every issue. [[http://ragnell.blogspot.com/2006/05/power-girl-you-be-judge.html It's a funny story, but it's not true]].[[/note]] She was instantly inducted into the Justice Society of America and soon became a fan favorite. See more on [[PowerGirl her own page.]]

!!![[GrandFinale The Crisis]]
But as the 1970s and early [[TheEighties 1980s]] came along, Supergirl fell out of fashion with comic fans. Several attempts to launch her into her own series failed spectacularly, and more alarming was the failure of her big budget live action film.

Then came the ''CrisisOnInfiniteEarths''. The powers that be decided that Supergirl was a symptom of the longstanding decline in the Superman franchise, which had made the books a poor seller for DC Comics. In order to try bringing back Superman's uniqueness, it was decided that Superman should be the only surviving Kryptonian. So in issue #7 of the Crisis (October, 1985), Supergirl made a HeroicSacrifice to help stop the villain's plan. But then DC decided to do a full-on reboot of the Superman franchise, resulting in the now dead Supergirl [[RetGone being declared to have never existed]]. In a bit of major irony though, the copycat Power Girl survived and was given a new origin story, as the granddaughter of an Atlantean sorcerer sent through time to the present day.

!!!#2) [[LoopholeAbuse Matrix]]
Eventually, JohnByrne decided to [[WriterRevolt "cheat"]] his way around the "Superman: Last Son of Krypton For Real" edict to bring Supergirl back, in the form of "Matrix", a shape-shifting purple creature who just so happens to take Supergirl's form. The new version first appeared in ''Superman'' vol. 2 #16 (April, 1988). Hailing from a pocket universe where ComicBook/{{Superboy}} existed (in order to keep the Legion of Super-Heroes universe from collapsing from the removal of Superboy from canon) and all life was destroyed by escaped Phantom Zone villains, Supergirl followed Superman into the mainstream DC Universe and for a time, things were good even as Supergirl began dating the Post-Crisis LexLuthor (who, granted, was pretending to be his own son).

!!!#3) [[GenreShift Linda Danvers (Post-Crisis)]]
However, this Supergirl grew stale as well, and in a few years Creator/PeterDavid was called in to {{retool}} her. In ''Supergirl'' vol. 4 #1 (September, 1996), Matrix traveled to the town of Leesburg, and [[FusionDance melded with a troubled girl]] named Linda Danvers, in a nice CallBack MythologyGag to her PreCrisis situation. The fusion of the two resulted in an "Earth-Born Angel", a holy being with powers of fire that would serve as the MythArc for her new series.

Eventually, the "angel" aspect and the "Linda" aspect separated, with Linda keeping some powers of her own. This came at the same time that Supergirl was introduced in ''SupermanTheAnimatedSeries'', so in a bit of media property alignment, [[CanonImmigrant Linda was given the cartoon Supergirl's costume]]. In "Many Happy Returns", the final story arc of the series, Linda met the ''original'' PreCrisis Supergirl whose rocket somehow detoured to the PostCrisis universe. David hoped to [[PoorlyDisguisedPilot use the arc to kickstart a new series entitled]] ''[[WhatCouldHaveBeen Blond Justice]]'', and while the story sold very well, the new series was not to be. Ultimately, Kara returned to her universe, and Linda [[PutOnABus retired from superheroing.]] ''Supergirl'' vol. 4 lasted 80 issues, ending in November, 2002. However, the success of "Many Happy Returns", suggested that there was interest in the original Supergirl...

!!!#4) [[ReplacementScrappy Cir-El]]
But first, a new character showed up; the DarkerAndEdgier Cir-El, who claimed to be Clark and LoisLane's [[KidFromTheFuture daughter from the future]]. She first appeared in ''Superman the 10 Cent Adventure'' #1 (March, 2003). However, she was a very unpopular character, and in short order her claims were debunked and she [[PutOnABus vanished into the timestream]].

!!!#5) [[HereWeGoAgain Kara Zor-El (Post-Crisis)]]
At this point, Dan [=DiDio=] rose to power at DC Comics. As urban legends goes, [=DiDio=] freaked out when he accidentally discovered the current Supergirl's convoluted origin of pocket universes and "earth angels" and made one of his first edicts upon taking over DC Comics to be DC bringing back the real Supergirl. (The success of the aforementioned "Many Happy Returns" arc probably didn't hurt either). A new Kara Zor-El was introduced, having crash-landed onto Earth just in time to be (re)introduced into DC Universe canon in ''ComicBook/SupermanBatman'' #8 (May, 2004). In a twist, it was revealed that Kara was ''older'' than Kal-El when they lived together on Krypton, and had been sent into space in order to care for her baby cousin on Earth; her rocket, however, going off-course (in a re-appropriation of Power Girl's origin) had meant she arrived as a teenager when he was an adult.

Since then Supergirl's basic identity in the [[TheDCU DCU]] has held steady as Kara Zor-El. Confusion didn't end there though as her own named title was prone to retconning Kara's personal backstory on Krypton every three issues or so under a string of writers before ''finally'' settling down some 30 issues in. This roughly coincided with being brought into the extended [[BatFamilyCrossover New Krypton]] storyline, dealing with several hundred Kryptonians appearing on planet Earth led by Supergirl's parents. The book finally managed to become well regarded and is now a stable part of the Superman Family of comics. Supergirl also appeared in ''Supergirl and the ComicBook/LegionOfSuperHeroes'', in which she was stuck a thousand years in the future with the Legion (having made the TimeTravel trip during a TimeSkip in her own book, and then getting LaserGuidedAmnesia before she returned). To top it off, 2009 saw a toony-style miniseries aimed at kids, called ''Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures In the 8th Grade,'' which was ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin. [[WordOfGod The original writer says]] [[WhatCouldHaveBeen he had plans to write sequels retelling her pre-Crisis story (her time in the Legion ''et al''), taking her up to the 12th Grade]].

!!!#2.5) [[ContinuitySnarl Power Girl (Post-Crisis)]]
Meanwhile, Power Girl had gone through some changes as they tried to figure out what to do with her. Recruited for the Justice League Europe branch, Kara had her powers decreased (due to a {{deus ex machina}} lifesaving operation). She developed a new edgy, ultra-feminist attitude to let her serve as the resident shit-disturber on the JLE team (which was briefly retconned as being the result of allergies caused by diet sodas). She was made a businesswoman with her own computer company, mystically pregnant caused by her Atlantean grandpa, and most humiliatingly, was given a short-lived [[WeaksauceWeakness vulnerability to "natural, unprocessed materials"]] by Chris Claremont that was so silly and stupid that it was quickly dropped as soon as it was established.

Eventually, she found a home in the ongoing ''JSA'' series, and now that she was being focused on by a single writer, she started to gain some consistency. In the series, it was {{r|etCon}}evealed that she wasn't Atlantean after all ó but that left the question of what she ''was''.

In the run-up to ''Infinite Crisis'', the surprisingly simple answer was revealed: she was... Kara Zor-L, the cousin of the Superman of Earth-2. As the Earths were being merged, she had somehow fallen through a crack in time, emerging in the PostCrisis universe unchanged, and the inconsistencies in her powers and origins since then had been side effects of the universe trying to fit her in. (Note: She is specifically from the Earth-2 that existed prior to ''Crisis of the Infinite Earths.'' A new Earth-2 thatís like the old one appeared after InfiniteCrisis but it has its own Power Girl. Much to the original's dismay.)

Thus, both Supergirls have ended up right back where they started. See? [[BlatantLies It wasn't so complicated after all!]]

!!! #6 [[ContinuityReboot Kara Zor-El (New 52) and #3.5 Power Girl (New 52)]]
...Oh, what's that? DC rebooted [[{{New 52}} their entire universe again in 2011]], you say? Well, since Superman was rebooted this means Supergirl had to start from square one too. It's being kept simple this time: Supergirl is still Superman's cousin from Krypton who crashed to Earth much later and only remembers her cousin as a baby. Under the reboot Supergirl has experienced some personality shifts emphasizing she's an alien in contrast to her cousin.

Meanwhile, on Earth 2, Power Girl is also Superman's cousin from Krypton. Only she started her career there as Supergirl, her Superman is dead, and she's wound up stranded on the main Earth for several years. She's currently co-starring in ''Worlds' Finest'' with her best friend, ComicBook/{{Huntress}} (who, much like PG, started out as a sidekick in E2, having been Robin to her dad Batman). And in an interesting twist, both Karas do eventually meet and discover they have a strange bond due to their status as AlternateUniverse counterparts of each other.

!!!Other media
A ''Film/{{Supergirl}}'' film was released in 1984, starring Helen Slater as Supergirl. [[BoxOfficeBomb It flopped]].

''WesternAnimation/SupermanTheAnimatedSeries'' introduced its own version of Supergirl in 1998. This version was named Kara In-Ze and was rescued from the Kryptonian colony world of Argo. She wasn't actually a relative of Superman, beyond their being the same species, but she was adopted as his cousin and given a false civilian identity as Kara Kent. She was voiced by Nicholle Tom and would later appear in ''WesternAnimation/JusticeLeagueUnlimited''. An [[EvilTwin evil]] [[CloningBlues clone]] of Supergirl named Galatea also appeared, whose costume, hairstyle and [[MostCommonSuperpower larger breasts]] were an obvious ShoutOut to Power Girl.

In 2007 Supergirl became a regular character on ''{{Smallville}}'' as Clark's cousin Kara from Krypton (played by Laura Vandervoort), using a variation of the origin where she is older than him and, as is typical in that series, NotWearingTights or using a code name. (There had earlier been a fake "Kara from Krypton" who turned out to be neither. [[spoiler: It was a plan by an [=AI=] made in Jor-El's image]], and from the way she was hitting on him, she wasn't supposed to be Clark's cousin [[IncestIsRelative unless Kryptonian social mores are]] [[strike: very different from]] [[IncestIsRelative pretty much the same as modern human ones]].)

The 2010 direct-to-video movie ''WesternAnimation/SupermanBatmanApocalypse'' is an AnimatedAdaptation of the story that introduces the post-Crisis Kara Zor-El. She's voiced by Creator/SummerGlau.
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!!This character provides examples of:
* ActionGirl
* AllGirlsLikePonies: Kara's pony Comet could ''fly!'' He was secretly a [[BalefulPolymorph cursed]] [[OurCentaursAreDifferent centaur]].
* AndHereHeComesNow: ''Supergirl and the ComicBook/LegionOfSuperHeroes'' #20 features aconversation about how uneasy Supergirl makes everyone. Unfortunately, Supergirl has superhearing. Dream Boy attempts to warn everyone else but is ignored for long enough that this overlaps with RightBehindMe.
* ArchEnemy: In the SilverAge Kara's ArchEnemy was evil Kandorian scientist Lesla-Lar who specialised in stealing powers and/or bodies and tried to replace Kara with herself more than once (she was also GenreSavvy enough to decide she should kill LexLuthor after milking their villainous partnership for as much as possible). Post-Crisis it was Superwoman (Lucy Lane). In the {{New 52}} it is evil billionaire Simon Tycho.
* BadassAdorable: While she may be one of the strongest beings in the galaxy, she is very much a teenager with her own hangups.
* BareYourMidriff: The ''JusticeLeague,'' Creator/PeterDavid (which are basically the same outfit) and modern (pre-New 52) versions.
* [[BashBrothers Bash Cousins]]: With Superman, natch.
* BetweenMyLegs: The first post-Crisis SuperGirl, aka Matrix, was introduced [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Superman21.jpg with this]], which also served to hide her face.
** Also seen in [[http://maidofmight.net/gallery/102-3/supergirl21.jpg Supergirl issue 21]].
* CanonImmigrant: The Kryptonian headband Supergirl was wearing when she died in ''CrisisOnInfiniteEarths''. It was added at the request of the producers of the 1984 ''{{Film/Supergirl}}'' movie... who then decided to ditch the headband themselves. The headband was explained in the comic as honoring her Kryptonian heritage, but in fact only male Kryptonians wore headbands before that.
** Also, the white T-shirt costume from ''WesternAnimation/SupermanTheAnimatedSeries''. It's explained in-story that Linda fashioned it from things she found in a costume shop, after Matrix (who wore a classic version of the costume) was forced to leave her.
* CapeWings: Linda/Matrix as the Earth Angel of Fire.
* CloningBlues: A notable BronzeAge story involved Kara getting an [[EvilTwin Evil Clone]] who was then depowered and just wanted to live a normal life. Kara promised to help her establish a new identity for herself.
* ContinuityCavalcade: In issue 23 of the New 52, Cyborg Superman creates robot replicas of people from Supergirl's memories to fight her. This includes everyone she's met in her series; friend and foe, hero and villain.
* DeadpanSnarker
* DependingOnTheArtist: Much more than her SpearCounterpart cousin, the size of her skirt can vary frequently, how big her breasts can be, to how old she actually looks.
* DistaffCounterpart: Take a [[Franchise/{{Superman}} wild guess]] as to who.
* DomedHometown: Argo City
** DoomedHometown: ditto.
* DynamicCharacter: As noted above Supergirl was one of the first DC characters to avert the StaticCharacter format going from a naive teenager to a smart young woman looking to make her mark on the world, gaining a family and friends of her own. Notably Superman (who was a constant presence in her earlier stories) slowly faded away from her narrative as Supergirl grew into her own character.
* EnemyWithout: Thanks to black kryptonite. She managed to pull herself back together.
* FamousLastWords:
-->'''Supergirl:''' Thank heaven... the worlds have a chance to live. Y-you're crying... please don't. You taught me to be brave... and I was... I... I love you so much for what you are. For how... good you are...
* FanservicePack: She started out in a modest MiniDressOfPower. She eventually had costume changes with varying levels of fanservice, with the one from ''Adventure Comics'' #409 being particularly {{stripperiffic}}. [[http://girl-wonder.org/supergirl/pop/costumes2.htm Here's a look at the different costumes she had over the years.]]
** Scaled back in the New 52. Her outfit is a LeotardOfPower and while she shows quite a bit of leg right up to the pelvic bones, her overall appearance has been downplayed for a more teenage girl look.
* FlyingBrick
* GenderedOutfit: Quite possibly the TropeCodifier. ''Every'' outfit Supergirl has worn has, in some way, been tailored to her femininity. While the MinidressOfPower is the most frequent (and obvious) change, she's also had a [[ImpossiblyLowNeckline low neckline]], [[WhoWearsShortShorts short shorts]], [[BareYourMidriff an exposed midriff]], [[LeotardOfPower a leotard]], [[CombatStilettos high heels]] and various combinations thereof. Her costume can basically always be summed up as "what if Superman was a teenage girl".[[note]]TvTropes.org is not responsible for whatever image just popped into your head after reading that[[/note]]
* GeniusBruiser: Her official power list includes "Genius-Level Intellect". And in fact she's considered a genius by Kryptonian standards. Obviously most writers forgot about this.
* GirlNextDoor: Kara/Linda's personality in the SilverAge.
* GirlyBruiser
* GodTest: During Creator/PeterDavid's run, with the "angel" version of the character, she meets a little boy who claims to be a god, come to speak to her. She asks for proof, and he asks what sort of miracle would prove anything in an age of superheroes who can fly, transmute elements, etc.; so she's just going to have to take it on faith.
* HairOfGoldHeartOfGold: Exemplifies this often (personality-wise) although as Linda, she wore a brunette wig.
* HappilyAdopted: Pre-Crisis, by Fred and Edna Danvers.
* HeartwarmingOrphan: Linda Lee eventually gets adopted, becoming Linda Danvers.
* HeroicSacrifice
* IntimateMarks: As per her GenderedOutfit, her "S" symbol is typically placed right over her breasts. Unlike most examples of the trope, though, she's fully covered. But MostCommonSuperpower doesn't make that count for much. Her Seventies costume, however, exploited the trope outright with a low neckline.
* {{Jailbait}}: DependingOnTheArtist
* KindheartedCatLover: Streaky the Super-Cat, in fact. He got powers in a lab accident. Yes, he was a cat who could shove the planet out of orbit if he liked; just repeat the MST3KMantra and enjoy it for the SilverAge fun it was.
* ComicBook/{{Legion of Super-Heroes}}
* LeotardOfPower: Post the {{Comicbook/Flashpoint}} reboot for the DC Universe. Although other versions of ComicBook/{{Supergirl}} had used it before.
* MagicSkirt: [[DependingOnTheArtist Some artists]] draw it so short, but ''so short'' that you will need a massive WillingSuspensionOfDisbelief to accept something so short not allowing {{Panty Shot}}s free of charge. Gary Frank, one of these artists, may be the only one to regularly show the leotard underneath.
* MiniDressOfPower
* ModestyShorts: Used more recently as an alternative to her Skirt.
* MostCommonSuperpower: She's considerably smaller than most heroines, but is still a bit above average than a lot of real life women. PowerGirl, on the other hand...
* NotAllowedToGrowUp: Supergirl goes forth and back with this, only Kara has been given a few continuities where she actually grew up to be a young woman[[note]]PreCrisis and an All-Star version as Superwoman[[/note]], other Supergirls never went past their late teens. This is more prevalent when PowerGirl exists in the given continuity, having Supergirl as an adult woman would basically negate Karen's character, as she serves as the adult life for a DistaffCounterpart of Superman.
** The Pre-Crisis Kara is interesting in that she actually aged only a little slower than real time early on; she was 15 when she first appeared in 1959 and graduated high school in 1964, presumably making her about 18 and went on to graduate college in turn in 1971. She spent the 1970s as a young woman in her early 20's before being retconned back to a 19 year old college student towards the end of the Bronze Age.
* PietaPlagiarism: The famous cover image of ''CrisisOnInfiniteEarths'' when she dies.
* PinkProductPloy: A clothing line.
* PlotRelevantAgeUp: Along with [[{{Nightwing}} Dick Grayson]], the [[PreCrisis original]] Kara was allowed to grow up, even if it [[ComicBookTime took thirty years]]. She started out as a cute little teenybopper, and became a beautiful young woman. [[spoiler: There's a huge TearJerker in "ComicBook/WhateverHappenedToTheManOfTomorrow,'' when time-travelling young Kara asks Superman if she grows up to be pretty. This is after Kara's own death, and Supes can't tell her that; but he does tell her, as they pass a statue of her adult self in the Fortress, "You grew up beautiful, Kara."]]
* PositiveDiscrimination: With her reintroduction in the ''Superman/Batman'' series, many efforts were made suggest that Kara was possibly a greater FlyingBrick than her cousin. Many stories written soon after her introduction as Supergirl had other heroes saying that she might be faster than Superman, might be stronger than Superman, etc. Overall, characters seemed to believe Kara would eventually surpass Clark in all parameters. Later these cheap compliments and expectations simply vanished, and the more traditional "as strong as Superman, but maybe slightly less so because she's smaller" interpretation again prevailed.
** In the lengthy 1959 story arc about Supergirl's secret apprenticeship and training, Kara had a power outage. Then she briefly got everything back -- along with invulnerability to Green Kryptonite. (Mr. Mxyzptlk was responsible.) Superman seriously regarded her as superior to him, and wondered if he should become ''her'' assistant.
** In her PostCrisis reintroduction, she seemed stronger than Clark for a while, but it proves to be because Clark's long since gotten used to holding himself back in a {{world of cardboard|Speech}}, while Kara hadn't yet.
* RetCon: Just look at the description above!
* RetGone: For a long while, Kara Zor-El was retconned out of existence by the CrisisOnInfiniteEarths - until a storyline with the Linda Danvers Supergirl had PreCrisis Kara entering the PostCrisis timestream by accident. Later, a PostCrisis Kara was reintroduced, replacing Linda.
* StoryArc: Unusually for DC characters in the early SilverAge (especially Superman himself) Supergirl stories were regularly two or three (or rarely longer) story arcs rather than just stand alone stories.
* SuperheroesWearCapes
* TeachMeHowToFight: PreCrisis Kara was trained by Superman. Post-Crisis/Pre-New 52 Kara was trained chiefly by Franchise/WonderWoman.
* ThighHighBoots: In her ''New 52'' costume, and in a few of her PreCrisis outfits [[http://www.metropolisplus.com/Supergirl/ which can be seen here]].
* WhamLine: [[http://braveblog.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/crisis7-39.jpg "We've... we've had a casualty."]]
* WorldOfMuscleMen: In older issues of SuperGirl and similar "girlie" comics, the men in the super heroine's lives will often be so built, their muscles appear under sweaters. The reasons for this can vary.
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