In the beginning, there was Superman
, and it was good.
Then somebody decided, in order to expand their product line, why not add in a young, female version
of Superman? Hey, it worked for Captain Marvel
As a test, they released Superman
#123 (August, 1958), a Jimmy Olsen
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 Mini Dress Of Power
The issue sold well and the DC powers that be decided that Supergirl's time had come. Thus was born Supergirl - a.k.a. 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 Legion of Super Heroes
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.
In the 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 Power Girl
, 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 her breasts, large even by comicbook standards
She was instantly inducted into the Justice Society of America and soon became a fan favorite. See more on her own page.
But as the 1970s and early 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 Crisis on Infinite Earths
. 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 Heroic Sacrifice
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 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.
Eventually, John Byrne
decided to "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 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 Lex Luthor
(who, granted, was pretending to be his own son).
However, this Supergirl grew stale as well, and in a few years Peter David
was called in to retool
her. In Supergirl
vol. 4 #1 (September, 1996), Matrix traveled to the town of Leesburg, and melded with a troubled girl
named Linda Danvers, in a nice Call Back Mythology Gag
to her Pre Crisis
situation. The fusion of the two resulted in an "Earth-Born Angel", a holy being with powers of fire that would serve as the Myth Arc
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 Superman: The Animated Series
, so in a bit of media property alignment, Linda was given the cartoon Supergirl's costume
. In "Many Happy Returns", the final story arc of the series, Linda met the original Pre Crisis
Supergirl whose rocket somehow detoured to the Post-Crisis
universe. David hoped to use the arc to kickstart a new series entitled Blond Justice
, and while the story sold very well, the new series was not to be. Ultimately, Kara returned to her universe, and Linda 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...
But first, a new character showed up; the Darker and Edgier
Cir-El, who claimed to be Clark and Lois Lane
's 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 vanished into the timestream
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 Superman/Batman
#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 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 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 Legion of Super Heroes
, in which she was stuck a thousand years in the future with the Legion (having made the Time Travel
trip during a Time Skip
in her own book, and then getting Laser-Guided Amnesia
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 Exactly What It Says on the Tin
. The original writer says 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
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 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 revealed
that she wasn't Atlantean after all — 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 Post-Crisis
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 that’s like the old one appeared after Infinite Crisis
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? It wasn't so complicated after all!
...Oh, what's that? DC rebooted 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, 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 Alternate Universe
counterparts of each other.
film was released in 1984, starring Helen Slater as Supergirl. It flopped
.Superman: The Animated Series
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 Justice League Unlimited
. An evil clone
of Supergirl named Galatea also appeared, whose costume, hairstyle and larger breasts
were an obvious Shout-Out
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, Not Wearing Tights
or using a code name. (There had earlier been a fake "Kara from Krypton" who turned out to be neither. 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 unless Kryptonian social mores are
very different from pretty much the same as modern human ones
The 2010 direct-to-video movie Superman/Batman: Apocalypse
is an Animated Adaptation
of the story that introduces the post-Crisis Kara Zor-El. She's voiced by Summer Glau
This character provides examples of: