Supergirl is a comicbook superheroine, originally created as a Distaff Counterpart of Superman, drawing inspiration from Mary Marvel (in fact one of Supergirl's co-creators, legendary comic artist Otto Binder also created Mary Marvel.) A short summary of her history both in and out of comics can be found here. Who is the Girl of Steel?Though there have been other variations (see below) Supergirl is best known as Kara Zor-El, Superman's cousin from the planet Krypton. A fellow survivor of that planetary catastrophe, she arrived on Earth later than Kal-El. Far younger than her now-adult cousin, she oftentimes struggles with Earth's strange mores and being in the shadow of the world's greatest hero while growing into a compassionate and heroic young woman. Her role, especially in earlier comics, fluctuated between being a supporting character in Superman stories, occupying in the Superman mythos a similar niche to Robin in the Batman mythos and having her own largely unrelated stories.In 1985 the original Supergirl was killed off in the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover when DC Comics decided to return Superman to the status of Last of His Kind. For the next two decades various characters occupied the mantle before Kara Zor-El was restored to continuity. Over the years the various versions of Supergirl have held their own solo titles at several points.
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Supergirl's Comic Incarnations
#0) "Super-Girl"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 is rednote .)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.
#1.5) Power GirlIn 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. note She was instantly inducted into the Justice Society of America and soon became a fan favorite. See more on her own page.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.
#2) MatrixEventually, 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).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...
#4) Cir-ElBut 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.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.
#2.5) 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 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!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.
Other Media Depictions of Supergirl
Other mediaA Supergirl film was released in 1984, starring Helen Slater as Supergirl. It flopped commercially as well as critically, but Slater's performance was well-received by Supergirl fans.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
This character provides examples of:
- Action Girl: Being a member of the Super-family, she can mix it up just as well as Kal-El, sometimes even better.
- All Girls Like Ponies: Kara's pony Comet could fly! He was secretly a cursed centaur.
- And Here He Comes Now: Supergirl and the Legion of Super Heroes #20 features a conversation 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 Right Behind Me.
- Arch-Enemy: In the Silver Age Kara's Arch-Enemy 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 Genre Savvy enough to decide she should kill Lex Luthor 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.
- Badass Adorable: While she may be one of the strongest beings in the galaxy, she is very much a teenager with her own hangups.
- Bare Your Midriff: The Justice League, Peter David (which are basically the same outfit) and modern (pre-New 52) versions.
- Bash Brothers: Or Bash Cousins or whatever. With Superman, natch.
- Between My Legs: The first post-Crisis Super Girl, aka Matrix, was introduced with this◊, which also served to hide her face.
- Also seen in Supergirl issue 21◊.
- Canon Immigrant: The Kryptonian headband Supergirl was wearing when she died in Crisis on Infinite Earths. It was added at the request of the producers of the 1984 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 Superman: The Animated Series. 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.
- Cape Wings: Linda/Matrix as the Earth Angel of Fire.
- City of Adventure / Aliens in Cardiff: Linda Danvers' hometown of Leesburg, VA.
- Clark Kenting: In order from bad to better.
- New 52's Kara doesn't use any extras.
- The Linda/Matrix gestalt didn't use any extras
- Pre-Flashpoint Kara and Cosmic Adventure Kara version follow her cousin sample by using glasses.
- For most of her Pre-Crisis life, Kara used a brown wig to hide her blonde hair.
- The animated Supergirl of the DCAU uses both wig and glasses.
- Cloning Blues: A notable Bronze Age story involved Kara getting an 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.
- Continuity Cavalcade: 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.
- Deadpan Snarker: Peter David gave this quality to the Linda Danvers Supergirl and it has since passed over to future incarnations of the character.
- Depending on the Artist: Much more than her Spear Counterpart cousin, the size of her skirt can vary frequently, how big her breasts can be, to how old she actually looks.
- Distaff Counterpart: To Superman, obviously.
- Domed Hometown: Argo City.
- Dynamic Character: As noted above Supergirl was one of the first DC characters to avert the Static Character 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.
- Enemy Without: Thanks to black kryptonite. She managed to pull herself back together.
- Famous Last Words: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...
- Fanservice Pack: She started out in a modest Mini Dress Of Power. She eventually had costume changes with varying levels of fanservice, with the one from Adventure Comics #409 being particularly stripperiffic. Here's a look at the different costumes she had over the years.
- Scaled back in the New 52. Her outfit is a Leotard of Power 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.
- Flying Brick: Supergirl has all the same powers as Superman.
- Gendered Outfit: Trope image, and quite possibly the Trope Codifier. Every outfit Supergirl has worn has, in some way, been tailored to her femininity. While the Minidress of Power is the most frequent (and obvious) change, she's also had a low neckline, short shorts, an exposed midriff, a leotard, high heels and various combinations thereof. Her costume can basically always be summed up as "what if Superman was a teenage girl".note
- Genius Bruiser: 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.
- Girl Next Door: Kara/Linda's personality in the Silver Age.
- Girly Bruiser: She's got Super Strength and boobs to match.
- God Test: During Peter David'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.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Exemplifies this often (personality-wise) although as Linda, she wore a brunette wig.
- Happily Adopted: Pre-Crisis, by Fred and Edna Danvers.
- Heartwarming Orphan: Linda Lee eventually gets adopted, becoming Linda Danvers.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Her death in Crisis on Infinite Earths saved the Multiverse and was one of the big comic book deaths at that time.
- Intimate Marks: As per her Gendered Outfit, her "S" symbol is typically placed right over her breasts. Unlike most examples of the trope, though, she's fully covered. But Most Common Superpower doesn't make that count for much. Her Seventies costume, however, exploited the trope outright with a low neckline.
- Jailbait: Depending on the Artist. This was used as a criticism of her post-2003 character's treatment as many artists emphasized her sexiness despite the fact she was only sixteen.
- Incest Is Relative: The infamous ACTION COMICS #289 where Superman reveals that he's saddened that Kryptonian law forbids first cousins from marrying because he wishes he could find a girl like Kara. Rather than an idle, albeit creepy, thought about his sixteen-year-old cousin, this turns out to be a plot point. Supergirl proceeds to use a computer to find a girl who looks and acts like her as an adult named Luma Lynai in another galaxy. Superman and Luma hit it off but sadly, she couldn't exist under a yellow sun. Luma would get referenced several times thereafter as the one who got away. Discussed here. Any implications of romance between the Superman and Kara Zor-El version of Supergirl, however, was completely averted after the Silver Age.
- Peter David would make fun of this issue in Many Happy Returns where the Pre-Crisis Superman does marry Linda Danvers a.k.a the second Post-Crisis Supergirl. Superman, of course, knew she wasn't his cousin the entire time due to his super senses.
- Kindhearted Cat Lover: 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 MST3K Mantra and enjoy it for the Silver Age fun it was.
- Kissing Cousins: See Incest Is Relative above.
- Legion of Super-Heroes: On on again off again member of the team.
- Leotard of Power: Post the Flashpoint reboot for the DC Universe. Although other versions of Supergirl had used it before.
- Magic Skirt: Some artists draw it so short, but so short that you will need a massive Willing Suspension of Disbelief to accept something so short not allowing Panty Shots free of charge. Gary Frank, one of these artists, may be the only one to regularly show the leotard underneath.
- Mini Dress Of Power: Her Iconic Outfit.
- Modesty Shorts: Used more recently as an alternative to her Skirt.
- Most Common Superpower: She's considerably smaller than most heroines, but is still a bit above average than a lot of real life women. Power Girl, on the other hand...
- Not Allowed to Grow Up: Supergirl goes forth and back with this, only Kara has been given a few continuities where she actually grew up to be a young womannote , other Supergirls never went past their late teens. This is more prevalent when Power Girl 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 Distaff Counterpart 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.
- Pietà Plagiarism: The famous cover image of Crisis on Infinite Earths when she dies.
- Pink Product Ploy: A clothing line.
- Plot-Relevant Age-Up: Along with Dick Grayson, the original Kara was allowed to grow up, even if it took thirty years. She started out as a cute little teenybopper, and became a beautiful young woman. There's a huge Tear Jerker in "Whatever Happened to The Man of Tomorrow?,'' 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."
- Positive Discrimination: With her reintroduction in the Superman/Batman series, many efforts were made suggest that Kara was possibly a greater Flying Brick 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 Post-Crisis 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, while Kara hadn't yet.
- Retcon: Her backstory has been re-written more often the Blue Boy Scout himself. It can look like a tangled mess.
- Ret Gone: For a long while, Kara Zor-El was retconned out of existence by the Crisis on Infinite Earths - until a storyline with the Linda Danvers Supergirl had pre-Crisis Kara entering the Post-Crisis timestream by accident. Later, a Post-Crisis Kara was reintroduced, replacing Linda.
- Story Arc: Unusually for DC characters in the early Silver Age (especially Superman himself) Supergirl stories were regularly two or three (or rarely longer) story arcs rather than just stand alone stories.
- Superheroes Wear Capes: She usually wears a cape just like Superman.
- Teach Me How To Fight: Pre-Crisis Kara was trained by Superman. Post-Crisis/Pre-New 52 Kara was trained chiefly by Wonder Woman.
- Trauma Congaline: Not only is Krypton destroyed but Supergirl survives on Argo City but then it's destroyed. So she's orphaned twice in most continuities. In the Post-Crisis continuity her parents survived Krypton and Argo City's destruction only to die on New Krypton. Which was subsequently destroyed. In other words, she has lost her home planet three times.
- Wham Line: "We've... we've had a casualty."◊
- World of Muscle Men: In older issues of Super Girl 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.