Many Happy Returns is a 2003 Supergirl storyline written by Peter David with art by Ed Benes, published in Supergirl (1996) #75-80. It was the final arc of the adventures of Linda Danvers and heralded the re-emergence and return of Kara Zor-El to the mainstream DC universe.
In 1996, DC gave Peter David the job of writing a new Supergirl book. Feeling the then-current Matrix Supergirl — a sapient, shape-shifting mass of protoplasm — was unrelatable, he replaced her with his own character, post-Crisis human Supergirl Linda Danvers. His book was well-regarded, but according to David, sales were almost nonexistent, and people missed the original Silver Age Kara, not any other later version. Being sure that "Kara's addition would bring in readers in droves", he came up with a story in which Linda Danvers meets a reality-displaced Kara Zor-El.
So, in Supergirl #75, Linda meets a Kryptonian rocket and a girl emerging from it, claiming to be Superman's cousin.
Many Happy Returns sold very well, but it was not enough to save the title from cancellation. However, those sales suggested that readers were indeed interested in the original Supergirl. One year later, Kara Zor-El was reintroduced to the DC universe in The Supergirl from Krypton (2004) and has been a staple since then.
Many Happy Returns provides examples of:
- Action Girl: Both Kara and Linda are super-heroines (although Kara has not started out her career yet).
- Alas, Poor Yorick: Xenon does this with the skull of a Supergirl he has just killed in issue #77.
- Alien Among Us: Linda gets Kara enrolled at her high school. Kara does her best to blend in, but she is a fifteen-year-old who comes from another planet and reality. She simply doesn't fit in, and her schoolmates think she is some kind of freak.
- And This Is for...: As she pummeled the Fatalist, Linda yelled she was beating him on Kara's behalf.
- Badass Arm-Fold: Kara folds her arms across her chest and stares Rebel down after warning that if he attacks her, she will hurt him.
- Badass Boast: Kara's Breaking Speech to Rebel. Accompanied by Glowing Eyes of Doom and Dramatic Thunder that she might have summoned:Supergirl: Look — here's the problem. You've done some bad things, but I'm really, really upset right now. So much so that, honestly, I don't trust myself. And if you attack me or I attack you... I will hurt you. I will hurt you worse than you've ever been hurt in your whole life. I can carve you up by looking at you. I can break you, boil you, freeze you. I can do things you can't imagine. Things I can't imagine, until I have to, and then I'll improvise. Part of me is hoping that you will attack. And part of me is praying — for your sake and my own peace of mind — that you don't. It's up to you. Oh... And, Rebel... I have eyes that can see through solid matter. I have ears that can hear your slightest word, your heartbeat, your breathing. You do anything that hurts others... I will find you. And you won't like it. Do we have an understanding?
- Badass in Distress: Kara is trapped and chained to a wall by Xenon.
- Big Bad Wannabe: Invoked by Kara when she informs Rebel that he is an insignificant idiot they had to deal with until a true menace turned up. (See Break Them By Talking below)
- Big Brother Is Watching: After dissuading Rebel from attacking her, Kara warns him that she can see through walls and she can hear his heartbeats a continent away, so if he does something wrong, she will know and stop him.
- Big Brother Mentor: Linda becomes this to Kara, taking care of her and teaching her how to be a hero.
- Bit Part Bad Guys: Eventually, Kara gets tired of putting up with Rebel's harassment and points out he was merely a distraction as the real enemy introduced himself.
- Bittersweet Ending: Linda and Kara manage to save New Earth (the Post-Crisis universe.) However, Linda has to leave her husband and daughter behind and send Kara back to her universe and eventual death. As a result of it, she hates herself for being unable to protect them, and retires. It became a bit less bitter after Convergence since Pre-Crisis Kara's death was undone.
- Break the Cutie: Kara loses her parents and her entire world when they launch her off Argo City to save her life. Her rocket changes course and she crashes into the post-Crisis universe instead of Earth-One. Everyone yells at her, hurts her, or thinks she is an idiot or crazy. Her only living relative turns her down before she can explain she is his cousin because he believes her to be an obsessed fan. She tries to go school and make friends but she is treated as a freak. And then a cosmic being turns up and tells her that she has to return to her universe... where she will eventually get killed.Kara: It's nice. It's... peaceful. Not like here. Here people yell at you... or hurt you... or think you're an idiot or crazy... Or let you down. I've never hated anyone or anything in my life. But I hate this world. I hate it.
- Break Them by Talking: In issue #79, Rebel tries to harass Kara after trying to kill her and Linda. Supergirl proceeds to tell him that he is a pathetic, insignificant nuisance with delusions of grandeur and she is a very busy and very angry Physical God. He runs away.Rebel: So whattaya say we just finish this off with one final dance?
Supergirl: Don't you get it, Rebel? You're not important! You never were! You were just — something to do! Something for Supergirl and me to bounce off of for a while until people and events of real consequence came along! Look — Here's the problem. You've done some bad things, but I'm really, really upset right now. So much so that, honestly, I don't trust myself. And if you attack me or I attack you... I will hurt you. I'll hurt you worse than you've ever been hurt in your whole life. I can carve you up as soon as look at you. I can break you, boil you, freeze you. I can do things you can't imagine. Things I can't imagine, until I have to. And then I'll improvise. Part of me is hoping you will attack. And part of me is praying — for your sake, and my own peace of mind — that you don't. It's up to you.
Rebel: You doing that? Causing a storm to roll in?
- Broken Tears: Kara sheds them twice: when everyone is treating her - an orphan who has just lost her home and landed in another world where everyone is a jerk to her and her only living relative turns her down - as a dumb, crazy girl; and when she is told she has to return to her world... where she will eventually die.
- Bullying a Dragon: Rebel ambushes and taunts Kara after Linda has gone. Kara warns him she can kill him as soon as she looks at him. He runs away.
- But Now I Must Go: Linda.
- Captain Obvious: Done in tongue-in-cheek fashion in issue #78 when The Spectre and Fatalist turn up:Linda:: Now who's this guy?!
The Spectre: Still thrusting yourself into situations that are over your head, are you, Fatalist?
Kara: I think he's called "Fatalist".
Linda: Brilliant, Holmes.
- Catch a Falling Star: In issue #76, Linda saves an unconscious Kara who has just been dropped by a pterosaur.
- Chained to a Rock: Kara is chained to a rock by demonic villain Xenon, who intends to slay her to free himself from his prison. Remarkably Kara is rescued by Linda and not for a man.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Linda's supporting cast and Rogues Gallery vanished after this storyline.
- Clothing Damage: Linda's Supergirl costume. Her costume on Earth-One covers her stomach, but it is quickly damaged when she returns home, resulting in her midriff exposed.
- Combat Pragmatist: Rebel looks forward to fight Supergirl... until Kara warns him that she's mad enough right now that she'll destroy him before he can blink if he bothers her.
- Deadpan Snarker: Linda can get pretty sarcastic. When The Spectre tells her about the Anti-Monitor she slightly mishears:Linda: I thought I was fighting Xenon! What the hell—? Auntie Monitor?! Who's her partner, Uncle Screen Saver?
- Death from Above: Kara's telescopic vision warned her that a meteorite was about to collide with Earth. She wanted to solve the situation by pushing Earth out of the way, but Linda assured her that the Justice League would deal with it.
- Deconstructed Trope: Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?. Linda wants to save Kara's life by replacing her and fighting the Anti-Monitor in her stead. Unfortunately, Kara can fight universe-eating Eldritch Abominations because she is all but a Physical God, whereas Linda is a human being, albeit empowered. She has exactly zero chances to hurt the devourer of the Multiverse, and no amount of determination, willpower, human spirit or preparation time will change that.
- Defiant to the End: Xenon is about to slay the latest Supergirl he has captured. Before being burned down to ashes, the girl glares at him and tells him where he can go to:Supergirl: You...
Xenon: Ah. It desires to be defiant.
Supergirl: You... can just go... straight to Hell.
Xenon: Oh, as if I haven't heard that before.
- Despair Event Horizon: Linda crosses this after she is forced to send the pre-Crisis Kara Zor-El back to her universe and her eventual death, as well as losing her daughter even though Ariella was spared from erasure.
- Diagnosis from Dr. Badass: Linda punches Kara in the face and notes that she's broken three fingers.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Rebel attacks Supergirl but she is feeling depressed and doesn't want to defend herself. When Rebel complains about it, Kara apologizes and says she can try to fight back if it'd make him feel better. Rebel grumbles he doesn't want her pity.Supergirl: I'm... I'm sorry, Rebel. I could... try to fight back. If it'd make you feel better.
Rebel: Oh, please. I don't want your pity.
- Doomed by Canon: The Spectre informs Kara that she has to return to her own timeline for the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths to happen (namely, her Heroic Sacrifice). Linda tried to switch places with Kara, but it failed.
- Double Entendre: From issue #77:Kara Zor-El: I'm looking through it. It's amazing. All the equipment I'm seeing. So many sizes and shapes...
Linda Danvers: All the...? Kara! Just where are you looking?!
Kara: The equipment room, where they keep all the sporting stuff, why?
Linda: Oh, I thought you were peeping in at the guy's lock— Forget it. My own dirty mind.
- Dramatic Irony:
- In issue #76, Superman meets Kara but he thinks she is an obsessed fan, so he tells her to go home because it's too dangerous for her. The thing is she is way more powerful than him.
- And he tells her that she will get herself killed if she keeps it up. In this instance, he is tragically right.
- Easily-Overheard Conversation: Dr. Faulkner takes Linda aside to discuss Kara and her mental state. All of sudden Kara speaks up and tells she can hear their whispering across the room clearly. Justified because she has Super Hearing.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Rebel sought out Supergirl for the express purpose of battling and killing her to establish himself as a proper super villain. But when Kara doesn't defend herself, he learns that she is allowing him to hurt her because she believes she deserves to be punished for something that happened earlier. Upon hearing this, Rebel can't continue. Killing super heroes? Fine. Simply beating a woman? That's low.
- Evil is Petty: Xenon is so obsessed with killing Supergirls that he doesn't care whether killing one of them will end the multiverse.
- Extra Eyes: The Fatalist has a row of eyes running from his forehead to the nape of his neck.
- Fighting Your Friend: Linda knocks Kara out in order to take her back to her timeline.
- Fish out of Temporal Water: Kara's rocket lands in another time and universe. Linda is shocked because Kara is incredibly innocent, idealistic... and immensely powerful.
- For the Evulz: The Fatalist messed with God's plan and started a twisted, sick game of emotional manipulation that could have destroyed the whole multiverse... just because.
- Flying Brick: Naturally, Kara and Linda. However Rebel is also moderately strong and can fly.
- Flying Firepower: Again, Kara and Linda. Rebel can shoot energy blasts from his hands.
- Generic Doomsday Villain: Xenon is pretty similar to Superman's Doomsday. He came out of nowhere, and nothing or almost nothing is known about his past or motivations. What is known, though, he hunts and kills "Supergirls" because he hates them. In his only appearance, he trapped, tortured and nearly killed the original Kara Zor-El, an Earth-One Kryptonian. The latter also makes him an expy of Gog.
- Glowing Eyes of Doom: When Rebel taunts her, Kara's eyes glow golden as she describes that she can do if he is dumb enough to attack her when she is upset.
- Grand Finale: Some may interpret the story as this for Linda Danvers, considering not only that the title was cancelled in spite of this success, but also that the now-permanently depowered Linda got Put on a Bus.
- The Greatest Story Never Told: Linda retiring and skipping town means that nobody will ever know she went back in time to try to save the original Supergirl.
- Half-Human Hybrid: Ariella Kent is Pre-Crisis Superman and Linda's daughter.
- Happily Married: Linda spent five years married to the Superman of Earth-One after switching places with Kara.
- Hates Being Alone: Silver Age Superman reveals Linda he feels very alone because, even though he's greatest and most loved hero in the world, he has no social life.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Subverted. Linda tries to take Kara's place and fight the Anti-Monitor to save her life, even knowing she can die. It does not work, and she has to let Kara meet her fate.
- Hero Killer: Xenon, the slayer of Supergirls. He managed to trap Kara - a Silver Age Kryptonian - and almost murdered her.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Linda and Kara become this during the history.
- Hit Me, Dammit!: In issue #77, Kara believes (mistakenly) her X-Ray Vision disrupted a woman's pacemaker. She feels so guilty and distraught that when a super-villain shows up, looking for Supergirl, she asks him to beat her up.
- Humans Need Aliens: Linda tries to take Kara's place and fight the Anti-Monitor, but she can't because she's only a powerful human. Kara is an Earth-One Kryptonian. She's a Physical God.
- Ideal Hero: Kara aspires to be the same kind of selfess, responsible and brave hero that her cousin is (and she will become one).
- Immune to Bullets: The first scene has the situation play out as normal, right until the mook throws the gun at Supergirl — the gun hits Linda in the head, and she collapses. Then, she gets back up in the next panel.
- I'm Standing Right Here: Variant in issue #76. Linda and Dr. Faulkner have a private conversation about Kara and her mental state, all while Kara is sitting not five feet away. However, Dr. Faulker took Linda aside to discuss the subject, not realizing that Kara could hear them until Kara spoke up.
- Incest Subtext: In issue #76, Kara and Superboy - Superman's clone - meet and are eyeing each other right away. Kara is blatantly smitten with him.
- Innocent Innuendo: In issue #77, Kara and Linda are in the school lockers talking about stuff, and Linda notices that Kara is fixing her eyes on a wall. Kara explains she's looking through the wall and she's amazed at all the equipment she is seeing. Said equipment being sporting stuff.
- Interspecies Romance. Linda and Silver Age Superman fall in love and get married.
- "It" Is Dehumanizing: Xenon will only refer to the Supergirl who defeated him as "She", with every other woman to wear the shield he refers to as "It".
- It's All My Fault: In issue #77, Kara believes her X-Ray Vision disrupted a woman's pacemaker. She feels so guilty she lets Rebel pummel her only because she wants to be punished.Supergirl: A woman collapsed while I was using my X-Ray Vision. I think it disrupted her pacemaker. She suffered and it's... It's my fault.
- Killed Off for Real: in the final battle, Linda burns Xenon down to ashes.
- Kill Sat: Kara tried to push Earth out from orbit to save it from an incoming meteorite. The scary thing is that she could have done that.
- Kirby Dots: Seen in issue #79 while Kara is flying.
- Literal-Minded: Kara suffers from this at the beginning. Justified because she is a very innocent kid who has just been stranded in another planet and can barely speak English. Sarcasm, jokes and idiomatic expressions go over her head.Linda: Oh, I get it now. You're cute. Reaaaally cute.
Kara: Do you think I am cute?
- Magic Skirt: Kara's skirt, as usual. It preserves her modesty even when she is doing a handstand◊.
- Mama Bear: Linda was willing to let the universe fall apart if her daughter wasn't spared from being retconned.
- Mysterious Past: It is not known who Xenon was or where he came from before Many Happy Returns.
- Never Be a Hero: In issue #76, Superman meets Kara. Unfortunately he believes she is an obsessed fan playing super-heroes, so he tells her to go home and flies away before she can explain she is his cousin. Ironically she, being an Earth-One Kryptonian, is way more powerful than him.Superman: I see your type all the time. Friends of mine have suffered because of fans who developed unhealthy fixations. If you really look up to Superman, then you'll do yourself a favor and give up your ideas of partnership or adventuring. Trust me: If you keep it up, you'll get yourself killed.
- New Transfer Student: Kara gets enrolled in Linda's school as a way to try to blend in. Unfortunately, her schoolmates think she is a freak.
- No-Sell: In issue #76, Rebel shoots a beam weapon at Linda and Kara. Kara stands her ground as several laser rays "hit" her and asks if that barrage of deadly beams is supposed to hurt because she is feeling nothing.Huh? Are those... supposed to hurt? They... They are! Look what they're doing to... But I don't even feel them!
- Parental Sexuality Squick: Linda learns that her mother got pregnant. When their parents explain the hows and whys, she decides she did NOT need to know that.Linda: How did this happen?!
Linda: Are you responsible for this?
Fred: What the hell kind of question's that?
Linda: Haven't you ever heard of protection?
Fred: I had a gun nearby. Didn't help.
Sylvia: Remember that afternoon you kind of surprised us, when your dad and I reconciled? Well, I think that's when...
Linda: Oh, I SO don't need to hear that! Jeez, Ma, you're too old to be having—
Linda: I was gonna say "a baby", but yeah, the other thing, too.
- Pietà Plagiarism: Two examples:
- In the cover of issue #79, Kara is holding Linda.
- At the end of the story, Linda holds a semi-unconscious Kara in her arms.
- Punched Across the Room: Kara does this to Rebel when they first fight.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Kara does this when she scares Rebel away.Supergirl: Oh... and Rebel...
Supergirl: I have eyes that can see through solid matter. I have ears that can hear your slightest word... Your heartbeat... Your breathing... You do anything that hurts others... I will find you... and you won't like it. Do we have an understanding? Do. We. Have. An. Understanding?
- Put on a Bus: After this story ended, Linda pretty much dropped out of The DCU. She hasn't been consigned to Canon Discontinuity, but she's barely ever mentioned anymore, either.
- Rage Breaking Point: Invoked by Kara when she warns Rebel she is ready to fly off the handle, and if he attacks it will be the last straw. (See Break Them By Talking above)
- Red Sky, Take Warning: A red sky was Linda's clue that their time was running out and Kara had to be sent back to Earth-One at once.
- Reset Button: It was hit hard in the finale. Linda sends Kara back to Earth-One and she runs away shortly after.
- Ret-Gone: For sixteen-years Kara Zor-El had been retconned out of existence by the Crisis on Infinite Earths - until this storyline had her entering the Post-Crisis timestream by accident. Eventually a Post-Crisis Kara was reintroduced, and the events of Convergence undid the original Supergirl’s death.
- Sadistic Choice: At the end, Linda has to choose between sending Kara back to her timeline where she will eventually get killed in action or letting The Multiverse die.
- Serial Killer: Xenon is a serial killer of Of Supergirls throughout the Multiverse and Hypertime. It's implied he's already killed a good number of them, and he is shown murdering a slightly South American-esque Supergirl.
- Shooting Superman:
- The first issue has the situation plays out as normal, right until the mook throws the gun at her — the gun hits Supergirl in the head, and she collapses. Then, she gets back up in the next panel. Writer Peter David has stated this was a deliberate joke referencing how Superman would always duck a thrown gun in the old TV show.Supergirl: Just kidding!
- Later in that same issue, Rebel shoots high-intensity laser beams at Kara. The Kryptonian girl tanks them, asks if they were supposed to hurt or do anything, and he shoots again.
- The first issue has the situation plays out as normal, right until the mook throws the gun at her — the gun hits Supergirl in the head, and she collapses. Then, she gets back up in the next panel. Writer Peter David has stated this was a deliberate joke referencing how Superman would always duck a thrown gun in the old TV show.
- Sudden Sequel Heel Syndrome: Linda Danvers retired from superheroics but returned in Shadowpact, transformed into a vengeful "Fallen Angel".
- Suicidal Cosmic Temper Tantrum: Xenon is so mad at being magically sealed inside an other-dimensional prison by Supergirl than he is more than willing to destroy all of existence out of spite.
- Superpower Lottery: Kara Zor-El. Earth-One Kryptonian. Obscenely overpowered. Lampshaded in issue #76.Kara: Did you hear that? People screaming... and some sort of roaring...
Superboy: I don't — Are you hearing...?
Linda: I got nothin'.
Kara: And now I can see it, right in Metropolis, with my telescopic vision!
Superboy: Her what? Is there any power she doesn't have?
- Super-Senses: Kara explains several times what she can hear anything from anyplace.
- Surprise Incest: In issue #76, Kara and Kon-El meet and find each other cute (Kara is visibly smitten with him). Neither of them knows Kara is cousin of Kon's genetic template. Linda, who does know, quickly kills the mood.
- Take That!: Peter David mocked the subplot in which Superman sent his cousin to an orphanage.
- Talking in Bed: The friends version is featured when Kara and Linda discuss the nature of heroism as lying on their beds at night.
- Tap on the Head: Linda sucker-punched Kara to knock her out and shove her back in her rocket.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Xenon has this with his sometimes ally the Fatalist, a man who claims to be The Spectre's opposite.
- This Is Wrong on So Many Levels!: In issue #76, Kara tries to push Earth out of its orbit. Linda's reaction?Linda: What you're doing is wrong on so many levels, it...
- Thousand-Yard Stare: Kara does this when she meets New Earth Superman and tries to talk him into being partners but he turns her down.Linda: By the time we found her up on the roof, she was just... sitting there. Staring off into space. She wouldn't talk to us... wouldn't even look us in the eye.
- Throwing Your Gun at the Enemy: Supergirl mocks someone who tries this on her by briefly collapsing to the floor as though the empty gun had knocked her out, after the contents of the gun had already been emptied at her without result.
- Thrown Down a Well: Xenon was sealed away by Supergirl in an empty pocket dimension that he can't leave.Xenon: Lucky? Lucky? Sealed into this... this nothingness... by the power of the creature Supergirl? With its emblem displaying its dominion over me?
- Time Travel Escape: Pre-Crisis Kara Zor-El lands in Leesburg and is discovered by Linda Danvers. Inverting the trope, Linda goes back in time to die in Kara's place when it becomes clear that this event must come to pass. Subverting the trope, Kara eventually goes back to return the time line to normal.
- Tranquil Fury: When Rebel ambushes Kara, she is furious and upset and her eyes glow golden, but she talks to him calmly and quietly to tell him she is barely restraining herself and will most certainly kill him in horrible ways if he attacks.
- Underestimating Badassery: Linda doesn't believe Kara can move a planet. However, she can.
- Unknown Rival:
- It's implied the Supergirl Xenon hates so much was Linda Danvers, but a Linda far older and more powerful. That Xenon is deliberately unclear as to which Supergirl he's talking about frustrates Linda and Kara.
- Rebel craves for killing both Kara and Linda Danvers. As long as either of them is concerned, though, he is a pathetic nuisance with delusions of grandeur. When Rebel tries to harass Kara for last time, she makes him realize how insignificant and weak he is. He runs away.
- Up, Up and Away!:
- Kara does this constantly◊.
- Superboy when Kara flies away and he follows her.
- Villain Teleportation: The Fatalist teleports to get away from Linda when she decides to bash his head in.
- Walking the Earth: Ariella walks the Multiverse after the events of this story, eventually winding up in the DC One Million timeline.
- World's Strongest Man: Kara is an Earth-One Kryptonian stranded in the Post-Crisis universe. No one is as strong as her, not even Superman.
- You Can't Fight Fate: Linda goes back in time to save the original Supergirl's life, but she merely manages to create a parallel reality. Overwhelmed by her failure to change Kara's fate, Linda gives up her hero identity.
- You Do NOT Want To Know: In Supergirl vol 4 #79, Superman has been exposed to pink Kryptonite, which turns him gay temporarily. When Lois asks why he is acting so strange, Supergirl tells her she does NOT want to know.Superman: Did I ever tell you how smashing you look in bowties, Jimmy? By the way, that's a fabulous window treatment you've put together.
Jimmy: Gee... Thanks, I guess.
Lois: You know, Superman's been acting awfully strange since being exposed to pink Kryptonite. What do you think's wrong with him?
Supergirl: Lois, you so don't want to know.