Strangers at the Heart's Core is a Supergirl storyline started in 1977 and published in Superman Family issues #183-189, #191-195 and #206. Written by Jack C. Harris and Gerry Conway, it solves several subplots which had remained untied since the early 60's.
Supergirl is being hounded by a wave of villains who seem strangely fixated on her. She has never met them before, but they are obsessed with taking her down; seem to know too much about her secret identity, her daily life and even her family; and some of them own technology which they are not intelligent enough to develop, let alone build.
All of them are being unknowingly manipulated by an enemy of Kara Zor-El's past whom Supergirl has long forgotten. Someone who was supposed to be dead, but whose ghost has spent one decade and one-half surviving, increasing their power, and wallowing in hatred. Someone who is determined to destroy Supergirl one or another way, manipulating unwitting pawns and causing chaos, confusion and destruction from the shadows.
- Alliterative Name: When posing as a human, Shyla Kor-Onn goes by "Sylvia Shadow".
- Alliterative Title: The fifth chapter is titled "Memories of Menace".
- Amoral Attorney: Shyla Kor-Onn's unnamed and supremely smug lawyer accepts testimonies of untrustworthy sources, changes his statement constantly, objects the mere fact of the defense presenting evidence for the sake of helping a criminal convict Supergirl.
- And I Must Scream: Lesla-Lar's ghost takes over a Superboy robot to fight Supergirl. Nonetheless, the air pollution has damaged its delicate electronic circuits so badly the robot completely stops moving. Lesla spends several months trapped in a useless, immobile metal trap, unable to move or speak, and knowing nobody will come to rescue her because she is assumed to have died many years ago.
- Apocalypse How: The war between Gravitron Man and Gravity Lord threatens to rip the planet apart and damage the environment permanently, which would wipe out countless species, including humans.
- Arc Welding: In the final issue, Jack C. Harris reveals that most of villains who bedeviled Supergirl during his run were controlled by Lesla-Lar, Supergirl's first villain who had been defeated in The Girl With The X Ray Mind, published eighteen years earlier.
- Badass Boast: A criminal trio called the Visitors have just shot Supergirl's adoptive father and think they can threaten her and her mother.Supergirl: "Shut up, you contemptible cowards— You think I can't dispose of garbage like you? If you've killed [my father] the best man on this planet, then there's no place in the universe you can hide from my wrath!"
- Baleful Polymorph: Lesla-Lar transforms Fred and Edna Danvers into Zor-El and Allura In-Ze lookalikes as part of her revenge against Supergirl and her family.
- Batman Gambit: Klax-Ar wants to find the Earth's location so he can use his super-sled to take over the world. Kara's blows seem ineffectual against his sled, which has been built from the remains from a broken-down Superboy Robot, so she pretends to flee in panic, knowing Klax-Ar follow her trail. When they arrive in Earth, Klax-Ar thinks Supergirl has made a stupid mistake until his vehicle malfunctions, and Kara explains their robots have been rendered inoperative by Earth's pollution.
- Battle in the Center of the Mind: In Superman Family #206, Lesla Lar finally attempts to take over Kara's mind. After a brief struggle she managed to throw Kara out of her own mind, but then her hold falters, allowing to Kara slip back into her body and punch Lesla's astral form into oblivion.
- Big Bad: Lesla-Lar manipulates a bunch of villains behind the scenes to destroy Supergirl. When all of them fail, Lesla invades Supergirl's mind and tries to take over her body.
- Blasting It Out of Their Hands: Kara unleashes her heat vision to shoot several rayguns out of The Visitor's hands.
- Body Surf: Lesla-Lar's spirit takes over a Superboy Robot's body; later, she invades Supergirl's mind and boots Kara's soul out of her own body.
- Bridal Carry: In the first issue, Supergirl carries a fainted jet pilot in her arms when she takes him to the base infirmary. In the next issue, Kara carries her adoptive mother in her arms when Edna passes out after being rescued from a car crash.
- Bullying a Dragon: The Visitors really should have called it quits when they found out the scientist who they were coercing into working for them was Supergirl's adoptive father. They certainly should have run away when they sneaked into her office and found out their weapons could barely hurt her. They assuredly should have understood they should leave her family alone when she easily hurled their car bomb out of the planet. They definitely should have surrendered when she found and burst into their secret lair. Instead, they shoot her father and threaten her and her mother. Result? She melts their weapons, wraps a steel beam around them, and must be talked out of punching them into atoms.
- The Bus Came Back: Supergirl gets harassed by villains who had not been seen in around twenty years like Klax-Ar or the Visitors.
- Bus Full of Innocents: In the first issue, Kara stops a car which is running off the highway. When she checks the driver, who is still asleep at the wheel, Supergirl finds she is one of the students who volunteered for Sylvia Shadow's sleep experiments. This revelation prompts Supergirl to investigate Sylvia's "research".
- Cain and Abel: Subverted. Lesla-Lar has deluded herself into believing that her hated foe Supergirl is her twin sister whom she wants to see destroyed for being their parents' favorite daughter; but as Kara puts it, it is all in her head since they cannot possible be sisters.
- The Cameo: The Doom Patrol are guest stars in issues 191-193.
- Cessation of Existence: After surviving as a disembodied spirit for years, Lesla-Lar dies for real when her soul is disintegrated.
- Clear My Name: When Shyla Kor-Onn frames Supergirl, Kara has to find and provide proof of her innocence quickly if she does not want to be sent into the Phantom Zone.
- Coincidental Broadcast: Kara turns the TV on to watch a quiz show; suddenly, the program is interrupted for a special news bulletin reporting that the house of Kara's ex-classmate Professor Rudolph Clement has been destroyed by one gravity experiment gone wrong.
- Continuity Nod:
- After Supergirl meets her mother, several flashbacks remember how Supergirl arrived in Earth, was adopted by the Danvers, and later rescued her birth parents.
- The Visitors (Elastic Crook, Electric Man and Invisible Rogue) were first seen in Action Comics #280.
- Klax-Ar was a villain fought by Superboy in Superboy 1949 #67.
- Superman and Supergirl decided to stop using duplicate androids in World's Finest #202.
- Cool Gate: A glowing, golden rift in the fabric of the reality lets Kryptonian villain Shyla Kor-Onn get out of the Phantom Zone and fly into the physical world.
- Curb-Stomp Battle:
- When Supergirl finally meets The Visitors face-to-face, she blasts their weapons out of their hands, wraps a steel beam around them, and is ready to punch them into oblivion. She only stops because her mother talks her out of it.
- Once his weaponized sled is destroyed, Klax-Ar is simply punched across America.
- Deader Than Dead: Lesla-Lar had been disintegrated by a ray weapon in Action Comics #297 but her ghost endured. Finally, Kara obliterates her soul during their psychic battle.
- Deadly Dodging: Supergirl lets her enemy Shyla Kor-Onn hit her, so the backlash throws Shyla back into the path of Phantom Zone Projector's ray, and she gets sent her back in the Phantom Zone.Supergirl: Luck had nothing to do with it, Shyla... I knew you couldn't control your flying ability yet, so I let you get in that last punch... Then I used Newton's Law of Motion for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction It forced you back into the Projector's ray!
- Department of Redundancy Department: As she watches Supergirl racing to save her parents, Lesla-Lar gloats: "You may win this round, but I've another plan to execute— one that will — Ha Ha!— execute you!"
- Disposable Superhero Maker: Shyla Kor-Onn created a device that can drain Supergirl's powers. You would expect that more villains would try to build a copy of Shyla's machine in order to steal the powers of Superman or Supergirl, but it was never mentioned again.
- Diving Save: When the Visitors sneak into the Danvers' household and fire at Edna Danvers, Linda dives in and pushes her adoptive mother out of the way. She gets hit by the energy blasts, but fortunately they cannot hurt her seriously.
- Does Not Know His Own Strength: Wanting to increase her physical strength, Shyla Kor-Onn set up a strength-leeching machine on the top of a building. Unfortunately, she forgot about her new magnified strength when she went to turn the machine off; she pushed it off the ledge, and accidentally crushed an innocent bystander.
- Drowning My Sorrows: Gravity Lord's ancestor "drowned both his sorrows and himself" in rum after losing his family fortune.
- Eiffel Tower Effect: When Supergirl lures villain Klax-Ar back to Earth, she makes landfall on Manhattan, right next to the Statue of Liberty, whose sight makes Klax realize where they have arrived.
- Elaborate Underground Base: The Visitors have their secret base hidden inside a mountain located in the Catskill Mountains.
- Evil Gloating: When Klax-Ar spots Kara, he demands she pays attention to him, and then he rants about his identity and backstory, his super-powerful vehicle's origin, and his plans to steal her powers, pry the Earth's location from her mind and then take over the world. Essentially, he told her exactly what she needed to know to beat him up, which would have not happened if he had probed her mind from afar without drawing her attention.Klax-Ar: "I'll attack your greatest cities— They will be helpless before me and you'll be compelled to accept my dictates! And this monument is the first to— Huh—? The sled is faltering...?"
- Evil Plan: Lesla-Lar tries to get rid of Kara by every possible means, using all kind of mentally-influenced unwitting pawns, in order to replace her.
- External Combustion: When Linda realizes she and her mother have gotten into a car bomb (planted by a criminal group who is extorting Linda's father), she quickly gets her mother out of it, and then she throws the vehicle into the space where it blows up safely.
- Flying Car: Villain Klax-Ar salvages and repurposes the remains of a broken-down Superboy Robot into a weaponized, flying sled.
- Foreshadowing: In Superman Family #189, Supergirl finally discovers her power loss and memory lapses back when Superman was about to reveal her existence to the world were caused by Lesla-La's mindwipe-and-replace scheme. In Superman Family #206, Lesla-Lar reappears -after a loooong absence- and attempts to replace Kara again.
- Frame-Up: Shyla Kor-Onn uses footage where Lesla-Lar is impersonating Supergirl as making deals with Lex Luthor to make a judge believe Kara is secretly a criminal.
- Frictionless Reentry: When she comes back from her trip to planet Kronis, the narration mentions Supergirl can feel the friction heat when she plunges into the Earth's atmosphere, but she suffers no harm whatsoever.Narrator: Soaring through space and down into the atmosphere of the blue planet Earth, the Mighty Maid of Krypton feels the friction heat of the air rush past her... But she experiences no pain, this invulnerable girl, and though she returns home, her thoughts are still millions of miles away...
- Get Out!: In the final battle, Supergirl shouts Lesla to get out as punching her spirit out of her mind.Supergirl: Get out, Lesla-Lar— GET OUT OF MY MIND!"
- Gotta Get Your Head Together: In issue #206, Linda clutches her head in pain when Lesla-Lar invades her mind.
- Gravity Master: Gravitron Man's disruptor backpack and Gravity Lord's gravitronic ray gun can affect and alter the fields of gravitational force around any physical body, including Earth.Gravity Lord: "My Gravitronic Ray may have destroyed my original lab— but only because it was even more efficient and powerful than I dared dream! With it, I can alter the fields of gravitational force around any physical body— including the Earth!"
- Hairpin Lockpick: While investigating her parents' disappearance, Kara finds their house's door is locked from the inside; undeterred, she picks one of her hairpins and snaps the lock open.Supergirl: Hmmmm, looks as if Kandorian locksmiths could learn a few things from Earthmen— this lock'll be a snap to pick— with a hairpin!"
- Hijacked by Ganon: Throughout the story, Supergirl gets harassed by a bunch of random villains (Phantom Zoner Shyla Kor-Onn, Klax-Ar, Gravitron Man...) who are apparently operating independently. The final chapter reveals all of them were being manipulated by Supergirl's first nemesis Lesla-Lar.Lesla-Lar: "I still sought your destruction by mentally influencing others... until I became trapped in a Superboy Robot!"
Supergirl: "So it was you in all those battles... YOU!"
- Hologram: The "Voodoo Machine" is a device able to create and project virtually perfect, lifelike three-dimensional images.
- Hurl It into the Sun: Kara gets rid of a car bomb by flinging it into space before it blows up.
- I Control My Minions Through...: Mind Control. Lesla-Lar subtly influences her minions into attacking Supergirl; they do not even question why there is a voice in their heads goading them into opposing Kara.
- Identical Stranger: After spending several years as a disembodied spirit, Lesla has gone crazier and convinced herself that she and Supergirl look identical because they were twins separated at birth. Supergirl replied it was impossible they were sisters, and their similarity were due to some "cosmic coincidence".
- I Have Your Wife: The Visitors threaten to kill Edna Danvers to force her husband Fred to work for them, as well as get Supergirl off their backs.Visitor: "Very well, Danvers... We learned the disruptors can only cause pain to your super-daughter... Her atoms are too compressed for any permanent damage... We cannot force you to work for us by threatening her... But nothing can prevent us from destroying your other loved one!"
Fred Danvers: "No! Not Edna— Not my wife!"
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The leader of The Visitors sneaks into Linda's office, shoots at her and barely grazes her shoulder, even though she is standing less than ten meters away and too stunned to move.
- Impoverished Patrician: Gravity Lord is the last scion of an English aristocratic family which lost their fortune during the American Revolution and were unable to get their wealth back.
- It's Personal: Supergirl regards the Visitors as enigmatic but run-of-the-mill crooks until they shoot her adoptive father, whereupon she declares she will chase them to the ends of the universe if they have killed him.
- Judge, Jury, and Executioner: In Superman Family #183, Supergirl sends Shyla Kor-Onn, a Phantom Zoner escapee into the Zone. It was self-defense, but her act gets Kara in hot water with the Kryptonian law five issues later because she does not have the legal authority to punish someone who had served her prison sentence in full.
- Killed Off for Real: Lesla-Lar dies for real when Supergirl punches her astral form into oblivion.
- Kirby Dots: Ubiquitously used by artist Bob Brown. A dimensional rift has been opened? Masses of black energy dots crackle around the gap. A car is careening off the highway? Trails of black dots are left in its wake.
- Laser Cutter: Kara uses her heat vision to slice with pinpoint accuracy the circuits in the helmet of Klax-Ar which allow him to read minds.
- Let's You and Him Fight: Lesla-Lar subtly influences Gravitron Man and Gravity Lord into attempting to destroy each other using their gravity-manipulating weapons, so Supergirl gets killed when she tries to stop their battle.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: Subverted. Kara's reaction to Lesla claiming she is her long-lost twin sister is pointing out the impossibility of it (Lesla was born in Kandor and is over ten years older) and guessing Lesla has become crazy.
- Made Out to Be a Jerkass: In the first issue, Supergirl throws Shyla Kor-Onn back into the Phantom Zone so she does not free the remainder inmates. When Shyla gets released from the Phantom Zone, she uses the fact that Kara was not legally authorized to send her back into the prison-dimension to claim Kara was just jealous of the presence of another Kryptonian female on Earth.
- The Man Behind the Man: In the final issue, Supergirl's old nemesis Lesla-Lar shows herself and reveals she and her psychic manipulations were behind most of villains fought by Kara during those last months.Lesla-Lar: "But I did not die! Instead, I evolved into a new life-form— of pure energy! I still sought your destruction by mentally influencing others... until I became trapped in a Superboy Robot!"
Supergirl: "So it was you in all those battles... YOU!"
- Mind Control: Lesla-Lar influences Shyla Kor-Onn, the Visitors, Klax-Ar and others into wanting to destroy Supergirl, and her victims do not even realize they are being mind-controlled. Tellingly, Shyla stopped opposing Supergirl as soon as Lesla was defeated for good, and in The Krypton Chronicles she even admitted she was ashamed of having framed her.
- Mind Probe: Klax-Ar uses a telepathic helmet to pry information from Supergirl's brain.
- Miscarriage of Justice: Shyla Kor-Onn and her lawyer use manipulated evidence to charge Supergirl with participating in a criminal conspiracy with Lex Luthor. Even though it makes absolutely no sense that Superman's cousin is in cahoots with his nemesis, Kara is found guilty and hurled into the Phantom Zone.
- Monumental Damage: Klax-Ar wants to begin his planet-wide destructive rampage by blowing the Statue of Liberty up, but his weaponized flying sled malfunctions before he can do so.
- Mundane Utility: Linda uses her Super Speed to clean out her office and catch up on her work within seconds before taking her leave of absence.
- No-Sell: After partially stealing Supergirl's powers to increase her own might, Shyla is tough enough to withstand one of her blows without flinching.Supergirl: You'll go no farther— Huh—?!
Shyla Kor-Onn: Surprised your blow has no effect on me?
- Non-Action Big Bad: Lesla-Lar manipulates many people and makes Kara's life sensibly harder behind the scenes without Kara suspecting of her existence, but the only time she fights Supergirl hand to hand, Lesla loses badly.
- Noodle Incident:
- In the first issue, Supergirl rescues a pilot whose jet is tearing itself apart. When questioned, the man insists before passing out that something was forcing him to fly faster and faster. Supergirl takes him to his base's infirmary and briefly ponders over the issue, but she cannot make heads or tails of it. Several months later, when she has forgotten all about the incident, Shyla Kor-Onn introduces herself and admits she telepathically influenced the pilot
- During several months, Supergirl gets randomly attacked by minor villains who seem eager to fight her despite having never met her before. In the final issue, Kara lears all of those apparently unconnected battles were orchestrated by her old enemy Lesla-Lar.
- Only Six Faces: Lesla-Lar looking right like Supergirl is lampshaded as some kind of "cosmic coincidence").
- Parents Know Their Children: Lesla-Lar fails to fool Kara's parents. Zor-El points out that their daughter would never call them by their first names, and Alura states she just knows her own daughter.Alura: There was something else about you that wasn't right! A mother knows her own flesh and blood...
- Phantom Zone: Supergirl's troubles start when a dimensional rift lets Shyla Kor-Onn out of the Zone. Later, Supergirl gets thrown into that grey-looking, immaterial limbo, and has to fight her way through the Zoners to find Mon-El.
- Powers as Programs: In issue #183 "Shadows of Phantoms", Shyla Kor-Onn attempts to steal Supergirl's powers by plugging her into a life-draining machine.
- Projected Man: The alien criminal trio known as The Visitors build a device called "The Voodoo Machine" which can project images capable of interacting with people and physical objects.
- Public Secret Message: In one scene, the Visitors coerce Fred Danvers into sending Supergirl a holographic message to dissuade her from searching for their headquarters. As listening to her father's projection warning that her mother is being held hostage, Supergirl notices how peculiarly and insistently he is stressing "[She] cannot go past [him]" because "It's a stone wall before [her]!". Given that there are no walls around her -because she happens to be flying over the Catskill Mountains-, Supergirl realizes he is surreptitiously saying he can teleport her into the Visitors' lair if she flies into his hologram.
- Punch Catch: Thanks to her magnified strength, Shyla Kor-Onn easily catches Supergirl's fist when Kara strikes her.
- Punched Across the Room: Klax-Ar engages Supergirl in New York City. She punches him so hard he crashes in the town of Midvale (which, according to some stories, was located in Illinois).
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: When Shyla tries to steal her powers, Kara disagrees:Shyla Kor-Onn: Your super-powers will be added to mine!
Supergirl: I... Think... Not!!
- Put on a Prison Bus: After The Visitors -three alien criminals nicknamed Invisible Rogue, Elastic Crook and Electric Man-, Supergirl takes them back to Kronis, the prison planet. Warden Sargoes promises they will not escape again, and he makes good on his promise because that was their last appearance. Ditto with villain Klax-Ar, whom Supergirl dumped into Kronis in the next issue.
- Reality Changing Miniature: The Visitors build the "Voodoo Machine", a device which creates a three-dimensional miniature image of a real person or object; said object or living being can be altered or destroyed by affecting the replica.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Klax-Ar -a Kryptonian criminal who attempted to blow Krypton up but failed and lost his natural powers in the process-, demands Supergirl transfers her powers to him on grounds of being worthier of them than her. Supergirl rapidly fires back he is not entitled to have powers, no matter how big his delusions are.Klax-Ar: You have no right to Kryptonian powers! But I— I am a native-born Kryptonian! Power is mine by inheritance!
Supergirl: Bunk! You sold your birthright when you turned against your home planet!
- Relative Button: When the Visitors shoot Kara's adoptive father and threaten her mother, Supergirl proceeds to stomp all over them, while shouting there is no place in the universe where they can be safe from her.
- Rock Beats Laser: Variant. Kara cannot open her parents' house's door using her laser-key, so she uses a hairpin to click the futuristic lock open, something the locksmith could have never counted on.
- Rule of Perception: Lesla-Lar's astral form is represented as a floating, glowing, shapeless will-o'-the-wisp which nobody in-universe ever notices.
- Sanity Slippage: Spending more than one decade as a disembodied ghost slowly and gradually wore Lesla's sanity down until she deluded herself into believing she was Supergirl's long-lost sister and became obsessed with destroying her.
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: The Visitors try to threaten Supergirl after shooting her adoptive father. "Try" being the keyword here, because she is so mad, she does not even let them end their threats before beginning the beatdown.Visitor: You'll do nothing, female! We—
Supergirl: (blasting their rayguns out of their hands) "Shut up, you contemptible cowards— You think I can't dispose of garbage like you?"
- Sibling Murder: Subverted. Lesla-Lar has deluded herself into believing the person whom she is attempting to murder is her twin sister.
- Surveillance as the Plot Demands: The Visitors can somehow keep watch over Supergirl wherever she goes, even when she flies into the Fortress of Solitude and shrinks herself to go into the Bottle City of Kandor.
- Supervillain Lair: "The Visitors" have a secret underground base in the Catskill Mountains where they have meetings, store their weapons and equipment and keep the "Voodoo Machine".
- Telepathy: Lesla-Lar is able to read, influence, control and invade minds after becoming a disembodied ghost.
- Tempting Fate: The Visitors are discussing that Supergirl needs to be dealed with somehow. One of them states they do not need to get worried about her anymore, since he has already set one trap which will take care of Supergirl. Nonetheless, Kara discovers their car bomb and swiftly gets rid of it.
- There Was a Door: When Shyla Kor-Onn wants to break into the Fortress of Solitude, she literally breaks through the door, even though the key is lying next to the entrance.
- The Un Favourite: Subverted. During her final battle with Supergirl, Lesla-Lar claims she is her long-lost sister, who was thrown out by their parents because they loved Kara the most. Kara quickly points out her parents having another daughter is impossible, and she guesses Lesla has been driven crazy due to becoming a disembodied spirit trapped in the Phantom Zone for one decade.
- Unwitting Pawn: Most of villains fought by Kara throughout the story -Shyla Kor-Onn, the Visitors, Klax-Ar, Gravitron Man, Gravity Lord- were all unknowingly telepathically influenced by Lesla-Lar into attacking her.
- The Villain Knows Where You Live: Shortly after receiving a cryptic warning about some group called "The Visitors", Supergirl realizes the Visitors know her secret identity when she is attacked in her own office while she is cleaning out her desk, and when her mother's car is turned into a car bomb.
- Villain Teleportation: The Visitors' "Voodoo Machine" can also be used to teleport objects or people into their secret lair.
- We Will Meet Again: Subverted. After being defeated by Supergirl for the second time, Shyla Kor-Onn swears they will meet again; and indeed, they do in The Krypton Chronicles, but by then Shyla has reformed, to the point she openly admits she is ashamed of having framed Kara.Supergirl: "Looks as if we're both free now, Shyla... And while I hate to hold a grudge— you cross my path again and you'll be minus some of those ruby tresses..."
Shyla Kor-On: "Save your girlish threats— we will meet again!"
- With Catlike Tread: The Visitors slip into Linda's office noiselessly, packing firepower enough to kill a Kryptonian. She has not sensed them because her back is turned to them. So what does their leader do? Shouting her name and then shooting at her— uselessly, since she is fast enough to react to them and dodge his shot.
- Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Supergirl throws Shyla Kor-Onn back into the Phantom Zone to defend herself. When Shyla gets released from the Zone, she exploits the fact that Kara was not legally authorized to imprison her to claim Supergirl sent her back into the prison-dimension because she was just jealous of the presence of another Kryptonian female on Earth.