Supergirl is a fictional superheroine
appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. Supergirl
was created to be a female counterpart to DC's popular hero Superman.
The character was created by writer Otto Binder and designed by
artist Al Plastino in 1959. She first appeared in the Action Comics
comic book series and later branched out into animation, film,
television, and merchandising.
being introduced in 1959, a number of different characters have
assumed the Supergirl mantle over the decades, with the most popular
and enduring version of the character being Kara Zor-El, Superman's
cousin, who shares his super powers and vulnerability to Kryptonite.
Supergirl plays a supporting role in various DC Comics publications,
including Action Comics, Superman, and several comic book series
unrelated to Superman. In 1969, Supergirl's adventures became the
lead feature in Adventure Comics, and she later starred in her own
comic book series which debuted in 1972 and ran until 1974, followed
by a second monthly comic book series titled The Daring New
Adventures of Supergirl, which ran from 1982 to 1984.
Due to changing editorial policy at DC,
Supergirl was initially killed off in the 1985 limited series Crisis
on Infinite Earths. DC Comics subsequently rebooted the continuity of
the DC Comics Universe, re-establishing Superman's character as the
sole survivor of Krypton's destruction. Following the conclusion of
Crisis on Infinite Earths, several different characters written as
having no familial relationship to Superman have assumed the role of
Supergirl, including Matrix, Linda Danvers, and Cir-El. Following the
cancellation of the third, 1996-2003 Supergirl comic book series,
starring the Matrix/Linda Danvers version of the character, a modern
version of Kara Zor-El was reintroduced into the DC Comics continuity
in issue #8 of the Superman/Batman comic book series titled "The
Supergirl from Krypton" (2004).
Lois Lane (Superwoman)
The first comic ever to feature a female
counterpart to Superman is "Lois Lane - Superwoman", a
story published in Action Comics #60 (May 1943), in which a
hospitalized Lois dreams she has gained Kryptonesque superpowers
thanks to a blood transfusion from the Man of Steel. She begins her
own career as Superwoman, complete with copycat costume. Similar
stories with Lois Lane acquiring such powers and adopting the name
"Superwoman" periodically appeared later. One such story is
in Action Comics #156 (May 1951), in which Lois accidentally gains
those powers through an invention of Superman's arch-foe, Lex Luthor.
In the story, Lois wears a short blond wig in her crime-fighting
identity, giving her an appearance almost identical to the later
version of Supergirl after the latter's real name was specified as
Queen Lucy, Super-Girl
In Superboy #5 (November - December 1949)
in a story titled "Superboy Meets Supergirl", Superboy
meets Queen Lucy of the fictional Latin American nation of Borgonia.
She is a stellar athlete and scholar. Tired of her duties and wanting
to enjoy a normal life, Queen Lucy travels to Smallville, where she
meets Superboy and soon wins his heart. Superboy puts on a show with
her where he uses his powers to make her seem superhuman; during this
contest, she is called Super-Girl. As Super-Girl, Queen Lucy wears a
tan dress with a brown cape and Superboy's "S" symbol.
Superboy later saves her from a scheming minister. She returns to her
throne, leaving Superboy to wonder if she ever thinks of him.
In the Superboy #78 story titled
"Claire Kent, Alias Super-Sister", Superboy saves an alien
woman named Shar-La from a life-threatening crash. After he ridicules
her driving, Shar-La turns Superboy into a girl. In Smallville, Clark
Kent (Superman's alter ego) claims to be Claire Kent, an out-of-town
relative who is staying with the Kents. When in costume, he plays
Superman's sister, Super-Sister, and claims the two have exchanged
places. As a girl ridiculed and scorned by men, he wants to prove he
is as good as he always was. In the end, it is revealed that the
transformation is just an illusion created by Shar-La. Superboy
learns not to ridicule women.
In Superman #123 (August 1958), Jimmy
Olsen uses a magic totem to wish a "Super-Girl" into
existence as a companion and helper for Superman; however, the two
frequently get in each other's way until she is fatally injured
protecting Superman from a Kryptonite meteor that a criminal has
dropped towards him. At her insistence, Jimmy wishes the dying girl
out of existence. DC used this story to gauge public response to the
concept of a completely new female counterpart to Superman. In the
original issue, she has blond hair and her costume is blue and red
like Superman's; indeed, it closely resembles the uniform that
actress Helen Slater would later wear in the 1984 movie. Early
reprints of this story show her with red hair and an orange and green
costume to prevent readers from confusing her with the then current
later, the story was again reprinted in its original form.
Supergirl (Kara Zor-El)
After positive fan reaction to Super-Girl,
the first recurring and most familiar version of Supergirl debuted in
1959. Kara Zor-El first appeared in Action Comics #252 (May 1959).
The story that introduced the character was drawn by Al Plastino and
written by Otto Binder, who had also created Mary Marvel, Captain
Marvel's sister and female spinoff. Like Supergirl, Mary Marvel was a
teen-age female version of an adult male superhero, wearing a costume
that was identical to the older character's other than substituting a
short skirt for tight trousers. Binder also created Miss America, a
superhero who shared little other than the name with her sometime
co-star Captain America.
at the D.C. Comics offices to Supergirl's first appearance was
tremendous, with thousands of positive letters pouring in.
Kara Zor-El (originally, just Kara;
Kryptonians during the Golden Era used a single name for most women,
and a two-syllable name for men; thus the addition of the patronymic
to the female name is a contemporary convention) is the last survivor
of Argo City, which had survived the explosion of the planet Krypton
and drifted through space. The city had been covered by a plastic
dome for weather moderation, devised by Zor-El, the younger brother
of Superman's father Jor-El, a climatologist and engineer. The dome
held together a large chunk of land mass under the city as it drifted
through space in the general direction of our solar system. However,
the bottom-most layers of bedrock were affected by the explosion of
the great planet's fissionable core and underwent a slow but steady chain-reaction,
turning into green Kryptonite. Using raw deposits and refined
materials at hand, the residents of Argo City laid down a ground
shield of lead foil to protect them from the developing Kryptonite.
Zor-El was also able to fashion a makeshift propulsion system to try
to accelerate the city's approach to the Solar System.
During the roughly thirty years Argo City
traveled through space, Zor-El met and married Alura, daughter of
In-Ze, who in turn bore their daughter, Kara, blond like her parents.
But before the propulsion system was able to steer the city toward
Earth, a deranged citizen named Jer-Em, who was suffering from
survival guilt, damaged the exhaust, veering Argo toward a swarm of
meteors that crashed into the underside of the land mass on which it
rested. As the inhabitants of the colony were being slain by the
green Kryptonite radiation released by meteorites shredding the lead
barrier, the adolescent Kara was sent to Earth by her father Zor-El
in a rocket, to be raised by her cousin Kal-El (Superman). Fearing
that she might not be recognized by Superman, Kara's parents provided
her with a uniform which was closely based on the one Kal was wearing
as the Man of Steel.
It was later learned Zor-El and Alura
survived the radiation poisoning that killed everyone else in Argo
City by entering the Survival Zone, a parallel continuum akin to the
Phantom Zone. They were eventually rescued by Supergirl and decided
to live in the bottle city of Kandor. Eventually, Kara is reunited
with her parents. However, that reunion becomes bittersweet, as
Reactron kills her father, and her mother dies when New Krypton is
destroyed by a trap in Reactron left by Lex Luthor, her own cousin
Superman's greatest enemy on Earth, and now her greatest enemy on
Earth as well.
Earth, Kara acquires powers identical to Superman's and adopts the
secret identity of Linda Lee, a resident of Midvale Orphanage. She
conceals her blonde hair beneath a brunette wig and functions as
Supergirl only in secret, at Superman's request, until she can gain,
in his opinion, sufficient control of her powers, and the wisdom to
properly use them. During this period her powers were stolen by a
Kandorian villainess and she is adopted by Fred and Edna Danvers.
Later her power are restored and Superman decides his cousin is ready
to begin operating openly as Supergirl.
She attends Midvale High School as Linda
Lee Danvers. In later years, after graduating from Stanhope College,
she changes careers several times, holding jobs in student
counseling, news reporting, and acting in a TV soap opera titled
Secret Hearts. She also attends college in Chicago. Kara has many
boyfriends, including Richard (Dick) Malverne, Jerro the Merboy from
Atlantis, and Brainiac 5, a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes. She
does, however, shun serious commitments, putting her super-career first.
Supergirl's secret identity is a closely
held secret known only to Superman, her foster parents, and the
Legion of Super-Heroes, of which she is as a member for a time. Like
all Kryptonians, Supergirl is vulnerable to Kryptonite. Streaky, her
orange cat, acquires temporary superpowers as a result of its
exposure to "X-Kryptonite," a form of Kryptonite Supergirl
accidentally created in an unsuccessful attempt to neutralize the
effects of Green Kryptonite. Comet the Superhorse, a former centaur,
is Supergirl's equine companion.
Supergirl and Batgirl (Barbara Gordon)
team-up for the very first time in 1967. The two will become good
friends and continue to team-up on occasion over the years. In 1970,
Supergirl gets a new costume from Wonder Womans boutique (this
was during the time that Wonder Woman had lost her powers and owned a
boutique in-between traveling the world as a martial arts hero).
Around this time DC starts a regular practice of changing
Supergirls costume every couple of issues, sometimes using
submitted designs in order to increase reader interest.
Over the course of the next few years,
Supergirl would wear a myriad of different costumes. The most
short-lived was a gown worn in Adventure Comics #402, which she only
wears for a few panels on her date with some guy named Derek. Another
was an update of a previous costume with a few very modifications
that were very trendy and cool at the time, a hip-hugger belt, hot
pants and lace-up boots with tassles. She also wore a full-body
spandex suit with gloves, looking more like Sue Storm than Supergirl,
and a "Battlesuit" (also with gloves) and buckaneer boots,
lots of yellow trim and a larger belt.
In 1972 Supergirl finally settles on a new
costume design that involves hot pants, pixie shoes, and a loose
blouse with a smaller S-shield over her heart, but it would not be
her last costume change.
One way DC demonstrated the epic nature of
its 12-issue limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths (April 1985 -
March 1986) was through the deaths of important characters. In issue
#7 (October 1985), Supergirl sacrifices her life to save her cousin
and the multiverse from destruction.
the Superman continuity rebooted after the Crisis on Infinite
Earths, DC editors felt that Superman should be the sole survivor of
Krypton, resulting in Kara being removed. Unlike a number of other
characters who are shown dying in the Crisis, no one remembers Kara
dying or even ever having existed.
After the events of Infinite Crisis, the
sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths, many historical events from the
multiverse are now being remembered. Donna Troy (Wonder Girl), after
her rebirth and inheritance of Harbinger's Orb, recalls the original
Kara Zor-El and her sacrifice.
DC Editorial wanted Superman to be the
only surviving Kryptonian following DC's post-Crisis reboot of the
Superman continuity. As a result, when DC reintroduced Supergirl, she
needed a non-Kryptonian origin. Afterward, DC Comics tried to revamp
the Supergirl concept, introducing several more non-Kryptonian
Supergirls. Eventually, the rule that Superman should be the only
Kryptonian survivor was relaxed, allowing for a return of Kara Zor-El
as his cousin.
As part of The New 52, Kara's origin was
rebooted once again. An amnesiac Kara awakens after her lifepod
crashes to Earth in the midst of a meteor shower. Upon emerging, she
encounters humans and the extent of her powers for the first time.
When encountered by Superman, she attacks him, believing him to be an
imposter as her cousin was only a baby when she last saw him.
After the post-Crisis reboot in the late
1980s, Supergirl's origin was completely rewritten. No longer was she
Superman's cousin or even Kryptonian. In Superman v2, #16 (April
1988), a new Supergirl debuted as a man-made lifeform made of
synthetic protoplasm created by a heroic Lex Luthor of a "pocket
continuum". Lex implants her with Lana Lang's memories, and she
can shapeshift to resemble Lana. Matrix even believes herself to be
Lana for a time. She wears a miniskirted version of Superman's
costume, but does not have Superman's exact powers. While she can fly
and possesses super-strength (like Superman), she also has
psychokinetic, shape shifting and cloaking/invisibility powers. (The
last makes her undetectable even to Superman.)
Matrix's Supergirl form resembles the
pre-Crisis Supergirl. She lives in Smallville with the Kents, who
treated "Mae" like their own daughter. While new to Earth,
Matrix begins a romance with the DC Universe's Lex Luthor, until she
realizes Luthor's villainous nature. She leaves him to find her own
way in the world, serving for a time as a member of the Teen Titans
and a hero in her own right.
Supergirl (Linda Danvers)
Beginning in September 1996, DC published
a Supergirl title written by Peter David. The 1996 Supergirl comic
revamped the previous Matrix Supergirl by merging her with a human
being, resulting in a new Supergirl. Many elements of the pre-Crisis
Supergirl were incorporated in new ways. The woman that Matrix merges
with has the same name as pre-Crisis Supergirl's secret identity,
Linda Danvers. The series is set in the town of Leesburg, named after
Danvers' pre-adoption surname. Linda's father is named Fred Danvers,
the same as pre-Crisis Supergirl's adopted father. Furthermore, new
versions of Dick Malverne and Comet appear as part of the supporting cast.
the series begins, Matrix sacrifices herself to save a dying Linda
Danvers, and their bodies, minds, and souls merge to become an
"Earth-Born Angel", a being created when one being
selflessly sacrifices him or herself to save another who is beyond
saving. As the angel, Supergirl loses some of her powers, but gains
others, including fiery angel wings and a "shunt" ability
that allows her to teleport to any place she has been before.
The angelic aspect of Supergirl eventually
falls from grace, and Linda and Matrix are separated into two beings.
Linda retains some of Supergirl's super-strength and durability, and
although she can no longer fly, she can leap an eighth of a mile.
Peter David's creator-owned series Fallen
Angel, published by DC Comics, features a character, Lee, who is
similar to Linda and explores the same themes as his Supergirl
series. Prior to Fallen Angel moving to another company, Lee was
written in a manner such that she could have been Linda. Though David
remained coy as to whether the two characters were one and the same
during the DC run of the title, after it moved to IDW, David revealed
Lee's origin, which clearly showed that Lee was not Danvers. However,
Fallen Angel #14 introduced "Lin," who was said to be Lee's
"predecessor" and had recently escaped Limbo, an apparent
metaphor for what happened to Danvers after the cancellation of
Supergirl. David said fans of his tenure on Supergirl, particularly
those who are torqued because Linda Danvers was consigned to oblivion
in the DC Universe,, "must, must, MUST pick up Fallen Angel #14
and #15." However, since David could not explicitly claim that a
character owned by DC was the same as the character he owned, he
stated, "Can I say this is Linda Danvers? Of course I can't.
However, it's pretty freaking obvious that it is."
According to an interview with Newsarama,
the Matrix Supergirl is wiped from existence by the events depicted
in the 2005 limited series Infinite Crisis, although Infinite Crisis
writer Geoff Johns later stated that Danvers is not. The debate was
finally settled in the 2008 mini-series Reign in Hell.
Supergirl named Cir-El appeared in 2003's Superman: The 10 Cent
Adventure #1, claiming to be the future daughter of Superman and Lois
Lane. Although she has super-strength, speed, and hearing like
Superman, she can only leap great distances. She also possesses the
ability to fire blasts of red solar energy. Her alter ego is a street
person named Mia. She is later found to be a human girl who was
altered by Brainiac on a genetic level to appear Kryptonian; she dies
thwarting a plot involving Brainiac 13. Superman (vol. 2) #200
implies that when the timeline realigned itself, Cir-El was erased
Issue #8 of the Superman/Batman series
originally published in 2004 re-introduced Kara Zor-El into the DC
continuity. Like the pre-Crisis version, this Kara claims to be the
daughter of Superman's uncle Zor-El and aunt Alura In-Ze. Unlike the
traditional Supergirl, Kara is born before Superman; she is a
teenager when he is a baby. She is sent in a rocket in suspended
animation to look after the infant Kal-El; however, her rocket gets
caught in the explosion of Krypton and becomes encased in a
Kryptonite asteroid. She arrives on Earth years after Kal-El has
grown up and become known as Superman. Due to this extended period of
suspended animation, she is "younger" than her cousin (she
is referenced to be about 16, while Superman is portrayed to be about
29. At the end of "The Supergirl from Krypton" arc, her
cousin Superman officially introduces her to all the heroes of the DC
Comics Universe. Then she adopts the Supergirl costume and accepts
new Supergirl series, written by Jeph Loeb, began publication in
August 2005. The storyline in the first arc of Supergirl depicts a
darker, evil version of Kara emerging when Lex Luthor exposes her to
Black Kryptonite. The evil Supergirl implies that Kara's family sent
her to Earth to kill Kal-El as revenge for a family grudge; at the
time, Kara herself refuses to believe this, but later flashbacks
indicate that not only is this partly true, but Kara had been
physically altered by her father as a child before being involved in
several murders on Krypton. This was later revealed to be delusions
as a result of kryptonite poisoning. Upon being cured she adopted a
personality more like that of her golden age persona.
If all this wasn't confusing enough,
several different versions of Supergirl have appeared in the
continuity of the DC Universe including:
Power Girl (Kara Zor-L)
Power Girl is an older version of
Supergirl (below left) with a different costume and personality. Her
parents are Zor-L and Alura In-Z. Power Girls origin differs
from Supergirls. Instead of being born years after Superman and
growing up in Argo, Power Girl was born on Krypton. She was a child
and sent away in a starship at the same time as her infant cousin
Kal-L, but her ship went off course and took much longer to reach
Earth, by which point Kal-L had lived on Earth-2 for decades and
already established himself as Superman.
Young Kara Zor-L (who later adopts the
alias Karen Starr) lives with Earth-2s Clark Kent and Lois
Lane-Kent for a few years and comes to see them as second parents. As
an adult, she assumes the costumed role of Power Girl and quickly
joins the Justice Society of America. As many of the JSA heroes were
patriotic champions of World War II, its fitting that she wears
an outfit of red, white and blue. Just as Supergirl is close friends
with Batgirl, Power Girl becomes close with Helena Wayne (Earth-2
Bruce Waynes daughter) AKA Huntress.
As part of the New 52, the reintroduced
Power Girl is now from Earth 2, and had used the name Supergirl in
Laurel Gand (Andromeda)
Laurel Gand (above right) was the
post-Crisis/Glorithverse replacement for the pre-Crisis Supergirl in
the Legion of Super-Heroes after the latter was removed from the
continuity following The Man of Steel reboot of Superman. Originally,
Laurel is simply known by her given name. A younger version of Laurel
takes the superhero codename "Andromeda" shortly before the
Zero Hour reboot of the Legion; post-reboot, Laurel remains Andromeda.
Ariella Kent (right), Supergirl of the
853rd century, later revealed to be the daughter of post-Crisis Linda
Danvers and Silver Age style Superman from the Many Happy Returns
When Linda Danvers tried to take the place
of pre-Crisis Kara Zor-El, she unknowingly won the heart of the
pre-Crisis version of Superman. The two married, and had a daughter
named Ariella Kent (R'E'L in Kryptonian). When Spectre came to send
Linda back to the post-Crisis era, and return the pre-Crisis to its
original state (and replace her with Kara), Linda agreed on the
condition that Ariella would be spared. The Spectre agreed to her
terms, and when all traces of Linda Danvers' existence were wiped
from the pre-Crisis era, Ariella was left alone to wander the universe.
A hybrid of metahuman/Kryptonian heritage,
Ariella possesses vast powers for her young age. She has incredible
superhuman strength and speed. She can fly, travel through time at
will, move objects via telekinesis, and teleport anywhere she wishes.
She is invulnerable, and ages at an extremely slow rate, energy
blasts, energy absorption and also duplication. She also has X-ray
vision and heat vision. Due to her high level of power and young age,
Ariella can be highly destructive, as she has not learned to hold
back her abilities. Possessing these incredible powers at the very
tender age of 6, Ariella began to play in space, unknowingly causing
massive devastation. Her ability to time-travel carried her to the
853rd century, where she saved a planet from destruction by playing
with the invaders (and accidentally destroying all of their ships and
weapons). Later, she would time-traveled to the post-Crisis era,
shortly after the "Sins of Youth" storyline. Her
whereabouts now are unknown, but it is assumed she is still having
The first live action depiction of
Supergirl was in the 1984 film, starring Helen Slater as Supergirl
(below). The film is a spinoff from the Superman film series starring
Christopher Reeve, to which it is connected by Marc McClure's
character Jimmy Olsen. Its plot concerns Supergirl, Superman's
cousin, leaving her isolated Kryptonian community of Argo City for
Earth in an effort to retrieve the unique "Omegahedron",
which has fallen into the hands of the evil witch Selena (Faye
Dunaway). The film was poorly received by fans and at the box office.
In the seventh season (2007 - 2008) of the
CW's hit show Smallville, Kara is introduced into the cast and was
portrayed by Laura Vandervoort (below left). Smallville depicts her
as Clark's (Tom Welling) cousin, whose spacecraft became trapped in
stasis until the events of the sixth season finale, when the
destruction of the dam that the ship had landed nearby disrupted the
stasis systems and allowed Kara to wake up.
of season seven is concerned with Kara's attempts to adjust to life
on Earth, especially after learning of Krypton's destruction and the
fact that her 'younger' cousin is now at least the same age as her.
Her storyline sees her simultaneously become the object of Lex
Luthor's (Michael Rosenbaum) obsessions and Jimmy Olsen's (Aaron
Ashmore) affections, suffer a bout of amnesia, discover her father's
(Christopher Heyerdahl) sinister motives and become a target of evil
android Brainiac (James Marsters). In the season finale, Kara becomes
trapped in the Phantom Zone, and Vandervoort was no longer a regular
in the show's eighth season . However, she made one guest appearance
in the episode "Bloodline", where Clark and Lois are
transported to the Phantom Zone and return with Kara. At the end of
the episode, she leaves Smallville to search for Kandor. Vandervoort
reprised the role in season ten's "Supergirl", in which
Kara saves a group of people at an anti-hero rally led by Gordon
Godfrey (Michael Daingerfield). In the episode, she is sent by Jor-El
(the AI at the Fortress of Solitude) to become a champion to the
people of Earth, and rescues Clark from Darkseid. She appears for a
final time in the series' penultimate episode, "Prophecy".
Kara is summoned by Jor-El to the Fortress, where she is told she can
either assist Clark and therefore alter his destiny, or leave Earth
and face her own. Kara decides on the latter, and uses a Legion of
Super-Heroes ring to time travel to parts unknown.
Supergirl was voiced by Nicholle Tom in
Superman: The Animated Series (below left), an American television
show. She is depicted as Kara In-Ze, not Superman's cousin as in the
comic book, but rather a near-Kryptonian from Krypton's sister planet
Argos, whom Superman brings back to Earth and treats as a cousin. As
continued in Justice League Unlimited, she and Superman grow very
close, almost like siblings, but she departs when she falls in love
with Brainiac 5 of the Legion of Super-Heroes in the distant future,
feeling that she had never really fit in on Earth in the present.
Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (below right),
a direct-to-video animated film released in September 2010, largely
parallels the origin-story arc launched in the Superman/Batman comic
series in 2004, with some minor plot differences. Kara Zor-El, voiced
by Summer Glau, is described unambiguously as Kal-El's cousin from Krypton.
In 2014, CBS had given a series commitment
to a television series featuring Supergirl, which primarily focuses
on Kara Zor-El as a 24-year-old cousin of Superman. Executive
producers for the series include Greg Berlanti (also a creator/producer
for Arrow and The Flash), Ali Adler and Sarah Schechter. In January
2015, Melissa Benoist was cast in the role of Supergirl (below). The
series premiered on October 26th, 2015 to positive ratings. In May
2016 CBS announced that Supergirl was renewed for a second season and
will be moving to the CW (which is owned by CBS) which is also home
of The Flash and Arrow.
The costume for TVs Supergirl was created
by Colleen Atwood, who also designed the costumes for Arrow and The
Flash. Atwood indicated that she wanted to "embrace the
past" and the costume is more of the "classic"
Supergirl look, avoiding exposing the character's midriff, as it does
in the more recent comic books, as well as having Benoist wear
stockings underneath the skirt with over-the-knee boots. Abrams
compared the texture of the costume to that worn by Henry Cavill as
Superman in Man of Steel, as well as the positioning of the cape on
the suit, and the decision to do away with the bright blue and red
color scheme of the comic book and using darker tones. Works for us.
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