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Supergirl is the name of several super heroines appearing in comic books published by DC Comics, depicted as female counterparts to DC Comics iconic superhero Superman. The first incarnation of the character—Super-Girl—appears in a story published in Superman #123 (August 1958). This prototype character led to the creation of the official Supergirl, Kara Zor-El—created by Otto Binder and Al Plastino as the biological cousin of Superman—who debuted in Action Comics #252 (May 1959) entitled "The Supergirl from Krypton." As Supergirl, the Kara Zor-El character plays a supporting role in various DC Comics publications, including Action Comics, Superman, Adventure Comics and several other comic book series unrelated to Superman. Supergirl also stars in an eponymous comic book series which debuted in 1972 and ran until 1974, followed by a second monthly comic book series entitled The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl, which ran from 1982 to 1984.
An editorial mandate, the 1985 limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths depicts the death of Supergirl and DC Comics subsequently reboots the continuity of the DC Comics Universe, reestablishing 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 the Matrix, Linda Danvers, and Cir-El. Following the cancellation of the third Supergirl comic book series starring the Linda Danvers version of the character, a modern version of Kara Zor-El is reintroduced into DC Comics continuity in issue #8 of the Superman Batman comic book series entitled "The Supergirl from Krypton" (2004). The modern Kara Zor-El stars as Supergirl in an eponymous comic book series, in addition to playing a supporting role in various DC Comics publications. A pop culture icon, the Supergirl character has been adapted into all media relating to the Superman franchise including merchandise, television, animation, and feature film.
Many Superman stories feature one-time appearances of a female version of Superman as a story gimmick.
- Lois Lane (Superwoman) — The first comic 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 Lane dreams she has gained 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 superpowers and adopting the name "Superwoman" periodically appear later. One such story appears in Action Comics #156 (May 1951), in which Lois accidentally gains superpowers, thanks to an invention of Superman's arch-foe, Lex Luthor. In the story, Lois employs a short blond wig in her crime-fighting identity, giving Superwoman an almost identical look to the later Kara Zor-El version of Supergirl.
- Claire Kent — In the Superboy #78 story titled "Claire Kent, Alias Super-Sister", Superboy saves the life of an alien woman named Shar-La, who turns Superboy into a girl. In Smallville, Clark claims to be Claire Kent, an out-of-town relative who is staying with the Kents. When in costume, he appears as Superboy's sister, Super-Sister, and claims the two have exchanged places. As a girl, he is ridiculed and scorned by men, and wants to prove he's as good as he always was. In the end, it is revealed that the situation is an illusion created by Shar-La, and Superboy learns not to ridicule women.
- Super-Girl — In Superman #123 (August 1958), Jimmy Olsen uses a magic totem to wish a "Super-Girl" into existence as a companion and aid to Superman; however, the two frequently get in each other's way until she is fatally injured protecting Superman from a Kryptonite meteor. 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 super-powered female counterpart to Superman. In the original issue in which this Super-Girl story was printed, she had blond hair and her costume was red and blue like Superman's. Early reprints of this story showed her with red hair and an orange and green costume, to prevent readers from confusing her with the then current Supergirl character. Much later, the story was again reprinted in its original form.
Pre-Crisis character biography
After positive fan reaction to Super-Girl, the first recurring and most familiar version of Supergirl, Kara Zor-El, debuted in 1959. Kara Zor-El first appeared in Action Comics #252 (May 1959) written by Otto Binder who also created Mary Marvel, Captain Marvel's sister and female spin-off. Like Supergirl, Mary Marvel was a teen-age female version of an adult male super-hero, wearing a costume that was identical to the older character other than substituting a short skirt for tights. Binder also created Miss America, a super-heroine who shared little other than the name with her sometimes co-star Captain America.
Kara Zor-El is the last survivor of Argo City of the planet Krypton, which had survived the explosion of the planet and had drifted through space. When the inhabitants of the colony are slain by Kryptonite, Kara is sent to Earth by her father Zor-El to be raised by her cousin Kal-El, known as Superman. Fearing that she might not be recognized by Superman, Kara's parents provide a costume based on the Man of Steel's own.
On Earth, Kara acquires super-powers identical to Superman's and adopts the secret identity of Linda Lee, an orphan at 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. After being adopted by Fred and Edna Danvers, Superman decides his cousin is ready to begin operating openly as Supergirl.
In her secret identity, Linda 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. She also attends college in Chicago. Kara has many boyfriends, including Richard (Dick) Malverne, Jerro the merboy from Atlantis, and member of the Legion of Super-Heroes, Brainiac 5. She does, however, shun serious commitments, putting her super-career first.
Supergirl's secret identity is a closely held secret and is known only to Superman, her foster parents, and the Legion of Super-Heroes, of which she serves as a member for a time. Like all Kryptonians, Supergirl is vulnerable to kryptonite. Streaky, Linda Danvers' orange cat, acquires temporary super-powers as a result of its exposure to "X-Kryptonite". Comet the Superhorse, a former centaur, is Supergirl's equine companion.
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 bravely sacrifices her life to save her cousin and the multiverse from destruction. When Superman continuity rebooted after the Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC editorial felt that Superman should be the sole survivor of Krypton, resulting in Kara being removed from continuity.Peter Sanderson, Amazing Heroes #96, June 1986. "Superman will be the only Kryptonian who survived the destruction of Krypton" - John Byrne on The Man of Steel. Excerpted here 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, many historical events from the Multiverse are now being remembered. Donna Troy, after her rebirth and inheritance of Harbinger's Orb, has recalled the original Kara Zor-El and her sacrifice to save the Universe.52: Week Four and Week Five, 2006
Post-Crisis character biography
John Byrne wanted Superman to be the only surviving Kryptonian following DC's post-Crisis reboot of Superman continuity. As a result, when DC reintroduced Supergirl in the post-Crisis era, she needed to have a non-Kryptonian origin. Afterwards, DC Comics tried to revamp the Supergirl concept, introducing several more non-Kryptonian Supergirls. Eventually, the rule that Superman should be the only surviving Kryptonian was relaxed, allowing for a return of Kara Zor-El as both Superman's cousin and a Kryptonian survivor.
After the post-Crisis reboot of Superman continuity 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 protoplasm) created by a heroic Lex Luthor of a "pocket universe". Lex implanted her with Lana Lang's memories, and she could shapeshift to resemble Lana Lang. Matrix even believed herself to be Lana for a time. She wore a distaff version of Superman's costume, but Matrix did not have Superman's exact powers. While she possessed flight and super-strength (like Superman), she could also employ telekinesis, shape-shifting and a cloaking/invisibility power (her cloaking power made her undetectable even to Superman himself).
Matrix's Supergirl form resembled the pre-Crisis Supergirl. She lived in Smallville with the Kents, who treated "Mae" like their own daughter. While new to Earth, Matrix began a romance with the DC Universe's Lex Luthor until she realized Luthor's evil nature. She left 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.
Beginning in September 1996, DC published a Supergirl title written by Peter David. The 1996 Supergirl comic revamps the previous Matrix Supergirl by merging her with a human being, resulting in a new Supergirl. Many old elements of the pre-Crisis Supergirl are reintroduced in new forms. 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 pre-adoption secret identity, Linda Lee. 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.
As the series begins, Matrix sacrifices herself to save a dying woman named Linda Danvers, and their bodies, minds, and souls merge to become an "Earth-Born Angel", a being that is created when one being selflessly sacrifices him or herself to save another who is, in every way, 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,Supergirl #50 and Linda and Matrix are separated once more into two beings. Linda retains some of Supergirl's super-strength and durability, and although she can no longer fly, she can leap 1/8th of a mile. Linda acts as Supergirl for a while, attempting to locate her angelic aspect. After she is found in the Garden of Eden and freed from the Demon Mother, Matrix merges with a woman named Twilight and becomes the new Earth-born angel of fire. Twilight uses her healing powers to increase Linda's strength to Supergirl's levels and restores her powers of flight and telekinesis. In Supergirl #75 (December 2002), detoured on her way to Earth, the pre-Crisis Supergirl arrives in post-Crisis Leesburg. After learning that Kara is destined to die, Linda travels to the pre-Crisis universe in her place, where she marries Superman and bears a daughter named Ariella. In order to save her daughter's life, Linda ultimately allows history to unfold as it should have, with Kara assuming her rightful but tragic place in the time-stream.
Upon returning to the post-Crisis DC universe, Linda abandons the role of Supergirl. 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 Peter David's Supergirl series. Prior to Fallen Angel moving to another company, Lee was written in a manner such that she could have been Linda. According to an interview with Newsarama,Newsarama.com: Crisis Counseling: The Finale Matrix Supergirl is wiped from existence by the events depicted in the 2005 limited series Infinite Crisis, although Infinite Crisis writer Geoff Johns has stated that Danvers is not.The Comic Bloc Forums - Geoff, We need to talk - Page 2
A Supergirl named Cir-El appears 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 no longer in continuity. Cir-El is unique among the various incarnations of Supergirl; she is the only one who is not a blonde.
Issue #8 of the Superman Batman series originally published in 2004 re-introduced Kara Zor-El into DC continuity. Like the pre-Crisis version, this Kara claims to be the daughter of Superman's uncle Zor-El and aunt Alura. Unlike the traditional Supergirl origin, Kara was born before Superman; she was a teenager when he was a baby. She had been sent in a rocket in suspended animation to look after the infant Kal-El; however, her rocket was caught in the explosion of Krypton, became encased in a kryptonite asteroid, and she arrived on Earth years after Kal-El had grown up and becoming known as Superman. Due to this extended period of suspended animation she is "younger" than her cousin, relatively speaking (she is referenced to be about 16, while Superman is portrayed to be about 35+). At the end of "The Supergirl from Krypton" arc, her cousin Superman officially introduces her to all the heroes of the DC Universe, then she adopts the Supergirl costume, and accepts the name.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 was this partly true but Kara had been physically altered by her father as a child before being involved in several murders on Krypton.
Supergirl also appears in Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes, in which she is transported to the 31st century, and, as a result of her disorientation, for a time believes she is dreaming her surroundings into existence until finally convinced otherwise. Although her memories of her time with the Legion were erased before she returned to the present, the mental blocks broke down upon encountering the pre-crisis versions of legionaries Karate Kid and Triad (Una).
Supergirl exhibits new powers, manifesting sunstone crystals from her body; so far she has only done so while under great stress (for example, when Cassandra Cain tries to kill her). Supergirl's father implanted the crystals within his daughter's body to protect her from malevolent beings from the Phantom Zone. The Zone-dwellers were released when Jor-El made the Phantom Zone Projector and exploited the Zone as a prison. Kara's father, believing that Kal-El is a lure to the Zone-dwellers, has instructed Kara to destroy him.
Even though Supergirl is a Superman supporting character, she is also a Superman Family member, with her own set of supporting characters.
- Zor-El and Alura — Kara Zor-El's biological parents. Zor-El, the younger brother of Jor-El, was a scientist who invented the dome over Argo City and oversaw the placement of lead shielding over the ground of Argo City, thus enabling the city's residents to survive after the explosion of Krypton. The city drifted in space for about 15 years, the residents clinging to a precarious existence. During that time, the couple had a daughter, Kara, who grew to about the age of 10-12 when the city's existence was put in peril when its lead shielding was punctured by meteors, releasing deadly kryptonite radiation. At this point, Zor-El and Alura placed Kara in a rocket ship and sent her to Earth, which Zor-El had observed using a powerful electronic telescope. Observing a super-powered man resembling his brother Jor-El, and wearing a uniform of Kryptonian styling, Zor-El (and Alura) concluded the man was probably their nephew, Kal-El, sent through space by Jor-El when Krypton exploded and now grown to adulthood. In later Silver Age accounts, Zor-El and Alura survive the death of Argo City when, shortly before the radiation reached lethal levels, Zor-El projects them both into the immaterial Phantom Zone; later they are released from the Zone and go to live in the bottle city of Kandor preserved in microscopic size at Superman's Fortress. Under the Silver Age version of the continuity, Supergirl could regularly visit with both her adoptive parents, the Danverses (see below), and her birth parents, in Kandor.
- Streaky the Supercat — Pre-Crisis Supergirl's pet cat who acquires super-powers after exposure to X-Kryptonite.
- Comet the Super-Horse — Pre-Crisis Supergirl's horse who is a centaur accidentally cursed by Circe into being trapped in the form of a horse. In post-Crisis continuity, Comet is a superhero who is a romantic interest of Linda Danvers.
- Fred and Edna Danvers — The foster parents of pre-Crisis Supergirl. Shortly after they adopt Linda Lee from the Midvale orphanage, Superman reveals his cousin's identity to her foster parents, so they are aware of her super-powers. Later, they are also aware that Superman is secretly Clark Kent.
- Dick Malverne — An orphan at the Midvale Orphanage who is one of Pre-Crisis Supergirl's romantic interests. While living at the Midvale Orphanage as Linda Lee, Supergirl meets and befriends fellow orphan, Dick Wilson. Dick suspects that Linda is secretly Supergirl and is constantly trying to prove Linda has super-powers. Later, Dick is adopted by a couple named Malverne, and changes his name to Dick Malverne. In post-Crisis continuity, Dick Malverne is a newly arrived resident to Leesburg who befriends Linda Danvers.
- Jerro the Merboy — A merperson from Atlantis who is another of Pre-Crisis Supergirl's romantic interests, much like the relationship that Superman had with Lori Lemaris.
Several different versions of Supergirl have appeared in continuity.
- Power Girl (Kara Zor-L)—An alternate version of Kara Zor-El from the parallel world, Earth-Two, the cousin of Superman (Kal-L).
- Laurel Gand (Andromeda)—Laurel Gand was the post-Crisis/Glorithverse replacement for the pre-Crisis Supergirl in the Legion of Super-Heroes, after the latter was removed from continuity following The Man of Steel reboot of Superman. Originally, Laurel was simply known by her given name. A younger version of Laurel took the superhero code name "Andromeda" shortly before the Zero Hour reboot of the Legion; post-reboot, Laurel remained Andromeda.
- Ariella Kent—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 story arc.
Adaptations into other media
Since the character's feature film debut in 1984, the Supergirl character has been also been adapted into animated television programs such as Superman: The Animated Series, Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. The Kara Zor-El version of Supergirl was also introduced in the season finale of the third season of the television series Smallville, then later reappeared (with a different actress) in the seventh season .
- Alternate versions of Supergirl
- Supergirl (Kara Zor-El)
- Team Superman - The name for the unofficial team of Superman and his supporting characters.
- Superman Family - A 1970s anthology comic of Superman's supporting cast which continued Supergirl's stories after her 1970s solo series was cancelled.