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The History of Supergirl

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Discuss Supergirl on the message board  Supergirl Fan Art  Supergirl Image Gallery Supergirl Posters  Supergirl DVDs 
Smallville's Supergirl

With the casting of Laura Vandervoort on the CW's Smallville as Clark Kent's Kryptonian cousin Kara also known as Supergirl, I thought why not do a little study of Supergirl's history. Knowing the comic book past of Superman's cousin will be bound to increase your enjoyment of Smallville's 7th Season. This way maybe you won't miss those little details that pay homage to the classic stories from Supergirl's comic book past. Although this appears to be the real deal it wasn't the
first time we Smallville fans looked forward

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Supergirl Smallville version and photo shopped costume version

to seeing Supergirl.  Way back in the season finale of the third season in the episode Covenant a mysterious girl appeared with Kryptonian like powers named Kara. She turned out to just be a girl named Lindsey Harrison.  Jor-El kidnapped, brainwashed, and gave superpowers to Lindsey with the intent of forcing Clark to confront his Kryptonian heritage and follow his destiny. In the end, Kara vanishes and "Jor-El" says that she had "served her purpose." Of course Jor-El's presence can only be described as an artificial intelligence representing Jor-El's wishes from beyond the grave.  This episode makes a nod to comic book fans when Clark tries to explain away Kara as his cousin, but of course it was just a false alarm.

Supergirl The Beginning
Now that's the most recent history, but let's back track to the very first appearance of Supergirl ever.

Superman #123 and Super Lois Lane
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The first ever mention of a Superwoman was a story published in Action Comics #60 May 1943 entitled "Lois Lane - Superwoman". Obviously this was not the Supergirl we are familiar with. A few more stories featuring Lois Lane gaining powers and becoming Superwoman would follow, but still no Supergirl.  This Lois Lane with powers scenario was introduced into a Lois and Clark episode in the 1990's where Lois gains Superman's powers to become Ultra Woman.

 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. Jimmy eventually wishes her out of existence when she becomes mortally wounded.  It's been said that DC used this story to gauge response on a female counterpart to Superman.

The real Supergirl, or at least the one we are most familiar with came in 1959 with the creation of Kara Zor-El in Action Comics #252.  It was written by Otto Binder who also created Mary Marvel, Captain Marvel's sister and female spin-off.  So Clark Kent's Kryptonian cousin was off and flying. Kara Zor-El turned out to be the last survivor of Argo City of the planet Krypton, which had survived Krypton's explosion and had drifted through space. Kara is sent to Earth by her father Zor-El to be raised by her cousin Kal-El after the inhabitants are threatened by exposure to Kryponite.

Kara 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, until she can gain 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.

Supergirl goes on to college, has several jobs and along the way has several adventures with the super team of the future The Legion of Superheroes. The same team of characters you'll find on the WB Saturday morning cartoon series. Supergirl even had a crush on the Legion's Braniac-5 as also shown on the JLU animated series where Supergirl winds up staying in the future after teaming up with the Legion.

Supergirl also had a super cat named Streaky, and a horse named Comet also with super powers. Streaky would be featured on the Krypto the Superdog cartoon series with super powers, but no mention of ever belonging to Supergirl.

The Death of the Original Supergirl
In 1985 DC did the unthinkable and killed off Supergirl in issue 7 of Crisis on Infinite Earths. It goes down in history as one of the biggest comic book mini series of all time. It put an end to the multiverse used to explain the existence of the original Justice Society, and the original Superman existing as far back as World War II. Supergirl died trying to save the universe of course, just like Barry Allen the Flash.
 

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Death of Supergirl Wallpaper image

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Crisis on Infinite Earths Death of Supergirl

Then of all the nerve DC Comics insulted the memory of Supergirl by removing her very memory from the DC universe with the reboot of Superman by John Byrne in the 80's. This created a more realistic Superman with less powers, a cape that frequently tore, and no cousin ever named Kara.  It wasn't until the events of the recent Infinite Crisis that many multiverse events like the Death of Supergirl was finally remembered by at least one character named Donna Troy aka Wonder Girl.
Perhaps Supergirl's death was DC's retaliation for Supergirl failing to make any money at the box office in the 1984 Supergirl movie.  It wasn't that bad a movie really, but not the greatest superhero movie of all time either. For whatever the reason original audiences just didn't want to go see Supergirl on the big screen in the 1980's. The actress portraying Supergirl did however win a Saturn Award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films for her performance as the girl of steel.
click for larger image of Helen Slater as Supergirl
A fake Supergirl is Born
And so Supergirl remained dead, but in 1988 DC Comics decided to have their cake and eat it too. Supergirl would be seen flying around again in Superman comics even get her own title back, but she wouldn't be the real Supergirl or even human at first.

A pocket universe was created where a Superboy existed where as in the current revamped DC universe Superman began his

click for larger image of the Matrix Supergirl

career as an adult not as a child. In this pocket universe Superboy had the same power level as the pre-crisis Superman. This Superboy would used to explain the adventures the Legion of Superheroes had with Superboy in the past DC continuity. Of course I'm sure there were many holes left unplugged, but that's the comic book world for you.  In this pocket universe created by a supervillain named the Time Trapper, a good version of Lex Luthor created a proto plasmic version of a deceased Lana Lang and gave her powers to simulate a Supergirl. In this world Superboy dies, and the nobler Luthor studies the many cool scientific achievements of the pocket universe's Superboy until he winds up releasing the villains from the pocket universe Phantom Zone. Pocket universe Luthor then creates the Matrix Supergirl and sends her to the current Superman's world for help. Meanwhile Zod makes the pocket universe Earth uninhabitable. Strangely enough in this story Luthor reveals moments before his death he was aware of the existence of gold kryptonite the whole time Zod and his Phantom Zoners were destroying his Earth, but he waits till the end to give it to Superman claiming he just wanted to put the Zoners back by himself for his own ego's sake. Really doesn't make sense, but it was a entertaining story despite the huge hole in reason. They had to give Supes something to defeat Zod with before it took up another issue, I guess. By the way gold kryptonite takes away the powers of Kryptonians. It of course had no effect on the new version of Superman.

So Superman defeats the Phantom Zone villains, and goes back to his world with the only surviving member of the pocket universe, the Matrix Supergirl capable of shape shifting. She actually goes bonkers for a little while trying to take the place of Superman before going back to Supergirl to fight for truth, justice, and the American way. Later the Matrix even melded into a real human girl for a while. The Infinite Crisis however supposedly wiped the Matrix Supergirl out of existence. I'm glad I wasn't that crazy about the idea to begin with. I much rather have a Kryptonian Supergirl flying around in the DC universe.

One other important note the Matrix Supergirl actually had a romance going on with Lex Luthor before realizing his evil nature.

During the 1990's Supergirl made her way to television in the two-part Superman: The Animated Series episode Little Girl Lost as Kara from Krypton's "sister world" of Argo. The character is depicted as a headstrong and independent teenage girl who was placed in suspended animation before Argo became uninhabitable. Superman places Kara in the care of the Kents who take basically adopt her.

Supergirl Returns
Kara Zor-El the revamped Supergirl made her way back into the land of comics in issue #8 of the Superman/Batman series in 2004.
 

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New Supergirl

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Supergirl & the Legion of Super Heroes

Like the pre-Crisis version, this Kara is 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 embarked on his career as Superman. Due to this extended period of suspended animation she is younger than her cousin. At the end of "The Supergirl from Krypton" arc, Kara officially introduces herself to many of the heroes of the DC Comics Universe, adopts a Supergirl costume, and accepts the name. This version of Supergirl has also had adventures with the Legion of Superheroes just like the old version.

And that's basically all you need to know about Supergirl.