Superman Comic Books
Superman: Special Reports
Supergirl - Part 2 (of 3)Author: Sean Hogan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Last updated: September 27, 2004
Most of the stories during this next period deal with Supergirl as one of the running sub-plots. I won't be identifying the individual writer or art team unless it's significant, as I consider this to be a continuing tale by the entire Super-team.
Superman, traumatized by his execution of the criminals on the Pocket Universe Earth, eventually leaves for adventures in outer space. He says his farewells to his parents in Adventures of Superman #450. At the Kent farm, he also sees Supergirl again, now referring to herself as Matrix. Pa explains, "She started calling herself that a while back, and I guess it kind of stuck."
Matrix has not returned to her former look, and appears to be a slightly androgynous female with purplish skin and a shock of short white hair. Her speech is halting, she cries easily when upset, and she doesn't appear to be very animated -- mostly observing those around her. Superman's parting words to her are, "stay with them, protect them... love them."
The outside world begins to intrude on the Kent farm after an explosion in Clark's apartment leads to concerns by his friends in Metropolis that Clark has been killed. Matrix becomes increasingly obsessed with Clark's pictures -- staring at and studying them. In Superman #30 we learn that, "her only memories are vague remembrances copied from a woman long dead." Matrix is able to fly, but only weakly. She longs to be human and wonders, "what is it like to be Clark Kent?"
In Adventures of Superman #453 Matrix painfully changes her shape again until she is an exact duplicate of Clark, saying that s/he wants to help. In Adventures of Superman #454, Matrix leaves the Kent's home and travels to Metropolis where s/he is soon threatened by three hoods, until Bibbo intervenes to even the odds. Matrix takes off as the police arrive.
While Superman battles on Warworld, Matrix stumbles around Metropolis in Superman #32. Once again confused and lost, Matrix is having difficulty remembering anything other than, "He knows he is Clark Kent... and that something terrible had happened... something to do with Superman."
Jimmy Olsen comes across Matrix and rushes him to safety, assuming Clark has amnesia. Matrix vaguely remembers Jimmy from Clark's pictures and goes along. In Adventures of Superman #455, Clark's friends try to reintroduce him to his old life, assuming that his amnesia comes from the attempted mugging that Clark vaguely recalls.
Matrix's life changes yet again when Superman returns from space in Action Comics #649. At the end of the issue, Superman resumes his life as Clark and returns to his apartment, just as a massive, silent explosion tears it apart. Inside, Clark is shocked to find an unconscious duplicate of himself, holding the Eradicator device which he had brought back from his space adventures.
In Superman #34, the two Clarks are together when Jimmy Olsen arrives. The real Clark quickly switches into Superman's costume and Jimmy takes the often seen picture of Clark and Superman standing together. Matrix is still confused, believing herself to be Clark Kent. Superman talks to his parents and decides to return Matrix to them, but super-duty intervenes, forcing him to delay Matrix's return.
Matrix eventually returns to Smallville and the Kent farm on his/her own in Action Comics #644, an all-Matrix issue written by Roger Stern and George Perez, with art by Perez and Brett Breeding.
When the confused Matrix sees Superman, s/he explodes with anger saying, "Someone's threatening me -- trying to get inside my head! Someone close by! There!! And he's stolen my face!" Blasting Superman, Matrix removes the Kents and Lana to hide out at the old limestone quarry.
They try to convince Matrix of her identity, but Matrix refuses to accept the truth. To convince them of her reality, Matrix transforms her clothing into a grey and black version of Superman's costume. Fuelling the confusion, a mental link has formed between Superman and Matrix as Matrix recalls memories that are not her/his own and even finishes sentences as Superman thinks them.
A huge battle ensues between them, ending only when Superman has to save Lana and his parents from a collapsing building. As a shaken Matrix approaches them, Superman takes the opportunity to remind Matrix of her origins and of the Eradicator device that somehow linked their minds. Matrix blasts Superman with psi-bolts, but Superman is prepared this time and continues to reason with Matrix, until Matrix collapses in defeat.
Similar to Superman's earlier departure, Matrix decides that, without control, "we are a danger to those around us" and that, "I must learn what I am truly to be. Until I do -- I must not put another single life at risk!" Matrix turns invisible and, visiting the Kent home briefly, leaves for the depths of outer space and exile. The narration adds ominously, "Today, Matrix learned what he is not. Now he goes to discover what he is. We may never see him again."
The Redemption Of Supergirl
Matrix disappeared for over two years, real time, returning to take part in the "Panic In The Sky" arc (triangle titles 19928-15; also collected in trade paperback -- and again, I'm not going to refer to the individual writers or art teams). The prologue in Action Comics #674 opens on an alien world when a handsome stranger saves a barmaid from unwanted attentions by a customer. The stranger's hat and poncho are removed in the following fight - revealing ...
... Clint Eastwood. Oops, wrong story.
... revealing a black and grey Superman.
The stranger comes to the attention of several people, including the cellkeeper and Draaga (both from the real Superman's adventures on Warworld), and Maxima -- the red haired Lady of House Almerac. While the cellkeeper talks with the shapeshifted Matrix, Draaga appears and demands to continue the fight to the death that began on Warworld.
Throughout the prologue, Matrix, although still in Superman's guise, seems to have found some peace and tranquillity. Matrix's explanations as to her true identity prove unsuccessful as Draaga begins a relentless attack. Matrix uses invisibility and psychokinetic beams to repel Draaga, but is ultimately defeated.
However, when Draaga raises his fist to finish the death-rite, he pauses as the figure he holds morphs into Supergirl's form and costume (for the first time since her defeat in the Pocket Universe). During this pause, the two figures are transported to Warworld where its new leader, Brainiac, takes mental control of Supergirl. Brainiac's mental abilities also allow him to examine Supergirl's mind -- learning that she is an artificial life form who is, "most malleable... in both body and mind!"
Brainiac sends Supergirl against Earth's heroes in Adventures of Superman #488. Although Supergirl initially attacks Superman as "my greatest enemy", she soon pauses, resisting Brainiac's mental compulsion to fight Superman. A blow from Superman stuns her and breaks Brainiac's mental hold, and Supergirl quickly joins Superman in the battle.
For the rest of the arc, Supergirl and Draaga fight on the side of the heroes. When captured and questioned by Maxima in Superman: The Man Of Steel #10, she says about Superman"I once hated him as well, but now... now I believe he is the bravest, most honourable man alive... save for Draaga... while Brainiac is a madman who destroys all he touches!" So convincing are her arguments, that she persuades Maxima to release her and join with them against Brainiac.
Although Supergirl is prepared to sacrifice her life to stop Brainiac, it is Draaga who stops her by acting first"I have vowed to protect your life with my own... as I have foolishly vowed Superman's death or my own! So let one act now redeem both vows... for if I must die, I would spend my life... to further a good cause!" For the rest of the battle, Supergirl assumes Draaga's form and, although the transformation is painful, "the agony and pain I endure to take his form shall be nothing in relation to the glory I will bring to the name of Draaga... who ransomed our lives with his own."
The battle concludes in Superman #66 as the combined might of the heroes on Earth and on Warworld succeed in defeating Brainiac and leaving him an apparently mindless husk. While the heroes return to a tribute on Earth in Adventures of Superman #489, Supergirl goes to the cellkeeper's asteroid where she places Draaga's remains beside those of the Cleric.
To the cellkeeper, Supergirl reflects that, "For too long, little one, I wandered the galaxies, frozen in the form of Superman... unsure of who I was supposed to be, or where I belonged." As to the form of Supergirl that she has again resumed, she says"This is the image I assumed when Draaga attacked me, thinking I was Superman. It is the form he died protecting. This 'skin' feels right and the name 'Supergirl' does suit me."
She decides that it is now time to return to Earth, which is "the closest thing to a home I have." The cellkeeper helps her find a ship and bids her farewell with the wish"May your destiny be bright!"
Unfortunately for Supergirl, her destiny held falling in love - with Lex Luthor.
Supergirl & Lex Luthor II
After taking care of some personal matters, Supergirl returned to Earth in Action Comics #676 and met Lex Luthor II. Supergirl was immediately attracted to the young, handsome heir to the Luthor empire, identifying him with her creator - the deceased Lex of her Pocket Universe Earth.
In Action Comics #677, Roger Stern (with art by Jackson Guice and Denis Rodier) explores Supergirl's history and her relationship with Luthor II. She recounts her origin, explaining how she was "born full-grown in a laboratory... an artificial being created from synthetic protomatter, formed from the molecular matrix of a dying woman [Lana Lang]. I carried her memories in the early days of my life. For a while, I believed I was her. Those memories have mostly faded and I can now recall the first true moment of my life. I remember green... the deep green eyes of my creator."
As we learn next issue (#678 -- the wonderfully titled "They Saved Luthor's Brain!"), Lex Luthor faked his own death and had his brain transplanted inside a newly cloned body (complete with a full head of hair). Luthor arranged to return to Metropolis from Australia as his own long lost son. Now, back to #677.
Luthor turns on his Australian charm, casually referring to Supergirl as "love" and telling her, "I have found my heart's desire." Luthor is fascinated by Supergirl's powers and she gladly demonstrates her invisibility and strength as well as her shape- and clothing-changing abilities. Supergirl notes that with effort she can increase her volume (as when she imitated Clark and Draaga), but "that can be quite painful".
When Luthor grants a television interview, he makes sure he showcases Supergirl and announces her as the newest member of the LexCorp family. Shortly afterward, Superman arrives and asks Supergirl to accompany him for a private discussion "away from any listening devices."
The innocent Supergirl protests that, "Lex would never use such things!", while Stern shows Luthor's rage as the two fly out of surveillance range. Supergirl bristles when Superman tries to warn her that Luthor might not be as benevolent as he seems, noting the differences between the first Luthor's public and private personas.
Finally, when Superman asks if her mind is "still addled from your run-in with Brainiac?", Supergirl has had enough and blasts Superman into a landfill. Luthor takes advantage of the dust-up to embarrass Superman for his temper and to convince Supergirl of his good nature. The issue ends with Supergirl fawning over Luthor saying, "I love you so very much," to which Luthor ominously replies, "I know, dear. I know."
This issue sets up the next stage in Supergirl's life. Supergirl began as a bright, happy, but mentally confused young super-heroine. Wrongly believing herself to be Lana Lang and then cut adrift from her former life with the loss of her home world - suffering both mentally and physically - Supergirl had a long and difficult recovery. When she finally seemed to find inner peace, she was again victimized by Brainiac.
In the stories following Supergirl's return to Earth, Roger Stern presents Supergirl as someone who has shed the false memories of her past and recovered from her traumas. However, instead of finding strength inside herself, she has fixated on Lex Luthor and draws her identity from him - or rather from her naive, idealized vision of him.
Although Supergirl shows some (to Luthor, annoying) signs of independence, mostly she obeys his every whim and request as she remains almost constantly by his side. When Doomsday attacks, she reluctantly accepts Luthor's "suggestions" to remain and not assist Superman until the fight finally enters the city.
When Supergirl does finally join the fray in Superman: The Man of Steel #19, she is quickly removed by a single punch from Doomsday that leaves her a shattered mess in her protoplasmic form.
Luthor retrieves her in Adventures of Superman #498, reassuring her as he drapes his jacket around her and then carries her, apparently lovingly, back to his office. Although the story doesn't emphasize it, this scene and Luthor's jacket will play a significant role later. With encouragement from Luthor and with great pain and difficulty, Supergirl resumes her standard form.
With Superman dead, Supergirl becomes closer to Luthor -- even helping him to try and recruit the new Superboy who appears during the "Reign of the Supermen" stories. She and Luthor share a special in Supergirl and Team Luthor #1 (which also contains Luthor's ominous comment, "I wish I had a hundred of you... a hundred... just like you," as the caption adds, "Only the beginning.")
Supergirl's ties to Luthor are tested when Superman returns. She finally disobeys the directives from her love, to assist Superman in his battle against Mongul and the Cyborg.
In Action Comics #691, Luthor confronts Superman to demand what he has done with "my Supergirl". When Superman tells her about Luthor's comment, Supergirl passes off Luthor's behaviour with, "I know he can be possessive at times. I wish he weren't. But... it's something we have to work out."
She tells Lois and Clark that, "I want you two to always be as happy as Lex and I are."