Superman Comic Books

Superman: Special Reports

Supergirl - Part 3 (of 3)

Author: Sean Hogan (shogan@buckho.com)

Last updated: September 27, 2004



The Supergirl Miniseries

Action Comics #685 Matters finally begin to turn sour for the Supergirl/Luthor relationship in the four issue Supergirl miniseries, written by Roger Stern (with June Brigman on pencils and Jackson Guice on inks).

The first issue begins with Supergirl attacking Luthor's stronghold. Smashing through the various defences, she finally confronts him before the applause of the assembled workers. The confrontation is a friendly one though, as Luthor thanks Supergirl for participating in the test of her powers.

Stern uses the test to review Supergirl's origin and powers as well as her relationship with Luthor. In addition to showcasing her strength and invisibility, the tests also reveal that Supergirl simulates invulnerability by using her psychokinetic powers to stop bullets and flames before they could ever reach her.

Luthor also gets Supergirl to submit to medical testing by Dr. Kelley. Dr. Kelley, suspicious of Luthor's motives, later berates Luthor for the way he uses Supergirl. Her lecture is cut short when she notices Luthor appears unwell and she orders him to takes some tests also.

Meanwhile, Supergirl drops in on Ma and Pa Kent, who greet her as Mae (short for Matrix, as the editor's note adds -- I believe this is the first time this nickname is used). More of Supergirl's history is reviewed over coffee, but some of the talk is strained as the Kents express concern over her relationship with Luthor. As Supergirl leaves, she sheds tears like a character in a romance novel, wishing that the Kents "could see Lex the way I do..."

The story cuts to Luthor, arriving at a secret base with his aide, Sydney Happersen. Expressing frustration over Supergirl's increasing independence, Luthor follows Happersen to the laboratory in the central chamber. The issue ends with Luthor gazing up at hundreds of bubbles, each one containing a Supergirl.

The second issue opens with Supergirl arriving in Singapore for further testing at another of Luthor's labs. Luthor isn't present in person, but speaks with her via videoconferencing. Supergirl tells him that she has been worried as news stories claimed he was ill and that, "It's so reassuring to hear your voice and see you looking so robust!"

Luthor reassures her and tells her to "run along now" as he has some technical business to discuss with the staff. After blasting the staff for allowing Supergirl to travel outside unescorted, Luthor ends the conference. In Luthor's office, Dr. Kelley chides a pale, sickly Luthor for covering his illness from Supergirl by using a computer enhanced video image.

Tired of the testing, Supergirl strikes out on her own. She walks around Singapore in civilian clothing, until a car pulls up and invites her for a ride. The woman inside the car introduces herself as Elizabeth Perske, the third wife of the late Lex Luthor. Perske, who happened to be in the city when she saw Supergirl on television, warns Supergirl that the new Luthor seems as possessive as his father. When Supergirl protests, Perske gives her photographs of the man that had been following her.

Although Supergirl again storms out (as she does whenever anyone criticizes her Lex), her suspicions are aroused. When she returns to Lexcorp and spots the man who had been following her, she decides to investigate. Assuming different forms and using her invisibility, she overhears the Lexcorp employees referring to her as a "bimbo" and "Luthor's pet", as well as discussions about Luthor's illness and the mysterious "Operation Protomatter".

The third issue of the miniseries begins in a moment of crisis, with a desperate Supergirl arriving on Lana Lang's doorstep, her eyes wide with grief and shock as she confesses, "I killed them all!".

The rest of the issue, told in flashback sequences, has Supergirl explain how she infiltrated Luthor's "Operation Protomatter", only to find Sydney Happersen with a lab full of Supergirl variants. Although Happersen, clearly panicking, tries to explain to Supergirl that this was necessary due to Luthor's illness, Supergirl refuses to believe him. She tells Happersen that Luthor was perfectly healthy just a week ago when she spoke to him by video feed.

Happersen, desperate and afraid of an enraged Supergirl, releases the variants from their bottles and tells them to eliminate Supergirl.

The variants have little sentience and continued to repeat Happersen's command as they attack. Unable to reason with them, Supergirl tosses them back towards their birth chambers, but, "When I slammed them into the eggs, they began to revert to raw protomatter. Lana, they... they started melting ...". Revolted, Supergirl destroys everything in the lab so that no one will ever grow another Supergirl.

As the final egg splits, it disgorges Luthor's body. As Supergirl holds it in shock, it too dissolves into protomatter ooze.
Finishing her story to Lana, Supergirl overcomes her initial shock and finally realizes how she has been used by Luthor. Morphing herself a wicked looking anti-hero outfit (complete with metal spikes), she vows that she will make Luthor, "regret every minute of his miserable life!"

The fourth and final issue begins with Supergirl systematically and thoroughly destroying several Lexcorp facilities. She wants Luthor, "to sweat, knowing who's destroying your precious hideaways... knowing that I'm coming after you... knowing that there's no way to even see me, unless I allow it... knowing that you can't stop me!"=20

When Supergirl finally confronts Luthor in person, she instead finds a wasted old man. Luthor, dying from a disease that is attacking his cloned body, takes advantage of Supergirl's pause to gas her into unconsciousness. Enraged, Supergirl renews her attack and only the intervention of Superman stops her. Superman convinces Supergirl that Luthor is indeed dying and not putting on a "sick act".

Supergirl flees, realizing that Luthor never loved or trusted her. Even though Luthor was dying, he intended to trick or trap her for his own ends and uses, rather than simply ask for her help.

At the miniseries' ends, Supergirl finds comfort first in Smallville with Ma and Pa Kent, Lana, and Superman and then, a few months later, in Paris. It is in Paris that she asks Elizabeth Perske to act as a mentor for her. As she tells Perske, she wants someone who has had experience dealing with the 'Luthors' of the world. "I think it's time I stopped being a girl and started acting like a woman."

Supergirl's personal story mostly remains in a holding pattern for the next few years. She does get a starring role in Action Comics #708, by David Michelinie with art by Jackson Guice and Denis Rodier. There's not much new here, with most of the issue spent chatting with Ma and Pa Kent, and the usual interruption by a villain. Supergirl gets to demonstrate her powers and let readers catch up on her background.

Aside from that, Supergirl puts in some team time, both as part of the Superman family (which includes Superboy and Steel) and a version of the New Titans (the one led by Arsenal after Zero Hour).

"PAD"-ing The Legend

"PAD"-ing The Legend Then, in 1996, everything changed again for Supergirl when she received her own ongoing series, written by Peter A. David. PAD immediately shakes up the status quo by having Supergirl merge with a dying human female, Linda Danvers. The basic setup and the introduction of the main supporting cast occurs in the first two issues of the series.

The series begins with a wounded, mentally-confused female huddled in the shower as the water washes blood and goop down the drain. Slowly, over the issue, she remembers that her name is Linda Danvers and that something bad and something strange has happened to her.

Memories begin to surface of someone evil, named Buzz, and of a demonic cult that captured her, as well as memories of an unhappy family life with her parents, Fred and Sylvia Danvers. As the memories intrude, Linda realizes that her wounds have inexplicably healed, that her eyes have changed from brown to blue and that when she begins to run, she does so at super-speed.

Finally her memories of Supergirl re-surface. She recalls being asked by Linda's parents to help find their daughter. But by the time she does, Linda is being sacrificed as part of a demonic cult's summons of a devil. Supergirl interrupts the summoning and as she comforts the dying Linda, reflects on her own inner emptiness"I've had human sensibilities layered onto me ... like a brightly painted statue. But that's ... all I am."

Supergirl's body begins to revert to protoplasm and joins and merges with Linda's body. The issue ends with Supergirl reflecting, "We are as one ... my morphing body, somehow joined with that of Linda Danvers. I've given her life ... and she has given me ... hope ... And may God have mercy on my soul."

More complications arise in Supergirl #2 as our heroine realizes her powers have changed (she can't morph her clothes or to any shape other than Linda's smaller body), and she realizes that Linda had been an active member of the cult, and not an innocent victim. And she gets to meet her parents for the first time.

Meanwhile, Buzz mentally taunts Supergirl as the cult begins murdering one of her new friends, Cutter, to summon the feline demon to this world. As expected, Supergirl defeats the demon and saves Cutter while learning to deal with her corrupted human half.

Her closing comments echo many of PAD's themes for future issues"Linda Danvers was a horrible, twisted person. God knows what atrocities she committed, and she'd be dead if I hadn't saved her. But maybe ... somehow she was chosen to be saved for some higher purpose ... and I was chosen to be the instrument of that salvation. I'm bonded with her. Her essence, her consciousness is a part of me. If there is some greater plan ... I cannot rest until I find out what it is."

Fan favorite PAD continued to explore those issues and storylines in the Supergirl comic (along with his trademark puns and humour). Along the winding path, Supergirl dealt with Buzz, met a mysterious young child who may or may not be the Creator (Wally the God-boy), and sprouted wings of fire as she learned that she is an Earth-born angel.

A reader can never get too smug about predicting where PAD is going with his plots. After exploring Supergirl's transformation for 50 issues, PAD culminated a number of plots in a spectacular battle that had Supergirl fall from grace and apparently die.

PAD started off in a new direction in Supergirl #51 as Linda Danvers set out to find and rescue Supergirl. Although Linda was sundered from Supergirl in issue #50, she retains some powers (the same as Superman had when introduced in 1939 in Action Comics #1) and has a smaller and less physical presence. She wears an outfit designed after the Supergirl from the television series, Superman: The Animated Series. Linda's quest continued with Buzz as her reluctant companion and, in later issues, Mary Marvel, until she locates the missing Supergirl and confronts the Demon Mother, Lillith, who has her own dark plans to use and corrupt our heroine.

The storyline culminates in issues #73 and #74 in an unexpected resolution. Supergirl merges, not with Linda, but with another Earth Angel, Twilight. Linda is left with her power level boosted (perhaps back to her former level, although that isn't clear) and with her telekinetic blast power again. She does not seem to have any morphing powers.

PAD then takes off in an interesting direction with #75 by introducing the original, Silver Age, pre-Crisis Supergirl. Kara Zor-el's rocket is diverted from her own universe to Linda's. PAD is forced to compress his story into just six issues as just as he begins this storyline, it is announced that the Supergirl comic is to be cancelled as of issue #80.

PAD's Kara is one not that Silver Age readers would be very familiar with. She is shown as naive, simple and lacking in the moral fibre that characterized the Silver Age Supergirl. The explanation is that this is Kara at her first appearance - just landing on Earth after just witnessing the death of her parents and Argo City and without the training of the Silver Age Superman. As a reader of those earlier comics, I found it hard to accept this Kara as the original Supergirl, but acknowledge PAD's characterization of young Kara as a valid one.

The plot is thought provoking as Linda usurp's Kara's place, willing to sacrifice herself in the great Crisis that is to come. The plot twists unexpectedly as Linda falls in love with the Silver Age Superman and they marry and have a daughter together. The resolution is too swift as the mysterious villain remains largely mysterious and confusing in defeat, while the Spectre intervenes to restore the universes. The ending provides some answers and leaves several questions, but does ties up the series as Linda retires her Supergirl outfit and sets out on a personal quest to find own answers - much as Matrix did so many years before.

During the Supergirl series, PAD's tales were tremendously enhanced by wonderful art -- at first by Gary Frank and Cam Smith and, for much of the series, by penciller Leonard Kirk with inker Robin Riggs. The last story arc was illustrated by Ed Benes and Alex Lei whose art was also enjoyable.

In the series, PAD incorporated many references to the Silver Age Supergirl the most obvious of which is Linda Danvers as Supergirl's brown haired alter ego, as well as supporting members including her parents, the Danvers (now Fred and Sylvia instead of Fred and Edna), love interest Dick Malverne, and Comet (formerly a Super-Horse and now with an equally strange Earth angel origin). Even the home city, Leesburg is named after the original Supergirl's pre-adoption name of Linda Lee. And it wasn't until quite a while after the first two issues that PAD revealed on the racdu newsgroup that the demonic feline villain Chakat in the first two issues was modelled on Kara's pet cat, Streaky.

PAD neatly tied the current and former Supergirl's together in his last story arc by having Kara resume her place in her own universe with vague memories of her time with Linda being the inspiration for her civilian name of Linda Lee.

It can sometimes be a little difficult to jump into a PAD-written series, since he builds his stories, with his characters changing and evolving along the way. This benefits the regular reader more than a new reader. But every once in a while, PAD writes an issue that serves as a good jumping on point for new readers.

One of my favorite stories is Supergirl #30 and 31. The protoplasmic ooze that went down the shower drain in the first issue has reassembled itself. Returning as a Bizarro-type version of Supergirl, with memories of herself as Matrix, the Maid of Protoplasm attacks and absorbs the combined Supergirl/Linda. PAD uses the story to recap events, explain and explore Supergirl's motivations and (split) personality and her relationships with various cast members and guest-star Superman.

Supergirl #35 (the second of a two part fight against the Parasite) has a good recap of the storyline over the previous two years.

The resolution of the Earth Angel storyline in issues 46 - 50 is reasonably self-contained with sufficient explanations from PAD to bring the reader up to date.

A more classical type of Bizarro-Supergirl is created using cloning technology and magic by Buzz and Batman's long time enemy, Two Face in the two-part Supergirl #62 and 63. This Bizarro-Supergirls plays an important role in the resolution of the storyline culminates in Supergirl #73 and 74.

Also largely self contained is the final storyline in Supergirl #75 - 80.

Post-PAD Supergirls

As the Supergirl series was ending, yet another Supergirl appeared in the main Superman titles. This one uses the name of Cir-el and first appears on the final page of Superman: The Ten Cent Adventure. She is awoken and welcomed to the past by the mystery villains known as the Timesmiths. Her story is written by Steven Seagle and continues in Superman #192 (with art by Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens). Over the course of various issues, the mystery deepens as the reader learns that Lois was not Cir-el's mother and that Cir-el transforms from and into an ordinary female named Mia.

The Cir-el Supergirl has short, dark hair and wears a black bodysuit, with a large red S slashed across the front, and accessorized with a blue cape.

Her story concludes in Superman #200 with the revelation that Mia's body had been used as a refuge by the computer, Brainiac 13, following his failed takeover in the Y2K storyline. The computer tyrant's consciousness transformed Mia, using a hair from Superman for a genetic graft, and kept Brainiac's essence hidden until it could emerge again as Brainiac 12 - ready for an upgrade back to Brainiac 13. The last we see of Mia, she sacrifices herself by leaping into the time stream to change the past. Superman follows, carrying Brainiac and leaving him stuck in an anomaly in the time stream.

Kara Zor-el appears courtesy of writer, Jeph Loeb in Superman/Batman #8. The issue introduces a strongly Silver Age influenced version of Supergirl, carried from a Kryptonite asteroid in a rocket ship which crashes to Earth. While Superman is willing to accept her instantly and unconditionally as his cousin from Krypton, Batman is not. Kara's full story, as well as how Darkseid's involvement, has yet to be fully told.

Sidelined Supergirls

The disappearance of the Silver Age Supergirl left a big hole in the DC Universe that has been largely filled by the current version. However, other characters have been rewritten or created to fill gaps created by the post-Crisis Superman reboot.

The animated series universe (Superman: The Animated Series television series and the Superman Adventures comic) had a hip teen Supergirl which combined and altered many of the Silver Age Supergirl's origin. This Supergirl (with her debut and origin in issue #21 of the comic) is a super-powered Kara from Argo City. However, in this case, Argo was a neighbouring planet to Krypton and her last name is In-Ze (which was the surname of Kara Zor-El's mother, Alura).

Supergirl's Earth-2 counterpart, Power Girl (who had my teenaged vote for best costume), was re-written after the Crisis On Infinite Earths to be the granddaughter of the ancient Atlantean wizard, Arion (Justice League Europe #9). Her powers were revealed to be a combination of genetic alteration and magic. However, writer Geoff Johns is playing with her history and background in JSA, so she could be due for another updating or revision.

Supergirl's membership in the Legion of Super-Heroes and her romance with Brainiac 5 was taken over by a new character, Andromeda. Andromeda resembled Supergirl in looks and powers, but came from Daxam (the same planet as Mon-El/Lar Gand/Valor/M'Onel -- who also had his history changed by the Superman revamp).

Supergirl's history as Kara from the doomed and domed Argo City was incorporated by Dan Jurgens into the Superman vs Aliens miniseries (also collected in trade paperback). Last seen drifting alone in a space capsule, Kara's fate may be indefinitely on hold while PAD's series continues to shine. Hopefully we will someday find out her fate and see where she can take a place in the Superman family.

And in John Byrne's Generations stories with an alternate, self-contained history of the DC Universe, contains several Supergirls.

Given the popularity of almost every version of Supergirl, undoubtably one or more of those versions will continue to play a part in future stories.

Enjoy!



Relevant Links:
  • "Supergirl": Part 1 (of 3)
  • "Supergirl": Part 2 (of 3)