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Supergirl is a fictional character, a DC Comics superheroine created by Otto Binder and Al Plastino as part of Superman mythos in the late 1950s. Several versions of Supergirl appear in comic books, but the best-known incarnation is Kara Zor-El, Superman’s cousin. Like her cousin, Kara is a Kryptonian who possesses superhuman abilities such as self propelled flight and superstrength.

Kara-Zor-El dies in the 1985 limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths. After the publication of Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC Comics rebooted Superman continuity and as part of the reboot, made Superman the sole survivor of Krypton's destruction. For nearly 20 years, the title of Supergirl was given to several different characters none of whom were Superman's cousin. However, a post-Crisis version of Kara Zor-El was re-introduced into modern continuity in 2004.

Supergirl also appears in the 1984 film Supergirl, starring Helen Slater, and the animated series Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited.

Precursors

Many Superman stories feature one-time appearances of a female version of Superman as a story gimmick.

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  • 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 entitled "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 print this Super-Girl had red hair and wore an orange and green costume, a reference to Jimmy Olsen. Later reprints recolored her as a blond and her costume red and blue.

Pre-Crisis Fictional character biography

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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.

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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 the many-time leader 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.[1] 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.[2]

Post-Crisis Fictional character biography

DC Comics wanted Superman to be the only surviving Kryptonian following the 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.

Matrix

Supergirl-matrix

Matrix as Supergirl from Adventures of Superman #502 by Tom Grummet.

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After the post-Crisis reboot of Superman continuity in the late 1980s, Supergirl's origin was completely rewritten. No longer is she Superman's cousin, or even Kryptonian. In Superman v2, #16 (April 1988), a new Supergirl debuts as an artificial life form made of protoplasm created by the Lex Luthor of a "pocket universe". Resembling Lana Lang and wearing a feminine version of Superman's costume, the protoplasmic "Supergirl" called Matrix does not have Superman's powers but does have powers of flight, telekinesis, shape-shifting, and invisibility.

When she appears on Superman's Earth, Matrix takes on a permanent form that resembles the pre-Crisis Supergirl. She lives in Smallville with the Kents, who treat "Mae" like their own daughter. She dons her original costume and re-assumes the identity of Supergirl. In this guise, she begins a romance with the DC Universe's Lex Luthor until she recognizes Luthor's evil nature. She leaves him to find her own way in the world, serving for a time as a member of the Teen Titans.

Linda Danvers

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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 Dick Malverne and Comet appear as part of the supporting cast.

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As the series begins, Matrix sacrifices herself to save a dying Leesburg, Virginia 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,[3] and Linda and Matrix are separated once more into two beings. Linda retains some of Supergirl's super-strength and invulnerability, 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,[4] 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.[5]

Cir-El

Template:Main Another 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.

Kara Zor-El

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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 embarked on his career 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, Kara officially introduces herself to many of the heroes of the Template:DC Universe, adopts a Supergirl costume, and accepts the name.

A 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 show that not only was this 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, believes she is dreaming her surroundings into existence.

Supporting characters

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 radiation levels reached lethality, 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 current version of the continuity, Supergirl could regularly visit with both her adoptive parents, the Danverses (see below), and her birth parents, in Kandor. In the current version of events, Zor-El was a mad scientist who performed experiments on Kara to implant kryptonian sunstone into her body, before forcing her to kill her mother, and sending her to Earth to kill Kal-el(because of a family grudge).
  • 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 a couple named Malverne, and changes his name to Dick Malverne. In post-Crisis continutiy, 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.

Supergirls

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"The Supergirls" is a three-part storyline in Action Comics #806-808 in which female Superman-related characters Cir-El, Girl 13, and Natasha Irons protect Superman from a woman who blames Superman for the death of her husband.

In Superman/Batman #24, Darkseid traps Superman in the Source Wall, and Bizarro assembles the pre-Crisis Kara Zor-El, post-Crisis Kara Zor-El, Linda Danvers, Cir-El, and Power Girl to rescue Superman. After his escape, Superman thanks the Supergirls, but he only recognizes Kara (post-Crisis), Power Girl, and Linda. He doesn't recognize the other two because their timelines had been erased.

Alternate versions

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-2.
  • Andromeda — The post-Crisis/Glorithverse replacement for the pre-Crisis Supergirl, after the latter was removed from continuity following The Man of Steel reboot. This version was erased in the Zero Hour reboot of the Legion of Super-Heroes.
  • Ariella Kent — Supergirl of the 853rd Century, later revealed to be the daughter of post-Crisis Linda Danvers and the Pre-Crisis Earth-1 Superman from the Many Happy Returns Story Arc.

Elseworlds

Supergirl has also been featured in several Elseworlds titles.

  • In Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Superman and Wonder Woman hide their daughter Lara from the world her entire life, but she later becomes important to the defeat of Lex Luthor and Brainiac, the story's antagonists. Lara possesses some of Wonder Woman's powers, benefiting from both Kryptonian and Amazonian heritage.
  • Supergirl: Wings reworks the Earth-born angel storyline; in it, Linda's guardian angel is Matrix, whose cynical view of her charge may lead to her fall.
  • In the Superman/Aliens crossover limited series, published in 1995 by DC Comics and Dark Horse Comics, Superman discovers a domed city on an asteroid, not unlike the Argo City of pre-Crisis Supergirl's origins, that is infested with the xenomorphs. Superman befriends the sole survivor, a plucky 16-year-old girl named Kara. The story reveals that Kara is not Superman's cousin, and that the colony is not Kryptonian, but is instead part of a world whose culture and religion were strongly influenced by Krypton.
  • In Superman & Batman: Generations, Superman's young daughter, Kara Kent, takes up the identity of Supergirl and forms a new Justice League with Bruce Wayne Jr., Wally West, and Stephanie Prince. Kara later falls in love with Bruce Jr. The two plan to wed, but the event never occurs because Kara is killed by her jealous brother Joel, who some time earlier had been exposed to gold kryptonite by Lex Luthor in a plot to have the children of Superman kill each other.

Other media

Film

Helen Slater as Supergirl

Helen Slater as Supergirl in the 1984 movie.

Template:Main A feature film adaptation Supergirl was released in 1984, starring Helen Slater in her first motion picture role. Supergirl was a spin-off from the popular 1978 film Superman, and Marc McClure reprises his role of Jimmy Olsen. The movie performed poorly at the box office and failed to impress critics or audiences; Peter O'Toole received a Golden Raspberry Award nomination for Worst Actor for his performance.[6] Prior to its release, Supergirl was expected to be the first film of a series, and Helen Slater had a contract for three films, but Supergirl's failure at the box office cancelled plans for a Supergirl II.

Animation

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Supergirl first appears, voiced by Nicholle Tom, in the two-part Superman: The Animated Series episode Little Girl Lost as Kara In-Ze 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 uninhabitably cold and is later found by Superman. Clark arranges for the Kents to take Kara in while she adjusts to life on Earth, and upon visiting Clark in Metropolis, she wears glasses and a brunette wig with a ponytail to pose as Clark's cousin Kara Kent. This Supergirl shares Superman's vulnerability to kryptonite; she also suffers from cheimatophobia (fear of cold), due to her experiences prior to her time in suspended animation. Kara is written as eager to take up a position at the right hand of Superman, but Superman thinks she is too young and unready. Kara becomes friends with Batgirl in The New Batman Adventures episode "Girls' Nite Out". The costume worn by the animated Supergirl is used by Linda Danvers in the 1996 Supergirl comic book series. In Justice League Unlimited's fifth season, Supergirl appears in a new outfit (the more traditional blue tank-top with red miniskirt) that resembles Kara Zor-El's post-Crisis costume. In the episode in which the costume first appears, the explanation is that the costume was altered to look more like Superman's mentioned in a discussion between Green Arrow and Superman.

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In the Justice League Unlimited animated series, scientists from Project Cadmus create Galatea, an evil clone of the program's Supergirl (Kara) for nefarious purposes. The clone is a more mature version of Kara, and in appearance and costume is pretty much a homage to Power Girl. Kara, accompanied by Green Arrow and Question travel to S.T.A.R. Labs to investigate. From this episode on, Green Arrow becomes a sort of father figure to Kara and frequently discusses her with Superman. In the episode "Far From Home", Green Arrow tells Superman that he and Black Canary planned on bringing Supergirl out for her birthday.

In the Justice League Unlimited episode "Far From Home", Supergirl, along with Green Lantern and Green Arrow, encounter Legion of Super-Heroes members Brainiac 5 and Bouncing Boy. They have brought the three modern heroes to the 30th century to aid them in defeating the Fatal Five, who had brainwashed all of the other members of the Legion. However, Brainiac tells Green Lantern and Green Arrow that 30th century history says that Supergirl never returned to her own time, and Brainiac assumes that means she died helping the Legion. As Kara experiences the techonology and society of the 30th century, she becomes more and more conflicted about returning to the past, where she has never felt that she fits in. Finally, she and Brainiac 5 begin to develop romantic feelings for each other, and as Green Lantern and Green Arrow prepare to return to the past, she tells them that 30th century history will be fulfilled since she is staying in the future as a member of the Legion, a reference to the character's comic book roots. Template:Spoilerend

Smallville

A girl named Kara (played by Adrianne Palicki) appears in the Smallville television series episode "Covenant", claiming to be from Krypton, although she does not call herself Supergirl or Kara Zor-El or claim to be Kal-El's cousin. Like some comic book versions were depicted at times, the Kara on Smallville appears to be sexually attracted to Clark Kent. The series reveals that Kara is not actually Kryptonian, but an innocent girl named Lindsey Harrison. An artificial intelligence representing Clark's birth father Jor-El, kidnapped, brainwashed, and gave superpowers to Lindsay 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".

Music

  • The song "That's Really Super, Supergirl" appears on the alt rock/psychedelic band XTC's album Skylarking (1986, Geffen Records).
  • Pop singer Krystal Harris sings a song "Supergirl" that appears on the soundtrack of the Disney movie The Princess Diaries.
  • Pop singer Jessica Simpson's song "With You" includes the lyrics, "I wish I could save the world, like I was Supergirl!".
  • The song "Supergirl" is written by Robbie Gennet.
  • Hilary Duff has also recorded a song called "Supergirl."
  • Reamonn has also recorded a song called "Supergirl."
  • Papaya has also also recorded a song called "Supergirl."
  • The Gin Blossoms recorded a song titled "Super Girl" for their 2006 album "Major Lodge Victory." Multiple references are made to flight and other super powers.
  • The song "Super Sexy Woman," appearing on the 2000 album A Sun Came by Sufjan Stevens, is about Supergirl, explicitly referencing "Superman's cousin."
  • The song "Superlungs" by Donovan ("the Sunshine Superman album") was originally listed as "Superlungs (My Supergirl)".
  • John Cougar Mellencamp also recorded a song called, "Supergirl".

References

  1. 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
  2. 52: Week Four and Week Five, 2006
  3. Supergirl #50
  4. Newsarama.com: Crisis Counseling: The Finale
  5. The Comic Bloc Forums - Geoff, We need to talk - Page 2
  6. 1984 RAZZIE® Nominees & "Winners"

External links

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