Being a teenager is complicated. And when you factor in the fact that you’re living in the shadow of your older cousin (who happens to be Superman), it’s downright exasperating. But nevertheless, DC’s Supergirl carries on and makes a life for herself with all the gifts and baggage that she’s stuck with. The same goes for fans of Supergirl, as they’ve seen four distinct characters step into the role of Supergirl over the years (not counting various alternate reality versions), but at the end of the day Supergirl has managed to outlive those various personas and become a noble figure in comics and to the outside world.
In this week’s Where Do I Start, we take on the various origins, deaths and rebirths of the various Supergirls and piece together a single cohesive list that’ll deliver to you the best understanding of just who she is.
Showcase Presents Supergirl, Vol. 1: Supergirl first came to life in 1958 by the pen of writer Otto Binder and artist Curt Swan as Kara Zor-El, the long-lost cousin of Clark Kent from his doomed homeworld of Krypton. These massive collection shows Superman taking Supergirl under his wing on his adopted planet of Earth, showing that spark of teenage rebellion coming into play and trying to carve out a life for herself on this strange, new planet. Great classic storytelling, and remains to this day the definitive early days of Supergirl.
Christmas With The Super-Heroes #2: Sometimes the best stories in superhero fiction aren’t the big events, the big deaths or the big rebirths. Sometimes it’s just a quiet moment that brings the character all into focus. The excellent short “Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot” by Alan Brennert and Dick Giordano definitely falls into that camp, following Deadman as he wallows at his fate during the Christmas season and happens upon Supergirl, who had died years prior in Crisis On Infinite Earths, and she gives him a mighty pep talk using her own history on how being good has its own rewards. In the modern context of the character’s multiple deaths and rebirths, this story might be jarring for a continuity sense but it’s by far one of the best short stories featuring Supergirl ever to be told. Never collected, sadly, but worth a trip to the back issue bins to find.
Supergirl Vol. 1: Arguably the definitive Supergirl storyteller to this day is Peter David. The epic writer wrote the character half a decade, and it all starts here in this great first arc with art by future greats Gary Frank and Terry Dodson. In this, David brings the then-current Supergirl, Matrix, more in line with the classic Supergirl by having her merge with Linda Danvers, a rebellious teenager who shares the same name as the original Supergirl’s civilian identity. While it may be confusing to the unitiated, once you get past the melding and into the unique personality of this Supergirl the story begins rolling like a tream train. In this first arc, the melded Supergirl faces off against a Satanic cult that attempted to sacrifice Danvers, as well as an epic showdown with Gorilla Grodd.
Supergirl: Many Happy Returns: The last selection was Peter David’s first dalliance with Supergirl, so its apropos we bring up the last. The Matrix/Danvers version of Supergirl is finally put face-to-face with her predecessor, Kara Zor-El, to show just how different of characters they are. Kara is the innocent and un-experienced one, while Matrix/Danvers has become more of a jaded teenage hero.
Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade: When a comic character is re-imagined for a new rendition, be it movies, television or a kid-friendly comic series, it inevitably brings out the best — or worst — of that character. This short-lived series goes for the former, finding Supergirl is a perfect cipher to tell the story of a young pre-teen trying to make it through life as a superhero and a normal 13 year old girl. It’s Supergirl as a Saturday morning cartoon!
Superman Adventures #21: Another never-collected gem, this one-off issue done for the comic tie-in to the animated series Superman Adventures features the classic Supergirl Kara revisting her hometown of Argo City and facing off against General Zod. If there was one single Supergirl issue I would use as a gift to get other people into the character, this would be it.