Supergirl

Pre- and Post-Crisis

Created by Otto Binder and Al Plastino

NAME + ALIASES:
Kara Zor-El of Krypton aka Claire Connors, Flamebird, Linda Lang

KNOWN RELATIVES:
Zor-El (father, deceased) Alura In-Ze (mother, deceased), Kal-El (Superman, cousin), Jor-El and Lara (uncle and aunt, deceased)

GROUP AFFILIATIONS:
Teen Titans, Legion of Super-Heroes, Justice League of America

FIRST APPEARANCE:
Historical: Action #252 (May 1959)
Post-Crisis, Matrix: Superman v.2 #16 (Apr. 1988)
Post-Crisis, Cir-El: Superman the 10 Cent Adventure #1 (2003)
Post-Crisis, Kara Zor-El: Superman/Batman #8 (May 2004)

History

This profile covers the post-Crisis Supergirl, Kara Zor-El. This character is totally distinct from her Silver Age predecessor. The history of the post-Crisis Kara Zor-El is short but even so, is dotted with retcons and course corrections.

Supergirl's classic debut was in Action #252 (May 1959). It turned out Superman had a long-lost cousin! Clark set her up with the secret identity of Linda Lee Danvers and her adventures were set in the town of Midvale. The original Supergirl perished during the first great Crisis. (Crisis on Infinite Earths #7) After that, the DC universe was reordered and there was no Supergirl; she was totally erased from the unified timeline.

We examine some pre-Crisis continuity, especially as it relates to Supergirl's adventures with the Legion of Super-Heroes. The character's continuity in relation to the Legion is bumpy. Naturally after Crisis on Infinite Earths, the original Supergirl was also wiped from Legion continuity, and "replaced" by Laurel Gand. When Kara returned to the DC universe in 2004, there were attempts to reinsert her into Legion lore.

The Original Supergirl

The Supergirl from Krypton arrives on Earth. From Action Comics #252 (1959); art by Al Plastino.
Linda is adopted by Fred and Edna Danvers. From Action Comics #279 (1961); art by Jim Mooney.
Supergirl's cat, Streaky, gains super-powers. From Action Comics #261 (1960); art by Jim Mooney.
Supergirl's first visit with the Legion. From Action #267 (1960); art by Jim Mooney.
Supergirl on her day of joining the Legion. From Action #276 (1961); art by Jim Mooney.
Supergirl succumbs to red K, becoming Unknown Boy! From Adventure #334 (1965); art by John Forte.
Supergirl resigns from the Legion. From Superboy #204 (1974); art by Mike Grell.
It takes a family to defeat the dark side. From Legion of Super-Heroes v.2 #294 (1982); art by Keith Giffen.
Kara makes the decision to sacrifice her life in order to save her cousin's. From Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 (1985); art by George Pérez and Jerry Ordway.

Most of Supergirl's original history is invalid in post-Crisis continuity. When Kara Zor-El was reintroduced post-Crisis, in 2004, some of her previous history with the Legion of Super-Heroes was retrofitted so that she could remain a member of the group. NOTE: Kara Zor-El was preceeded as Supergirl by another character of that name. In "The Girl of Steel" from Superman #123 (Aug. 1958), Jimmy Olsen accidentally brought to life a magical "Super-Girl." She died (conveniently) at the end of that tale.

Supergirl was created during the Silver Age of DC Comics, in an era when the Superman mythos were unbound by the limits of science or continuity; "imaginary stories" were common. But Superman's cousin was for real — teenage Kara Zor-El survived the destruction of Krypton thanks to her parents, Zor-El and Alura In-Ze.

When Krypton exploded their home, Argo City, was propelled into space by the force of the exploding planet. The city was soon bombarded with kryptonite radiation and they invented a dome made of lead to protect themselves. Once life stabilized, the Els had a daughter, Kara. The dome was eventually destroyed by meteors and Zor-El and Alura sent Kara to Earth before Argo's destuction.

Surprisingly, Superman refused to adopt Kara, and instead consigned her to an orphanage in the small town of Midvale under the name Linda Lee, and insisting that she keep her existence carefully hidden (ostensibly so she could serve as his "secret emergency weapon" while learning to master her powers). In public, she would later be known as Supergirl. (Action Comics #252)

Supergirl soon also joined the Legion of Super-Heroes (Action Comics #276), but it was not until after her adoption by Fred and Edna Danvers (#279) that Superman allowed her existence to become publicly known in the 20th century. (#285)

As Kal-El had his super-dog Krypto, Kara had a super-cat, Streaky, who got its powers through exposure to a newly created kryptonite isotope called X-kryptonite. (Action #261)

Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heores

The the three Legion founders approached Supergirl and invited her to try out in the 30th century. During her visit, Supergirl was disqualified after red kryptonite temporarily transformed her into an adult (only teens were eligible for membership). (Action #267) As was routine during Superboy's visits to the future, Saturn Girl removed all of Kara's memories of her adventure.

A year after that first encounter, Supergirl was given a second chance to apply for membership. This time she was admitted after recovering King Arthur's legendary sword, Excalibur. She was admitted alongside Brainiac 5, who became instantly enamored of the Girl of Steel. He gave her a duplicate of his force-field belt (which broke shortly after her return to the 21st century. (Action #276)

Her super-pals returned to the 20th century to help her in her first public mission. (Action #285) The Legionnaires visited her frequently in her time: to stage a good-natured prank, (Superman #152) give her presents, (Action #290), attend her high school graduation, (#318), and visit her at Stanhope College. (#319)

The Legionnaires became quick friends with Kara and she participated regularly in their missions, and sometimes for fun, like when they staged a good-natured prank on Super-cousins to celebrate the anniversary of Supergirl's arrival on Earth. (Superman #152)

Supergirl was key in the Legion's battle against the Positive Man (Action #287), and was introduced to Mon-El and other inhabitants of the Phantom Zone. (Action #288, 298, 307)

Kara met another "super-pet," a horse called Biron. In truth, Biron was an alien locked in the form of a horse. She named him Comet. (Action #292-293) Superman aided Comet with his condition by sending the Super-Horse to the planet Zerox (the Sorcerer's World). There, Prince Endor cast a spell that enabled Comet to become human as long as he was in sight of a passing comet. On Earth, Comet adopted the human identity of cowboy "Bronco Bill," but Supergirl was unaware that Comet was able to become human. (Action #301)

The 30th century was apparently rife with red kryptonite because twice again she succumbed to its effects. One time she took on the alter ego of Satan Girl (Adventure #313) and another time became Unknown Boy. (#334)

But she was no slouch either. When Queen Azura of the planet Femnaz hypnotized the girl Legionnaires into attacking their male comrades, Supergirl invented Cancellite gas to nullifty Durlans' powers. (Adventure #326)

Superman and Supergirl were temporarily forced to leave the Legion when the Earth was surrounded by a cloud of green Kryptonite, (#350) but rejoined as soon as it was eliminated. (#351)

Together, Superman and Supergirl enlarged the bottle city of Kandor on the world Rokyn. By the 30th century, Rokyn becomes the primary home for the scattered survivors of Krypton. (Superman #338)

Over the years, Brainiac 5 became more and more obsessed with Supergirl, even building a robot duplicate of her in his sleep. He was crushed when she told him that she was resigning from full-time serivce. (Superboy #204) Although he continued to carry a torch for her, this effectively ended any chance of a real relationship.

As Kara grew into adulthood her visits to the 30th century were less frequent. She returned only in times of great need: against Darkseid, (Legion v.2 #294) the Emerald Empress, (#301-303) and the Dark Circle. (#314-315)

During the first Crisis, Supergirl joined a team of the most powerful heroes, and traveled to the Anti-Matter Universe. There she perished in a campaign against the Anti-Monitor. (Crisis #7) In the 30th century, Brainiac 5 moruned her on the 1,000-year anniversary of her death. (Legion v.3 #15) He lamented the inevitable paradoxes that would result if he were to try to change history to save her. (#16)

Notes

"If Superboy met Supergirl for the first time in the 30th century, how come he doesn't remember her when she lands on Earth in the 20th?" The short answer is: their memories were selectively wiped after each visit. The two first met in a Legion story in Adventure Comics #304 (Jan. 1963), and in issue #333 editor Mort Weisinger explained, "Supergirl uses post-hypnotic suggestion to make the Boy of Steel forget about her when he returns to twentieth-century Smallville."

After a similar meeting in Adventure #350, Brainiac 5 tried implanting a microscopic dose of kryptonite in both their brains to accomplish the task.

The Legion recruited Superboy and Supergirl nearly simultaneously. They traveled to the 30th century from different points in the 20th century, about a decade apart. In fact, in Supergirl's first meeting with the Legion (Action #267, Aug. 1960), the Legionnaires told her that they were the children of the Legionnaires that Superboy knew. This revelation was later ignored, and it was edited out of some reprints of this story. Generally Legion adventures feature one or the other of the cousins. Their first Legion adventure together was Adventure #350 (Nov. 1966); neither of them remarked upon the peculiarity of the occasion.

READ MORE »The Comics Roundtable: Deck Log Entry # 99

Not long after this, Paul Levitz introduced a new Legionnaire called Sensor Girl. Levitz admitted that he intended for her to be revealed as Kara Zor-El, until his editor squashed the plan (read below).

Steve Lightle on Supergirl/Sensor Girl: When Paul [Levitz] saw that I had designed a Legionnaire with a full mask, I think that sparked his desire to spare Supergirl from her Crisis fate, by making her the lady behind the mask. I believe the original idea was that even she didn't know her true identity, and that she had lost all her Kryptonian powers except those pertaining to her senses. This is why, in the early appearances of the character, she appears to have powers consistent with X-ray vision, heat vision, etc. It wasn't until [DC Comics president Jeanette] Khan insisted that Supergirl should remain dead (she was very firm on this at the time) that Paul came up with Plan B ... Projectra. after all, who wanted to incur the wrath of Jeanette?" —Comic Book Resources

"Supergirl" in Post-Crisis Continuity

For many years, editorial edicts forbade the reintroduction of Kara Zor-El, preferring that Kal-El exist as the "sole survivor" of Krypton. One notable exception is a short story from Christmas with the Super-Heroes #2 (1988), in which Deadman receives some advice from a woman named Kara. She encouraged him to do good deeds, "even if no one remembers we ever existed."

Freed from the Phantom Zone, General Zod, Quex-Ul, and Zaora plan their next move. From Adventures of Superman #444 (1988). Art by Jerry Ordway and Dennis Janke.

John Byrne created a different kind of Supergirl in Superman v.2 #16 (1988). This Supergirl was from a so-called "Pocket Universe," and was made from a protoplasmic matrix created by Lex Luthor. (This might have been an allusion to the "protoplasmic lifeform" that was created and destroyed in Adventure Comics #271, Apr. 1960.) This "Matrix" was created by Lex in his attempt to fight three Kryptonian villains (General Zod, Quex-Ul, and Zaora) who had escaped from the Phantom Zone.

At first Lex fashioned the Matrix's likeness to that of Lana Lang. He then outfitted her with a costume reminiscent of Superboy's, and dubbed her Supergirl. Lex learned from Pete Ross that there was another universe and a Superman there, so he sent Supergirl to enlist his help. (Adventures of Superman #444)

Matrix/Supergirl arrived in Superman's past and became buried in Antarctica until she was unearthed. (Superman v.2 #16) She suffered from partial amnesia and flew to Smallville where she met Lana Lang and the Kents, then set out after Superman. (Adventures of Superman #442, Superman v.2 #20)

Superman quickly deduced that this Supergirl was from the Pocket Universe, a revelation which caused her memory to return. She escorted him back to her universe, where Superman met the alternate Luthor and learned of their peril. (Superman v.2 #21, Adventures of Superman #444) The Kryptonian villains wiped out all life on that Earth, and Supergirl was blasted back into her protoplasmic state. Superman made the fateful decision to execute the criminals by using Gold Kryptonite to strip their powers, then Green Kryptonite to kill them. He returned to his own universe with the badly wounded Supergirl, leaving her in the care of his parents. (Superman v.2 #22)

Eventually Matrix's form solidified as it merged with a human, Linda Danvers. Her abilities included flight, invulnerability, telekinesis, and limited shape-changing and teleportation (but no vision powers).

Danvers adventured as Supergirl for many years, acquiring additional powers as an "Earth angel." This Supergirl met (but did not join) the Legion of Earth-247 in Supergirl Annual #2 (1997). After Infinite Crisis, the existence of Linda/Matrix was in question because the Pocket Universe ceased to exist.

After Infinite Crisis (2007), it was unclear whether the Matrix Supergirl was removed from continuity. However, Linda appeared as an angel in Reign in Hell #6 (2009). In that tale, Dr. Occult called Linda "Supergirl" and she responded "yes... no! It's a long story." (Peter David, the author of her most popular adventures, later launched a series called Fallen Angel, which teased a new character's connection to Supergirl; it was explicitly confirmed, and the character was sold to IDW.)

A second Supergirl — from the future —was also introduced in 2003. She was named Cir-El, the daughter of Clark Kent and Lois Lane. (Superman: The 10 Cent Adventure) Cir-El's alternate future timeline that was wiped from continuity even before the Infinite Crisis.

Other Continuities

In 1995's Superman/Aliens crossover (published in collaboration with Dark Horse Comics and 20th Century Fox, which owns the Alien franchise), Superman encountered a 16-year-old blond girl named Kara from a "space city" called Argo, whose people spoke the Kryptonian language and had architecture and technology similar to Krypton's. Later, Kara explained that Argo was not from Krypton, but rather from a planet called Odiline, which had adopted Kryptonian customs after a visit from the space ark of the Cleric (introduced in Action Comics Annual #2) millennia earlier. Superman and Kara eventually destroyed Argo to stop the deadly alien parasites that had already wiped out the rest of the city's population, and Superman returned to Earth believing Kara had died in the explosion that destroyed her city. In fact, she had made it to an escape pod and survived, although her ultimate fate was not revealed. As an inter-company crossover, it's not clear to what extent that story can be considered part of post-Crisis DC continuity.

In 1998, Superman: The Animated Series used a similar conceit (albeit without the Aliens) in the origin of the animated Supergirl. That version of Supergirl, also named Kara, had the same powers as her Silver Age counterpart, but was technically not Kryptonian. Instead, she was the last survivor of Krypton's "sister planet," Argos, which had been devastated by the explosion of Krypton. The animated Supergirl was not part of contemporary post-Crisis continuity, although she appeared in Superman Adventures and other comic books tying in with the animated series.


The Supergirl of Earth-0 (post-Infinite Crisis)

Nearly 20 years after Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Infinite Crisis wrought a true, new Kara Zor-El. She was reintroduced to the Superman family in Superman/Batman #8 (May 2004). This Supergirl was a clean slate, with her own distinct history.

As in Silver Age continuity, Kara Zor-El was the cousin of the legendary hero, Superman (Kal-El). Both were born on Krypton, but Kara’s journey to Earth was quite different than his. Unlike her cousin, Kara grew to adolescence on Krypton and saw its destruction firsthand. After her uncle Jor-El sent the infant Kal-El to Earth, Kara’s father Zor-El planned the same thing for her.

Kara's home, Argo City, survived the destruction of Krypton. As the planet began to fall apart, Zor-El managed to surround Argo City using force field technology (which was recovered from Brainiac's attack on the city of Kandor). Argo drifted in space and ultimately crossed paths again with Brainiac, who destroyed the city and assimilated its inhabitants into his shrunken Kryptonian city of Kandor. (Supergirl v.5 #35, Action #869)

Kara’s spaceship to Earth took longer to arrive than Kal-El's. It was also encased inside kryptonite (toxic fragments of the doomed planet). When her ship finally fell to Earth, it was discovered by Batman in Gotham City. When Kara awoke, she met her cousin, Superman. (Superman/Batman #8)

In her first days on Earth, her mind was in turmoil. She could not fully remember her life on Krypton. Meanwhile, she trained in the use of her newfound powers, which were extraordinary under a yellow sun. Wonder Woman took Kara under her wing, and the Amazons of Themyscira taught Kara their ways and battle techniques. (#9) Supergirl's power soon drew the attention of the evil god Darkseid, who kidnapped her. (#10) She was quickly rescued by Superman, who gifted her with a new costume bearing the El family insignia, and title: Supergirl (II). (#12)

During the "Infintie Crisis," Supergirl eventually joined up with a group assembled by Donna Troy (formerly Wonder Girl), who ventured into space to investigate a cosmic rift developing there. (JLA #123, Infinite Crisis #1) This rift collapsed when its creator, Alexander Luthor was defeated. Supergirl was thrust, amnesiac, across the multiversal divide—to Earth-Prime in the 31st century. (Infinite Crisis #7, 52 #5)

NOTES: Zor-El's first post-Crisis appearance was Superman/Batman #9; and Alura in Supergirl v.5 #16. When her origin was elaborated upon (in Supergirl v.5 #16, 2007), Zor-El was supposedly mad and had sent her to Earth to kill Kal-El. She believed he was possessed by malevolent phantoms. This was later explained/retconned away, as the effects of kryptonite poisoning on Kara's mind in Supergirl v.5 #35.

Joining Legion 3 (Earth-Prime)

When Supergirl arrived in the 31st century on Earth-Prime, she believed that she was just dreaming. When she met the Legion’s Cosmic Boy, she told him that Legion didn’t really exist. Regardless, the inhabitants of Earth immediately recognized her as a legendary hero. (Supergirl & the Legion #16) Despite her disbelief, Supergirl was immediately on-hand to help where it was needed. Cosmic Boy also proposed that the Legion make Supergirl an honorary member. (They could not award her full membership because they had no spare flight ring; the rings were rare and expensive to make.) This situation was rectified by Brainiac 5, who offered her the ring of the recently deceased Dream Girl. (#17)

The Legionnaires soon feared that Supergirl would become a danger if she didn’t accept her situation as reality, so they subdued her with kryptonite and took her to the legnedary Kryptonian city of Kandor, which in the 31st century resided on the planet Rokyn. Kara was overwhelmed to learn that part of Krypton had survived. (#23) But according to Kandorian law, Kara would be required to either stay there forever, or leave forever. The Legionnaires advised her to return to Earth, which she did. (#24)

Kara had impressed her peers thoroughly, and when Cosmic Boy opened the Legion leader elections to thousands of Legionnaires at-large (#21), Supergirl won! Her first act as leader was to address the entire organization, and to offer Legion membership to the members of the rival Wanderers. (#31)

After an epic battle against the Dominion, Supergirl began in earnest to look for a way home. Brainiac 5 helped her, first by constructing the Chronexus which allowed her to view into the past. (Action Comics #850) He soon succeeded by teaming up with another hero, Evolvo-Lad, who modified the Chronexus to send send Supergirl home. (#35-36)

During her time on Earth-Prime, the Legionnaire Invisible Kid developed a serious crush on her, but he never expressed his feelings. (#22)  On parallel Earths, it is has been Brainiac 5 who is normally enamored with her. On Earth-Prime, Brainy’s affections had already been claimed by his teammate, the platinum bombshell Dream Girl.

Back in the 21st Century

Power Girl (left) and Kara as Nightwing and Flamebird.
From Supergirl #7 (2006). Art by Ed Benes.

Besties Kara and Cassie.
From Supergirl #19 (2007). Art by Alé Garcia.

In Kara's search for her identity, she tried unsuccessfully to join groups like the Outsiders (Supergirl v.5 #3, 11-12) and the Teen Titans. (#22) She made some good friends within those groups, though, with both Wonder Girl and Captain Boomerang. But an attempt to attend public school and assume a secret identity as Claire Conners failed as well. (#10)

Her relationship with her namesake, Power Girl, has also been tumultuous. After a rocky first meeting (#1) Supergirl and Power Girl undertook a mission to find Argo City. In her heart, Supergirl believed that Argo had survived the destruction of Krypton. Her search for the truth led them to a a city called Kandor—a society inspired by the original Kryptonian city. There they donned the guises of Flamebird and Nightwing and discovered that Kandor's rulers (Saturn Queen and Ultraman) were villains who had also survived the destructions of their universes. In the end, Kara made a deal with Saturn Queen to leave the city in exchange for information about Argo City.  (Supergirl v.5 #6-8) NOTES: Nightwing and Flamebird were aliases originally used by the pre-Crisis Superman and Jimmy Olsen during their trip to Kandor (Superman #158, 1963).

Kara's early days on Earth were dark days because, unbeknownst to her, she suffered from residual kryptonite poisoning. This affected her memories and judgment. She doubted her very nature, and worried that she'd been sent to Earth only to murder her cousin, Kal-El. (#5-7, 16) To protect Kal from this fate, Kara cut off all contact with him for some time. She was cured of this malady by none other than her own parents! Zor-El, Alura, and Kandor were discovered by Superman while battling Brainiac in space. (Action #868-869) Back on Earth, Kandor was enlarged, (#870) and Kara was reunited with her parents. (Superman: New Krypton Special #1)

Zor-El was murdered soon thereafter by Reactron. (Action #872) Kandor retreated into space, forming its own planet, New Krypton. In memory of her father, and to help support her mother better, Kara chose to become a member of the Science Guild on her "Guilding Day," a the traditional Kryptonian ceremony. (Supergirl #43)

Joining the Legion of Earth-0 (for the Second Time)

xx

As far as Supergirl's interaction with the Legion of Super-Heroes, Legion tales involving Supergirl remain mostly intact—that is, they are the same as originally told. However, events where the Legionnaires interacted with her life in the 20th centuryare no longer valid. This is because they frequently involved the "Super-Pets" (super-cats Streaky and Whizzy, and Comet the super-horse), or involved aspects of her life as Linda Lee.

The 30th century was apparently rife with red kryptonite because twice again she succumbed to its effects. One time she took on the alter ego of Satan Girl (Adventure #313, Supergirl v.6 Annual #2) and another time becamse Unknown Boy. (#334)

Kara had already joined the Legion of Earth-Prime, but her greatest friends would be found in the Legion of her own universe. She met two these Legionnaires (Karate Kid and Una) for the first time while her memories were still fuzzy about her time on Earth-Prime. (Supergirl v5 #21-22) Soon after that, she was approached by the three Legion founders, who invited her to try out for the Legion. In this visit, Supergirl was disqualified after red kryptonite temporarily transformed her into an adult, making her ineligible. (Action #267) As she had with her cousin, Superman, Saturn Girl removed all memories of Kara's visit to the future.

Before this, Kara met Brainiac 5's ancestor, Vril Dox (Brainiac 2) in the 21st century, and aided him when he was on Earth. (REBELS v2 #1-2)

+ Powers

Supergirl possesses the same powers as all Kryptonians under a yellow sun: super-strength, super-speed, invulnerability, x-ray vision, heat vision, and freezing breath.

She can survive unaided in space roughly two hours by holding her breath, but does require oxygen.

These powers can be negated primarily by red sunlight, kryptonite and magic.

Appearances + References

» FEATURED APPEARANCES:  

» SERIES:

Pre-Crisis:

  • Action Comics #251–376 (1959-69)
  • Adventure Comics #381-424 (1969–72)
  • Supergirl v.1, 10 issues (1972-74)
  • Daring New Adventures of Supergirl #1–12 (1982-83) becomes …
  • Supergirl #13–23 (1983-84)

Post-Crisis (Matrix/Linda Danvers:

  • Supergirl v. 3, 4-issue limited series (1994)
  • Supergirl v. 4, 81 issues (1996-2003)

Post-Crisis (Kara Zor-El):

  • Supergirl v.5, 68 issues (2005–11)