Supergirl has been one of the hardest characters at DC Comics to script. In the beginning, she was a younger, female edition of Superman. Her story was pretty much the same as Superman’s: rocketed to earth by her parents, adopted by a family (after a stint in an orphanage – due mostly to people pointing out that the Kents could hardly have just kept young Kal-El without explanation, although that would have been easily accepted back in 1938 when the strip originated), joined the Legion of Super Heroes, and ended up with super-pets.
Back in those days, Linda Lee Danvers (Supergirl) pretty much took the place of Superboy. She went through a lot of the same problems with maintaining a secret identity, friendships, and pesky villains. However, when women’s lib came along in the 1960s and 1970s, the character changed and took on those issues. Her costume changed and became more daring. Unfortunately, the characterization and reader interest pretty much flat-lined.
DC Comics killed the character off in the 1985 Crisis storyline, but she was brought back as a man-made protoplasmic lifeform created by Lex Luthor in a pocket universe. Of course, she was neither Kryptonian nor Superman’s cousin in this incarnation.
Peter David came along years later and revamped the character, making her a composite of the lifeform and a human girl, which added further complexity to Supergirl. I enjoyed those books for a while, especially Ed Benes’s sexy rendition of Supergirl.
Then Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee brought Supergirl back in the Superman/Batman series. Her popularity quickly manifested into an ongoing series. But, despite linking her to the Legion of Super Heroes, the strip once again began to languish.
Now, finally, there’s a breath of fresh air in the series. Beginning with issue #34, Sterling Gates takes over the reins of the strip as the writer, and he’s bringing a ton of Superman lore, new villains, new plotlines, a new secret identity, and an honest teen girl perspective to Supergirl.
I read through the issue and fell in love with the character all over again. Then I read it again, picking out the nuances and the bits of lore Gates brings to the strip.
Kara Zor-EL is a genuine teen girl who doesn’t fit into our world. One of the most powerful beings on the planet, Gates shows readers how vulnerable Supergirl is. Despite the fact that bullets bounce off her and lasers might provide a tickle, public condemnation cuts into her deeply.