No longer just “Superman’s Cousin” the Last Daughter of Krypton is once again casting her own legendary status as one of DC Comic’s brightest stars.
Upon making her first appearance (as “Super-Girl”) in Superman #123 in 1958 and then again rightfully as “Supergirl” in Action Comics #252 Kara Zor-El, the Kryptonian descendent of undoubtedly comicdom’s biggest name, Superman — Supergirl was immediately destined for stardom. The character was introduced to appeal to a new demographic reader, young women had for the most part steered away from the mostly muscle-bound, science-fiction and fantasy antics of superhero comics. Publishers, including DC Comics wanted a way of attracting new readers and still appeal to a diverse audience.
When the adolescent Kara Zor-El arrives on Earth, in much the same way that her cousin Kal-El does — in a rocket spirited away from their doomed home planet of Krypton — she instantly changed the way that Superman had up to that moment lived his life. The Last Son of Krypton had accepted that he was the only survivor sent to Earth to serve as this planet’s protector and as his superpowers developed he swore to use them to protect the innocent and above all keep the planet safe from any impending danger. Superman’s isolation was a major component of the hero’s character. Now that he had family, it threw him into a new role and also expanded the hero’s universe.
Up until the introduction of Supergirl, there weren’t very many other heroes in comics circulation that could best the Man of Steel, besides of course the Amazon Warrior Wonder Woman who has been in contemporary times been more properly established as an equal to Superman. In many ways Supergirl is more powerful than Superman, though many would concede that’s just not possible, but as Kara is younger and still developing her abilities, when she fully matures it is expected that she will be able to best her cousin on her sheer strength, fortunately they have a loving admiration for one another…at least for the moment.
Throughout Supergirl’s incredible comic book history, the Maid of Might has always worked to establish her own path and not follow the one of her much more revered older cousin. The living legacy that Superman has created for himself is a difficult act to follow, but Supergirl has always performed as heroically and in keeping with the tradition established by Kal-El, or Clark Kent as he’s known on Earth. Kara has very much lived up to Superman’s expectations and often exceeded them. Supergirl has made the greatest sacrifices for the purpose of the greater good as was most evidenced in the 80’s when she was killed in the classic Crisis on Infinite Earths maxi-series.
Supergirl was effectively written out of DC Comic’s continuity following those events and upon the rebooting of the Superman comic. The series editors decided early on that in the new more streamlined continuity, Superman would indeed be the only survivor from his planet and so Kara Zor-El was lost to the ages. The character would resurface in other interpretations: as a failed experiment of Superman’s arch enemy Lex Luthor called “Matrix” and in animation Supergirl emerged as a popular supporting character on The Adventures of Superman and its follow-up series Justice League Unlimited.
It wasn’t until 2005 when comic book greats Jeph Loeb and Michael Turner decided that it was time that Kara make a proper reintroduction into mythology. The DC Universe was growing much more complex and character driven. Within the pages of the Superman/Batman anthology series Supergirl would reemerge — crash landing in of all places Gotham City Harbor! Effectively the Caped Crusader is cautious about the strange new visitor with powers very similar to those of his fellow Justice League member, but when the evil Darkseid decides to lure the stranger all hell breaks loose!
Supergirl was back! More powerful than ever, Kara was as formidable a presence as she was the heir apparent to Superman’s legacy, but this time around she had a very hard lesson to learn, and that was with great power, comes greater responsibility and Kara had a long road ahead of her before proving herself worthy of the “S” shield she wears. After the multiverse exploded open during the events of Infinite Crisis another version of Supergirl, that had become the “Golden Age” equivalent and grown up to become Power Girl played a major role in the resetting of continuity, but at the conclusion of “FlashPoint” all bets were off and the DC Comics Universe reset itself again.
This time around Supergirl was created as an integral component of the contemporary heroic mythology, and launch in her own title Supergirl set in “The New 52” universe. Our Supergirl is now a little more defiant and much closer in age to Superman. She’s finding her way in the universe and even expanded her reach beyond Earth. Kara became a member of the Red Lanterns (though that alliance was short-lived) and has spent a great deal of time finding herself across the cosmos. With Earth’s protection in the hands of her big cousin, Kara has the luxury to seek out new life and explore strange new worlds.
The character of Supergirl continues to excel in her popularity, as is most evidence by the huge numbers the heroine made when her new weekly 1-hour drama premiered on CBS. Supergirl is from the same minds that developed the smash hits Arrow and The Flash for sister network The CW, and positions actress Melissa Benoist as its leading lady in the title role. Kara Danvers lives in National City and works for media mogul Catherine “Cat” Grant; all the while she protects the world from a series of alien attacks with the assistance of her earthbound sister and the Martian Manhunter.
Continuing to explore many of the themes that were popular in the comic books, Supergirl is proving herself a hit with fans, although many are anxiously awaiting the character to crossover and into the worlds of her counterparts on The CW. Rumors are once again surfacing that The Flash will be making the leap to National City and give Supergirl a dose of metahuman might, much in the same way that the speedster has been able to mix things up with the Green Arrow on his own hit series Arrow. The producers are focused on the upcoming team-up series DC’s Legends of Tomorrow so perhaps the meeting between these two titans may have to wait until next season!
Supergirl airs on CBS Monday nights at 8pm EST.