Supergirl is a fictional character, a superhero featuring in comic books published by DC Comics. Supergirl was created to be a female counterpart to DC's popular hero Superman. She was created by writer Otto Binder and designed by artist Al Plastino in 1959. She first appeared in the Action Comics comic book series and later branched out into animation, film, television, and merchandising. In May 2011, Supergirl placed 94th on IGN's list of the Top 100 Comic Book Heroes of All Time.
Introduced in 1959, a number of different characters have assumed the Supergirl mantle over the decades, with the most popular and enduring version of the character being Kara Zor-El, Superman's cousin, who shares his super powers and vulnerability to Kryptonite. Supergirl plays a supporting role in various DC Comics publications, including Action Comics, Superman, and several comic book series unrelated to Superman. In 1969, Supergirl's adventures became the lead feature in Adventure Comics, and she later starred in an eponymous comic book series which debuted in 1972 and ran until 1974, followed by a second monthly comic book series titled The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl, which ran from 1982 to 1984.
Due to changing editorial policy at DC, Supergirl was initially killed off in the 1985 limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths. DC Comics subsequently rebooted the continuity of the DC Comics Universe, re-establishing Superman's character as the sole survivor of Krypton's destruction. Following the conclusion of Crisis on Infinite Earths, several different characters written as having no familial relationship to Superman have assumed the role of Supergirl, including Matrix, Linda Danvers, and Cir-El. Following the cancellation of the third Supergirl comic book series, starring the Linda Danvers version of the character, a modern version of Kara Zor-El was reintroduced into the DC Comics continuity in issue #8 of the Superman/Batman comic book series titled "The Supergirl from Krypton" (2004). The modern Kara Zor-El stars as Supergirl in an eponymous comic book series, in addition to playing a supporting role in various other DC Comics publications.
After positive fan reaction to Super-Girl, the first recurring and most familiar version of Supergirl debuted in 1959. Kara Zor-El first appeared in Action Comics #252 (May 1959). The story that introduced the character was drawn by Al Plastino and written by Otto Binder, who had also created Mary Marvel, Captain Marvel's sister and female spinoff. Like Supergirl, Mary Marvel was a teen-age female version of an adult male superhero, wearing a costume that was identical to the older character's other than substituting a short skirt for tight trousers. Binder also created Miss America, a superhero who shared little other than the name with her sometime co-star Captain America.
Reaction at the D.C. Comics offices to Supergirl's first appearance was tremendous, with thousands of positive letters pouring in. The first published of these letters, in the August 1959 issue of Action Comics (#255), was written by an eleven-year-old from Garland, Texas named Dave Mitchell, who would go on to become a well-known Miami radio personality.
Issue #8 of the Superman/Batman series originally published in 2004 re-introduced Kara Zor-El into the DC continuity. Like the pre-Crisis version, this Kara claims to be the daughter of Superman's uncle Zor-El and aunt Alura In-Ze. Unlike the traditional Supergirl, Kara is born before Superman; she is a teenager when he is a baby. She is sent in a rocket in suspended animation to look after the infant Kal-El; however, her rocket gets caught in the explosion of Krypton and becomes encased in a Kryptonite asteroid. She arrives on Earth years after Kal-El has grown up and become known as Superman. Due to this extended period of suspended animation, she is "younger" than her cousin (she is referenced to be about 16, while Superman is portrayed to be about 29). At the end of "The Supergirl from Krypton" arc, her cousin Superman officially introduces her to all the heroes of the DC Comics Universe. Then she adopts the 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 indicate that not only is this partly true, but Kara had been physically altered by her father as a child before being involved in several murders on Krypton. This was later revealed to be delusions as a result of kryptonite poisoning. Upon being cured she adopted a personality more like that of her golden age persona.
Kara Zor-El is the last survivor of Argo City, which had survived the explosion of the planet Krypton and drifted through space. When the inhabitants of the colony are slain by Green Kryptonite, which was released by meteorites striking the lead barrier, Kara is sent to Earth by her father Zor-El to be raised by her cousin Kal-El (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 powers identical to Superman's and adopts the secret identity of Linda Lee, a resident of 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 she is adopted by Fred and Edna Danvers, Superman decides his cousin is ready to begin operating openly as Supergirl.
She 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 titled Secret Hearts. She also attends college in Chicago. Kara has many boyfriends, including Richard (Dick) Malverne, Jerro the Merboy from Atlantis, and Brainiac 5, a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes. She does, however, shun serious commitments, putting her super-career first.
Supergirl's secret identity is a closely held secret known only to Superman, her foster parents, and the Legion of Super-Heroes, of which she is as a member for a time. Like all Kryptonians, Supergirl is vulnerable to Kryptonite. Streaky, her orange cat, acquires temporary superpowers as a result of its exposure to "X-Kryptonite", a form of Kryptonite Supergirl accidentally created in an unsuccessful attempt to neutralize the effects of Green Kryptonite. Comet the Superhorse, a former centaur, is Supergirl's equine companion.
Supergirl's biological parents survive the radiation poisoning that killed everyone else in Argo City by entering the Survival Zone (a parallel continuum akin to the Phantom Zone). They are eventually rescued by Supergirl and decide to live in the bottle city of Kandor.
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 sacrifices her life to save her cousin and the multiverse from destruction. When the Superman continuity rebooted after the Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC editors felt that Superman should be the sole survivor of Krypton, resulting in Kara being removed. 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, the sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths, many historical events from the multiverse are now being remembered. Donna Troy, after her rebirth and inheritance of Harbinger's Orb, recalls the original Kara Zor-El and her sacrifice.
A Post-Crisis Supergirl 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, for a time believes she is dreaming her surroundings into existence until finally convinced otherwise. Although her memories of her time with the Legion are erased before she returns to the present, the mental blocks break down upon encountering the pre-Crisis versions of Legionnaires Karate Kid and Triplicate Girl (Una).
Supergirl exhibits new powers, manifesting sunstone crystals from her body; so far she only does so while under great stress (for example, when Cassandra Cain tries to kill her). Supergirl's father implants the crystals within his daughter's body to protect her from malevolent beings from the Phantom Zone. The Zone dwellers are released when Jor-El creates the Phantom Zone Projector and exploits the Zone as a prison. Kara's father, believing that Kal-El is a lure to the Zone denizens, instructs Kara to destroy him. More recent comics have cast this plotline as the result of Kryptonite poisoning from the Kryptonite asteroid in which she was trapped.
A recently completed storyline focused on her promise to a little boy that she would save him. She tries to make good on her promise, following different avenues searching for a cure for his cancer. After he died, she tracks down a villain with the ability to jump through time, but decides not to use that solution, as she would just be doing the same thing as the villain. She accepts that sometimes she cannot save everyone.
After Superman manages to rescue the Kryptonian bottled city of Kandor from Brainiac, Kara is reunited with her parents. However that reunion becomes bittersweet, as Reactron kills her father, and her mother dies when New Krypton is destroyed by a trap in Reactron left by Lex Luthor.
Kara currently operates out of Metropolis, adopting the secret identity of Lana Lang's niece, Linda Lang.
After the post-Crisis reboot in the late 1980s, Supergirl's origin was completely rewritten. No longer was she Superman's cousin or even Kryptonian. In Superman v2, #16 (April 1988), a new Supergirl debuted as a man-made lifeform made of synthetic protoplasm created by a heroic Lex Luthor of a "pocket continuum". Lex implants her with Lana Lang's memories, and she can shapeshift to resemble Lana. Matrix even believes herself to be Lana for a time. She wears a miniskirted version of Superman's costume, but does not have Superman's exact powers. While she can fly and possesses super-strength (like Superman), she also has psychokinetic, shape shifting and cloaking/invisibility powers. (The last makes her undetectable even to Superman.)
Matrix's Supergirl form resembles the pre-Crisis Supergirl. She lives in Smallville with the Kents, who treated "Mae" like their own daughter. While new to Earth, Matrix begins a romance with the DC Universe's Lex Luthor, until she realizes Luthor's villainous nature. She leaves him to find her own way in the world, serving for a time as a member of the Teen Titans and a hero in her own right.
Beginning in September 1996, DC published a Supergirl title written by Peter David. The 1996 Supergirl comic revamped the previous Matrix Supergirl by merging her with a human being, resulting in a new Supergirl. Many elements of the pre-Crisis Supergirl were incorporated in new ways. 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 Danvers' pre-adoption surname. Linda's father is named Fred Danvers, the same as pre-Crisis Supergirl's adopted father. Furthermore, new versions of Dick Malverne and Comet appear as part of the supporting cast.
As the series begins, Matrix sacrifices herself to save a dying Linda Danvers, and their bodies, minds, and souls merge to become an "Earth-Born Angel", a being created when one being selflessly sacrifices him or herself to save another who is 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, and Linda and Matrix are separated into two beings. Linda retains some of Supergirl's super-strength and durability, and although she can no longer fly, she can leap an eighth 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 level and restores her powers of flight and telekinesis. In Supergirl #75 (December 2002), detoured on her way to Earth, Kara Zor-El, 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 gives birth to a daughter named Ariella. With the stipulation that her daughter be the exception in the eradication of her alternate "life", Linda ultimately allows history to unfold as it should have, with Kara assuming her rightful but tragic place in the time-stream. However, finding no assurance that Ariella survived the restoration of post-Crisis history, a dejected Linda relinquishes the role of Supergirl, sends a farewell note to Superman, and leaves for points unknown.
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 his Supergirl series. Prior to Fallen Angel moving to another company, Lee was written in a manner such that she could have been Linda.
Though David remained coy as to whether the two characters were one and the same during the DC run of the title, after it moved to IDW, David revealed Lee's origin, which clearly showed that Lee was not Danvers. However, Fallen Angel #14 introduced "Lin," who was said to be Lee's "predecessor" in Bete Noire. Lin had recently escaped Limbo, an apparent metaphor for what happened to Danvers after the cancellation of Supergirl. David wrote in his December 13, 2006 blog entry, "Any fans of my run on Supergirl—particularly those who are torqued because Linda Danvers was consigned to oblivion in the DCU--must, must, MUST pick up "Fallen Angel" #14 and #15 when they come out next year." However, since David could not explicitly claim that a character owned by DC was the same as the character he owned, he stated, "Can I say this is Linda Danvers? Of course I can't. However, it's pretty freaking obvious that it is."
According to an interview with Newsarama, the Matrix Supergirl is wiped from existence by the events depicted in the 2005 limited series Infinite Crisis, although Infinite Crisis writer Geoff Johns later stated that Danvers is not. The debate was finally settled in the 2008 mini-series Reign in Hell, where Shadowpact is shown trying to apprehend Linda Danvers before Linda is "recalled" to Hell.
A Supergirl named Cir-El appeared 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 erased from existence.
The first live action depiction of Supergirl was in the eponymous 1984 film, starring Helen Slater as Supergirl. The film is a spinoff from the Superman film series starring Christopher Reeve, to which it is connected by Marc McClure's character Jimmy Olsen. Its plot concerns Supergirl, Superman's cousin, leaving her isolated Kryptonian community of Argo City for Earth in an effort to retrieve the unique "Omegahedron", which has fallen into the hands of the evil witch Selena (Faye Dunaway). The film was poorly received and did poorly at the box office.
Laura Vandervoort as Kara.
In the seventh season (2007–2008) of the CW's hit show Smallville, Kara is introduced into the cast and was portrayed by Laura Vandervoort. Smallville depicts her as Clark's (Tom Welling) cousin, whose spacecraft became trapped in stasis until the events of the sixth season finale, when the destruction of the dam that the ship had landed nearby disrupted the stasis systems and allowed Kara to wake up. Much of season seven is concerned with Kara's attempts to adjust to life on Earth, especially after learning of Krypton's destruction and the fact that her 'younger' cousin is now at least the same age as her. Her storyline sees her simultaneously become the object of Lex Luthor's (Michael Rosenbaum) obsessions and Jimmy Olsen's (Aaron Ashmore) affections, suffer a bout of amnesia, discover her father's (Christopher Heyerdahl) sinister motives and become a target of evil android Brainiac (James Marsters). In the season finale, Kara becomes trapped in the Phantom Zone, and Vandervoort was no longer a regular in the show's eighth season (2008–2009). However, she made one guest appearance in the episode "Bloodline", where Clark and Lois are transported to the Phantom Zone and return with Kara. At the end of the episode, she leaves Smallville to search for Kandor. Vandervoort reprised the role in season ten's "Supergirl", in which Kara saves a group of people at an anti-hero rally led by Gordon Godfrey (Michael Daingerfield). In the episode, she is sent by Jor-El (the AI at the Fortress of Solitude) to become a champion to the people of Earth, and rescues Clark from Darkseid. She appears for a final time in the series' penultimate episode, "Prophecy", in which she joins Oliver Queen (Justin Hartley) on a mission to recover the Bow of Orion, a weapon which can kill Darkseid. However, Kara is summoned by Jor-El to the Fortress, where she is told she can either assist Clark and therefore alter his destiny, or leave Earth and face her own. Kara decides on the latter, and uses a Legion of Super-Heroes ring to time travel to parts unknown.
Supergirl was voiced by Nicholle Tom in Superman: The Animated Series, an American television show. She is depicted as Kara In-Ze, not Superman's cousin as in the comic book, but rather a near-Kryptonian from Krypton's sister planet Argos, whom Superman brings back to Earth and treats as a cousin. As continued in Justice League Unlimited, she and Superman grow very close, almost like siblings, but she departs when she falls in love with Brainiac 5 of the Legion of Super-Heroes in the distant future, feeling that she had never really fitted in on Earth in the present.
Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, a direct-to-video animated film released in September 2010, largely parallels the origin-story arc launched in the Superman/Batman comic series in 2004, with some minor plot differences. Kara Zor-El, voiced by Summer Glau, is described unambiguously as Kal-El's cousin from Krypton.
A lego minifigure version of Supergirl appears as a playable character in Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes.