Saturday, May 31, 2008

It Came From the Back Issue Box - Supergirl and Team Luthor

In 1993, DC released 'Supergirl and Team Luthor', a one-shot comic that took place in between the 'Death of Superman' storyline and the 'Reign of the Superman' storyline. The issue contains 2 stories, but before the review, some backstory.

This is the 'Matrix' incarnation of Supergirl, the protoplasmic being from a pocket universe with super-strength, invulnerability, shape-changing, and telekinetic blasts for powers. She was 'created' by a good version of Lex Luthor. Because of that connection she falls in love with the DCU's Lex Luthor. Here Lex has lush red hair because he is in a cloned body and claiming to be Lex Luthor II, Lex's illegitmate and Aussie son.

Matrix was a tough Supergirl to really love. After coming to our world, she goes crazy and thinks she is Clark, actually replacing him when he exiles himself in space. She then exiles herself into space and becomes Brainiac's lackey. Then she returns to her senses, but falls for Lex and ends up being used by him.

Anyways, onto the issue.
The first story is written by Roger Stern, with layouts by June Brigman, and finished art by Jackson Guice and Dennis Janke.

The plot is fairly simple. In the immediate aftermath of Superman's death at the hands of Doomsday, Lex tries to foist Supergirl as the new hero of Metropolis. He creates a marketing blitz that includes scenes of Supergirl saving people during the Doomsday fight, breaking up brawls, and even saving kittens.

The overwhelmed Metropolis civil services allow Lex to set up a himself and bunch of men in super-armor (Team Luthor) and Supergirl as a policing force. In the end, Lex gets his leg broken and needs to sit out future patrols. Supergirl showers him with affection.

The story ends with Lex ominously saying 'I wish I had a hundred of you', a foreshadowing of his attempting to clone her in the 1994 Supergirl mini-series. Overall, not much going on here. Guice draws a leggy Supergirl.

The second story is written by Louise Simonson and drawn by Denis Rodier. In this story, Supergirl is called on to defend a Luthor-funded homeless shelter; remember lots of folks lost their homes or were displaced in the destruction of the Supes/Doomsday fight. When some mutant-y looking people from the Underworld try to stay in the shelter, the humans attack them and the shelter gets lit on fire. Supergirl comes in and saves the day. But the Underworlders leave rather than be judged simply by their looks.

This is a somewhat trite tale about acceptance.

There is a brief Supergirl gallery at the end, with pin-ups by John Byrne, Tom Grummett, Kerry Gammill, and Art Thibert.

Even for a Supergirl fan, there is not much happening in this issue. But if you see it in the $1 box at your next convention (heck, it might be in the quarter box), you should spend the cash.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Drew Johnson's design for Supergirl's Uniform

Over on Drew Johnson's blog ( he posted the pic below, which was one of his designs on an alternative Supergirl costume.

Well I like it for a number of reasons.

1) No belly shirt. I have never been a fan of the belly shirt, even when Linda Danvers wore the white half-shirt in the latter issues of Peter David's run (which of course was designed to match the Timm-verse Kara).

2) I am a big fan of a huge S-Shield for all the 'supers'. I think it should dominate the shirt, not be a little logo. Here the shield basically *is* the front of the shirt.

3) The ' cape's shoulders forming the corner of the S-symbol' is reminiscent of the Crisis era Kara with the red shoulders, a nice homage.

Overall, it is a design that is much closer to the "Matrix" style costume, which is my favorite of all the Supergirl costumes: blue shirt, pointy sleeves, red skirt, pointy belt. Here is a Gary Frank take on that costume from Supergirl #4 (1996).

Despite not being able to use this design, I did like the slight panaches Drew put into the current costume. In particular I liked the big oversized gold sleeve ends and the thick gold strip around the collar of the cape and bottom of the shirt.

As I have said before, I thought Johnson's art was slick and I am sad to see him leave the title.

Supergirl off Smallville

It has been announced that Laura Vandervoort, who played Kara this season on Smallville', has not had her contract picked up for next year. In interviews she has stated that she feels she will be back for a couple of episodes next season. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

The truth is I lost interest in Smallville after season 3 and so missed a whole lot of the continuity of the series. Friends who continued to watch talked about the inclusion of Aquaman, Green Arrow, Cyborg, etc. into the show and that it was pretty good. I sort of felt the series had played out and just couldn't get roped back in.

Of course, then they announce that Kara will be introduced and played by Vandervoort. She begins to appear in photo shoots and well .... okay, I got roped back in.

It was pretty clear that this Kara was more or less based on the current Kara in the DCU. She arrives on Earth as Clark's 'older cousin' who was supposed to help raise him as a baby. She has manifested her powers immediately and could be 'more powerful' than Clark. She even has a bit of an attitude. It was intriguing to see a Kara in that position talking to the farmer Clark rather than an established Superman.

But then it seemed like the writers didn't know what to do with her. So she suddenly wants to 'fit in' and enters a beauty contest. Then she loses her memory and power. She falls under Lex's influence. Then she regains her power, makes a noble sacrifice and takes off with Brainiac, and ultimately ends up trapped in the mirror Phantom Zone from the Donner films.

I don't know where I stand on this. It was cool for Kara to be part of something as big as Smallville, but it also seems like she was not utilized the right way. The show itself seems like a crazy mess in some final death throes. Kristin (Lana) Kreuk and Michael (Lex) Rosenbaum have all signed up for partial duties next year. Seems like they should just wrap things up next year ... and please put Clark in the costume finally!

As for Kara, there were rumors of a spin-off. Who knows if that's true.

As for Vandervoort, she is currently filming 'Into the Blue 2'. And while I think she did a fine job, she was no Helen Slater.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Supergirl in James Robinson's Justice League

DC has announced that a second Justice League will be coming out (most likely in the fall) written by Starman writer James Robinson and drawn by Trials of Shazam artist Mauro Cascioli.

I have to be honest, I have almost nothing in my collection written by Robinson, although I have heard nothing but great things about him. The one book I have by him is a 3 part Batman:Legend of the Dark Knight story called Blades, drawn by Tim Sale.

Starman has been highly recommended to me and recently got the omnibus treatment by DC, so it must be good.

This league sounds like a more pro-active team than the 'Big 3' lead JLA. The roster includes Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Green Arrow, Batwoman, Atom, Shazam, Congorilla, Starman, and (of course) Supergirl. It is an interesting roster. GL and GA are the grizzled vets, but both have had a renaissance of late, becoming more relevant in the DCU. Batwoman, Atom, and Shazam are all new-comers wearing the mantle of established predecessors. Supergirl is trying to find her way in the DCU. I think these newcomers will be pushed by the GL/GA team, learning on the fly. And after all the publicity, it makes sense for DC to do *something* with Batwoman. And anytime a great writer is assigned to Kara, I get intrigued.

Hopefully this will be a longer stay in the JLA for Kara than this 2 issue crossover mess. Nice cover by Daniel Acuna though.

And hopefully, the creative team will use Kara better than her recent brief stay in Teen Titans, which was frankly awful (from a Supergirl standpoint).

In reading about this title on Comic Book Resources, it sounds like Robinson plans on making Kara a key player in the league. He has said he hopes to have 'grow up' in the title. Most importantly, Robinson states that he and Geoff Johns want the primary Supergirl title to be one of a 'trinity' of super-titles, as important as Action or Superman. That is the most promising sound-bite for me.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Ame-Comi Supergirl statue

Here is the Ame-Comi Supergirl vinyl statue released last month from DCDirect.

It is rare for there to be a piece of Supergirl memorabilia that I don't want to buy. I have a nice little collection of Supergirl action figures, statues, and toys in my corner of the basement.

Some are great; this Action #252 cover statue comes to mind.

Some aren't so great; this is a pretty lousy action figure.

Well, when DC announced the Ame-Comi line of statues which included Supergirl, I was pumped. After all, I am an Anime fan too.

Then the pictures of the statue were released.

I understand that these statues are Anime based. That they are not supposed to be direct interpretations of the current characters ... but a re-imagining of them.

But this Kara just seems too far off the mark. That is one teeny-tiny skirt. Too small. More like a hankie. Those opera length gloves. Unheard of. Thigh-high high heel boots?
Hey, I don't mind a sexy Supergirl, but this looks more like a stripper than Kara. I mean take another look.

And it is not as if I am against the line as a whole. I actually think the Wonder Woman and Batgirl ones are clever re-thinkings, a little Final Fantasy and a little Battle of the Planets respectively.

Anyways, despite being a completist, I am not going to buy this statue. Instead, I look forward to the Justice:Supergirl figure in the 70s uniform. And I continue to search for an affordable full-size Bruckner Supergirl statue ... affordable being the key word.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

It Came from the Back Issue Box - Supergirl and Honda Seat Belt Campaign

It's sounds crazy in this current age of car seats, booster seats, and safety concerns, but back in the mid-1980's people needed to be convinced to use seat belts while driving. Even crazier is that they needed to be convinced to seat belt in their kids!

Don't get me wrong, as a child of the 70's I can remember being in the 'way-back' of a station wagon flopping around as my parents drove around. Even today my parents call the car/booster seats my kids use 'torture devices'.

In 1984, the US Department of Transportation - run by Libby Dole - had a campaign to increase seat belt (then called 'safety belt) usage. In conjuction with Honda and DC, they released 2 issues starring Supergirl to promote safety belt use. One issue was aimed more for the pre-teen/adolescent age group. The other was aimed more for a younger set. This is the issue reviewed today.

The issue is borderline psychedelic in nature. Supergirl meets up with 2 kids on a family trip and discusses safe driving. The trip takes a spin through a land populated by fairy tale characters. Here they meet Humpty Dumpty who doesn't wear a seat belt and gets cracked during a fender bender. They also meet the Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe, the Big Bad Wolf, and fairy tale characters who demonstrate the utility of seat belts, obeying traffic laws, and not succumbing to road rage. The panels are busy, brightly colored, and littered with bizarre imagery. Learning from these encounters, they all decide to buckle up - even our invulnerable Maid of Might.

Lastly, they head to a safety show where the Crash Test Dummies from prior public service announcements demonstrate the problems of not wearing a seat belt including being expelled through your windshield should you crash into a brick wall.

Through this gentle education, both Supergirl and the children learn that seat belt use should be standard and that from now on they will all use them religiously.

No one will confuse this issue with Maus or Watchmen, but it delivers a nice message albeit in a convoluted way.

For me, the most intriguing thing about the issue was the credits. Somehow DC convinced legendary artist Joe Orlando to do some of the scripting and all of the pencilling. He draws a fairly straight-forward Kara.

The second most intriguing thing is that DC picked Supergirl to be the spokesperson. At the time, the Supergirl movie was post-production and there was the monthly Daring New Adventures of Supergirl title. Maybe DC felt that as a 'younger' character she would resonate more with readers. Still, New Teen Titans was DC's most popular title at the time. I am surprised they did not get the nod. Not that I am complaining ...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade

It is sort of old news but worth mentioning on this blog. DC has announced a Johnny DC miniseries for the fall called 'Supergirl:Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade'. It is done by the creative team of Landry Walker and Eric Jones, 2 people who I have frankly never heard of. Above is a pic DC has released of the Supergirl starring in the series. Cool take on the costume, a riff on the Matrix style I love so much.

It may sound weird, but I am really excited about this series. Why? Well, I am father to 3 girls ages 9,6, and 4. And I want them to grow up being Supergirl fans.

Their exposure to Supergirl so far has been limited. They have seen the JLU cartoons, but some of those can be too intense for the younger ones.

I have read them some of the other Johnny DC sitings of Kara such as those below.

But again, some of the action can be hard for the little ones. And the older one, while able to handle and even read these comics on her own can get confused by the big picture of the DC universe. When I have to spend a while explaining who all the characters are in JLU, she can get a bit perplexed.
I have tried to pick out some of the sillier silver age stories from the Showcase:Supergirl trade, but they can be dated. Why would Superman stash her in an orphanage? And some of the prospective parents seem awful (e.g. not adopting Linda because she burned the roast). And clearly none of them are ready for the Peter David or current Supergirl titles.
So this one looks perfect. A tweener Kara, set in a school with (most likely) limited DCU interaction. I'll review when the title is released.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Review: Supergirl 29

Another decent issue in the 'Cure cancer' storyline. As I said in an earlier post, I think Kelly has done an admirable job of restoring a heroic aspect to Kara while keeping intact the impetuousness and fire of a super-powered teenager.

In her attempt to find a quick cure for Thomas, the ailing young boy with 'grade 4 brain cancer', Kara has enlisted the help of reluctant super-hero Resurrection Man and D-list baddie Dr. Luzano a nanite (here tektite) expert who helped create Resurrection Man. Of course, to get Luzano's help she had to break him out of jail and stay hidden from cousin Superman. After all, a jail break is a violation of the law, even if it is for a good cause.

R-Man continues to warn Kara that Luzano is no good, but Kara does have that stubborn streak in her as well as wearing some rose-colored glasses. She wonders if Luzano has ever been asked to do anything good before.

Of course, it *is* all a trap for Luzano who completely ignores the 'save Thomas' mission and instead pumps himself full of a tektite formula becoming a something akin to the Borg meets 'Guy Gardner Warrior'. Kara is completely perpelexed why Luzano didn't first find the cure for Thomas and then do his evil work.

Frankly, her being perplexed makes sense. Kara comes from an advanced world, has been living here for just over a year, and is also a teenage girl. It makes sense that she is stubborn, doesn't think things through, makes mistakes, and occasionally gets burned when she thinks the best in people. Sounds like being a teenager doesn't it? Maybe this is the arc where Kara grows up a little. Maybe this is her first experience with death and feeling helpless and that will change her.

Anyways, Luzano does a nice monologuing job listing off all his new powers including 'hyper-sensual' perception leading to this amusing panel.

He screams "you know what I mean" which I assume means super-hearing, super-vision, etc and not something from late night Cinemax.

A super-powered scrum ensues. Resurrection Man gets killed, comes back with a healing power, and then suffers a near fatal blow again from Luzano. (Amazing luck there that the 'random power' he evidences is a healing one. But if I can tolerate a tektite formula I suppose I have to tolerate luck as well.) Kara handily defeats Luzano. As R-Man lays dying, Kara realizes she needs to bring him to Tommy now. If R-Man dies, his healing power dies with him.

Alas, as she is about to fly him off, Superman arrives telling Kara it is too late ... Thomas has died. To be continued ....

I am very interested in seeing how this arc ends as I think it is the best one of the title so far.

That said, I do have some minor complaints about the issue.

1) The art is again split between Drew Johnson and Ron Randall. Both guys are fine (I prefer Johnson) but it gives the issue and overall disjointed feel. With Drew off in the near future, maybe Randall will do all the pages.

2) Pages 2-3 are a huge splash page featuring R-Man and some prior love in some medieval looking period of time. Another splash page is devoted to Superman looking for Kara. The title is Supergirl ... if there are going to be splash pages they should be of her.

3) While it fits this story in particular, the number of guest stars in this title is staggering. What I wouldn't give for a supporting cast and a rogue's gallery!

Looking forward to number 30.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

David Finch Supergirl commission

I became enamored of David Finch's art on the early New Avengers issue. In particular, his women (especially Spiderwoman) were a great combination of beauty and power.
In mid-2007, he was the guest at The Comic Book Show in Nashua NH. This is a great little convention and usually has at least one 'big name'. In the past I have met Bernie Wrightson, Joe Jusko, Mark Teixera, and Adam Hughes there, just to name a few.
Finch was doing 'head shots' as you waited. No commission list to get on, just a long line to wait in hoping you made it to him before the end of the show. This was also early in my commission quest when I didn't know enough to bring my own paper. As a result this sketch was put on the back of a comic backing board, done in pencil.
3 hours waiting in line and here is the result.
Finch was very nice and amiable. I asked him if he could add the S-shield so folks knew this was Supergirl and not a random blonde haired girl and he said no problem. Surprisingly, the S-shield seemed to be the hardest part of this. He seemed to struggle with it resulting in this somewhat innovative interpretation.
This ranks as one of the sexier commissions I own.
Here is the link for the convention:

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Review: Supergirl 1-28

Let's review the Supergirl issues so far.

1-5: A decent opening story, picking up where the Superman/Batman origin story ended. Jeph Loeb did a decent job of showing how difficult it was for Kara to find her way on earth initially. And there is always some guilty pleasure in seeing a Kryptonian/Lutho smack-down. The 'split persona' plot twist is a little tired, and the seeds of the 'I am here to kill Kal-El' thread were planted here though. Grade: B

6-8: One year later and we have 3 inscrutable issues taking place in Kandor with Kara again being mind-controlled. After an aborted rebellion and fiery speeches, Kara takes off for Earth to possibly search for Argo. Even Greg Rucka knew this was so bad, he left after 2 issues. Grade: D

9-12: The beginning of the Joe Kelly experiment. A series of one shots which are hit or miss. The high school issue, where Kara tries to have a secret identity only to leave after she sees how cruel teenagers can be, is a brief shining light. The Outsiders issue (11) and the Terra (12) issue do little to move the title forward. The Outsiders issue in particular seems more interested in cheesecake art than story. The Terra issue shows us a shallow Kara rave dancing rather than saving people. It was here I began to feel some dislike to the character, who had yet to show much heroism and instead was sort of a jerk. Overall grade: B, might have been higher without the Terra issue.

13-15: The Power Boy arc. Some nice art here. And a decent message against abusive relationships of any kind. Still, Kara seems flighty and shallow here again. And the seeds of the 'kill Kal-el' plot as well as the 'crystal powers theme' start to put down roots here. Grade: C-

16-19: It ends with Kara asking Kal to forgive her and become part of her life again. Whew! Unfortunately to get there we have to see a demented Zor-El experimenting on Kara, leading her on a Colombine like rampage in her high school where she mows down students with a crystal gun, and Kara killing her mother. There is some obsfuscation where maybe these memories were planted by the dark herald of the Monitor. But who wants to read about a murderous Supergirl with crystal powers and a genocide streak. In particular, issue 18 seems a slap in the face to older Supergirl fans where a 'sweet as pie' Silver Age Kara tries to rough up the current one. It read more like Kelly trying to show some fans that a heroic Kara is the wrong direction. It didn't work. Grade: F

20-22: Amazons attack cross-over. Two Countdown crossovers. (shivers). Enough said.

23-28: Kelley Puckett and Drew Johnson come on. Immediately out of the gate they do 2 things that revitalized my interest in the comic. One, they made Kara act like a hero again. The first issue shows her trying to help Superman in some intergalactic war. She wants to help!! Second, they completely erase the 'mad Zor-El, kill Kal-El, crystal hell' thread, showing actual visions from Krypton of a loving Zor-El and a scientist Lara. Hurrah hurrah!!

Next, they bring in a old school Kara villain, Reactron, last seen way back in Daring New Adventures of Supergirl issues 8 and 9, a nice touch for the old-timers.

But the most intriguing plot has been the cancer plot. Kara promises a young cancer victim that she will save him despite the dismal prognosis. This has always been an undercurrent in super-hero comics. Why stop Blackstarr when instead you can plant crops and feed the hungry? Build shelters for the homeless? Turn deserts into plains? Kara asks the question 'maybe curing cancer is a better use of my time than stopping crooks.'

While the actions she does to bring this about (find Resurrection man, break a noted evil scientist out of jail) seems silly, it makes sense for the character. Kara is a teenager; she is going to be impulsive and do things that seem silly. Still, it is for a good cause.

Some bloggers/message board pundits have complained about this run. They say Kara is too passive. That she is constantly being bailed out by Superman and seems subservient to him. That she has no guts or spirit. I think quite the opposite. This is the best version of Kara I have seen so far in this title. Now if only Drew Johnson could have drawn all the issues so the art would be consistent, it would be fabulous. Grade: B+

And now that we are caught up ... from now on ... monthly reviews.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Drew Johnson off Supergirl

Well, Drew announced on his blog that he is off Supergirl ... finishing up in June.

He is listed as the artist for the July issue (#31) on the DC web site.

I, for one, am going to miss his art. His tenure was short. He had multiple issues where he only did some of the pages (although he did have appendix taken out emergently somewhere along the way).

But he drew a very sleek and beautiful Kara. His added some personal flourishes to her costume. I especially liked the crazy overly large sleeve ends he gave her. I mean look at the panels here. Just slick.

Unfortunately, this just continues the trend of rotating creators on this title. It is unfortunate, but I will always compare this title to Peter David's run, one of my favorite comic runs of all time. David wrote all 80 issues. Leonard Kirk drew the bulk of the issues, sandwiched between solid runs by Gary Frank and Ed Benes. And David had a vision and path for Linda in that title, a grand story that was well on it's way by issue #29. That vision has not been present in this title.

But let's not forget the post ... take care Drew Johnson. I really loved your work.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

It Came from the Back Issue Box- Action 292

Since I know it will be impossible for me to collect all of Supergirl's Silver Age stories, I have made a list of seminal issues to watch out for. I was lucky enough recently to find a pretty ragged copy of Action 292 in a bargain bin for $4. It's importance to Supergirl? It's the first appearence of Comet the Super-Horse.

Overall, the story drips with Silver Age innocence. Kara has several dreams in which she is saved by a flying super-horse with an odd comet-shaped mark on his brow. In the first dream, the horse rescues her from kryptonite wielding aliens. In the second, Comet pulls a sinking submarine to shore. In the third, Streaky and Krypto travel back in time to WW2. A kamikaze plane is about to crash into a hospital ship but is thwarted by Comet, who suddenly appears just in the nick of time.

Completely mystified by these vivid dreams, Kara attempts to rid herself of these dreams by riding a real horse. As Linda, she visits the Supergirl Dude Ranch! (Please suppress that smirk ... it was the Silver Age!) Surprisingly, at the ranch is a wild white stallion with a comet-shaped mark, a horse no one has been able to ride. No one that is but Linda. While riding the horse, the stallion makes some motions to let Linda know he is aware she is Supergirl. He also secretly evidences some super-powers like flight and strength. The cowboys are all shocked that little Linda can ride the bronco with such ease.

The story ends on several cliff-hangers. Why did she dream of him? Who is he really? And what new adventures will they have?

Most Kara fans will know that Comet ends up being Biron, a centaur from ancient Greece under some enchantment.

As he did many times in his Supergirl run, Peter David did an homage to Comet in the 1996 Supergirl series who had a very very different origin.