Friday, October 15, 2010

Back Issue Box: Superman #376

I still am somewhat forlorn over the news that Sterling Gates is leaving the current Supergirl title. It is rare that a writer 'gets' what Supergirl is all about. It is clear that Gates does so, of course, I am not going to be happy about it. What's more, Gates is able to so easily articulate what is so great about Kara. Here is a recent interview he gave ComicVine while at the NYCC.  In the interview, Gates talks about Supergirl working her way through the heroic journey and striving to be worthy of the S-shield. Now I hope Nick Spencer is going to write a fantastic Supergirl ... but why change?

With the idea of a writer 'who gets Supergirl', who understands the hero's journey, still roaming through my head, I figured I would hit the back issue box. Superman #376 included an 8 page preview of The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl, written by Paul Kupperberg and drawn by Carmine Infantino.

As I have said before here, Kupperberg wrote a very confident Supergirl. Under his watch, Kara felt like she was almost at the end of her journey, close to being a fully actualized hero ... experienced, intelligent, strong, and moral. This preview was the first steps of that last leg of the journey and worth reviewing.

At this point in Supergirl's comic history, she had been bouncing around a bit. She went from news reporter in San Francisco to a guidance counselor at a gifted school in New Athens,Florida to a soap opera star living in New York City. It was hard to pinpoint exactly which direction the character was going, how old she was, and what her motivations were. And during that time, we had to suffer through some pretty forgettable Superman Family stories.

Kupperberg decided that Supergirl needed a fresh start ... dare I say ... a bold new direction! The first part of that had to be leaving her job on the soap opera and going to a new locale. Back then I never really liked the choices for Linda's occupation. The cub news reporter idea felt too much like a retread of Superman and she needs to be linked to Kal but not a carbon copy. It seemed off for her to be a guidance counselor as her heroics might keep her away from her charges or bring danger to them. And the soap opera star seemed to unwieldy to break away for rescues. So when she walked off the set, I was glad.

Another thing that I liked about Kupperberg's run was that Supergirl seemed pretty happy with herself. Here she is glad to have shed that actress aspect of her life and simply be herself. There is a nice transition here from the cramped corridor closing in on Linda to the wide open spaces of the NYC skyline. This is who she is and where she belongs.

Thrilled to have this new outlook on life, Supergirl spins gracefully in the sky. I have to say, when I was reading these issues I didn't like Infantino's art but now I have really come to appreciate it. I love the first panel here as she pirouettes in the sky.

Despite feeling good about herself and happy with the decisions she has made, Supergirl realizes she needs to run her new life by someone.

It could have been Fred and Edna Danvers. It could have been Zor-El and Alura on Rokyn.

But that person is Superman.

Supergirl finds him in the midwest, tackling a number of tornadoes threatening Kansas.

She tells him that they need to talk but obviously work comes first. They begin to save trapped families and evaporate the twisters.

Supergirl begins talking about how her life on the soap ... the rehearsals, the tapings, the meetings ... was simply taking her away from her duties as Supergirl. There were times that disasters actually happened because she could not break away from her secret identity. She sounds sincerely upset by it. She needs to be a hero and spewing bad dialogue instead of helping people was 'derelict'. She wants to leave that behind her and improve herself by going to college.

In classic Superman style (at least for their relationship back then), Kal tells her she is being drastic and maybe she shouldn't change things so much. If he can handle his secret identity, she should be able to handle hers. Not very supportive.

Even worse, he tells her that she is running away from a problem she should be able to solve. It seems like she is running towards the right thing ... more time for heroics and more happiness for her personally. But again, he still thinks that she should be able to juggle her lives like he does.

Finally reaching a boiling point, Supergirl points out the obvious. She isn't Superman! What works for her won't automatically work for her.

The time for her to blindly listen to him, to follow his lead without thought for herself, to try to be him is over. She is an adult now. She doesn't need his permission. She didn't meet with him to discuss the decision. The decision is made. She wanted to let him know.

Superman finally sees the obvious ... Kara isn't the little teenager he stuck in the Midvale Orphanage. She is her own person. She knows what she is doing. She knows what will make her happy. This distancing from Superman is something that is key for Supergirl as a character. Sure, the cousins will always be inextricably linked. But Supergirl needs to stand alone and be a hero in her own rights. And that is a big part of her journey ... realizing that she has earned that S-shield, that she is more than Superman's cousin. And here, she does just that.

This little preview really set the stage for the whole Daring New run. Supergirl was Chicago's hero, confident in dealing with the city's threats. The storylines may feel a bit dated when read now but the feel of the book and Supergirl is well done.

From a Supergirl collection point of view, this is a nice little issue to have, a sort of forgotten prologue to her solo title. I would rank it of moderate importance simply because it shows just how comprehensive a collection can be. The issue itself probably costs $1-3 at most conventions.

Overall grade: A


g4keyop said...

Anj, this entry just filled me with all worlds of happy. I remember reading this story as a black & white back-up in an Australian reprint (god that ages me, but that's how it was done back then) and completely falling for a girl who told her nerdy cousin to shut the hell up.....politely. I recently got the entire Kupperberg run in original form and there's nothing in my comic collection i treasure more

TalOs said...

Anj - Truly appreciate this here fine choice for a trip down 'ol memory lane man! B-D I agreed with nearly everything you said with the only exception being that i strongly and wholeheartedly believe that E-1 Supergirl was ALWAYS worthy of wearing the "S" (from the time of her springing out of her rocket to her unnecessary death in COIE itself) and i'd go so far as to say even MORE SO then her cousin (i mean dumping your only other living relative in a random orphanage all because you're too lazy to think of a more logical alernative solution which wont end up possibly causing even more trauma to their psyche? Heck even E-2 Superman Kal-L knew better upon him having had found Power Girl) and it ended up being selfless Kara who came to bail her cousin out when she knew that he was about to be killed off in COIE by the Antimonitor by selflessly sacrificing her very life to insure he could fight another day. She was always more deserving of wearing the "S" throughout her lifetime then her cousin ever was in my humble opinion.

g4keyop - Good to see another fellow Aussie based Supergirl fan around here who also just happened to collect the black and white version of these particular comics at the time (mine being growing up as a kid in '80's) it seems too! :-D

g4keyop said...

TalOs, yup i was the same. I still have fond memories of "Federal Comics" and the ever-creepy Murray The Cat mascot on the back pages. I still love tracking down the original American versions of the reprints i had as a kid, but I've never thrown out the black & whites, even though they're only valuable to me

Eric said...

Hey Anj, just fyi, the link to the comicvine interview is broken (probs take out the blogger part). I found it though!

As always though, good post!

Mart said...

This piece comes as a lovely surprise Anj - a look at a forgotten short preparing the way for one of Kara's best runs. Finally, she was being written, and presented, as an A-lister.

I'm with Talos, Kara went easy on Kal, considering ... if ever there was a time for her to chew him out over his abandonment of her, this was it. There never was such a scene, was there?

Michelle said...

Coincidentally, I just discovered the existence of this story a few days ago. I loved it! It's a much needed transition from SUPERMAN FAMILY to DARING ADVENTURES. Without it, the change in Kara's outlook in the opening issue of DARING seems to come out of nowhere.

This short tale is a must read link to Supergirl's new life in Chicago.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I can recall at the time thinking "any port in a storm since her last two pencilers were a played out Win Mortimer and Don Heck". I don't think Infantino's artwork wore well over time but he was a definite improvement over prior artists.
God Bless Paul Kupperberg he loved Supergirl and loves the character to this day, but his writing was mediocre at best on this title. In particular the rogue's gallery he crafted for the Maid of Might did not rise above the level of a Filmation cartoon.
But as you say, hee did depict Supergirl as a competent professional heroine, a team-member with Superman NOT an apprentice.
And in three sort years from the date of this story they still killed her off.
C'est le guerre...

John Feer

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments.

I thought this was a nice little prologue to Daring New, clearing the deck for her Chicago adventures and distancing herself from Kal. You are right Michelle that this was a needed piece to make the change in tone in her stories not too jarring.

I think this was as close to a scene where she questions Kal about his decisions with her life (as far as I know).