Monday, January 3, 2011

2010 In Review And The Top Ten Supergirl Moments

Has there been a better year for Supergirl in history than 2010?

If you are a Supergirl fan, 2010 just might be the gold standard for the character. And given the wondrous nature of this year, in some ways I am sad to see it in the rear view mirror. It has really felt this year that Supergirl mattered in the DCU. She seemed to be everywhere. Her own title had fantastic and mature stories that had Kara grow emotionally and heroically.

But 2010 is behind us and so that means that we need to take a closer look back. So here is 2010 in review and the top ten Supergirl moments.

The year kicked off with Supergirl in the midst of the New Krypton storyline. In the middle of the year, that arc culminated with War of the Supermen. Supergirl had a huge role in that story, the big finale of a 2 year opus. In rereading War, you might say Supergirl had more screen time, did more than Superman! With New Krypton over, Sterling Gates had free hand to write more pure Supergirl stories, not tied down to the bigger super-arc. Those stories were the only ones that seemed to deal with the fallout of New Krypton. On top of that, Supergirl joined James Robinson's Justice League. She was a member of the biggest team in the DCU and flourished.

But comics weren't the only place we saw Supergirl thrive in 2010. We also had the return of Laura Vandervoort as Supergirl in Smallville. In that episode she wears some base uniforms and acts as the heroic mentor for Clark. And we saw the release of Superman/Batman:Apocalypse. Although not named in the title, the movie is the origin story of Supergirl and actually improved on the Loeb/Turner original story, smoothing out some of the rougher patches.

Both of these projects were great, showcasing Supergirl in a positive light. In particular, Apocalypse really was fantastic, being far better than I thought it would be. How great to see an animated Supergirl again!

And DC must have realized that there is a market for Supergirl merchandise. In 2010, the DC Dynamics Supergirl statue was released. The maquette statue of the Apocalypse Supergirl was released. A Superwoman action figure was released.

On top of that, the Michael Turner Supergirl mini-statue, the Adam Hughes Women of the DCU full statue, and the Supergirl/Steel component of the Superman family statue were all solicited!

So Supergirl really was everywhere, in multiple media outlets and in merchandising. I can't recall a better year for Supergirl fans to see their favorite character all over the place.

But really it was the comics of this year that made it so spectacular. The Supergirl title was phenomenal, especially the issues not related to New Krypton. The BizarroGirl and Dollmaker stories ended the year (and the Gates/Igle run) on a high note as they took a mature look at a young hero on a journey. Her appearances in the Justice League have been for the most part wonderful. And the team-ups with the younger members of the Bat-family were the right mix of fun and action.

So on to the top ten Supergirl comic book moments of 2010 !!

#10 - Photo Booth Fun - Batgirl #14 - Bryan Q Miller and Lee Garbett

Batgirl #14 was such a fun romp that it would make my top ten issues list (if I did such a thing). There was such an easy camaraderie between Supergirl and Batgirl. You could see just how they would be such quick friends. Their personalities shine throughout, with Batgirl seemingly thinking that Supergirl is the perfect hero, something we know isn't true.

This scene stuck out in an issue full of silly moments. Here is a classic sitcom moment, the strip of amusing photos from a photo booth. I love the playful Supergirl putting rabbit ears over the faux Dracula. But that last photo show how close Steph and Kara are. That is what friends do ... make goofy faces in photos together!

#9 - Ain't Love Grand - Supergirl Annual #2 - Sterling Gates and Matt Camp

I have sung the praises of Sterling Gates many times here. But one thing that sets him apart is his appreciation for the history of Supergirl. One thing that was an important part of the original Supergirl's mythos was her relationship with Brainiac 5 and her being a part of the Legion. Supergirl Annual #2 brought both of those historical aspects back in a great way, laden with homages to those great Silver Age story.

While their relationship was hinted at in Supergirl #52 with the older Brainy, this panel resonated as the Supergirl/Brainy moment of the year. After barely surviving their encounter with Satan Girl, Supergirl takes the initiative and kisses Brainy. I love the shocked look in his eyes. Man, that Matt Camp is a great artist.

It just feels right to have Supergirl and Brainy in some sort of relationship. I was thrilled to see this in current continuity.

#8 - Always - Supergirl #50 - Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle

I love this scene. Love it. When I first read these panels, I knew it would make my top ten list. I thought for sure it would be the #1 moment. The fact that it lands at #8 tells me what a great year it has been.

There is something so wonderful about this exchange. Gangbuster knows that storming a hive filled with giant super-strong bugs is a recipe for getting the crap kicked out of you. But look at Supergirl's expression. She knows it too. The subtle half smile, like she is laughing on the inside about what she is going to do, is perfect. When you are a hero, sometimes you have to jump into the fire to do the right thing. The fact that Supergirl was a character that now was 'always' ready for that challenge showed how far she had come on the hero's journey.

There are many panels I could give as examples of how great Jamal Igle's work was on this title. This would be on that list too. You get so much information out of Supergirl's expression. When art and words work together, comics become a special medium.

I wish I could own this page!

#7 - Muscle of the JLA - Justice League of America #51 - James Robinson and Mark Bagley

Throughout the last couple of years there has been a concern about Supergirl's ability in a fight. Was she strong enough to defeat a major power threat on her own? Or did she always need Superman or someone else to pull her bacon out of the fire? I was hoping that her defeating Ursa would finally answer that question but she lost that fight.

In an even better moment, James Robinson and Mark Bagley show Supergirl going toe-to-toe with Ultraman in the Justice League. Ultraman is no slouch, having fought Superman to a standstill in the past. So to see Supergirl step up to the challenge, skirmish over Washington DC, spewing heat vision from her eyes was great.

But it ended with an exclamation point. When Batman calls for Supergirl, she ends the fight quickly and efficiently, smashing Ultraman in the jaw with a wicked right cross. She knocks out Ultraman!

It was clear that Supergirl was the legacy muscle of the JLA. Not a bad place to be in the pecking order of the DCU!

#6 - Death of Alura - War of the Supermen #1 - James Robinson, Sterling Gates, and Jamal Igle

We had already seen a tender death scene between Supergirl and Zor-El way back in Supergirl #36. In that issue, the two characters have that chance to say goodbye, to let each other know how much they mean to each other.

The death of Alura stands in stark contrast. It happened so fast that the mother and daughter can't say anything to each other. Instead we get that empty word balloon, symbolic of all the words that should have been said.

Alura was such a compelling and complex character. She could be an overbearing mother or a rage-filled leader. Or she could be a grieving wife or an insecure leader. We saw it all, so much that it was hard to get a handle on who she really was. She loved Kara in her own way, just showed it bizarrely.

But this is the sadness and the suddenness of death. The last words these two said to each other were an argument about Reactron. They had so much more to say to each other but weren't given the chance. If she knew this would happen I am sure Supergirl would have hugged her mother, cherished their time together. But life doesn't work that way. That empty word balloon is the perfect symbol of their relationship.

This scene really is that much more powerful when you contrast it to that Zor-El scene. I am sure father and daughter knew how they felt about each other, didn't need to say it but did. Here Kara may never know or understand Alura's feelings.

I miss Alura as a character.

#5 - Self-discovery - Supergirl #57 - Sterling Gates and Bernard Chang

Supergirl's relationship with BizarroGirl was just comic gold in that storyline. BizarroGirl wasn't an imperfect duplicate of Kara, but more of a carnival mirror reflection, magnifying all the rage, self-doubt, and fear that Supergirl was feeling after the destruction of New Krypton. The potential destruction of BizarroWorld was a tangible way for Supergirl to work out her issues with her home world's destruction. Her talks with BizarroGirl were like self-analysis about those same feelings.

This scene, where BizarroGirl feels so helpless and guilty that she hides in a cave, was the best place to see the juxtaposition. Everything BizarroGirl was feeling, Supergirl had felt on Earth, rejecting her place as a hero for a while.

Their conversation is touching, to the point that Kara's words would have worked if she was talking to her reflection in a mirror. In the end, BizarroGirl wasn't a new rogue but a sort of twisted friend and ally. I thought for sure this scene would be #1 as well.

#4 - Damien Gets an Earful - World's Finest #4 - Sterling Gates and Phil Noto

It's a short interlude at the end of World's Finest, a scene that consisted of one panel. But how great was it to see Supergirl holding Damien up by the scruff of the neck and chastise him for calling Steph 'Fatgirl'.

It was a comeuppance that was well deserved and needed to happen to put this Robin in his place. This is probably where Damien first started to get his crush on Supergirl.

It also showed how Steph and Kara would back each other up.

#3 - The Closet of Solitude - Supergirl #54 - Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle

Supergirl has been reeling from the death of her mother and her people, the destruction of her world. She has cut her hair, given up the Supergirl persona, and wants to live a simple life.

And then BizarroGirl started killing people and Supergirl was needed once more. So she entered her 'closet of solitude' to get her uniform. Surrounded by trophies and mementos of her super-hero career, she dons the uniform once more.

It was the sheer volume of items seen here that impressed me so much. Again, this was another sign of Gates and Igle respecting and acknowledging the character's history so far. Yes, a lot of what is there is from their run, including some heart-wrenching items as Zor-El's headband and a piece of Alura's S-shield. But it also had things from the earlier issues of the title: "Claire Kent's" wig, Flamebird's helmet, her Amazon spear, the other belts she has been shown in. It was like looking in a time capsule for Kara.

This is another one of those pages that I wished I owned the original art for. Just wonderful.

#2 - The Death of Supergirl - Supergirl Annual #2 - Sterling Gates and Matt Camp

The concern for Supergirl being killed off again is one that lingers in most of her fans. When she was wiped out in Crisis, it scarred us. It is the elephant in the room, the worry that unites us. Supergirl was killed off once before. Why wouldn't DC do it again? It is as if fans of Supergirl have some sort of fandom PTSD about it. We sometimes act like we are waiting for the axe to drop. So when Brainiac 5 talked about Kara's death in Supergirl #52, some folks thought it was imminent.

There is almost too much energy there for creators to ignore. It is something that should be tapped into or addressed. And Sterling Gates and Matt Camp did that in this powerful scene in Supergirl Annual #2. Flying through the Supergirl wing of the Supergirl museum, she comes across how she is going to die, a death that occurs while she is saving the universe from some threat. It echoes of Crisis ... but we aren't allowed to see it. We only see Supergirl's reaction. And Camp does such a great job here, hands clasped in front of her face, her expression with just a hint of horror.

Now of course Supergirl will be a deceased historical figure come the 31st century. But this scene brought back all the old fears and gave me goose bumps. When you can get a reaction like that out of a cranky old comic fan like me you are doing something right.

I doubt DC is planning on killing of Supergirl any time soon. But this scene was a great way to tap into the worries of her fans.

#1 - Full Circle - Supergirl #59 - Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle

Could the best moment for Supergirl in 2010 really have come out only 3 weeks ago? The answer is yes.

I think this moment struck me not only because of its own power but also because it represented the end of the Gates/Igle run. Or maybe it should be called the Gates/Igle era.

This scene represents everything the two have done for the character, a contrast to the opening page of their run way back in Supergirl #34. Then it was 'Does the world need Supergirl?' with a picture of a snarling Kara flying at the camera. Here it was 'The day I needed Supergirl' with a smiling Kara, bathed in a halo of sunshine, flying to the clouds. Even her words echo that first issue. Then she simply said 'I'm Supergirl. This is my life.' Now she says 'I'm Supergirl. This is my life ... I'm pretty happy with it.'

And gone are the stories of her downing Air Force One, killing her classmates, trying to kill Superman, rave dancing while dinosaurs destroy the city. Instead, she grew up a little, matured, worked her way through some major personal issues, and persevered. Sure she struggled at times, even failed. But that is part of the journey.

So much of what was good about this year for Supergirl was the main title. And this ending page was just the perfect capstone for the year, for Gates and Igle's run. This is the Supergirl that I have always wanted to read but rarely got to. I guess I have to tip my cap to those guys one last time. So that makes this the #1 moment of the year!

Anyways, that's the year as I saw it. As always, I would love to hear if I skipped over any moments people thought should be on the list, anything that I overlooked.


Nikki said...

Smallville's Kara was finally names Supergirl in Icarus.

I think the gibberish on half the DP page of the number one moment lets it down but the idea is clear and sweet.

My favourite moment had to be the entirity of the annual.There is still work to be done with Kara and the Legion, I hope it doesn't slip to the wayside with the writer handover.

Anonymous said...

I started thinking about a response and realized that there was so much good in 2010 that if I tried to write it all down that I'd be writing all day and probably find I go past what Blogger would allow in a response. Just talking about the tremendous job Sterling Gates did with characterization, development, and consistency could take forever. Brainiac 5 and the annual, Lana, Christmas at the Kents, it just goes on and on. So I'll pick something shorter that I briefly mentioned before: Supergirl's non-title appearances, in this case Batgirl #14.

I was very impressed with the fact that they kept Kara's personality and characterization consistent when she appeared in other titles. It was almost as if everyone at DC had started actually talking to each other and paying attention to things other than their own work. Inconsistent characterization annoys me, for all the reasons we've talked about here in the past.

Batgirl #14 was so filled with fun moments after the incredible seriousness that went on during New Krypton it was like a drink of pure spring water.

There were so many of these moments I could go on and on. So here are just five.

"Kara, what college movies have you been watching?" It's sometimes easy to forget that Kara is an alien to our culture. She's just so intrigued with the idea of college it was terribly cute!

Supergirl: "Can you hear that?" Batgirl: "You're sweet." Snicker!

Stephanie: "ohthankgodforsuperspeed."

Stephanie: "Please don't break into song." Stephanie rolls her eyes, but there's a smile there too.

Stephanie is talking about her relationship with her mom. Supergirl: "Don't take that for granted -- the time with your mother. Not ever." There was so much of the funny in this issue that this melancholy moment from Kara struck home with me that much harder. Contrast makes these moments more poignant.

I know that Dark is all the rage these days. But when your eyes eventually adjust it doesn't seem dark anymore, just sort of grey. If you light a candle you're reminded that the darkness is truly a lack of light. Contrast matters.

This issue, and so much of the Supergirl run this year, was a bright candle after the all consuming darkness of New Krypton.

gearym (Blogger isn't talking to Openid this morning for some reason)

Anonymous said...

"When you are a hero, sometimes you have to jump into the fire to do the right thing. The fact that Supergirl was a character that now was 'always' ready for that challenge showed how far she had come on the hero's journey...."; the hero/ine can be Willing or Unwilling - see Kal Bashir's 510+ stage hero's journey at

Diabolu Frank said...

Love this list! I wish I could do this with any of my blogs, but Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman, and the Atom have not had an especially good year.

Jason said...

Excellent rundown of top Supergirl moments. I agree with each of them. I think the Closet of Solitude will forever remain one of our favorite moments for Supergirl fans. I miss Alura too. It's funny because I remember how much I hated her when she first appeared. I remember making several comments on her about her being something of an "ice queen" or other equally disparaging remarks. She then showed us much more complex traits, even though they ended up not redeeming her uglier qualities. She ended up being a great character due to all of her complexities. I wish DC had kept her around, but I see how her death also propelled Supergirl's story.

Anj said...

My favourite moment had to be the entirity of the annual.There is still work to be done with Kara and the Legion, I hope it doesn't slip to the wayside with the writer handover.

With all the Easter Eggs, that is high on my list as well.

It was nice to see her in Adventure Comics as well, showing she is in the Legion.

Anj said...

Batgirl #14 was so filled with fun moments after the incredible seriousness that went on during New Krypton it was like a drink of pure spring water.

It was a fun issue. I loved all the moments you named, especially when Kara says the line from the Little Mermaid.

Anj said...

Love this list! I wish I could do this with any of my blogs, but Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman, and the Atom have not had an especially good year.


J'onn had a decent year, showcased in Brightest Day. No?

Anj said...

She then showed us much more complex traits, even though they ended up not redeeming her uglier qualities. She ended up being a great character due to all of her complexities.


She might fume at Kara, but she still cried herself to sleep each night, still had a hard time speaking to the masses of NK.

She was great ... and sadly gone.

Gene said...

Great list Anj!
One opportunity that we were both fortunate to enjoy separately last year was meeting Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle right in the midst of all this Supergirl goodness.