I was truly honored to be contacted by the great dcwomenkickingass blog to guest post about Supergirl on her birthday. If you don't visit DC Women Kicking Ass, you should. It is a fantastic site. As for me, I got a bit philosophical with the request. I figured I should cross post here. So here is my short essay titled 'Why Supergirl'.
It’s a question I get asked all the time. Someone asks me ‘who is your favorite comic book character?’ And I answer ‘Supergirl’. This seems to stun the asker. They usually look at me with a quizzical eye, trying to size up my response. And then I hear it, almost incredulously …
And I guess it’s a legitimate question. Why would a middle aged man list a (usually) teenage girl as his favorite character? Why not Batman or Green Lantern or Wolverine like so many of my peers? Why pick a character which lives on the fringes of the comic universe, usually belittled or forgotten?
I wish I could answer it with one sentence. But to understand why, you have to understand Supergirl and what she represents.
You see, when I started reading comics I was immediately enamored with Superman. He had the best array of powers. He was invulnerable, unbeatable, the very symbol of truth, justice, and the American Way. Heroes loved him, wanted to be like him.
He was perfect.
Maybe too perfect. I could aspire to be Superman. I could hope that one day I would have his immutable ethics and the uncanny ability to actualize them. I could strive to be respected by everyone around me, a role model. But the truth is, even in those early years, I knew I could never achieve that. You can hope to be Superman (and by this I mean what he represents) but you can’t be him. You can’t look too long at the sun, you know?
So I couldn’t relate to Superman but I liked his powers. So I looked around for other characters with similar powers who maybe was a bit more like me, a bit more relatable.
Superboy? Lived in the country and helped at the general store in what felt like the 1950s.
Ultra Boy? Too much of a jock type, and lived in the glittering future.
Spiderman? Not with those powers.
Well what about Supergirl?
Trust me, as a young boy, it isn’t easy to tell your friends that you are collecting Superman Family for the Supergirl feature. But I was collecting Superman Family for her and then Daring New Adventures of Supergirl.
You see, Supergirl had all the powers of Superman. So that was cool.
But she also had everyday troubles. She was worried about her love life and couldn’t find a significant other. She didn’t know what she wanted to do for a career – reporter? Guidance Counselor? Actress? Grad student?
She still had that sense of justice that Superman did. She still knew what was right and what was wrong, what she needed to do. And she did everything in her power to help people. That was really the underlying theme in those earliest stories that I devoured. She seemed to embody hope … going the extra mile to do what was right.
And even though she knew what to do, she wasn’t always immediately successful . She could fail. She might get angry or frustrated. She might mess up. But she always dusted herself off and tried to finish the job. She always learned from her mistakes.
For an early adolescent who didn’t think the opposite sex knew he existed, who thought he wanted to be everything from an English teacher to a physicist to a physician, for someone who tried to do what was right and occasionally struggled, Supergirl was someone I could relate to, someone I could aspire to be like, someone who was on a journey through life much like me.
Based on those early stories, I followed Supergirl around the DCU. I was there when she died in Crisis (saving the universe like a hero should, holding on to hope no matter what). I was there when she became Linda Danvers under Peter David, when she also was flawed and yearned for redemption for everything that she had done. I went back to the earliest tales in Action and Adventure when she was a young girl trying to be a good daughter and cousin, trying to be a superhero, a time in her life where she loved an ordinary guy named Dick Malverne. I was there when Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle put her back on the hero’s journey, had her struggle to fit in, to find her place in the world, to deal with the tragedies that life can hand you, and to continue to work for the betterment of all those around her. And I was there when Landry Walker made her the new kid in school, struggling with being different but always being the hero.
It hasn’t always been pretty. There were years when she wasn’t around. There were times when Matrix was insane or enslaved by Brainiac or the duped lover of Lex Luthor. There were those tough early issues of the last volume of Supergirl where she seemed bitter, unlikeable, and hardly heroic. But those were just bumps in the road. The ‘true’ Supergirl … the young hero trying her best, working through adversity, and doing what’s right … has always returned, shaking off the ashes of misguided stories.
And that is ‘why Supergirl’.
Happy Birthday Kara. I can only hope the new Supergirl is worthy of the name, is a hero, someone likeable, someone people can relate to and try to emulate.