It hasn't always been easy to be a Supergirl fan.
Part of the problem is that many fans have a pre-conceived notion of who Supergirl is. She is 'Superman in a skirt'. She is an old-fashioned overly sweet, overly sentimental, naive girl. She has no personality. She has no history. She is meaningless.
When I hear people characterize her in any of those terms, I'll ask them to give me some examples and usually they can't. It is a feeling they have about the character based on what they have heard from other people. And it bothers me.
It is akin to when I hear someone say that Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 is the best Supergirl story ever and that her prior stories are awful. When I ask them if they actually read prior Supergirl stories, most say they hadn't. And that also bothers me.
And despite a decent decade for the character, some of those preconceived notions persist. In a recent CBR Interview with Jeff Lemire by Jeff Renaud, Renaud asks the following question:
Traditionally, Supergirl is an immature
character and the one that needs coddling, but in "Justice League
United," you have Supergirl pushing Stargirl to greatness and finding
her superhero way. Is Supergirl a natural role model?
In his mind ... traditionally ... Supergirl is an immature character that needs coddling.
And I feel like asking 'where did you get that notion'?
Because, outside of the first years of the Loeb/Churchill book and for the first 2 years of the New 52 (perhaps the worst characterization of Kara in her 50+ years), she has been anything but.
And I am going to prove it ...
Now maybe there is some thought about her earliest adventures. Stuck in the late 50s with the social norms of the time, she was thrown into an orphanage by Superman and told to hide her powers.
Despite such restrictions, Supergirl decides to do what she can to help anyone she can. As early as her second adventure, here in Action Comics #253, she is trying to help others, here an orphan who is hoping to get adopted.
And a running theme in those early issues is Supergirl hoping to find an antidote/cure for Kryptonite, thinking of her cousin.
Are they simple stories and dated? Sure.
But immature? No way.
And coddled? She is left to fend for herself. We never see her training with or loved by Superman here.
In Action Comics #318, she (as Linda Danvers) gets given a scholarship based on high character! In this story, she forgives the rival student who is trying to demean and besmirch her.
Are there romance stories, and silly Silver Age stories in this time? Yes. But that is true of all the DC comics at the time.
Here in Adventure Comics #424, Linda decides that the cutthroat world of journalism where ratings mean more than lives is too horrible for her. Earlier in the run, she takes in an orphaned young girl alien and acts as a surrogate mother. Not immature.
Are there insane romance stories and lots of tears in the solo title at this time, yes there are. But the overall tone isn't one of immaturity and neediness.
Supergirl headlines Superman Family next, taking a job as a guidance counselor in an experimental school. Sounds selfless, mature, and coddling others.
In Superman #376, we see the maturity of Supergirl as she tells Superman that she isn't an apprentice. She is her own woman, able to make her own decisions, and strike out on her own.
Hmmm ... that doesn't sound like someone immature.
And coddled? Throughout these stories as she moves from student to news reporter to teacher to student again, she is always making her own decisions, always fending for herself, independent.
But even in that event, we see Kara as selfless and mature. She will sacrifice herself to save her cousin. And she says this line: "All my life, I've considered life the greatest of all gifts."
How about Matrix? The Supergirl after Kara?
Okay, she starts out rough, duped by Brainiac and seduced by Luthor.
But in the end, she matures, taking Superman's place when Superman is dead. And then, as Peter David's Earth Angel, she completely redeems herself, going from impetuous troubled youth to bona fide universe saver.
That Supergirl goes away and we get nearly 3 years of an immature brat. Jeph Loeb set up Kara to be a bitter, angsty, narcissistic, loner. I hope that Supergirl isn't the 'traditional' Supergirl the writer is thinking of.
Because he should really read Sterling Gates run. Here in Supergirl #57, she faces her own demons while helping BizarroGirl deal with hers. This scene is one of the most mature scenes I have read in comics.
This Supergirl didn't run to someone to be coddled. She dealt with her issues while still helping others.
And yes, in the New 52, we got another immature, disaffected, Earth-hating, angsty Supergirl for the first couple of years. I dearly hope that that isn't the 'traditional' Supergirl the writer mentions.
Eventually, these 'immature' Supergirl iterations fade.
The true nature of this character, the core of Supergirl, the strong fierce desire to help others, to see the best in others, to be optimistic and a hero, all end up shining through.
That mature selflessness, that passion, that heroic journey, that helping others ... that is the traditional Supergirl which has shined for greater than 50 years.
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