Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Supergirl Is "Immature" And "Needs Coddling" According To CBR

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.

Even later in the run of the back-up, we see her continuing to be an active hero, selfless and optimistic.

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.

So maybe there is a feeling that it is the Adventure Comics run and her first solo book?

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.

In fact, in that title (like here in Daring New Adventures #8), she is down right confident and tough.

Of course, the next big event is Crisis on Infinite Earths #7.

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.


Iopy said...

It’s strange to see someone say this as a question in an interview, it demonstrates either a complete lack of knowledge about the character or an attempt to obfuscate the character’s traditional role in favor of the sexy angry bad girl image. Prior to the reboot in 2011 Dan Didio said this at the DC Retail Roadshow in Manhattan:

Supergirl, as she has been written, sometimes comes across as mature and responsible as a 40 year-old adult. She shouldn’t. She’s a teen who is still finding herself and her character should reflect that.


In other words we have the angry, immature Supergirl we have now specifically because DC Editorial didn’t like the fact that the traditional version of the character was mature and responsible for her years, they specifically wanted her changed to be immature. The “traditional” Supergirl is a character with a grim, horrific background filled with death and destruction who, unlike someone like Bruce Wayne, actually chooses to face the light rather than the shadows. The proverbial “lemonade from lemons” point of view. The character we see in the Gates/Igle “Bizarro Girl” story shown here. Or even the happy girl we see in the Mike Maihack Batgirl/Supergirl shorts, who captures the villain but still finds time to smile, bake some cookies, trick or treat for some candy, and have some fun with the whole superhero thing.

But the problem can be also be partly defined by what Will Moss said back with Supergirl #1:
I dunno how many of you have sisters, but when mine was a teenager, she was, as they say, hell on wheels. Always getting into trouble, always getting into fights (usually more with her friends than with her enemies), always managing to outthink authority figures (be they cops or parents), always hanging with a questionable crowd, always a new piercing or tattoo – just drama at every turn, and usually of her own making. Nowadays she’s a morally upright citizen. She’s got a dog and a cat, a boyfriend and she even just completed jury duty! But back then? Hell. On. Wheels.


I’ve often heard both DC and fans refer to Supergirl as a “typical teenage girl”. First, there is no “typical” teenage girl. Women are half of the human race, and anybody who has been a parent knows teenage girls cover as broad a range of personality types as anyone else. But just as important Supergirl can’t be typical, she’s an alien orphan survivor of a holocaust where she lost everyone and everything. If as a writer or editor you decide she should be just like that sister you still obviously have some hidden resentment about then not only are you missing out on what makes the character a goldmine of story possibilities, you should seriously ask yourself whether you should approach entire groups of people with a “typical” mindset. Pick an ethnic group, race, or religion and describe a “typical” member, Mr. Writer and Editor: do you see a problem?

Thanks for your great site Anj, and sorry for the rant.

Martin Gray said...

Thans Anj, for a wonderful post. Read any run of Supergirl and eventually the true heroine asserts herself - strong, compassionate, loving. independent. Supergirl.

I hope CBR's Jeff Renaud sees this piece.

Anj said...

Thanks for the great comments.

As you say Iopy, the powers that be have a poor understanding of the character.

Yes, Supergirl shouldn't have the maturity level of a middle aged woman. But that doesn't mean she needs to be immature.

And this idea that all teenage girls are filled with drama and Hell on Wheels is insulting. Even if there is drama, the underlying personality can be of a hero trying to help. She doesn't have to be angry, alone, bitter.

There is a core to her, like you say Mart. And as many times as DC tries to reboot or tries to sully or even when she gets labeled as immature and needing to be coddled, eventually that true form comes out.

No one wants an immature, coddled, angry, bitter Supergirl.

We want the real Supergirl ... loving, compassionate, strong.

Anonymous said...

> 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'?

Believe me, I'd love to ask that question myself.

I personally pin the whole attitude on the DC TPTB, especially at the start of the New 52, in trumpting from the hills that
Supergirl should be this angry, affected, lonely girl.

And I agree with all previous posters, YES, she should have problems, YES, she can be a handful -- or whatever
adjective/hyperbole/assumption/etc one wants to make -- but as always, it comes back full circle to the Supergirl
we all love.

Or as you best put it here Anj --


Anonymous said...

The problem is that you some immature men who don't how deal with women in comics. They can't deal with confident women (like Supergirl) because of their own insecurities and then have to write female characters as over-sexualized and over-dependent---essentially fantasies of their. The truly confident guys like a strong, mature character like Kara has been for most of history--especially in the silver and bronze ages.

AndNowInStereo said...

And that's why I'm glad that from this month a woman is co-writing Supergirl and another is drawing her. Also why I'm glad a woman is one of the showrunners on the TV show.

elknight20 said...

Ditto, here, Thomas & Anj.

Gene said...

Well said Anj!

Anj said...

Thanks everyone!

Anonymous said...

"And I feel like asking 'where did you get that notion'?"

They heard it from other people, assumed those persons know what they are talking about, and didn't bother with fact-checking.

So... Someone tells she is not her own person and has no villains or supporting characters? They assume it must be true.

Geez, I've seen some people claiming snarky Supergirl was something Peter David came up with. Pre-Crisis adult Supergirl was very snarky.

I've seen also some people claiming Kara Zor-El was reintroduced because she was a Creator's Pet. I found the notion that Kara was loved by DC simply hilarious.

It reminds me of the Superman haters who hate him for being always Mr. Perfect and Mr. Moral who never makes a mistake or has flaws or gets angry or is unfair or faces hardships or struggles against anything. Asks them if they have read his books and they will unfailingly tell "No".

I guess it doesn't help that most of Pre-Crisis Supergirl's stories haven't been reprinted.