Saturday, July 25, 2015

30th Anniversary Crisis On Infinite Earths: Amazing Heroes #74: Requiem for Cousin Kara


This month I have been celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 by taking an in-depth look at the impact of the issue and the death of Supergirl.

So far the celebration has included:
Crisis on Infinite Earths review, part 1
Crisis on Infinite Earths review, part 2
Dick Giordano's death note
Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 merchandise

I have enjoyed writing these posts as they have definitely made me relive some of the feelings I had back in 1985. The years have made me realize the importance of this event both for comics and for Supergirl. But writing about this issue on this site for the first time has really made me think about how angry and sad I was when the issue came out.

I thought I would try to take a look back at other comic venues and periodicals that were released at the time to see how comic fans reacted back then. This was pre-internet, a time of written letters and a few fanzines. So this took some time and a hand from blog friend Greg Araujo who sent me this copy of Amazing Heroes #74.  

I can't thank Greg enough for sending me this as I feel it adds some historical context to the review of the issue. Thank you so much Greg! I owe you!

Amazing Heroes was one of the few comic magazines out back then, a mix of reviews, previews, historical articles and interviews. For the time, it was a great book, a way for me to learn about creators and comics I might not otherwise buy.


Amazing Heroes #74 came out just days before Crisis on Infinite Earths #7.


Even in those pre-internet days, it was well known that Supergirl was going to die and was going to die in the seventh issue of Crisis. That means that 'Requiem for Cousin Kara', written by Dwight R. Decker, was done before readers actually saw Supergirl die. Whether Decker had read a preview of the issue or was flying blind is hard to tell.

I find this article to be a bit odd. And I think it shows maybe why DC thought Supergirl could be expunged from the rewritten DC universe.

The definition of requiem is 'any musical service, hymn, or dirge for the repose of the dead.' It is supposed to be a way to mourn a person's passing. So you would think that this article would be both a celebration of Supergirl as well as mourning her death.

But Decker, who opens the article talking about how much he is a Supergirl fan, spends the length of the article obliterating her. He comes to bury Supergirl, not to praise her.

The bulk of the article is a blow by blow retelling of how awful the Supergirl movie is. But the impetus for this article was the upcoming death of Supergirl and so Decker also spends some time commenting on Supergirl's comic book history.

Now remember, this is a requiem article. Decker is a self-proclaimed Supergirl fan. This should be a positive look back.


He starts out by saying that the only way Supergirl distinguished herself in comics is by how unrelentingly mediocre her stories were throughout her career.

And then, as if to further differentiate himself from me, he says the best stories for her were the ones written and drawn by Mike Sekowsky, the Adventure run where she was depowered and where Sekowsky didn't show any understanding of basic Kryptonian continuity, bungling basic concepts like gold Kryptonite and the Phantom Zone. I really don't like the Sekowsky run.


Decker then calls Supergirl a 'pale copy' of Superman. And she has less going for her than Beppo the Super-Monkey.

Now he does blame the writers for this. He doesn't say the character of Supergirl, in theory, is worthless. But he doesn't seem to think much of her entire history.


At least tucked in the middle of the article he says that Supergirl deserves better than being killed.

But then he says that the stories that worked best were when she was tucked away in the orphanage, acting as an emergency medicine. Those stories are known for simple tales of her helping other orphans. Supergirl can't act out in the open. And she really is afraid of Superman disapproving of her.

I don't know if those were the best stories. They set up a lot of the underpinnings of the character moving forward. But they are pretty goofy and super-sweet.


And then he throws Daring New Adventures under the bus.  Daring New Adventures ! The Supergirl series where she really became an independent hero and was probably at her strongest.  To Decker these were 'unfortunate stories' which 'spin their wheels'.

Decker ends the article again saying that Supergirl deserved better than dying in the Crisis. But he also seems to be saying that she deserved better than her movie. And he feels she deserved better than every story written for her.

You might be asking what does this article add to the Crisis anniversary. But I think it is important as a way to see how DC might have been looking at Supergirl. Here is someone who is a big enough fan of Supergirl to rattle of a long article looking at her comic career and movie. And yet his requiem is a withering attack on almost every incarnation of her, comparing her to Beppo, saying her stories are lost or inane.

Can you see why DC might think that killing of a character wouldn't be a big loss if her biggest fans seem to hate her? Maybe DC felt there wouldn't be a fan backlash. Maybe they agreed with Decker that people don't get Supergirl or can't write a decent story for her. Maybe they thought that a small niche fanbase who complain this much aren't a group to worry about severing ties with. Maybe all of these things were in Dick Giordano's mind when he scribbled a note asking if he could kill her. Maybe this negativity or apathy was in Jenette Kahn's mind when she checked of the 'yes' box.

All I know is if a younger Anj was asked to write a requiem article about Supergirl back in 1985, it would have had a very different tone.

Just two more posts to go in this review. Thanks for sticking with me as I review this landmark issue.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think (if I am not mistaken) Decker also has some very harsh and undeserved comments about Kara's silver age penciler Jim Mooney. I have this one somewhere in my collection as well It is one of the few critical articles that were consequent of COIE #7 so of course it drips condescension and disdain. But then that was the era, everyone thought that there would be comic book shops on every street corner crammed to the rafters with grim gritty noirish super hero variants all drawn by Rob Liefeld and written by Frank Miller....

JF

Uncle Screensaver said...

Wasn't it in the "Many Happy Returns" trade that PAD said people missed Kara's Silver Age self, not any other later version, and that sales of Supergirl were almost non-existent? In LSH, after Laurel Gand took her place, there was a letter by "Stick" that was a tad extreme in calling her and Laurel Kent sluts and that Kara Zor-El was loved, to which an extreme reply came that if Kara was so popular they wouldn't have had her killed off. In Mae's mini, one of the letters printed was by someone that said Matrix had more personality than Kara ever had. A letter in PAD's run was by someone saying that Kara only did what Superman didn't and "the only ones who miss her are a small but very vocal group of fans."

I took all those negative comments (as well as the AH requiem), and any other negative views by supposed fans, as those who never "got" Kara, and who never could see her through the eyes of those who love(d) her. I always like to point out to those people that Kara had her own distinct voice, she was much more grounded and approachable. She had a very dry sense of humor. While back then "Clark Kent" was the disguise, "Linda Danvers" was Kara's real face, as it were. Kal-El was all about his Kryptonian heritage, but he only had memories of a "toddlerhood" because of a machine. Kara, in her "girlhood" was in a world where death was a constant - her city was all that remained of a planet, and each day she had to look at the sky and hope that the environment remained intact, as well as the lead beneath her feet. I think it was in AH where it hit me that if she used her super-vision, she could see all the dead people of hers lying in the remains of Argo City.

Kara may not have had the most memorable of stories on a consistent basis but neither did Wonder Woman, for example, but she is never looked at as a dud. Once again, I bring up the whole gremlin story arc in the 1980's. As many have said, COIE was not needed, it was just the writing that needed changes.

Yes, JF, it was either Decker or someone else at AH who commented on how one "only knew Kara was supposed to be pretty when Kurt Schaffenberger drew her."

For me, even the most mediocre of Kara's stories is loved by me as it stars my favourite super hero/ literary character. It hurts me when I read much of what came out of DC after Crisis with respect to Kara because they really seemed to have a HATE on for her. I still think that if they cared about her creators, her fans, and the character herself, they could have allowed her to exist like Barry Allen and allowed her to be, at least, a true legacy hero with him.

However, "Kara Zor-El is back, as well as "Carra" Zor-El (grrr), big time (even if she doesn't have her own book), so I hope that will only continue and we never have what took place 30 years ago onward again.

-Craig

Anonymous said...

Wonder if Decker was a setup by DC? They may have had him write the piece to justify their decision.

Greg A said...

You definitely handled this article better than I would have. When I discovered it, I thought it started well enough, but as it slowly turned its focus almost exclusively to the movie, I wondered what the heck was going on.

I'm sure by Fantagraphic standards, this Supergirl eulogy was probably considered gushing.

Anj said...

Thanks for great comments!

I agree that Kara's fans understand what makes the character tick way more than average people who simplify her to a single note. It was painful to see her get treated so shabbily in the past.

These last 10 years have been a pretty golden time for her ( for the most part) with some very high points. Hopefully the TV show will add.

Anonymous said...

There is a definite "Too Bad She Sucked" vibe to this article and most of the COIE #7 reportage in general.
And I do wanna take a moment to say a few words in defense of Mike Sekowsky, whatever his Haney-esque shortcomings his clear goal was to make "Adventure Comics Starring Supergirl" into a "Supergirl Book" with her own independent continuity, her own unique setting and rogue's gallery. Sekowsky fell short but he was one of the few creatives at DC who invested time and talent into the Supergirl feature...and if things had a sexist tinge to them it is nothing compared to what Fan Fav Denny O'Neill was inflicting on poor depowered Wonder Woman at the same time.

JF

Anonymous said...

"Wonder if Decker was a setup by DC? They may have had him write the piece to justify their decision."

Mmm...

On the one hand, I have seen comic fans using harsher, more derisive words to describe Supergirl.

On the other hand, this scenario is more than possible.

So... Who knows.