Tuesday, March 29, 2022

CBR: Supergirl Needs Consistency

No surprise given this site, Supergirl is my favorite comic book character. 
I have a sort of specific view on who she is - a smart, bright, clever, optimistic young hero on the journey. She has her foibles but she is clearly a force of good and justice.

One of the reasons I started this blog was back then she was hampered with an odd storyline where she had been sent to Earth to kill Kal-El, that Zor-El was insane and with Kara's help had shot up a school on Krypton, and overall she seemed disinterested in being a hero or even a citizen of Earth. That went against who I thought Kara Zor-El was.

Back then I asked for her to embrace Earth and become a hero. I hoped she would claim a secret identity and have a supporting cast. She needed to be stabilized.

We had seen that in Paul Kupperberg's run in the 80's. We saw it in Peter David's run (even if that was Matrix Supergirl and not Kara). And we have seen it in Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle's run. We saw some of it in Steve Orlando's run.

But between those runs we have seen such disparate takes on Kara that it is hard to know who she is. Is she the angry young woman from the earliest New 52? The goth villain from Reign in Hell? The moping future version in Future State? The emotionally devastated character in Tom King's run? 

Is my internal version of Supergirl, built on reading her adventures for decades, even valid?

As if on cue, CBR posted an article asking the same thing.


Please read the whole article. My thoughts below.

One point the article made is that there has been little consistency in the character. Now I will say that in the 70s, she did reel a bit from college student to news reporter to acting school to guidance counselor to soap opera star to grad student. There is some charm to that era, showing how she was trying to find herself in the world. But the underpinning of her heroism and optimism were consistent.

I would say there was solid and intact continuity from Daring New Adventures through Crisis and during the Peter David run.

But since the Loeb Era, the New 52 long run, and even the Rebirth era, the characters has sort of hopped around. Certainly, the Gates/Igle run was the most solid and consistent take on the character. But since they left, we have gone back to different creators doing different takes on the character. Some have been more successful than others. But each time they have darkened her, it has failed.

DC should try to establish something of a history for the character and stick with it. And hopefully it is that smart young hero trying to find her way on her new home Earth and fighting injustice.

I also agree that the easiest way to accomplish that is to set up some character points. I believe that Supergirl works best when she has a secret identity. She works best when she has embraced Earth as a home she will defend. 

I do think that early in the Loeb era and early in the New 52 era, she had no secret identity. She had no tie to Earth. And therefore, she had no real supporting cast.

I honestly think that the Tom King book is a bit of a dead end for the character. He ripped her soul out.. There isn't much there that could support a monthly comic. Moreover, I don't think it sold well. So there is probably little impetus for DC to try another solo title.

So we start another time when I continue to look around the DCU for a vision of Supergirl I can support. Here is hoping that Mark Waid or Phillip Kennedy Johnson have some stories in mind for her. Here is hoping that someone in the upper echelon of DC recognizes her value as a character and wants to see her shine.

And let's get another team like Gates and Igle, who understand and love the character, who want to respect her and promote her, back on a book for her. Heck, let's get them back on a Supergirl book. How about a back up in Action instead of Midnighter?


Fracadactyl said...

From my perspective, Supergirl has been a problem to nail down for a couple of reasons.
For one, the comparisons with her cousin Superman; how can you make her distinct from him besides just by being Supergirl? When you distill it down they're both characters defined by their optimism and heroic qualities; with those personalities it's like they're gender-flipped versions of one another.

Some of the best Supergirl things I loved was how she can express herself as a Kryptonian while struggling to fit in. But where do you go from there without making it feel like being in a state of arrested development? Give her a reporter job like in the CW show? Feels too similar to Superman. Kara Zor-El doesn't need to be dark or anything, but what can creators do with her the way they can't with Superman? Or make her feel like a placeholder for her cousin.

That's what I believe goes through these creatives heads.

SG Fan said...

Generally agree with the article that Kara needs a status quo in comics. It seemed like they try to do it at times, but as you said Anj, they then just change the creative team or they suck Supergirl into some stupid Event, then ruins it.

One aspect which they could explore and take Kara and use her in the way they use say, Data or Seven of Nine from Star Trek. Have Kara arrive on Earth, get her status quo laid out, and have her as growing up in an alien culture, now reflect on humanity. The biggest difference for me, between her and Superman is Clark is a human in a Kryptonian body. Sure, he learns more about his culture and people, but at his core he's the good man the Kent raised. Kara, grew up in an alien culture and with different tech/norms etc. So, having Kara now experiencing humanity and how that makes her feel, react, and change would be great IMHO. And not that she'd find one better than the other, just that she'd grow from all this.

It's one aspect I've never quite seen explored in her various incarnations and might prove a good one. Of course, you would need a good writing and for them to stick with things, and not just change things at a whim.

Anonymous said...

Supergirl isn't going to get any consistency until someone at DC actually puts some faith in her. They wouldn't even let King do a 12 issue mini because "Supergirl can't sustain 12 issues". Hardly a vote of confidence from them. I bet they're just going to keep throwing stuff at the wall until she either is as popular as Harley Quinn or they end up just relegating her to cameos in other books. It sucks. Maybe someone at DC will come to their senses eventually.

Professor Feetlebaum said...

There are times when I can't help but wonder if it's too late for Supergirl. That DC has failed the character too much and too often. That the inconsistencies in her portrayal have divided whatever fan base there is to the point where success has become impossible to attain.

Yet, I also believe that a dedicated creative team with a positive view of the character could turn things around. Bringing back Gates and Igle is a great idea. If their schedules wouldn't permit an ongoing monthly, maybe a mini series would be doable. Heck, at this point I'd settle for a one shot special.

And yes, a secret identity and a supporting cast is essential. It's interesting that the TV show had to either invent supporting players (Winn, Alex) or "borrow" characters from other strips (James Olsen, J'onn J'onzz) in order to give the Supergirl show a supporting cast.

As for the Tom King series, it certainly did Kara no favors. But if Hal Jordan can come back from the Parallax thing, then Supergirl can survive Tom King. Let's just call Supergirl Woman of Tomorrow an Elseworlds story and forget about it.

Martin Gray said...

I rather like SG Fan’s idea, it certainly gives her a point of difference. It could be an interesting aspect of her character so long as it’s not continuous ‘stranger in a strange land’. I do think Sterling and Jamal did a great job of making Kara more than ‘Superman in a dress’ - which I’m not convinced anyone this side of Ambush Bug ever saw her as - by, for example, pointing out her proficiency for science.

Sadly, Professor Feetlebaum, Sterling has mentioned that he’s suggested a few times that DC let him write something again, but the Powers That Be won’t, which is blooming mad… they like his work enough to collect it, and hey, don’t they love TV writers?

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments.

I feel like at her best, Kara does represent Krypton's culture/history better than Kal. But I want her to embrace Earth as a new home that she will defend so no one feels what she has felt.

If she gets too alien, it is hard to have her be the POV character.

But the biggest thing for me is she has to be smart and heroic. She can't be glum.

It is times like this that I wonder if this is a 'me' problem.

Anonymous said...

I don’t know what to do about Supergirl quite frankly, I do know we have been struggling with her supporting cast and setting for forty nine years now...stability is not the storytelling norm for this character sad to say. It all started in 1972 with her abortive solo book and its been the same thing ever since, new writer? New setting and supporting cast. I point the finger at DC Editorial, they must see her as a sort of lab rat upon which every patent medicine type storyline can be tested. But comic book characters are infinitely malleable, what was marred or deformed can also be restored and enhanced. Lets work towards that sez I. Oh and next year lets all mock celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Supergirl loss of reliable continuity with the publication of Supergirl #1....:)

Anonymous said...

Hello from a french fan of supergirl,

Supergirl is not the problem, the problem is the world of publishing and entertainment (cinema, tv, ect...). Especially when a concept is successful and the financiers push the artists to continue that they want to finish or that they no longer like.

I should find out one day, I know how publishing is going in comics in France and manga in Japan. No idea how it's going in America, but I feel like there's a lot of turnover in the comic.

I read I don't know where that there are two types of series, I forgot the names so I take known examples: the simpsons and Avatar, the last airbender.In the first, you can skip an episode or several because there is little change in the status quo. In the second case, you have to follow and your story will have an end.And the problem is that comics want to do both at the same time, not to represent the characters every time for readers who already know them and also to explain the universe to newcomers.

So the shortened, supergirl is superman in a walking skirt at first reading.And then we can develop the concept that supergirl is a Kryptonian in a human world, a woman in a men world, a teenager or young adult in a real world.

In short, I still wonder how comis can sell without drawing on the feeling of nostalgia. The competition with French/Belgian comics and Asian manga is not won for comics. Their only advantage is the American system with cartoons, blockbuster films and series that are fully developed with streaming. Because the paper medium is not very selling. Afterwards, it's my foreign point of view.

Anonymous said...

If Supergirl cannot have a settled continuity and stable supporting cast, better she should be well depicted among another character’s supporting cast...either that or put her on a team and forget about a solo title for awhile. A lot of DCU characters have thrived in team books without ever getting a solo series...
And I do think we should celebrate Supergirl #1’s fiftieth from s continuity perspective....:)

Anonymous said...

I suppose as an alien outsider POV, it would be too much for Supergirl to be like Mork from Orc?! I could see it, though - big-hearted girl who wants to fit in, is powerful and heroic, but can't quite figure out earthling human relations.

Then add to that, or instead, she can fly and all that, but is otherwise awkward and tends to stumble. Kind of like the old bumbling Clark Kent, but make it real, not an act.

It's hard to put humor across in comics, but that characterization could be funny and endearing, still heroic and big hearted, and a lot better than dark!

Sounds a little like Zachary Levi's portrayal of Shazam. A big, powerful, lovable dufus.

Oh - reminds me also of Convergence Supergirl. While Lex came across to some people as highly abusive, I am pretty sure it was intended to be completely over-the-top and absurd, and Matrix was kind of a goofball.

Or maybe it's like "Not Brand Echh," if anyone remembers that short-lived corny Marvel satire.

Brittany Holzherr would shoot that pitch down in one second flat. She's been in charge of Supergirl for several years now. But probably everyone else here would hate it too!


Rob S. said...

I think a back-up series is a great way to go. I'm starting to think that the problem isn't that people don't know how to write Supergirl... it's that DC doesn't know how to SELL Supergirl. They know what sells in general -- edgy, dark, or ironic stuff -- and Supergirl doesn't mesh with any of that. She's warm and compassionate. She's heartfelt. When she's in another character's story -- usually Superman or Batgirl's -- she can play those notes just fine. But DC can't figure out a way to sell those aspects of her character. So they reach for something else, and they do their best to sell it, but existing Supergirl fans aren't happy with it, and it doesn't appeal to anyone else for long, either.

Putting her in a backup series, or as one of the anchors of an anthology, or as the member of a team, doesn't put all the sales pressure on her. And without that pressure, she can be free to be herself.

The Mattcaveman said...

I want (need) her back in a regular comic too, but not if they change her like they were planning to do in the Flashpoint movie. Part of Supergirl's charm is that she has always been a little unsure of herself, and her devotion to family and friends.

Don't changer her basic makeup, please. There are 1000 other heroes (and they can up their own heroes.) They have already done that to Jon. And have her back with Querl. Bring back the Legion.

I agree with the supporting cast and rogue's gallery. I'd love to see Lesla-Lar, Silver Banshee and Natasha Luthor as her big bads.