Starting this October, Supergirl will be coming to CBS, backed by the same production team that brought DC fans Arrow and The Flash. The hope is clear: CBS is looking to Supergirl to attract a passionate fan base that includes current Supergirl fans, as well as audiences new to the character. Supergirl has been around for decades, but has never really caught on in mainstream media (even DC’s animation). That starts with the comics, as her history is filled with stops and starts, twists and turns, and even different names, all making her overall path difficult to follow.
It’s easy to dismiss Kara Zor-El as a female version of DC’s Krpytonian heavyweight, Superman, but Supergirl is a much richer character than just “Superman’s cousin.” Her unpredictable storylines means she’s enjoyed some interesting powers, and has played a role in major events alongside several DC legends. Before the new Supergirl TV show debuts let’s look back and discover the most interesting, and at times peculiar, milestones in Supergirl’s history in Screen Rant’s 10 Facts You Need to Know About Supergirl.
10. She Was Created Along With Legion of Superheroes & Brainiac
Supergirl was the creation of writer Otto Binder and artist Al Plastino in 1959, designed to be a new addition to the Superman universe (although not all future versions of Supergirl were related to Superman). Binder began writing for comics in the late 1930s and produced works for a variety of comic publishers, including Fawcett Comics, Timely Comics, and Quality Comics, before joining DC comics in 1948. Supergirl was not the first female character Binder co-created, either, coming after Mary Marvel, Miss America, and Gimmick Girl.
Otto Binder and Al Plastino had two notable collaborations just before they created Supergirl: in 1958 they hatched the idea for the Legion of Superheroes, a group of teen superheroes from the future who are inspired by Superboy (Superman during his younger years). Supergirl would eventually become a member of the Legion of Superheroes, joining forces with Lightning Boy, Saturn Girl, and Cosmic Boy.
Binder and Plastino also created the classic Superman villain Brainiac a few months after they created the Legion of Superheroes; Brainiac would go on to become a major DC Comics antagonist for decades to come (and possibly even on the big screen in the coming years).
9. She First Appeared in Action Comics #252
Supergirl – or to be more specific Kara Zor-El – made her debut in “Action Comics” #252 in May of 1959. Titled “The Supergirl from Krypton,” the story sees Supergirl (Kara Zor-El) introduced as a Kryptonian youth who was sent by her parents Zoe-El and Alura to live on Earth with her cousin Kal-El. Kara at first takes on the name Linda Lee until she is adopted years later by Fred and Edna Danvers, and is then known as Linda Lee Danvers. Supergirl and Superman appeared in many adventures together, but she was such a hit that she moved into a lead role in the “Adventure Comics” series in the 1960s (along with regular appearances in the pages of “Superman Family Comics”).
8. She Died Saving the Universe
Yes, that’s right, Supergirl once died. Any time there is an attempt to simplify, streamline or reboot a universe as large as that of DC Comics, someone is bound to be left out of the party. So when the publisher decided to reset continuity with “Crisis on Infinite Earths” in 1985, the decision was made to kill off Supergirl. While she had proven to be a popular character for decades, the decision-makers at DC ultimately did not feel her character was strong enough on its own, and saw an opportunity for a dramatic storyline focusing on her death – one fans wouldn’t soon forget.
During the events of “Crisis,” several DC superheroes – including Superman, Supergirl, Wildfire, and Captain Marvel – all try to save the world from destruction at the hands of a universe-killing being known as the Anti-Monitor. During the big battle, Superman appears to have finally found a villain he may not be able to defeat. Supergirl comes to aid him, and in the act of protecting her cousin, winds up turning the tide against the Anti-Monitor – losing her life in the process. This was a popular storyline in part for its shocking conclusion, and also for the emotional effect Supergirl’s death had on the Man of Steel.
7. Supergirl is also Power Girl (Kind of)
As if Supergirl’s history isn’t complicated enough, there is another Supergirl from an alternate universe named Power Girl. Power Girl (Kara Zor-L) made her debut in “All-Star Comics” #858 in 1976, having – just like Supergirl – escaped the destruction of Krypton in an escape pod. The events were later explained to take place in an alternate universe, with Power Girl’s destination actually Earth-Two, where she was a part of the Justice Society of America. She eventually made her way to the main DC universe, where she came face to face with her younger counterpart Supergirl (Kara Zor-El).
Power Girl has a similar appearance to Supergirl, but they are not identical. Power Girl’s hair is shorter, her costume white, and in most versions features a sexy, revealing cut-out across her chest. Power Girl has similar powers to Supergirl and other survivors from Krypton, but along with those of the Earth-Two Superman (Kal-L), are somewhat lowered. Power Girl also found herself a secret idenity: Karen Starr, a successful computer programmer.
6. She Was Replaced By a Clone For Over a Decade
From 1988-2002 there was no Supergirl… but there was Matrix Supergirl. Confused? You have every right to be. Matrix Supergirl was created by Lex Luthor in an alternate reality where Superman was killed as a boy. Able to see Superman in the main DC universe, Luthor decides to use his ‘protoplasmic matrix’ to create a woman in the image of Lana Lang (the woman Lex was pining after) but with the same powers as Superman. Matrix has many of Supergirl’s powers but also has the power of telekinesis, invisibility, and could shape shift.
Matrix eventually moved into the mainstream DC universe alongside a less-than-thrilled Superman. Matrix Supergirl’s run is famous for seeing her become romantically involved with Lex Luthor; the “Death of Superman” arc where Supergirl helps to protect Metropolis after Doomsday killed the Man of Steel; and eventually merging with a human girl named Linda Danvers, thereby losing her ability to shapeshift. The merged Matrix and Linda Danvers would later hold the title of Supergirl together.
5. Only Three Actresses Have Played Her Onscreen
CBS’s new Supergirl show will be just the third time Supergirl has been portrayed in a live action film or TV show. Melissa Benoist will take up the TV role for CBS this October, appearing as the 24 year old Kara Danvers who has been hiding her super powers from the world (but not her adopted family, or her famous cousin).
The most recent portrayal of Supergirl was in the hit series Smallville by actress Laura Vandervoort. Adrianne Palicki previously played a character who claimed to be Kara in an earlier season of Smallville, but Vandervoort was the only one to appear as the real Supergirl. Supergirl plays a large role in the seventh season of Smallville as she was seen adjusting to life on Earth, and returned for a handful of appearances in later seasons.
But the first live action portrayal of Supergirl was in the 1984 film Supergirl starring Helen Slater as Kara. In the film, Supergirl comes to Earth from Krypton in search of an item called the Omegahedron that has fallen into the hands of a witch, played by Faye Dunaway. The film was a box office and critical flop, but the passage of time means the movie still has its fans – either as a cult-classic, or a movie “so bad that it’s good.” Either way, Slater will return to CBS’ series to play Kara’s adopted mother.
4. She Has Her Own Super Pets
There’s Superman, Superboy, Supergirl, why not Supercat? In “Action Comics” #261 Streaky the Supercat was born after Supergirl failed to properly dispose of some kryptonite she was experimenting on. Her cat Streaky found the kryptonite and developed several powers similar to those of Supergirl, including super strength, vision, speed, and the ability to fly. Streaky the Super-Cat also became a member of the League of Super-Pets (we’re not making this up) that also included Krypto the Super-Dog, Superman’s famous best friend.
Supergirl had another pet with an ever wackier back story. Comet the Super-Horse made his debut in a “Superboy” comic in 1962, but later that year moved over to join Supergirl in her bonus stories in “Action Comics.” Comet started out as a centaur in ancient Greece, but wound up a horse with superpowers thanks to Circe, and ancient witch. He would later receive a human form- “Bronco” Bill Starr – who became romantically involved with Supergirl (when he was in his human form of course).
3. She’s a Member of the Red Lantern Corps
In addition to spending time in the teenage Legion of Super-Heroes, Supergirl also spent some time in the Red Lantern Corps. The Red Lantern Corps. is a group of anti-heroes that made their debut in 2007, initially as an army fighting against the Green Lantern Corps. Supergirl becomes involved with the Red Lanterns after coming into possession of a red ring, able to grant its bearer powers based on rage. Since Supergirl is a character known for not holding back when it comes to using her abilities, having this ring makes for an interesting (and dangerous) twist in her story.
With such a rocky history in nearly every incarnation, it’s not surprising that Kara is a teenage girl overflowing with emotions – not all of them positive. The rage that comes with being a Red Lantern has given Supergirl writers a storyline where they can embrace her out of control emotions and add some depth to the character.
2. She May Be More Powerful Than Superman
If you want to get DC fans in an argument, try asking them who’s more powerful: Supergirl, or Superman. Fans have been going back and forth about this question for years, and it may never have a definitive answer. Since both Superman and Supergirl are from Krypton, they of course have many of the same powers. Some argue Superman is stronger because he is larger, while other claim that Supergirl actually growing up on the larger planet Krypton means she should have the edge.
Superman is known for holding back when it comes to his powers, so he doesn’t do any unnecessary damage to innocents. Supergirl, on the other hand, has trouble showing the same restraint. Does “not holding back” make Supergirl more powerful? That isn’t a very strong argument on its own, but differences between the characters’ ages (Supergirl is technically older than Superman) and questioned abilities to absorb sunlight have kept this debate going for years (to the delight of DC, we have to assume).
1. She’s Already Part of the DC Movie Universe
Shortly before the 2013 film Man of Steel opened in theaters, the Man of Steel prequel comic was released, with a story by Zack Snyder, David Goyer and Geoff Johns. In the comic, Kara was once again a Kryptonian born to Zor-El and Alura In-Ze; but in this version of events, Kara lives in a time thousands of years before Superman is born, and joins Krypton’s Explorer Guild, which sends out scout ships to terraform other planets into habitable worlds.
In the comic, Kara captains one of these scout ships and, due to sabotage, winds up crash-landing in the frozen tundra of Earth (not the planet she was intended to find). The comic hints that Kara survived the fight with the Kryptonian responsible for the sabotage, but there is no definitive information about what happened to Kara next. Her crashed ship eventually became Superman’s Fortress of Solitude in Man of Steel.
Which version of Supergirl is your favorite? What Supergirl facts did we miss? Let us know in the comments section!
Supergirl debuts Monday October 26th at 8:30pm ET on CBS.