Supergirl is a lot like Superman, only younger, smaller and wears racier outfits. The very first Super-Girl (notice the dash) was wished into existence by Jimmy Olsen as a sexual companion for Superman. Fans responded well, and the character was reconceptualized into the Girl of Steel that we all know and love today.
The infamous WTF moments of Superman’s career are recounted from here to the remains of Krytpon, but gaining far less press at the Daily Planet are some of the horrible things to have happened to the Maid of Might. She may be one of the strongest superheroes to have ever sported a pair of tights, but that doesn’t mean she’s immune to having a bad day or two. As her TV show soars through its second season, what better time to bring the Big Blue Girl Scout down to our level by looking at some of the awful stuff done by her, to her, and for her over the years.
Here are the 15 Worst Things That Have Happened To Supergirl.
15. Becoming Superman’s Superheroing Slave
After the positive reaction to Super-Girl (there’s that dash again) way back in 1958, the first recurring version of the character debuted a year later in Action Comics #252. When her hometown Argo City faces imminent destruction, Kara Zor-El’s father ships her off to every Kryptonian’s favorite vacation spot: Earth. Once she arrives, it’s not long before she finds the only other person more powerful than a locomotive.
Supergirl has had an incredibly successful go of it fighting as Superman’s sidekick, but that doesn’t make her first foray in comics any less demeaning. Having lost here home, and just traveled millions of light years to see him, Supergirl instantly feels a connection with her long lost cousin, so she naturally asks to live with him. He says no, dresses her in pigtails and throws her in an orphanage. He then orders her to cultivate her powers in private and only come out to fight crime when he requests her presence as his “secret weapon.” The rest of the time she’s forbidden from having a family, and spends her time spying on the other orphans through the walls. A pretty unspectacular start for someone who would grow into one of the galaxy’s greatest heroes.
14. Finding Out Cyborg Superman is Her Father
From her earliest worst moment to her latest — here, we have the revelation that came in 2013’s Supergirl #21. Cyborg Superman has long been a villain ever since arriving on the scene surrounding the Man of Steel’s death. Prior to the New 52, this human-machine hybrid was the former astronaut Hank Henshaw. In this updated version, Cyborg Superman was retconned as being none other than Supergirl’s father, Zor-El.
Right before Krytpon’s destruction, Brainiac scooped up a badly injured Zor-El and literally reconfigured him into a killing machine. Now oblivious to who he once was, Brainiac uses his new weapon to conquer planets in the hopes of creating a perfect entity. Supergirl coincidentally lands on one of those planets and has a run in with the Cyborg, who wastes no time in trying to kill her so he can creepily fuse with her body. Sadly, he succeeds, though as an unexpected side-effect, all his memories return and he realizes his true identity. Also, that he just murdered his only child. Surprisingly, this isn’t the worst thing to happen between Supergirl and her father, but it sure doesn’t help any in getting over her daddy issues.
13. Not Being Able to Get a Date
While Supergirl could at times be one of comic’s most empowering female characters, she had a rough go of it early on. Probably because DC’s writers had no idea what to do with her, or how to effectively reach young teenage girls. (Though to be fair, they still don’t.)
Of course none of that stopped them from trying in 1973 with the disparaging Supergirl #3. The now infamous cover shows Supergirl crying over not being able to get a date while some super cool college students party it up nearby with their groovy music and ascots. Adding insult to injury a kitten licks her hand, foreshadowing her inevitable future life as a lonely cat lady. Sure Supergirl should be fighting some super villain or striking a heroic pose, but that’s not what young female readers want. They want dates. And just like them, Supergirl can’t get one, so she’s super relatable. Also, she cries. Like a little girl. While dressing like a cocktail waitress. Now that’s a role model!
12. Getting Tricked into Hooking Up with a Horse
Supergirl has had some pretty horrible relationships over the years (as we’ll see), but the weirdest has got to be the time she hooked up with her pet horse. A few years after landing on Earth and becoming Superman’s secret slave, Kara Zor-El went to the movies. It just so happens that a film about a super-smart horse is playing, and in the following days, young Kara starts having erotic fantasies about how nice it would be to have a horse of her own. To quell this fever pitch, Supergirl goes on vacation to a dude ranch where, lo and behold, she finds Comet.
Supergirl brings her new stallion home, but unbeknownst to her, Comet the Super-Horse is actually a telepathic Greek centaur trapped in a horse’s body. What’s more, every time a mystical actual comet passes by, he gets turned into an incredibly good-looking man who wants to mack all over her. It turns out that Comet is obsessed with the Girl of Steel, so much so that he tricked her into finding him by telepathically infiltrating her dreams. Then, when he turns into a human, instead of telling her the truth, he uses the opportunity to trick her into dating him and making out a lot. But you can’t really blame Comet for his actions. He is, after all, a 3,000 year-old Greek, and if history has taught us anything, it’s that those guys were freaky.
11. Being a Spokesperson for RadioShack
What good is saving the world all the time if you can’t make a little extra cash on the side? It’s exactly that type of thinking that probably led Superman and Supergirl to start working for everyone’s favorite place to get watch batteries. RadioShack may be an obsolete, bankrupt company today, but during the ’80s, it was an electronics powerhouse. Which is probably why they were able to entice two of Krypton’s hottest heroes to shill their lame products.
It all began when RadioShack started giving away free comics starring Superman and Supergirl thinly guised as one long advertisement for the awesome TRS-80 color computer. Apparently, something Superman does in between throwing Lex Luthor in jail and trying to impress Lois Lane is stop by elementary schools to sell students poorly made adding machines. On one such occasion, his cousin tags along, but after Superman flies off to do some actual good, Supergirl stays behind and has to make buying pocket computers for $399 look cooler than flying. As to prove her point Supergirl soon after simultaneously loses all her powers and gets captured, and the only way to save her is for the students to slowly perform some simple computations. And that was the unfortunate day Supergirl became a not-so-super computer saleswoman.
10. Going on a Televised Rampage
The CW’s Supergirl TV show is fast becoming one of the best things on basic cable. With the arrival of hipster Superman and hopefully more super-texting, season 2 is bound to continue the trend. While Supergirl has had several heroic moments over the course of the first season, perhaps the best moment of the show so far, was her worst.
Taking a page right out of Superman III’s playbook (literally), the episode “Fallen” saw Kara exposed to some Red Kryptonite and go on an evil rampage throughout National City. She tries to kill her boss, badmouths herself on television, takes a sizable chunk out of the city and acts like an all-around jerk. For Supergirl, the whole thing was pretty horrible. For fans, it was awesome. Overall, the episode allowed Melissa Benoist the chance to flex her acting chops and reveal a depth to the character (and show) that had yet to be seen. It turns out that sometimes, bad things happening to Supergirl can turn out good.
9. Being Seduced by Her High School Science Teacher
Supergirl has had the worst luck when it comes to getting married. In Action Comics #347, she was tricked by a woman dressed as a man into believing they tied the not so the woman could get back with her ex-fiancé. The details aren’t important. What matters is that being the super sleuth she is, Supergirl figures out she didn’t actually legally get married. What gives it away? It’s because while they’re kissing, the woman puts her arms around Supergirl’s neck, like girls do, and not around her waist, like men do. Obviously.
The Mighty Maid wasn’t so savvy a few years earlier when she fell in love with a Kryptonian criminal. In Action Comics #307, this villain cunningly gets a job as Supergirl’s high school science teacher and then seduces her. (Take a moment to let that sink in.) A few convoluted plot points later, and they decided to get married, which no one seems to have a problem with other than Comet. Thanks to the Super-Steed of Steel’s telepathic abilities, and the combined efforts of two mermaids, the whole mock wedding is averted when they are able to reach Saturn Girl in the future and have her swap places with Supergirl. Again, it’s better to ignore the details. The point is, people have so little respect for the Teen of Tomorrow that they will go to extravagant lengths to make her miserable. Or kiss another woman.
8. Turning into an Angel, Falling for a Bisexual Horse
Turning into an angel might sound like a pretty wonderful thing to happen, but when it involves Supergirl developing wings of fire to fight evil gods, it’s all pretty lame. In 1996, DC felt the Girl of Steel’s franchise needed a breath of fresh air, so they had current Matrix Supergirl (we’ll get to her later), merge with a dying girl named Linda Danvers, who somehow ends up becoming an “earthbound angel.”
This new Supergirl series contained something every young comic fan loves to read about: religion. Lucky for them, this theme played prominently throughout the entire 80-issue run, providing nearly seven years of fun-filled theological overtones, demons, angels and little boys with baseball bats claiming to be the reincarnation of God. It also involved the return of Comet, only he’s now a bisexual suicidal female comedian who could change into a male centaur that was once a crippled male jockey and now looks like whatever this is. Oh yeah, and of course Supergirl had the hots for Comet due to his/her incredible love powers. Overall, the Earth-Born Angel of Fire concept was as ludicrous as it sounds, and the whole thing was inevitably scrapped. Eventually, Linda and Matrix separate, Comet gets into a long lasting relationship with a bisexual angel, and Supergirl is left with drastically reduced angel-less powers and a white crop top.
7. Her Costume Over the Years
Sensible fashion and women in comics have never fit well together. Supergirl is no different; she might even be the poster child. Having been around longer than most, she has a closet filled with questionable choices that would make Lady Gaga shake her head in shame. But that’s what you get when you wear things that look like they were designed by a committee of 16-year-old boys.
When thinking about Supergirl’s costumes over the years it’s important to recognize they are the by-products of the eras in which they were drawn. (Because that’s a lot better than realizing they were tailored to titillate older male readers despite the fact that she’s supposed to be a teenager.) That’s how you get those impractical ’60s-inspired thigh-high boots. Or the 1970s short shorts and V-neck blouse that make her look like a Hooters waitress. Or how about when she wore a headband in the ’80s. Then there’s the lace-up boots, hip hugger belt, and what could only be described as a cross between a one-piece cutout bathing suit and farmer’s overalls. Though even we have to admit that ballroom gown was the most eloquent thing ever worn by a superhero…but that’s not saying much.
And then of course there’s the infamous miniskirt. You know, the one that’s constantly in a state of revealing flutter. If Supergirl wants to fight crime in a skirt, all the more power to her. But you’ve got to wonder, for a superheroine who spends most of her time flying over the heads of the world, is wearing a short skirt really the best choice?
6. Getting Hit On (and Kissed) by Her Cousin
Supergirl is an attractive girl that draws all sorts of admirers. Unfortunately, this includes her cousin Superman. It turns out that despite being invulnerable to pretty much everything that ever existed, one thing he is not immune to are his cousin’s charming assets. Like in Action Comics #260, when Superman comes up with another one of his classic Silver Age schemes to dick over Lois by having Supergirl act like his love interest. To complete the ruse, Superman “decides” they need to passionately kiss. Maybe Supes is really trying to protect Lois. Maybe he’s just trying to find thinly veiled ways to make out with his cousin. Who’s to say? At least they didn’t try to trick Lois into believing they had kids together. Oh wait.
Far less ambiguous is the time in Action Comics #289 when he professes his love for her. Supergirl has been trying desperately to find Superman a wife. After a slew of sexual missteps involving a unicorn, Helen of Troy, and a married woman, the Man of Steel thanks Kara for the effort but admits he just doesn’t have time to be tied down. Two panels later, he reveals the real reason is because the only woman he wants to be with is her, but because pesky laws don’t allow cousins to get married, he’s out of luck. Fortunately, Supergirl has a genius alternative: find an exact duplicate of herself, only older and on another planet where anything goes. And so Superman for a short while got to live out his fantasies of hooking up with his cousin, while Supergirl, having happily dodged a bullet, watches nearby.
5. Dating Lex Luthor
So what could be worse than dating a horse and tonguing your cousin? How about dating Lex Luthor. After Kara Zor-El died, DC creatives found a way to bring Supergirl back into the picture in the most complicated of ways. This new version, introduced in 1988, was an artificially created alien shape-shifting synthetic protoplasm called the Matrix created by an alternate universe Lex Luthor — and none of this matters. All that’s important is she took on the role of Supergirl. And loved Lex Luthor.
Technically, Matrix had no gender and could just as easily have turned into Krypto the Superdog. But she didn’t, and instead shared a lengthy romance with a long-haired, red-headed, hairy chested Lex Luthor Jr, filled with occasional physical abuse and racist back massages. If that wasn’t confusing enough, it turned out that Lex Luthor II was only pretending to be the reformed offspring of an evil criminal mastermind, and was actually the old, bald Lex Luthor all along posing as his son. Also, he didn’t really love Matrix but was secretly brainwashing her so he could create a clone army using her alien genes. When she eventually found out, Matrix didn’t take this too well and threw him out a window. But by then the damage was already done, proving Supergirl should probably just swear off men forever, no matter what the species.
4. The 1984 Supergirl Movie
Following the success of Christopher Reeves’ Superman films, the producers decided to take everything that made those movies great and throw them out the window. What remained was 1984’s Supergirl. The plot is exactly what one would expect from an ’80s superhero flick. Kara Zor-El travels to Earth in search of a powerful energy source known as the Omegahedron, only to find it has fallen into the hands of Faye Dunaway. Amidst battling over control of the device, both fall in love with a high school groundskeeper and start fighting for his affections as well. After Faye Dunaway uses the power of the Omegahedron to make herself “princess of Earth”, she is finally stopped when the groundskeeper saves the day and then kisses Supergirl. It’s quite simply one of the worst superhero movies ever made.
Slow, dull, and campy in the worst of ways, Supergirl impressively sets back both superhero films and women decades. And it even manages to make her work as a RadioShack saleswoman seem noble by turning her into a spokesperson for Popeyes. Oh, and whatever happened to Helen Slater, the young girl who had the misfortune of playing the title role? You can currently catch her playing Supergirl’s mother on the CW.
3. Giving Up Her Daughter
It says something about Linda Danvers’ run as Supergirl that the character’s only two love interests were a bisexual horse and Superman himself. But at least the latter made her happy for a little while. It all started with the final story arc of her solo series, when the original Supergirl, Kara Zor-El, shows up, having been detoured into the post-Crisis timeline on her way to pre-Crisis Earth. In order to save the universe from imploding, Kara has to go back to where she came from. However, Linda decides to save her new friend by going in her stead.
After being transported into the alternate pre-Crisis universe, Linda finds the simpler times of the Silver Age much more to her liking. She and Superman (who’s not her cousin) fall in love and have a daughter named Ariella. In a surprising turn of events, it looks like Supergirl will finally have a healthy relationship. That is until the Spectre shows up to crap all over her happy ending. He reveals that Linda’s attempt to save the universe has failed, so she must return to her world, force Kara to go back to hers, and then live with the torment that she’ll never see her daughter again. With the sadness of it all too much too handle, Linda Danvers hangs up her cape as Supergirl and disappears forever.
2. Dying to Save the Universe
Crisis on Infinite Earths was an epic storyline that changed everything. Though comics might reboot their universes every six months or so these days, back in 1985, hitting the reset button on decades of continuity was a major event. Behind the pages, DC creatives wanted to simplify their properties, and it was decided that Superman should be the only survivor of Krypton, which left no room for his popular cousin. So they gave Supergirl a memorable sendoff. By killing her.
An entity known as the Anti-Monitor was threatening DC’s multiverse, and Earth’s greatest heroes were sent to save the day. After they all fail, and even Superman proves unable to stop their foe, Supergirl sacrifices herself to save him in a moment of blazing glory by throwing all her might at the supervillain. Unfortunately, she makes the fatal mistake of pausing to tell her cousin to run, and in that instant gets blown away. Not long after, the Anti-Monitor would fall, history would reset and the DCU would be revitalized. All at the high cost of Kara Zor-El being wiped from existence.
The sight of Supergirl (headband and all) dying in the arms of a bawling Superman is one of the most somber and iconic images in comic history. And although this was one of the worst things to ever happen to Supergirl (dying usually is), it was also her most heroic.
1. Killing Her Mother and Getting Naked a Lot to Please Her Father
There are probably few things worse than being an 8 year-old-girl forced to parade naked around your father and then brainwashed into killing your mother. Suffice to say, following the retirement of Linda Danvers as the Teen of Tomorrow, the original Supergirl was retconned back into existence by Jeph Loeb in the creepiest of ways. Kara 2.0’s first appearance in Superman/Batman #8 has her floating naked beside her cousin with nothing but a cape to cover her. Obviously, this was a huge hit, and soon after a new solo title was released in 2005 which saw her battle high school mean girls, complain a lot, literally split into a “bad” and “good” version of herself and have some truly haunting flashbacks of her life back on Krytpon spent with a strong contender for Worst. Father. Ever.
As Krypton starts crumbling around him, Zor-El starts believing that apparitions from the Phantom Zone are trying to infiltrate their dimension. So he does what any good dad would do and starts experimenting on his daughter (who for some oddly convenient reason needs to be naked for them to work). Via these tests, he turns her into a weapon to fight the threat, eventually concluding that Superman is the cause. As a result, he sends his only daughter to Earth to kill him, though not before her mother gets “possessed” and Zor-El orders Kara to stab her to death too.
And so the first dozen issues of this updated series dealt with Supergirl coming to terms with needing to kill her cousin and trying to understand why her father always found ways to keep her from wearing clothes. Given all that, you can’t blame Kara for being angry all the time. But as a character, this made her very hard to like. Which is why just as soon as this arc was sloppily wrapped up, the whole thing was retconned as being a bad dream and never mentioned again.
Which is probably what Supergirl wishes would happen to everything else on this list.
Know of any other horrible things done to Supergirl? Let us know in the comments.