Supergirl is more than a chip off the ol’ Krypton block. While her younger cousin gets all the credit for bench-pressing the earth and saving the universe, Supergirl’s individual strengths have been sorely undervalued. Since she arrived many decades ago, Kara Zor-El has matched Kal in almost every way. While she has shown an aptitude for combat, a strength that makes Batman do a double take, and an agility and speed to rival Barry Allen, Supergirl has been the object of affection for a quite a few suitors: from prominent members of the animal kingdom, to Lex Luthor, to even Clark Kent himself (more on that in a minute).
She might not receive the same respect as Kal-El, but Kara has a stacked resume of accomplishments and special skills to make her cousin blush (though, as you’ll learn, this is not terribly hard to do).
Here is Everything Supergirl Can Do That Superman Can’t.
11 She Wields a Red Lantern Ring
Not only is Clark Kent excluded from the Red and Green Lantern Corps, but he’s mildly threatened by his cousin’s involvement with them. In the New 52, the two Krypton expats are fairly at odds with one another, and, armed with a Red Lantern ring, Supergirl is at the peak of her powers. Kara has always been a bit of a loose canon, but as part of the Red Lantern roster, she’s in total rage mode. Though she's always been able to keep up with Kal-El, the ring legitimizes her force.
Writer Tony Bedard understood the risks of putting Kara in this position, but he saw the Red Lantern Corps as a vital piece of her personal development. As a fairly embittered and impulsive character, Supergirl needed to touch the flame a bit before cooling down into adulthood. To be sure, Kara flaunts her ring and its manifold powers, disregarding any and all criticism along the way.
10 She Has Total Access to Her Strength (And May Be Stronger Than Supes)
Clark Kent is kind of a basket case. Between the escape from Krypton and his tragedy-filled life on earth, Superman’s emotional resilience can’t hold a candle to his physical abilities. He’s the Man of Steel, but his mind is about as impenetrable as drywall. This is where Kara Zor-El levels the playing field. She is totally uninhibited, and she fights like a berserker.
Where Clark is measured and restrained, Kara is in the kill-zone. There are arguments to be made about her upbringing: that she benefited from Krypton’s advanced training, and that her escape pod was retrofitted with yellow sun absorbers that amplified her strength well beyond her cousin's. Superman and Supergirl apologists will have a slew of their preferred writers (and eras) to back their claims, but the vast majority of comics show Supergirl unencumbered by the mental blocks that besiege Clark Kent. Kara herself has stated that she’s stronger than her cousin, and maybe it’s that self-belief that says it all.
9 She Absorbs Solar Radiation More Efficiently
Do you take Batman at his word? Given his track record of success, we probably should. As for the Dark Knight’s thoughts on Supergirl, he has spoken his mind quite candidly; bluntly stating that Kara Zor-El absorbs solar radiation with greater ease (and at a higher rate) than her hulking cousin. This isn’t an idle statement, or a scientific appraisal of the Kryptonian superhero. No, Batman is basically saying that Supergirl may have greater genetic potential (and strength) than his longtime Justice League ally.
His claims aren’t unfounded: Batman has trained the girl on several occasions, and as the World’s Great Detective, he assesses people’s strengths and weaknesses like a modern Sherlock Holmes. He knows that Kara had more time on Krypton to hone her craft, develop her strength, and learn to resist the dense gravity of her home planet. She may only be a fraction of his size, but Supergirl seems to have the raw goods to crush Clark.
8 She’s Older and Knows More About Krypton
Supergirl’s age may seem paradoxical, but it’s not as complicated as it looks. Though she appears physically younger than her cousin, Kara was born well before Clark, and her lengthy voyage from Argo City to Earth slowed the clock for a few years until her arrival on the Pale Blue Dot. Whichever origin story or retcon you take as gospel, Kara undoubtedly knows a great deal more about their homeland than Clark. She understands its history, its way of life, and the political and social dynamics that defined the culture.
More importantly, Kara also learned how to fight on Krypton, gaining the skillset needed to defend herself in hand-to-hand combat on Earth (and beyond). This is a major contributing factor to Kara’s consistent level of confidence and ability to access the full extent of her physical powers. Because she always remembers where she came from (a positive trait for humans and aliens alike), and she possesses genuine memories of Krypton, she lives with greater self-confidence than her cousin.
7 She Has the Potential To Fly Faster
On the CW, Supergirl seems to give Superman a run for his money in the skies. Though that may change in the coming episodes, serialized television isn’t the only place where Kara Zor-El threatens the agility of her cousin. The best point of comparison is the Flash, against whom Supergirl had a neck-and-neck speed race in the New 52. Though no one can take down the Scarlet Speedster, Supergirl more than held her own in their face-off.
Both Kryptons have learned to take advantage of the Flash’s impeccable tactics, of course. Kara and Kal know how to vibrate through time and material space, and Supergirl herself has executed the Flash’s original moves to perfection. Though the jury is out on this one, the fact that Superman isn't the clear lord of the skies says it all. Don’t be surprised if Supergirl becomes the new Usain Bolt of the DC Universe in the coming months.
6 She Can Seduce Telepathic Centaurs
Yeah, this one’s weird. Hindsight is 20/20, and we’re positive Kara would regret this equine Silver Age affair. Action Comics #292 took an excessively literal turn when the proverbial action took place between an obsessive animal and the young girl of Krypton. To be fair to Comet the Super-Horse, he’s not really a naughty show pony, but rather a centaur stuck in this miserable state. Regardless, this explanation hardly lessens the creep-factor of Comet, who spied on baby Kara’s earth-bound space pod and quickly determined that she was the one for him. As soon as she matured, the cosmic man-horse jumped at the first opportunity to consummate their relationship.
For the record, we’re not suggesting Clark Kent’s charm wouldn’t work on Comet the Super-Horse. But for the sake of his character (and dignity), however, we sincerely hope he focuses his attention on Lois Lane and other, less bestial romantic figures.
5 She Adapted to Earth Faster & Survived An Orphanage
In no way was this article meant to be used as a vehicle of criticism for Clark Kent. Superman is a beacon of courage, and quite frankly, the man is beyond reproach. Still, he has proved to be a fairly vulnerable bloke who took a long time to get used to planet Earth. For all of his ups and downs with Ma and Pa Kent and his trials and tribulations in Metropolis, you'd think he might spare Kara the indignities that plagued his youth.
Not so. Shortly after meeting his long-lost cousin, Superman declared Kara unfit for active duty and practically shoved her into an orphanage. Huh? Perhaps he wanted to toughen her up, or maybe the place had a great reputation, but either way, Clark clearly tapped into some Vernon Dursley-level cruelty. However you slice it, Kara dealt with Clark’s questionable decisions like a champ and survived her first days on Earth in an orphanage. +1 Supergirl.
4 She Makes Superman Seriously Consider Incest
Superman may be a timeless character, but some of his stories are firmly rooted in the past. In Action Comics #289, Kara makes it her life's mission to find Clark a stunner of a wife. After heading back to Ancient Greece and failing to lock down Helen of Troy, Kara apologizes profusely to her cousin: “I wanted to arrange a happy marriage for you… I f-failed—both times.” In case you were wondering, the second abortive effort saw Kara try to turn Clark into a homewrecker with a married woman. No dice.
In one of the most disturbing panels in comics history, Clark’s eyes glaze over into an pheromonal abyss. He looks off into the distance and longingly states, “If I ever did marry...” The ellipses says it all, and before we know it, Clark is rattling off the Kryptonian incest laws that ban him from making Kara his bae. The tension is so strong between Supergirl and Superman that Kara immediately decides to clone herself for Clark’s enjoyment, a phenomenally weird moment that no retcon will ever be able to expunge.
3 She’ll Sacrifice Herself for Her Cousin
In Crisis on Infinite Earths, Superman finally met his match. After a career of easy victories, the Man of Steel found himself on the brink of destruction against the Anti-Monitor, the eliminator of universes. As Superman’s greatest advocate, Kara threw herself into the line of fire when she heard the desperate cries of her cousin. Fighting with total ferocity, Supergirl bought Clark time as she pummeled the Anti-Monitor without reprieve. Superman needed saving, and only one hero was up to the task.
In a fleeting and fatal moment, however, Supergirl turned her back to the Anti-Monitor to urge her comrades to flee the scene. In that split second, Supergirl was vaporized by a straight shot of anti-matter. Like The Silver Age of Comics, Supergirl was dead. Because of her valor, Clark Kent lived to see another day, but not before weeping uncontrollably over his relative’s lifeless corpse. Would Superman do the same for his cousin? We'll believe it when we see it.
2 She Can Shapeshift
Superman is dead. This is the reality of the post-Crisis “pocket universe” where Lex Luthor was a good guy who bet the ranch on recreating his long lost love, Lana Lang. Lex's advanced form of AI was called the “protoplasmic matrix,” or just “Matrix” for short. Indeed, Luthor’s weird science led to the recreation of his lady love, now called Matrix-- an unholy hodgepodge containing the memory of Lana with the Kryptonian specs of Superman (whom he knew about thanks to his otherworldly technology).
In addition to being almost as strong as Kal-El, this new creation had the powers of invisibility, telekinesis, and shapeshifting, which she took full advantage of by morphing into Supergirl 2.0. In a battle against General Zod, Faora, and Quex-UI, Matrix/Supergirl held her own but ultimately had to call on the support of Superman to take down the triumvirate. Though the pair defeated the Krypton criminals, the pocket universe was basically destroyed, and the new shapeshifting Matrix was taken back to the mainline DC Universe where she became the first post-Crisis Supergirl.
1 She Lived With Lex Luthor
Did you think that was the end of the story? Not one bit. After all, Matrix (or “Mae” as she was called on mainstream earth) was created solely to please her maker, Lex Luthor. This was not lost on the (bizarrely red-haired) man, and while Mae lived with Ma and Pa Kent, Lex waited for her loving embrace. Back in Kansas, Mae demonstrated an appalling lack of self-control with her shapeshifting powers, and as she steadily lost her mind, Mae went through a period where she actually believed she was Superman himself, even changing her appearance to look like him.
After this bizarre episode (which led to her fleeing planet Earth), Supergirl returned home and began a steamy relationship with Lex Luthor. As it turns out, Lex was actually living in the physical likeness of his son, into whom he had moved his brain so he could escape the Kryptonite-ring induced cancer that slowly killed his own body. Woof. To the indescribable horror of Ma and Pa Kent, Supergirl then moved into Lex Luthor's bachelor-pad and had a falling out with Superman.
What else does Supergirl have over her cousin? Let us know in the comments below!