Supergirl Saturday: Action Comics #261, “Supergirl’s Super Pet!” and #262, “Supergirl’s Greatest Victory!”
|October 5, 2013||Posted by Jess under Comics, Supergirl Saturday|
We’ve got another twofer this week, folks, because though #261 introduces an important character to the mythology, it’s kind of boring. There is, however, a shared element to these two stories, as you’ll see.
First, let’s talk about the Super Pets. There were four: Krypto the Superdog, Streaky the Supercat, Comet the Superhorse, and Beppo the Supermonkey. Krypto and Beppo were pretty straightforward – they were Kryptonian animals Jor-El had sent to Earth, thus giving them the same powers as Superman, which is pretty terrifying when you think about it. Comet was some major weirdness that we will cover in depth when he appears. And Streaky…well, let’s see.
Our story begins with Linda spotting a small Kryptonite meteor falling to Earth. Seeing potential, she scoops it up using a bit of protective lead:
Do most orphanages have their own labs? Anyway, Linda rescues the cat, which follows her back to the orphanage. She names him Streaky because of the lightning-like marks on his sides.
That night, Streaky wanders into the woods, where he finds the kryptonite Linda tossed there earlier, and:
Streaky uses his powers to knock over some milk cans for a bunch of starving cats, beat up a dog, and rescues some chicks from an eagle. Linda spots him, philosophically accepts that her cat can fly now because why not, and they romp around in outer space, until:
How did Streaky get those amazing powers? Will he ever get them back? It’s up to you, reader, to write to DC Comics and tell them you want more Streaky adventures!
But in the meantime, let’s get down to #262:
There’s always been a certain amount of tension in the Superman/Supergirl dynamic. In her very first appearance, the cover asks if she’s friend or foe, and even the recent (and terrible) “H’el on Earth” storyline had Kara misguidedly fighting Superman and Superboy as they tried to save the Earth. Someday I’ll post a compilation of covers where Kara’s socking one of the Sueprdudes in the face; it will keep me warm on cold winter nights.
But in the less violent Silver Age, the threat Supergirl posed was a bit subtler. Sure, there were stories where she led gangs of teenage girl hooligans against Superman (SO GREAT) or seemingly teamed up with Lex Luthor, but the more present fear in Superman’s mind seemed to be that she would supplant him as Earth’s greatest hero. That’s the tension in this story, where Superman’s reaction to Supergirl’s apparent triumph over Kryptonite isn’t “Hooray! My beloved cousin has figured out a way to protect ourselves from this deadly substance,” but “Oh crap, now I’m out of a job.” No wonder he wouldn’t let her operate publicly.
(And, I should note, Supergirl was very popular: it’s in this issue that they dropped Congo Bill and Congorilla as the second feature in Action Comics in order to make room for longer Superman and Supergirl stories.)
We open slowly, with Linda doing good deeds for her fellow orphans and recounting her own origin. Suddenly, she’s struck by an idea:
Superman distracts Linda by showing her around his zoo, but:
Linda’s determined to make up for her mistake by developing an immunity to kryptonite, which seems like a pretty drastic overreaction to me but whatever. She rolls a kryptonite meteor into a cave, and:
Linda’s “immunity” builds up over time until she can touch the kryptonite without more than slight discomfort. Meanwhile, Superman gets himself trapped underground near another kryptonite meteor. Luckily, Linda spots him and heads off to rescue him, knowing she’s safe from kryptonite now:
Luckily, SCIENCE HAPPENS:
But how could Supergirl touch the other kryptonite meteor?
Because the metal-eater that escaped before laid an egg, and her baby has been eating away at the kryptonite gradually. DUH.
So never fear, boys! Supergirl has not actually surpassed Superman in any way, and has in fact embarrassed herself by trying to do so! But hell, at least she tried.
And one of the things that I love about these two stories is how she tried. Despite the sexism of her early appearances, Supergirl’s pretty consistently been a scientist (or at least, the Kara Zor-El version of her – post-Crisis Linda Danvers was very definitely an artist). And she’s proactive, too. I love that her reaction to kryptonite isn’t “Oh man, better avoid that stuff” but “Hmm, I’m gonna try to find a cure for this, even if it means putting myself at risk.” Though I don’t love how docile she is under Superman’s jerkitude, I do love that little girls (and boys) in the late 50s/early 60s were seeing a scientifically-minded, active teenage heroine. You science those problems, girl! Science the crap out of them!
Finally, have the world’s most passive aggressive letter column pairing ever: