Favorite Stories Starring Women: Supergirl, Part II
|March 25, 2012||Posted by Jess under Comics, Ladytexts|
It’s Sunday, and we’ve come to our Favorite Story Starring Women. Many thanks to Women Write About Comics for running this carnival! It has given me ample opportunity to talk about myself, which is all I want in life.
Today we’re going to talk about not a series, but a character. But she’s my very favorite character: Kara Zor-El.
I haven’t written about Kara for Dimestore Dames and have no plans to do so any time soon because you guys, I have way too many feels for our word limit. It’s hard to even articulate why I love her so much, especially since, to be honest, her characterization is not the most consistent in comics. You have bright, uncomplicated Silver Age Kara; elegant and aloof Bronze Age Kara; 2004’s “bad girl” Kara and the serious-minded Kara who replaced her; the Legion’s spacey, forthright Kara; funny, rebellious toon Karas; and the brave, smart Kara of the DCnU. And I’m probably forgetting a few. But I love them all. I love the unshakeable heroism at her core; I love her resilience and determination; I love her friendliness; I love her spirit. At the same time, I love what she represents: the ur-teen heroine, changing her costume and her personality to reflect what each writer and artist sees in her. Only Barbara Gordon as Batgirl carries quite so many expectations of what a teen heroine should be, and with Barbara it has a lot more to do with each reader’s personal relationship with her than a sweeping statement about what it means to be a girl. A girl who is super, no less.
So in this case, my Favorite Story Starring a Woman is Kara’s whole history and all that it signifies, but I don’t expect anyone to rush out and read the hundreds of comics out there featuring her. Instead, here are a few of my favorites:
Silver Age Kara: Kara debuted in Action Comics #252 (May 1959) and held down the backup feature there for ten years before becoming the headliner on Adventure Comics. Her adventures in both series are just as silly as the rest of the Silver Age, but good gosh are they charming. Resourceful and relentlessly optimistic, Kara travels through space and time and flirts with merboys and centaurs and aliens, not to mention puts up with a lot of Superdickery from her cousin. What I especially love about these stories is that there’s actually quite a bit of continuity in them – in particular, her adventures with Lex Luthor’s psychic sister, Lena Thorul, and her battles with the evil Kandorian Lesla-Lar, crop up repeatedly and build upon each other. The easiest and most affordable way to get your hands on these is the Showcase Presents: Supergirl collections. They’re phone book-sized black and white collections that’ll set you back about $15 each. So far, there are two Supergirl ones out.
Supergirl v4: As I mentioned yesterday, Kara appeared in the final arc of Peter David’s Supergirl series starring Linda Danvers. She retains her Silver Age personality, jarringly sweet and naïve in 2003. Basically, she’s the most adorable thing imaginable. The series was canceled and wrapped up rather abruptly during her arc, and thus ends rather tragically for her (well, we all know what happened to the Silver Age Kara Zor-El, don’t we?) but it’s still a lovely story. It’s collected in a trade, Supergirl: Many Happy Returns, which is currently out of print.
Supergirl v5: Kara returned to the post-Crisis DCU in Superman/Batman and quickly got her own series. It starts off…rough, to say the least, with a rotating door of creators, conflicting origins, exploitative art, and stories about how Kara isn’t the sweet Silver Age Supergirl, she’s bad, like really really bad, like sexy bad you guys, omg hott!!!1.1 However, it settles down around #20, and starts being really excellent once Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle take over with #34. This is a very serious Kara, with very serious things happening to her (her father’s death, the war between Earth and New Krypton, the illness of her mentor Lana Lang), but she’s treated like an intelligent young woman making her way through a difficult time and not the star of some upskirt porn site. There was a bit of creator roulette again towards the end of the run (it was 67 issues in all) but it never reached anything close to its early nadir. The bulk of the series is collected in Supergirl-branded trades, with a handle of crossover issues collected in other volumes.
Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes: Around the same time that Kara’s own series was being totally awful, she also joined Mark Waid and Barry Kitson’s excellent Legion of Super-Heroes, which was changed to Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes in response. This smart, beautifully drawn series was a breath of fresh air, even if Kara was a bit loopy in it. Traumatized by the destruction of her entire planet and the loss of her family, she’s convinced herself that it’s all a dream and her adventures with the Legion are just wacky things her brain has made up. Frustrated hilarity ensues. Kara’s issues, 16-36, are collected in four trades; the first three, by the Waid/Kitson team, are excellent.
Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade: This out-of-continuity all-ages miniseries Landry Q. Walker and Eric Jones is utterly delightful. Kara here is a feisty, impetuous daydreamer, trying to figure out how to navigate this strange world in which she’s found herself. It doesn’t help that her new best friend Lena Thorul and her mean classmate Belinda Zee are both hiding secrets of their own. This funny, cheerful book is available in trade, and the first issue is free at the DC Kids site or through the DC Comics app.
Supergirl v6: Kara’s new 52 series is only 7 issues old, but so far it’s been my favorite of the reboot. Michael Green and Mike Johnson’s Kara is smart and courageous and her pain over the loss of her home and her confusion and fear about this strange new planet where she doesn’t even speak the language are very heartfelt. Mahmud Asrar’s pencils are stunning, though I absolutely hate the skimpy bottom of Kara’s costume. (Her hair, though, is fabulous. So chic!) I’m excited to see where this series will go.
Related Recs: I’ve pretty much covered all of my personal favorites, but if you need more Supergirl in your life (and who doesn’t?), I recommend spending some time clicking around Maid of Might, the number one Supergirl resource on the internet. Insanely comprehensive, it covers not just Kara but Linda, Power Girl, and cartoon and movie versions of the characters, with links to read/watch/buy.
- Can you tell I didn’t like these issues much? ↩