You may have noticed that Superman: Man of Steel is chock full of not one, not two, but three characters named Supergirl. While other sets have shown us three versions of Batman, four versions of Wolverine, or so many different Spider-Man variations that we need six extra arms and a sack full of clones in order to manage them, the Supergirls of Man of Steel are not just different versions of the same person, they are actually three different women.
Right now, the DC Universe is 6/7 through IDENTITY CRISIS, an epic sweeping the superhero world, hurling happy go lucky heroes like the Elongated Man into 1980’s style rape and murder, and confusing even the World’s Greatest Detective… but the DCU is ALWAYS in the midst of some kind of crisis. Back when the Golden Age heroes of the JSA lived on a separate planet from the main-line heroes of the JLA (just wait until you check out the alternate reality stuff in Green Lantern), DC Editorial would have some sort of crossover Crisis called Crisis on Earth One or Crisis on Earth Two or something, culminating in Crisis on Infinite Earths back in the 80s, probably the most comprehensively sweeping — and confusing — events ever to occur in comics. During the Crisis on Infinite Earths, a villain called the Anti-Monitor decided to destroy all the many worlds and universes in the DC continuum; he was opposed by his antithises, the aptly named Monitor and the various DC heroes; it was during this conflict that Supergirl’s Identity Crisis began.
Eventually, after many near misses and 12 issues of George Perez artwork, reality was secured, but almost all the DC characters ended up on the same planet. History was re-written and the events surrounding all the important characters were stated to have occured on a single Earth. Hooray!
The victory was anything but flawless.
First of all, how much of a victory could it have actually been if the heroes were only able to save (essentially) ONE world out of Infinite? Secondly, and more relevant to our topic today, what about Supergirl?
Supergirl’s first end began when a strike force of some of the toughest heroes across several DC worlds banded together to take the fight to the Anti-Monitor. Captain Atom, Captain Marvel (the Power of SHAZAM!), the first and best Green Lantern (Alan Scott), not one but TWO copies of Supes himself (Kal-El AND Kal-L), and several other heroes of the same caliber, including then-Supergirl Kara (Linda Lee) went after a Big Bad capable of erasing whole realities at his hizzat. In the climactic scene, Kara/Linda rescues Superman from the clutches of the Anti-Monitor, and ends up in single combat with him herself. Not surprisingly, Kara doesn’t make it.
This ends up giving us the very dramatic shot depicted above, one of the most famous in comics; so famous is this shot, in fact, that later Supergirls would cast themselves in the pic. Here’s one with Kara Zor-El and Linda Danvers, a couple of ladies you may be a little better acquainted with:
So anyway, Kara, the Supergirl from Earth Prime, dies during a conflict that ends most of the multiverse, that few remember. Moreover, she was a member of the Legion of Superheroes in the 30th Century, complicating not just the falling dominoes of the present, but future history.
What was the solution? Make another Supergirl, of course!
MATRIX, whom we generally think of as the “modern” Supergirl was actually an artificial being created by a benevolent Lex Luthor from an alternate reality. She had telekinetic abilities and could change shape, but not the heat vision or “Kryptonian suite” or powers (or vulnerability to little green rocks) that we associate with the Man of Steel. Any Superman-style stunts, like flight or deflecting bullets, are a result of Supergirl focusing her mental powers (this version has been hurt by conventional gunfire, for instance, when letting her telekinetic guard down).
Upon coming to our reality, Matrix actually went out with the non-bald Lex Luthor II (actually regular old megalomaniacal, but pre-Presidential, Lex Luthor, in disguise as his own son). A fine choice for a gal with a bright red-and-yellow “S” on her top, wouldn’t you say?
Matrix tried to make up for this by bonding her spirit with Linda Danvers, a young woman from LEEsburg (check that reference), who was dying of knife wounds. A noble gesture indeed… except that said wounds were inflicted on Linda by her boyfriend Buzz, a field agent for the demon Beelzebub, as part of an equally demonic ritual. Not exactly the situation that Matrix though she was getting into…
After an initial spat of ugliness, the union of Linda and Matrix ended up giving Linda the powers of Supergirl and Matrix what she had been missing… a good old human soul. The result of putting these two lasses together was to make the Linda/Matrix unit an “earth born angel” with wings of flame, more superpowers, ad an officially charged mandate to do good. Linda and Matrix have since split into back into separate entities again, with Matrix taking on the fire angel job
and Linda keeping some powers and adopting the white crop top uniform.
A funny thing about the change in look… For a long time, Linda had difficulty convincing the rest of the super folk that she was Supergirl. Originally, Linda had the benefit of Matrix’s shape-shifting powers. She never needed a disguise: Linda is brunette, Matrix/Supergirl blonde and much taller. After Matrix left Linda to be Supergirl all by her lonesome, she was once again stuck in a shorter, brunette, body. As Supergirl, Linda’s uniform extended not just to her clothes, but to a blonde wig!
Since her last adventure, which saw Linda team up with the original Kara Zor-El (yes, the one who died in the Crisis) land on Earth in a rocket ship only to have to send her back off to her destiny, the Supergirl in the white tee shirt and blonde wig retired from public life in 2003. That’s okay, because 2004 brought us a different Supergirl… who might be the original Supergirl, and even the same one, possibly, from the last Linda Danvers story.
She sure has the same name…
KARA ZOR-EL is tricky, almost impossible to get a good grasp on. The current Kara Zor-El, depicted on the Vs. card if uniforms can be believed, first appeared in just the last year. She is Superman’s cousin from Krypton, learned English in a month, and has caused a great deal of friction between the World’s Finest. Superman, trusting farm boy that he is, is just glad to have someone remotely like himself on the planet for company. Batman, cynical World’s Greatest Detective that HE is thinks there must be something wrong with her.
Kara sure is a bundle of trouble. In the short months since her arrival, she has not just gotten guard dog Krypto to nail her with his heat vision, but brought down a strike force of Wonder Woman and the Amazons, gotten captured by Darkseid, been coerced into joining his team in a some kind of shiny black bondage costume (doubtlessly designed by Desaad), gotten herself annihilated by Omega Beams, said “just kidding, not really annihilated by Omega Beams” the next month, and joined the ranks of the good guys in a welcoming party so star-studded that (according to one member of the Outsiders) “if a nuke went off right [then and there], PLASTIC MAN would be the most powerful guy on Earth.”
Last we have Cir-El. Just like it says on the card, Cir-El is the “fully human” daughter of Superman and Lois Lane from an alternate future. Cir-El is a well meaning gal with such extraordinary Kryptonian traits as Super Leap, Super Strength, Super Speed, and Red Sun Burst. Confusing at best in a world with at least two other lasses named Supergirl, Cir-El has since returned to the future and sacrificed herself there.
In sum, it’s a good thing that UDE design set up the templating rules — at least for DC heroes — listing by real name, THEN superhero name. Before someone thought that up, playing with these three lasses would have been nearly as big a headache as keeping their respective time- and reality-hopping backgrounds straight. It is indeed a crazy name when, of the three girls who carry it, the Kryptonian-powered-yetfully human daughter of Kal-El and Lois Lane from an alternate future actually created by the Futuresmiths, and returned to that future to sacrifice herself and send Supes tumbling off into an alternate past of his own is the least difficult to follow. I just hope that I have made the mantle of Supergirl a little easier to understand, but doubtless, you just have more questions now than when you started, barely acknowledging the fact that there were three different Supergirls. Sorry about that.
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