In which I write a bit about comics I’ve not read in a while.

§ October 12th, 2022 § Filed under multiverse talk, supergirl § 18 Comments

Going back to mid-August, David Conner relates

“Supergirl’s JL animated origin (actually from the Superman show IIRC) was substantially lifted from the underrated Superman vs. Aliens comic. Which was published during the period when DC didn’t have a Supergirl in continuity.”

Okay, it’s been a while since I’ve 1) read Superman/Aliens, and 2) watched the relevant episodes of Superman: The Animated Series. However, a peek at the Wikipediatron does show [SPOILERS AHEAD]:

1. Neither Supergirl (or rather “Kara” in the Aliens book) is actually supposed to be the Kara Zor-El, Superman’s cousin.

2. Both are survivors from a dead planet that is not Krypton, though there is some connection to Kryptonians in both their backgrounds.

As I’ve stated before multiple times before, DC put a whole lot of effort into, if not outright undoing Crisis on Infinite Earths, then at least referencing those elements of the DC Universe done away with by that series. I mean, not that either of these were part of the DC Universe…the animated series was, well, the animated series (though the white top/blue skirt costume would pop up briefly on the other Supergirl I’ll mention in a moment); and Superman/Aliens wasn’t technically an Elseworlds, as it didn’t directly contradict any then-established continuity (I think), but the use of the licensed Aliens property probably separates it out from the DC Universe mainstream.

[An aside: I mean, the story could still be referenced — “remember that time we fought a bunch of crazy extraterrestrial beings” with a flashback panel hiding the Aliens in shadow or something. I know there were some changes to the Wildstorm Universe superhero stuff in their Aliens crossovers. But to my knowledge the story was never referenced again, except possibly in Superman/Aliens II, the New Gods one, even though both kinda/sorta left open threads for follow-ups.]

Thom H. reminds us

“So much better than ‘protoplasmic blob from a pocket dimension that got fused with an angel(?).’ I know that Peter David series was popular, but I never did understand it.

“If writers at DC wanted Supergirl back, they should have just brought Supergirl back instead of jumping through so many weird hoops.”

Hmmm…I was trying to come up with a short explanation, but it was getting too long, so let’s just say that protoplasmic being was created by an alternate universe Lex Luthor where, in the form of Supergirl, attempted to protect that Earth from that dimension’s evil Kryptonian villains. She was eventually brought to Main DC Universe Earth where she (mostly) remained in the form of Supergirl until…well, you know what, this detail from the box of a Supergirl statue sums it up:


And while I did like Peter David’s Supergirl run (which did last 80 issues, which is almost like an eternity in modern comic book terms, so folks did seem to enjoy it) it wasn’t the easiest premise to explain. Even the ultimate ending of this version of Supergirl wasn’t entirely cut ‘n’ dried. There was some very heavy implying in the Fallen Angel series David later did for DC that the title character was in fact the lead from his Supergirl series. And when the series moved to another company, the eventual reveal was that it was not Supergirl/Linda Danvers, but in a hopefully non-copyright-infringing way, Supergirl/Linda was involved in Fallen Angel‘s backstory. (And then Linda Danvers makes a brief appearance in DC’s Reign in Hell series, so she was still in the DC Universe in one way or ‘nother.)

Of course, with all the New 52/Rebirth/Whatever Else shenanigans the DC Universe has gone through, it’s probably likely that the events that lead to the introduction of Pocket Universe Protoplasmic Supergirl did not happen in current continuity as shown. I mean, I think we’re still dealing with the post-Crisis/pre-New 52 Superman who somehow crossed over into modern continuity, so maybe that all happened to him, but not to DC’s continuity at large. If you’re not following any of this, don’t worry, I’m barely following it myself.

It’s all kind of moot anyway, as DC stopped screwin’ around and finally said “OKAY FINE, HERE’S SUPERGIRL, SHE’S FROM KRYPTON, SHE’S SUPERMAN’S COUSIN AGAIN” and reintroduced her in 2004’s Superman/Batman #8. This comic is…well, not good, but it finally got a new version of the Classic Supergirl back into comics, and later creators did some fun things with her (especially around — 2019, I think? — when some Omega Men and other pals and gals showed up). And that’s the Supergirl we have floatin’ around today, assuming I haven’t missed a revamp or reboot somewhere along the line.

18 Responses to “In which I write a bit about comics I’ve not read in a while.”

  • Andrew says:

    I loved the IDEA of Supergirl being killed in the Crisis, and I understood WHY the company went that direction… but they undid it in a convoluted way that never made much sense to me and, like so much post Crisis things it was the undoing of things that became unwieldly to understand (Hawkman, Power Girl, Wonder Girl, all suffered from a similar fate).

    In the couple years post Crisis I lamented her departure in a gay comics zine I was a part of and one fellow member chastised me “she’s NEVER EVER coming back”. For some reason it was important for him to make sure that I KNEW that he was right and I was wrong for expecting the character would return. But, if anyone reads comics for even a nanosecond, they know that yeah, death is pretty temporary and there are like a billion ways for any character to return.

    In any event – the other thing is your statement about the current Superman is the post-Crisis John Byrne Superman…. which would mean that other than the New52 Superman, there have been three Supermen… right? 1938- the 50s, the 50s to 1986, and 1986 to present (again, excluding the New52 version)…. is that correct?

    Too many reboots! lol

  • Daniel T says:

    I always wondered when Supergirl’s death was proposed and approved if Jeanette Kahn and Marv Wolfman knew there would have to be a Supergirl again for trademark and licensing reasons. They had to, right? Have either of them ever addressed the issue?

  • Thom H. says:

    Of all the Superman family of characters, I think that Supergirl got it the worst, but Brainiac was a close second. They both suffered from repeated explanations that got piled on top of each other into an incoherent mess. In any case, I appreciate the explanation. Thanks, Mike.

    Wonder Girl was a problem from the very start because whoever wrote her into the Teen Titans didn’t realize that she was supposed to be Wonder Woman as a girl. Whoops!

  • Daniel says:

    “This comic is…well, not good, but it finally got a new version of the Classic Supergirl back into comics”

    This right here explains most of my dissatisfaction with current comics and super-hero movies. It’s less about telling a good story, and more about checking boxes.

    Does Superman wear the red trunks? CHECK

    Is Supergirl his cousin? CHECK

    In the movies, do they use the John Williams theme music? CHECK

    Is Superman the “correct” ethnicity? CHECK

    Whether the actual story and visuals are any good is irrelevant to those whom this content is aimed at. It’s all about supposed “fidelity” to the source material (ignoring the fact that the source material is so varied that the part this audience is demanding fidelity to is only a small part of the property’s history).

    Material needs to evolve if it’s going to stay relevant, otherwise it just becomes a musty nostalgia act appealing to fewer and fewer (albeit louder and louder) people.

    I remember seeing Josstice League in the theater and someone in the audience cheered at the end at the mention of the Legion of Doom. The fact that the previous two hours were terrible didn’t matter. Just mentioning a nostalgic relic was enough to satisfy him.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    If anybody knows of a link to one or more articles where the architects of COIE address some of these issues, I’d love to be able to read the rationales behind a lot of the decisions. I’m guessing the Comics Journal, Amazing Heroes, Comics Interview or other comics news magazines must have interviewed Kahn, Wolfman, Wein, Levitz, Giordano, etc. about this at the time. Has TwoMorrows published a book all about COIE? I know they did a DC Implosion book a few years ago.

    Thom H.–I believe it was Bob Haney who had know idea that the original Wonder Girl was Wonder Woman as a girl, just as Wonder Tot was Wonder Woman as a tot. I wonder what Wonder Woman writer Bob Kanigher’s reaction was when he saw the Teen Titans had a Wonder Girl?

    It would be interesting to know what Mort Weisinger’s reaction was to Speedy (Roy Harper) eventually joining the Teen Titans, sine Weisinger created Speedy back in the 1940s.

    I also wonder why Beast Boy wasn’t allowed to become an ongoing team member during the 1960s after he guest starred in Teen Titans volume 1, no. 6. Maybe Arnold Drake wanted to make sure he remained in the Doom Patrol’s orbit?

    I thought once Marv Wolfman came up with the original explanation for Wonder Girl, it made sense–although it seems they could have just as easily made her an original Amazon who was a younger sister or cousin of Wonder Woman–like they did with the Wonder Woman TV show and Drusilla.

    But, yeah, COIE did a number on Wonder Girl and her identity. I never cared for most of the identity and name switch-overs for the Teen Titans. I think Donna Troy should have just remained as the only Wonder Girl with her classic red jump suit–after all, Batgirl and Power Girl are well into their twenties and are currently using their original superhero names and variations of their classic costumes. So why not restore Donna’s costume? Let Cassie be “Wonder Lass” or something, and Yara can be “The Amazon.” And I never cared for Roy Harper becoming Arsenal and all the different costumes and gimmicks Arsenal had–I think just calling him Red Arrow and keeping his costume looking somewhere between Speedy’s and Green Arrow’s costumes with red, yellow and black as his colors works best. I’d also restore the Donna and Roy couple, and get rid of the tired trope of Roy being a junkie.
    Garth really got screwed over through the decades — starting with the late Bronze Age Teen Titans revival where Bob Rozakis had him getting sick all of the time; whereas, by contrast, David Michelinie depicted him as
    a young badass in back up stories in Adventure Comics and Aquaman comics during the late ’70s. Technically, Garth and Donna should be two of the strongest Teen Titans. I’d like to see Garth chucking polar bears at villains like the Golden Age Aquaman did. All Atlanteans when on surface land should have a degree of super strength equivalent to that of John Carter on Mars, or Iron Munroe, or the Golden Age Superman circa 1938 due to their bodies adapting to living in the ocean’s crushing depths. I never really cared for Garth being re-branded and re-powered as “Tempest” (and didn’t the 1980s Doom Patrol already have a team member named Tempest? Or was he killed off or retired?) with the questionable costume. The recent Brett Booth costume redesign was pretty good–however, I’d restore Garth’s curly hair/Aqua-Afro…we need more curly haired superheroes! Bring back classic Aquagirl/Tula in her classic Nick Cardy ’60s-’80s costume and make Garth and Tula a couple again. Can’t we just rename Garth “Aquarius”??? Can o.g. Wally West just get his classic Kid Flash costume back even if he’s one of multiple people named “The Flash” these days? Restore Mal Duncan as the Guardian as well! And bring back Don Hall as Dove!

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Daniel:

    Re: “This right here explains most of my dissatisfaction with current comics and super-hero movies. It’s less about telling a good story, and more about checking boxes.”

    But isn’t that always going to be the conundrum? Aren’t there a lot of comics fans who want both a good story and a certain amount of boxes checked when beloved characters are being adapted to films? And wasn’t that why films including Superman (1978) and Batman (1989) were highly praised?

    I think most people will agree that “Josstice League” left a lot to be desired, but I also think the Snyderverse was a bit too dark from the start. Even in Man of Steel, it felt off for Clark Kent to just let his adopted father die and, later on, for Superman to kill Zod–rather than finding a way to outsmart him and send him to the Phantom Zone.. That didn’t really ring true to Superman’s core characterization since 1938. So far, I think Superman I and Superman II remain the definitive Superman films for most fans–precisely because they checked some boxes while also telling good stories–and because Terence Stamp was great as Zod!

    Hopefully, Henry Cavill will get a shot at another Superman film, and if the DCEU were to evolve organically, after the Flash film finally gets released, we will get the Multiverse, and then we could get all kinds of films–including Michael B. Jordan as a Superman on a parallel Earth where he is either another iteration of Clark Kent or else he’s Val-Zod. And maybe a Michael B. Jordan Superman film franchise could include Nubia or Yara Flor as that Earth’s Wonder Woman and Jace Fox as that Earth’s Batman and build from there.

    I would say that’s where the MCU has been heading–towards evolving organically. The latest Black Panther II: Wakanda Forever trailers have been really fascinating to watch. I would have never thought about Namor being an underwater Mesoamerican descendant king of an Aztec or Mayan-esque Atlantis, but it looks like the film will have a very interesting take on Namor and his culture. It’s also interesting to speculate if this was always the plan or if the release of the Aquaman film necessitated Marvel going in another direction with its iteration of Atlantis. It looks like Riri Williams/Ironheart will be in the film as well.

    Future DCEU Justice League films should, likewise, evolve organically. Vixen, Black Lightning, or characters from the Global Guardians could join the team to diversify it even more. What if we had a revolving cast of Green Lanterns interacting with the JL? It could be John Stewart in one film, Hal Jordan, Simon Baz, or Jessica Cruz in other films. Or let some alien Green Lanterns like Katma Tui, Kilowog, or Medphyll team up with the JL in a future films. Personally, I hope that things between Ray Fisher and Warner Bros. /DC can be worked out. I thought Fisher’s Cyborg was one of the best portrayed characters in the JL.

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    Let us not forget why Wonder Girl was put in the Teen Titans. It was an unspoken rule at the time that a superhero team had to have one female member*, and the only actual teenage superheroine DC had at the time** was Supergirl. Obviously, she could not join the team, because she was much more powerful than all of the others combined, and you could not have a team in which a GIRL was the most powerful member.*** That was simply not done. So, there had to be a Wonder Girl, however poorly that fit with continuity.

    *The Legion of Superheroes was the exception here, though I note that it was around for over two years before it got its second female member (Shrinking Violet), and then nearly a year more before more came in (Phantom Girl, Triplicate Girl).

    **Again, excluding members of the Legion of Superheroes.

    ***This time NOT excluding the Legion of Superheroes. Care was taken there to make all of the girls weaker than the boys (i.e., it was the girl who shrank, the boy who became colossal).

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    I recall now that DC did have one other exception to the “one female per superhero team” rule in the 1960s: the Metal Men, during the period when Nameless was allowed to hang around. Of course, she was the weakest member of the team*, and she was dropped when they became the New Hunted Metal Men.

    It averages out when one throws in the Blackhawks. During that period when they assumed sort-of-superheroish identities (The Listener! He knows the sound of evil!), there was no attempt to include Lady Blackhawk (excusable perhaps in that she was a recurring rather than a regular character).

    *Really, the depictions of Tina and Nameless make “Metal Men” a strong contender for most misogynistic DC comic in that decade (though the true winners are those two issues of “The Brave and the Bold” featuring Supergirl, Wonder Woman, and Batgirl).

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    In case anyone is wondering about that generalization of one female per team in the 1960s, well, just look at the facts:

    Justice League: Wonder Woman (Black Canary did manage to get in just as the decade was ending, in the November 1969 issue)
    Teen Titans: Wonder Girl
    Doom Patrol: Elasti-Girl
    Blackhawks: Lady Blackhawk, sometimes
    Metal Men: Tina (at first; as noted, Nameless did join later)
    Challengers of the Unknown: Corinna Stark (integrating the previously all-male team only at the end of the decade, in the August 1969 issue)
    Sea Devils: Judy Walton
    Suicide Squad: Karin Grace
    Fantastic Four: Invisible Girl
    Avengers: The Wasp, then the Scarlet Witch
    T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents: Kitten
    Mighty Crusaders: Fly Girl
    Fab Four: Polymer Polly

    I guess the publishers feared that, if there were two or more women in a group, their cycles would sync, or something like that.

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    And, yes, I drew up that list mainly because it gave me an opportunity to mention Polymer Polly.

    Oh, and I forgot Mentalia of the Sentinels.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Turan, Emissary of the Fly World:

    You raise some interesting points.

    I suppose DC could have allowed the original Bat-Girl (Betty Kane) to join the Teen Titans instead of Wonder Girl–but then there would have been two “Batman Family” characters on the team–plus, Julius Schwartz had done away with Batwoman and Bat-Girl when he took over as Batman editor in 1964. Eventually, Bob Rozakis returned Bat-Girl from comic book limbo as part of the Teen Titans West in the late 1970s.

    Lilith Clay finally joined the Teen Titans as the second female member in the Bronze Age in 1970. But by the end of the ’70s the team had Wonder Girl, Bumblebee, Joker’s Daughter/Harlequin –and Lilith Clay and Bat-Girl (if Teen Titans West are included).

    Interestingly, the Golden Age of comics/WW II era actually had more of a “girl power” thing going on, what with Harvey Comics’ Girl Commandos and Hillman Periodicals’ Valykerie and the Air Maidens. There are probably other female teams from the ’40s, but those are the two which are coming to mind at the moment–beyond Black Canary joining Wonder Woman as a JSA member by 1948.

  • Thom H. says:

    It never occurred to me that Wonder Girl might have been purposely added to the Teen Titans despite her backstory. That’s super interesting.

    And it’s hard to disagree that superhero creators in the ’60s were pretty sexist. A lot of those lone female characters were not just weaker than their male counterparts, but also created — at least in part — as objects of attraction.

    One more to add to your list: Marvel Girl in the X-Men, briefly joined by Polaris, then replaced by Storm in the ’70s.

    I wonder what was happening with female comic readership at the time. I can never keep the timeline straight in my head — were romance comics still being published alongside the new superheroes? Or were they already gone? I have to imagine another reason to include a lone female character is to give female readers at least one point of identification in the story.

    Finally, one of the reasons I’ve always liked the LoSH is that they followed through on the gender equality of the utopian future. Saturn Girl was a strong leader of the group before you saw that anywhere else in superhero comics. It’s no wonder they had so many female characters while other teams only had one.

  • Chris V says:

    There were definitely some holdover Romance comics through the Silver Age. Millie the Model was published until the early-1970s at Marvel, for example. I don’t think most of the comic companies were putting a lot of effort into comics aimed at a female readership anymore by the 1960s. They seemed to be targeted mainly to the young, male readership. The Romance genre did continue until at least the beginning of the ‘70s though.
    DC and Charlton did try to revive the genre, to an extent, with the Gothic-inspired Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion and Haunted Love (respectively), but the idea didn’t seem to appeal to comic fans.

    I do think that is the reason for including token female characters. They could try to lure in the young, female demographic with a female superhero character, but keep the books attractive for the young, male readership by having the majority of main characters (and the more powerful members) be males.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Thom H. —

    Ultimately, the creation of Wonder Girl as a distinct being from “Wonder Woman as a girl” was a great thing and helped make the o.g. Teen Titans a “junior Justice League.” And then Marv Wolfman giving Donna Troy a backstory (pre-COIE) was also great.

    Both the Teen Titans and the Legion of Super-Heroes had a sizable female fan base during the Silver through Bronze Ages. In fact, when Donna Troy finally got married during the New Teen Titans run, George Perez drew several real-life female Teen Titans fans who had written numerous fan letters to the Teen Titans throughout the Silver Age run (and who were all around thirty-five years old by the mid-1980s) into the actual comic. I think one of them is gushing about Richard Grayson in a panel Perez drew.

    Agreed that Saturn Girl was a forward-thinking female character and leader as depicted in the LOSH. I wonder why the LOSH and the Teen Titans never had a cross-over time travel adventure during the Silver Age? I’m guessing its because different editors had their fiefdoms and Mort Weisinger didn’t want Superman Family characters appearing in Teen Titans comics.

    Romance comics and Superhero comics co-existed well into the Bronze Age for DC. Marvel, and Charlton, at least.

    In fact, Romance comics star Patsy Walker (who debuted in Miss America Comics no. 2 in 1944–when Marvel was still called Timely Comics) eventually became a superhero when she gained the costume formerly worn by The Cat (who became Tigra) and then Patsy became the Avengers member called Hellcat in 1976.

    Here’s a link to an interesting video on Romance Comics–apparently Charlton was the biggest publisher of Romance comics.

    https://youtu.be/MzLnHYXv85w

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Also, re: Romance comics vs Superhero comics, a couple of interesting things:

    1. Joe Simon & Jack Kirby are credited with creating the Romance comics genre.

    2. Matt Baker is probably considered the king of Romance comics because of his highly sought “Good Girl Art” which graces quite a few Atomic Age Romance comics. He also drew strong, independent female characters in the Golden Age /WW II -era for Fiction House Comics’ anthology titles including Jumbo Comics, Wings Comics, etc. (drawing stories starring Sheena, Tiger Girl, South Sea Girl, Sky Girl, Flamingo, Glory Forbes, etc.), and for Fox Comics (Phantom Lady, and Rulah the Jungle Goddess).

    3. Vince Colletta actually did pretty good art in Atomic Age Romance Comics, although his later inking in the Silver and Bronze Ages left a lot to be desired.

    4. John Romita Sr. worked on DC Romance comics for about seven years before he got tired of doing them and quit. Stan Lee then offered Romita Daredevil, and, shortly thereafter, Spider-Man after Ditko quit. So, according to a Youtube video I watched, a good argument can be made for Romance comics actually helping to propel Spider-Man to its top superhero comic status in the late Silver to early Bronze Ages because Romita drew Peter Parker in a more handsome light and he drew Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson as very attractive young women–all due to his years of drawing Romance comics. Because as iconic as Ditko’s art is, he was not known for drawing attractive people–he had more of an Expressionist style and his characters often look angst-ridden.

    4. There are some great Romance comics covers. I personally think Nick Cardy knocked it out of the park on a lot of his Romance covers for DC Comics including issues of Heart Throbs, Falling in Love,Young Romance, etc.–especially the groovy late ’60s to early ’70s psychedelic covers with Mod fashions. Additionally, Steranko did a great psychedelic Romance comic story called “My Heart Broke in Hollywood!” in Our Love Story no. 5 (June 1970) for Marvel Comics. The thing is, it is hard to track down vintage Romance comics in higher than “Good” condition.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Turan, Emissary of the Fly World, and Thom H.:

    I can think of at least four female superheroes from the Silver Age which neither of you mentioned:

    Charlton Comics’ Nightshade–Captain Atom’s partner.

    Archie Comics’ Pow Girl (Rosie Raymond–The Web’s wife); Cat Girl (Lydia Fellin, who became entangled with the first Jaguar–Ralph Hardy); and Superteen (Betty Cooper as a superhero).

    And I think Harvey Comics’ Black Cat (Linda Turner) got a brief revival in the ’60s as well.

    A cool link with an article on the late, great Nick Cardy –“DC’s primo portrayer of feminine pulchritude” and his awesome Romance covers:

    https://whosoutthere.ca/2019/01/31/nick-cardys-romantic-side/

    Another cool link to Steranko’s Romance comic story:

    https://www.sequentialcrush.com/blog/2011/09/my-chat-with-jim-steranko-on-his-only

  • Snark Shark says:

    DC continuity is SUCH a giant pile of crap!

    Sean Mageean: “Interestingly, the Golden Age of comics/WW II era actually had more of a “girl power” thing going on”

    Makes sense- most of the young men were drafted and fighting overseas from 1941 onwards.

    Thom H.: “were romance comics still being published alongside the new superheroes?”

    DC still had a few in the early 70’s, but I think they were all gone by the late 70’s. And by the late 80’s, all their SF/Horror/Mystery/War books were gone, too!

    Sean Mageean: “a good argument can be made for Romance comics actually helping to propel Spider-Man to its top superhero comic status”

    Possibly so! He sure knew how to draw Gwen Stacy! And so did Ross Andru, for that matter.

  • Loren says:

    Dan Jurgens *wanted* to bring this Aliens crossover version of Kara into the DCU as a new Supergirl, but Mike Carlin nixed the idea, as the Matrix Supergirl was already around.

    https://www.cbr.com/superman-aliens-crossover-nearly-introduced-new-supergirl/

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