Wednesday, December 23, 2009

That's Super, Supergirl

I just read an article that revealed that 2009 was Supergirl's 50th anniversary. The article compared this to the movie Sixteen Candles, wherein everyone forgets Samantha (Molly Ringwald)'s sixteenth birthday. Valid comparison! 50 years of the Maid of Might and her publisher DC does NOTHING to commemorate the event?! Unacceptable! Well, this may not be much, but here's a small tribute to the Girl of Steel.
Supergirl made her debut in 1959's Action Comics #252. Revealed to be Superman (Krytponian name, Kal-El)'s cousin Kara Zor-El, it turned out that a small chunk of Krypton has survived the planet's destruction. Upon said chunk, was an entire city Argo, but eventually, like all other remaining fragments of Krypton, this mini-planetoid was chemically transformed into lethal Krytponite. To escape this catastrophe, Kara's father Zor-El sent his young teenage daughter Kara to Earth, where she was reunited with her cousin, while the rest of Argo City was believed to have perished. (It later turned out they'd all survived and established a home on a new planet which they dubbed New Krypton.)
Damn, Superman used to be beefy! What was he eating back then? Anyway, Superman gave Supergirl the civilian identity of Linda Lee and arranged for her to live at the Midvale Orphanage. (Why couldn't she just live with him in Metropolis?) In the beginning, Kara used her powers in secret, sneaking out to help people in need. Eventually, she was adopted and became Linda Danvers, and as Supergirl, revealed her existence to the world. She then embarked on a series of solo adventures, as well as alongside her cousin and other heroes. She even participated in adventures alongside the Justice League and the Legion of Super Heroes, but most notably, she frequently teamed up with Batgirl and the two became best friends.
Next to Wonder Woman, Supergirl and Batgirl have the highest profiles of any of DC Comics' heroines, frequently appearing in other media and in licensed toy lines.
One of the earliest licensed Supergirl items is this Super Queens doll by Ideal. Released in the late 60s, the entire line of Super Queens is incredibly rare today and are valued in the thousands. The reason is that NO ONE bought them. No boy wanted a girlie doll like this, and no girl wanted an action adventure toy. They wanted either baby dolls or fashion dolls. The girls who did get these would quickly discard the super suit and replace it with an ordinary fashion from Barbie or some other line.Supergirl is one of the few characters in comics to age. She was originally supposed to be about 13 or so, but eventually she got older and entered college. She also ditched her original ice skater-inspired costume in favor of a more MODern costume featuring a loose-fitting v-neck blouse and hot pants (sometimes illustrated with frayed edges, making Supergirl the only Super Hero to ever rock Daisy Dukes).
Of course she was included in the Mego World's Greatest Super Heroes collection wearing that version of her suit.
This was also the costume adapted to the Underoos line. Underwear that's fun to wear! And TRUST me, that slogan is 100% TRUE!!! Underoos were better than some TOYS from the same era! These are highly SOUGHT by collectors, but rarely found as no one thought to buy children's undergarments and save them as collectibles. Plus, that would be a little creepy.
In the MTV-80s, she adopted yet another updated look, featuring a curly perm and headband. She also embarked on her highest profile endeavor of her career, her own live-action movie!
Produced by Alexander Salkind, the same producer of the blockbuster Superman movies, Supergirl was plagued with problems. The biggest blow was that they were unable to tie this film in with the Superman movies. Appearances by Christopher (Superman) Reeve and Margot (Lois Lane) Kidder had to be dropped. Marc McClure did appear as Jimmy Olsen and as Linda Lee, Supergirl roomed with Lois's kid sister Lucy (Maureen Teefy, perhaps better known as Sharon from Grease 2... or maybe not) at boarding school. The film suffered other problems as well, such as slashed funding, which resulted in a scene where Supergirl was supposed to battle giant electrical monster being altered to her fighting a giant INVISIBLE electrical monster.
The movie may have ended up cheesy, but NO ONE I've encountered has ever had a bad thing to say about Helen Slater, the beautiful actress who portrayed her with a mixture of stranger-in-a-strange-land bewilderment and inherent strength. (Included on the DVD, is test footage with Helen wearing the then-current comic book costume complete with headband and huge shoulder-pads. Luckily, they switched to a more "classic" costume. They did, however retain the yellow trimmed boots.)

In an omen of things to come, DC did jack squat to promote Supergirl to coincide with the movie's release. No toy line, no special products beyond a few books, nothing. It didn't help that the movie was almost universally panned and bombed at the box office.
Then she died. The movie was her biggest mainstream splash, but in comics, Supergirl's highest profile story is the one where she died to save, not only her cousin who'd been defeated by the uber-vilain The Anti-Montitor, but the entire universe. In reality, Supergirl was killed because DC Comics was revamping it's line to appease a more modern audience and the creators who were in charge of revamping Superman wanted him to be the sole surviving Kryptonian, as he'd been in his earliest tales, feeling this made him more unique.
Shortly before her death, Supergirl arrived to give a pep-talk to her best gal pal Batgirl who was suffering from a case of inferiority.
It was then Batgirl who delivered the eulogy at Supergirl's funeral, a huge public memorial held in Metropolis. I was like 11 at the time and I remember being devastated by Supergirl's death. I'd had an older cousin who'd died in a car accident (a week before he was supposed to graduate high school, sadly), but Supergirl's death hit me a lot harder, because I felt I knew Supergirl better and that she was a bigger part of my life. Her death completely ruined a weekend at the beach, as all I did was sulk around the whole time.

Of course, what no one realized at the time is that Supergirl wasn't just some throw-away knock off! She'd become an icon in her own right and before long DC brought her back... kinda. They tried to stick to the whole "Superman as the only Kryptonian" thing and this went on for years. Initially, they created a new Supergirl that was a shape-shifting artificial life form. Then she was an "Earth-born angel." Finally, they realized, "Screw it, everyone knows Supergirl is supposed to be Superman's cousin, so let's just bring back that version."
Yuck. Unfortunately, at the time, the artist tried to model her on popular celebrities, which included Lindsay Lohan and the Olsen Twins and such, so for a while, Supergirl looked like an emaciated crack whore skeleton wearing too much makeup.
Ahhhhh! That's better! The new artist even went out of his way to illustrate her wearing Spankies under her skirt like a cheerleader, so as to be clear she wasn't giving anyone below a "show." Yay respect for women in comics!
Supergirl made her animated debut in the Superman animated series in the 90s and continued to make appearances in Justice League Unlimited. As in the past, artists updated her look to reflect contemporary styles... er... The Spice Girls were big at the time.
Mattel adapted this costume for their first Supergirl Barbie.
More recently, they created this gorgeous, glamorous Supergirl doll as part of a more adult-oriented collector line.Laura Vandervoort portrayed the newest live-action Kara on Smallville. (They never referred to her as "Supergirl.")

And now there are rumors that none other than current It Girl Taylor Swift may portray Supergirl in a new live-action movie.
I'm calling Bullshit on the whole thing, honestly... Warner Brothers has stated that IF they do another Superman movie, it'll be a complete relaunch with no ties to Superman Returns. And they haven't made any announcement that they are even developing this new Superman yet. How do you make a Supergirl movie without a Superman movie to base it on? That would be like making a Catwoman movie without a Batm-... er, nevermind.

It's too bad this is just a rumor, because I'd be 100% behind Taylor Swift as Supergirl! She'd be perfect! (Now that my original choice, Emily VanCamp is probably too old.)
Taylor's the right age, tall, blonde and best of all, gorgeous without being one bit skanky! MAN! Usually people are up in arms over casting for comic book movies. This time, I'm like, "Oh that's a bunch of crap! They're not making a Supergirl movie, but dammit, I wish they would! She's FLAWLESS!" Sigh!

Anyway, HAPPY 50th BIRTHDAY, SUPERGIRL! You look great for someone who should be getting AARP benefits!

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