Friday, June 10, 2011

Hero Fashion File - Supergirl Through The Ages

Welcome to my second in this series, examining how various heroes' looks have evolved over the years. In light of the recent reveal of the new relaunched version of Supergirl, I thought who better to profile than Superman's powerhouse cousin? However, I will not be limiting myself to that single version of the character.
Thrice Lois Lane has adopted the guise of Superwoman. In her first outing, she wore a feminized version of Superman's suit, minus sleeves and with her top extended into a skirt. Notice her S logo is in the shape of a heart. Awwwwww! She also adds gloves and her boots don't have the same V shape in front as Superman's. This version appeared in a dream where Lois fantasizes about gaining powers after a blood transfusion from Superman.

In her second adventure as Superwoman, Lois adopted a unique costume not inspired directly by Superman's. She wore a similar minidress with long sleeves, this time in green with matching green boots, which this time DID emulate the V pattern on Superman's. Her logo, belt and cape are a contrasting yellow. However, swap out the colors and this costume is nearly identical to the later "real" Supergirl's costume.

In a more recent tale, All Star Superman, Superman gives Lois super powers for a day and this Superwoman costume. It's a simple blue leotard with a yellow V on top, red gloves, boots and mini-cape, fastened by a red and gold circular S logo. She also has golden pods on her shoulders and forming a "belt" of sorts. It's pretty simple, but it doesn't directly mimic Superman's costume. The yellow is eye-catching!

The first Supergirl appeared in a story entitled "Superboy Meets Supergirl" and this particular heroine was Queen Lucy Regentoff from a fictional Latin American country. (Are you kidding me? She looks as Latin as Cameron Diaz!) In the story, Queen Lucy, bored with her royal duties and yearning for a normal life, journeyed to Smallville, the OBVIOUS destination for royalty seeking a relaxing break. There, Superboy used his powers to make it seem like Queen Lucy had powers, although she didn't. Queen Lucy wore a fur-trimmed golden costume adorned with Superboy's S shield logo and a cape in... purple? It's hard to tell. Like the second Lois suit, her boots emulate Superboy/man's V shaped notch. It's long been said that Supergirl's classic suit is based on an ice skater's, so the fur trim on Queen Lucy's costume really drives that point home. It also works to bring to mind the fur trim usually depicted on a royal cape. Like later Supergirls, she had blond hair. (Latin, my ass!)

In a later Superboy tale, the Boy of Steel encounters Shar-La a female alien, whose driving skills he insults because she's a girl, so Shar-La turns Superboy into a GIRL! Clark Kent pretends to be Claire Kent a relative visiting from out-of-town and when in action, calls himself "Super-Sister" Superboy's sibling. He wears his normal suit however, with no alterations. This story, of course, could never be written today!

In a later story, Jimmy Olsen magically wishes into existence a Super-Girl (with a hyphen) as a companion for Superman. This novice hero wore a feminized version of Superman's suit. Instead of trunks, she wore a pleated red miniskirt and no blue tights. Like Queen Lucy, she had blond hair, versus Superman's black. This Super-Girl died saving Superman from Kryptonite and begged Jimmy to wish her back out of existence. Overall, her look is almost identical to the later Supergirl who would become the most enduring.

Finally, the most famous Supergirl made her debut in Action Comics #252. Revealed to be the daughter of Zor-El and and Allura and Superman's cousin, Kara Zor-El was the last survivor of Argo City, a chunk of Kryptonite which had survived the planet's destruction. Like the last, magically created Supergirl, Kara wore a feminized version of Superman's suit almost identical to her predecessor's except with a blue non-pleated miniskirt. As noted, the suit was said to be inspired by an ice skater's outfit.

Another, more enduring Superwoman was introduced in Justice League of America as an evil parallel universe version of Wonder Woman. Like Wonder Woman, she possessed Amazonian strength and a magic lasso. She wore a basic black "bathing suit," with shoulder straps, unlike Wonder Woman's and matching basic boots. Her logo was a simple red S in a yellow circle and she wore a matching yellow cape. Her hairstyle is similar to a beehive, black with a white streak.

This version of Superwoman is still around and has been developed as the evil version of Lois Lane. She and her allies in the Crime Syndicate of Amerika pop up fairly often to battle the Justice League. Her suit is modernized, typically colored to look like leather or vinyl minus the straps and much more exposed cleavage. She has added black over the elbow gloves and Amazon bracelets. Her cape is now two-tone, yellow on the inside and black on the outside. Obviously she ditched the dated beehive and apparently colors her hair to hide the gray and accessorizes with silver shoulder pads connected by chains to a simple silver S pendant.

Eh. I always felt this costume was lazy. Moving on...
Supergirl continued wearing the classic "ice skater" costume for years, well into the 60s when she decided to freshen up her looks. In a move borrowed from "girl comics" like Katy Keene, readers were invited to design new costumess for the Maid of Might and would be given credit in the comics!
She ended up wearing an assortment of costumes, however, surprisingly NOT the menswear inspired suit costume pictured above! Three costumes were most prominent. The first features a minidress similar to the one she wore before but with stylish slits on the sides and often with the addition of a red trim around the hem. She added red gloves and fancy thigh-high go-go boots. She also adopted a more fashionable mod belt and added golden clasps to her cape.

This suit endured for quite some time, with a few tweaks along the way. Her belt was often drawn differently story to story. Later on a bit of gold trim was added to her boots. Sometimes, as in the picture to the right, rather than thigh-high boots, it seemed as though she was depicted as wearing red leggings with gold piping on the front. Here, she appears to be wearing leggings with tiny red pixie shoes. Also note the wide, studded belt.

This next Mod look was clearly inspired by the sexual liberation of the times, with much more exposed skin. This top not only doesn't have sleeves, it doesn't have SIDES! It's something of a MODified bathing suit. Sometimes, she appeared to have striping around the legs of her shorts. In this suit, she wore tall lace-up boots. I just don't get the practicality of that top one bit! How does it stay in place?

Her next costume would go on to become one of her longest-running and recognizable looks, but it initially lasted only one issue as she then switched to her hands-down most unattractive costume.

YUCK! This unflattering jumpsuit with loose-fitting top actually ran for a few issues. It's pretty basic, similar to Superman's minus shorts over the tights. She wears red boots and gloves accented with yellow piping. The worst is the large classic S shield logo on BOTH her chest and as her belt buckle! Redundant much? Like I said, she actually wore this for several issues straight, before coming to her (fashion) senses.

She reverted back to this costume which would go down as one of her most famous looks. She wears a loose-fitting v-neck blouse and boldly shrinks the famous S shield logo and places it over her heart. Her cape is now attached to a choker, rather than her top. Like with the hip-boots costume, she often mixed up her look with different belts. Instead of a skirt, this costume sports red frayed "cut-offs." In this picture, the frayed hems are colored yellow, but they were usually colored red. In this shot, she is wearing what look like red, lace-up ballet slippers. Like with her belts, she often switched out her footwear, but favored small slippers versus boots.

In the 70s, it was tweaked into one definitive look, swapping out the frayed cut-offs for a simple pair of disco shorts with two sporty notches on the sides and she donned her classic boots that matched her cousin's. This look lasted until the mid-80s and is my FAVORITE Supergirl costume EVER!

With a live-action movie in the works, DC gave her an "updated" costume to match the times. Gone was the billowing top and disco shorts. Her new top was form fitting and the S shield was once again front and center, this time connected to red stripes that ran along her top, over her shoulders and appeared to connect to her cape. Her standard belt with buckle was replaced by a simple yellow V. She now wore a pleated red skirt and her boots now came to a point and were trimmed in yellow. Her hair had been long and slightly wavy before, but was now super curly and most dated-ly, she accessorized with a red headband worthy of Olivia Newton-John, herself!

While casting the movie, the producers actually used this costume for test footage, which appears in the DVD bonus features. Helen Slater's hair is horribly permed and blown out to emulate the comic book look.

However, they eventually opted to go for a sleeker, more classic look. They ditched the headband and outrageous perm. Instead, Helen's hair appeared long and natural-looking. The top is more classic and simple, almost identical to her very first costume, minus the red stripe on top. The V belt and boots are the same as her current comic book costume's but her skirt is less frilly.

Unfortunately, DC had already been planning all along to kill Supergirl off in the comics in an effort to strengthen the Superman character. They planned to restore him as the sole survivor of Krypton to make him more unique. The Salkinds, the producers of the successful Superman movies wanted to make a Supergirl movie, so DC relented. Had the movie done better, it's possible Supergirl would have been left alive in the comics, but after conflicts made it so that Christopher Reeve wouldn't appear in Supergirl, plus budget cuts that resulted in, among other things, a scene where Supergirl had to fight a giant INVISIBLE monster, the movie tanked. So... this happened:
In a now-nearly forgotten tale, a new Superwoman was introduced first as Kristen Wells, a citizen of the 29th Century who happened to be a descendant of Jimmy Olsen's, in a Superman prose novel. The character was then introduced in DC Comics Presents wherein she travels to the "present" (1983 approximately) and uses her futuristic gadgets to emulate super powers and adopts the identity of Superwoman. Ironically, her entire purpose for traveling back in time was to discover the secret identity of the famous Superwoman who'd enjoyed only a brief crime-fighting career in the 20th Century. There was also a hi-to-the-larious subplot of horn dog Jimmy Olsen trying to hook up with her... not knowing she was like his great, great, great, great, great, great granddaughter. Ha ha... gross.

Superwoman's costume inverts the colors of Superman's with a red bodysuit and blue accessories. Rather than just blue trunks, she sports something of a blue bathing suit over the tights, highlighting the classic red and yellow S shield. She adds fairly basic blue gloves and boots. Her golden belt is stylized. The biggest difference from Superman is the addition of a blue cowl attached to her cape, to protect her identity. Superwoman sadly only made one additional appearance where she was killed off in the final Silver Age Superman story, "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?"

Recently, DC introduced a mysterious new Superwoman in the modern Supergirl's comic. This character's identity was a mystery even to readers, until it was revealed that she was Lucy Lane, Lois' sister, given powers by her evil father Sam Lane in his war against Earth's Kryptonian defenders. Her suit was actually the source of her powers, infused with the super abilities of various aliens. Her suit is modeled closely on Kristen Wells' but sleek and modern. She wears a red top that forms a V over blue tights. Red stylized hip boots, blue stylized shoulder gloves. Like Kristen, Lucy wears a blue cowl to conceal her identity. The golden discs on her costume are power cells. The real POP comes with the white variation on the S shield that flows into a hood and cape combo. It's really a GREAT design! Did they ever make an action figure of her? They NEED to!

A few years after killing the classic Supergirl, DC realized it needed A Supergirl in order to keep the rights to the name, so they introduced a new Supergirl, wearing almost the exact same costume as Helen Slater had in the movie. The sleeves were given points over the backs of her hands. Her boots were the classic V notched ones. But over all, it doesn't get much more definitive than this costume!

However, they still wanted to retain Superman's uniqueness as the only Kryptonian, so this Supergirl was first teased to be Superman's childhood sweetheart Lana Lang, but was later revealed to be a shape-shifting artificial life form sent from a nearly destroyed parallel Earth to bring Superman back to save what was left of her world. Sadly, Superman failed and all life was wiped out on this world by evil Kryptonians, whom Superman then executed with Kryptonite. Superman brought this Supergirl, named Matrix back to his world, where she adopted the name Mae Kent. Eventually Matrix merged with a dying Earth girl, Linda Danvers and became an Earth-Born Angel with mystical powers and fiery wings.

For whatever reason, when the producers of the Superman animated series of the 90s decided to use Supergirl on the show, they didn't choose that origin! Who knows why? Instead, they went with the pre-Crisis origin of her being Superman's cousin, Kara Zor-El. However, they designed a brand new costume for her. A white belly tee with black trim around the sleeves and hem, gloves (?), a basic blue miniskirt and as if all that weren't trendy enough, red platform combat boots. Um... the Spice Girls were big at the time.

Even though the animated series had been canceled, DC required the art team on the Supergirl comic, still in the Earth-Born Angel period, to incorporate this dated costume. The worst was that the animated Supergirl actually WAS a girl of about 16 or so. The comic book version was a young WOMAN in her twenties, suddenly running around in this ridiculous Britney Spears costume!

An attempted was made to introduce a NEW Supergirl, Cir-El, who turned out to be a human girl grafted with Kryptonian DNA by Brainiac and brainwashed into thinking she was Superman and Lois Lane's daughter from the future. This Supergirl's costume was a very basic black short-sleeved leotard with matching gloves and boots. Rather than using the famous S shield logo, she has a large nondescript red S on her torso. She also wore a blue cape. This character proved unpopular and was dropped.

Publisher Dan DiDio eventually began to question the direction of the Supergirl character and demanded the Earth-Born Angel version be written out of the books and replaced by a more classic Supergirl, once more Superman's cousin. Once again, in a move to be trendy, they gave her an out of date belly tee, but at least this time, it was classic Super Blue, emblazoned with the classic S shield and now sporting golden trim on the ciffs and hem. Her skirt is simple blue with a trendy studded belt. Her boots have the classic V notch but are rendered in gold and her cape is also trimmed in gold.

Shortly after reaching Earth, she was corrupted by Darkseid and adopted this "bad girl" look. It's a fairly generic costume. It actually just looks like CLOTHES like you could find at a sexy lingerie store or something. Bronze and black leather pants, bra top, gossamer cape... it kinda looks like one of Britney Spears' stage costumes.

A second "bad girl" Supergirl appeared shortly into the new Supergirl's new comic. Her costume is identical to the new Supergirl's except rendered in black with silver touches. I would like to point out that subsequent artists have had to go out of their way to depict Supergirl looking more modest in such a skimpy costume. Jamal Igle in particular lengthened both her shirt and skirt and added long "bike shorts" underneath her skirt.

Which pretty much brings up up to date. As you can see, he also altered the gold trim around her cuffs to full wristbands. This version of Supergirl will soon be revamped into a new version in a new #1 comic.

Overall, I kind of like this new design. The top has some added seaming, but it looks practical, unlike that on the new Superman suit. Rather than a shirt and separate belt and either shorts or skirt, she wears a leotard with a stylized gold piping that emulates a belt and has a red field resembling a pair of briefs. I guess those at DC are sold on the idea of a V neck collar, so her cape suddenly sports what I call a priest collar. The boots are pretty cool, minus those points over her exposed knees. The knees down look very cool and modern, but the exposed knees are a head-scratcher and the extra points on top look tacked on. But overall, I mean, it's better than her frumpy jumpsuit costume!


  1. She usually dressed for men, in everyone of the she's either Gidget or Slutwoman, certainly not something I wanted to buy.

    I saved my money for WW before they messed her up in Justice League having a amazon practically beg Batman for his love. WTF?

  2. I resent your comment about latin people, not all latin countries are Mexico you know! I'm from a latin country and I'm red-headed, and most people here are blonde!

  3. None of these costumes look slutty to me, if that's what you're saying.