Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Due to a somewhat disjointed continuity, several variations of Supergirl have appeared in comic books. However, in her most well-known incarnation, Supergirl is Supermanís cousin, also sent to Earth during the last moments of the doomed planet Krypton. Also like her cousin, Supergirl can fly and possesses superhuman strength and endurance. Since the mid-1980s, some complex science fiction concepts have redefined the character.
In 1984, Helen Slater starred in an unsuccessful film version of Supergirl, which was part of the Superman film franchise. The character has also appeared in the recent Superman television series, Superman: The Animated Series and Smallville.
A trial run
In the years following the first appearance of Superman there had been numerous one-off stories dabbling with the notion of a female Superman. Probably the first being Lois Lane - Superwoman, a story published in Action Comics #60 (May 1943), in which a hospitalised Lois Lane dreams she had gained superpowers thanks to a blood transfusion from the Man of Steel, and begins her own career as Superwoman complete with copycat costume.
Superwoman was reborn in Action Comics #156 (May 1951) when Lois accidentally gains superpowers thanks to an invention of arch Superman foe, Lex Luthor. This time Lois employs a short blonde wig in her crime fighting identity, thereby giving Superwoman an almost identical look to the later Kara ZorEl version of the Supergirl. (Interestingly, Superman suggest the same idea to Kara for her brunette Linda Lee alter-ego.)
In the years that followed both Lois Lane and Lana Lang would continue to infrequently don cape and boots for one-off gimmick stories, although no longer such obvious clones of Superman, nor sporting a 'super' nom de plume. But none of these throw-away characters would model themselves so directly on the Man of Steel himself (for example, adopting his costume) until the arrival of the first 'Super-Girl'.
In Superman #123 (August 1958), Jimmy Olsen used a magic totem to wish a "Super-Girl" into existence as a companion and aid to Superman. However, the two frequently got in each other's way, and Jimmy eventually wished her out of existence. DC used the story to gauge public response to the concept of a super-powered female counterpart to Superman.
After positive fan reaction to Super-Girl, the first—and still most familiar version—of Supergirl debuted in 1959.
Superman's secret weapon
The character of Supergirl was introduced in Action Comics #252  (May 1959) as Kara Zor-El, the last survivor of Argo City of the planet Krypton, which had survived the explosion of the planet and had drifted through space. When the inhabitants of the colony were slain by Kryptonite, Kara was sent to Earth to be raised by her cousin Kal-El, known as Superman. Fearing that she might not be recognised by Superman, Kara's parents provided a costume based closely on the Man of Steel's own (and almost identical to Super-Girl's). This uniform served as her crime-fighting attire for the first decade of her adventures in print.
Upon meeting Kara—who on Earth now had superpowers identical to her cousin's—Superman decided she would become his secret weapon, and explained that her presence on Earth must be kept confidential while he trained Kara in the use of her new powers. Kara adopted the identity of Linda Lee, an orphan at Midvale Orphanage, hiding her short blonde locks beneath a brunette wig. Her adventures often accompanied the main Superman story in issues of Action Comics. They typically revolved around secretly helping fellow orphans, although occasionally she was allowed to play a small role alongside her famous cousin. She also became a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes alongside Superboy, the teenage incarnation of her cousin.
Superman permitted Supergirl to reveal her existence to the world in Action Comics #285 (February 1962). In the same story Linda was adopted by Fred and Edna Danvers, to whom she revealed her secret identity. Changing her name to Linda Lee Danvers (later known as just Linda Danvers), she became a student of Midvale High School.
On her own
Graduating high school in 1964, Linda left home to attend Stanhope College on a scholarship. Supergirl won the lead slot in Adventure Comics #381 (June 1969), trading Action Comics with the Legion. During her Adventure run, Supergirl—mirroring the fashions of the times—began to experiment with a wide variety of costume and hairstyle changes; her best-known outfit from this era, which remained through much of the 1970s and into the 1980s, can be seen in the Alex Ross illustration at the top of this article. Although Superman became only an infrequent visitor in her adventures, Kara maintained close ties with her cousin while pursuing her own career as a superhero. Her term at Adventure ended when Kara received her own title in November 1972, which ran for only ten issues before being rolled into Superman Family , alongside other Superman-related supporting characters' titles.
Throughout the 1970s twists and turns in Kara's career as Supergirl ran parallel to changes in her civilian life. As Linda, she moved from student, to television reporter, to student counselor, to actress on the TV soap Secret Hearts.
Back to school
In November 1982 Supergirl again received her own title, The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl (later simply Supergirl). DC intended to return the character to her roots, and by implicitly ignoring the previous 18 years of stories Linda again became an 18-year old student, this time at Lake Shore University in Chicago. During its 23 issues Supergirl adopted her final costume (originally designed, but not used, for the Supergirl movie) and finally discarded the brunette wig, in favor of a special comb which changed her hair color and style.
When DC canceled Supergirl in 1984, the company intended to start a new title starring both Supergirl and Superboy. However, fate took a different path.
A heroic death
One of the ways DC intended to demonstrate the epic nature of its 12-issue miniseries Crisis on Infinite Earths (April 1985-March 1986) was the deaths of important characters. In #7 (October 1985), Supergirl—in one of the most memorable moments of the series—bravely sacrificed her life to save her cousin, and the multiverse, from destruction. Ironically, one of the Crisis' effects on the DC universe was that Supergirl, as readers knew her for almost 30 years, now had never existed.
No longer anyone's cousin
Debuting in Superman v2 #16 (April 1988), Supergirl was now an artificial life form of protoplasm created by a parallel Earth's Lex Luthor, and sent to recruit Superman to return to her world and save it from destruction at the hands of three escaped criminals from the planet Krypton. When the mission failed and the world was destroyed, Superman returned home with the injured artificial creature.
For a while the life form developed amnesia and thought it was Superman, coincidentally helping to preserve Superman's secret identity during a lengthy absence from Earth. Later, it again took on a female form, and the identity of Supergirl, under the name "Mae." In this guise, she began a romance with the mainstream DC universe's Lex Luthor. When Mae realized Luthor's evil nature, she left him to find her own way in the world, serving for a time as a member of the Teen Titans.
A new Supergirl title appeared in September 1996. Writer Peter David merged the protoplasmic Supergirl with a troubled young Virginia woman named Linda Danvers, together becoming an "Earth Angel". Linda eventually separated from the angelic part, and acted as Supergirl for a while with reduced powers before regaining her abilities (but not her angelic aspect). The themes and plotlines of David's Supergirl were often sophisticated, aimed at a slightly more mature audience than most mainstream comics.
The return of the original Supergirl
In Supergirl #75 (December 2002), David introduced the original Supergirl—who had apparently been detoured into the post-Crisis universe on her way to the pre-Crisis Earth—into the current Supergirl's life. Knowing Kara was destined to die, Linda traveled to the pre-Crisis universe in her place, where she married Superman and had a daughter, Ariella. However, she had to allow history to take its place in order to ensure one universe would survive the Crisis.
Upon returning to the contemporary DC universe, Linda abandoned the role of Supergirl. Her current whereabouts are unknown, although fans have speculated she may be the unsympathetic lead character of David's new creator-owned series for DC, Fallen Angel.
Following this, another Supergirl appeared, claiming to be the daughter of Superman and Lois Lane from the future. Her name was, apparently, Cir-El, though her alter ego, which seemed to be more of a schizophrenic personality change than a simple change of costume, was that of a street person named Mia. She was later found to be a clone, created by a group of villains from the future; she died to prevent them from (re)creating Brainiac 13.
The Post-Crisis Kara Zor-El
In 2004, Kara Zor-El was reintroduced into DC continuity in the Superman/Batman series. Like the pre-Crisis version, this Kara claims to be the daughter of Superman's uncle Zor-El and his wife Alura. Kara knew Kal (Superman) from when he was a baby. When Krypton blew up, she was sent in a rocket (in suspended animation) to look after Superman. However, her rocket got caught in a piece of Krypton and she has just arrived on Earth now. Writer Jeph Loeb explaims, "She came to Earth essentially to look after this baby who was sent at the same time. But her rocket got wedged into a huge chunk of the planet and it has taken years to get here. When she arrives, the baby isn't a baby, he's Superman -- the greatest hero the universe has ever known. And as a teenager who has lost everything in her past, this is quite the monkey wrench. It may be part of the reason why, at least at first, she'll be hesitant to spend too much time with Superman. She was supposed to take care of him, not the other way around."
Following the end of "The Supergirl from Krypton" arc, Kara officially introduces herself to many of the heroes of the DCU, and adopts the classic Supergirl costume and name. Whether or not the previous post-Crisis Supergirls are still in continuity is unknown at this point. Jeph Loeb will be giving the new Supergirl a series in 2005.
Newsarama:Jeph Loeb and the Girl from Krypton-Interview with Loeb on new Supergirl series.
A movie adaptation of Supergirl was released in 1984, starring Helen Slater in her first motion picture role. It was a spin-off from the popular 1978 movie Superman, with Marc McClure reprising his role as Jimmy Olsen. The movie performed poorly at the box office, and failed to impress critics or audiences. In fact, Peter O'Toole received a Golden Raspberry Award nomination for Worst Actor for his performance. Prior to release, Supergirl was expected to be the first film of a series, but its failure at the box office cancelled plans for a Supergirl II.
In Superman: The Animated Series, Supergirl was introduced as Kara In-Ze, from Krypton's "sister world" of Argo. A headstrong and independent teenage girl, she was placed in suspended animation before Argo was destroyed by the aftershocks of Krypton's destruction, and later found by Superman. The Kents—Clark Kent's adoptive parents—took Kara in, with her posing as Clark's cousin Kara Kent.
This Supergirl currently appears in the USA on Cartoon Network's Justice League Unlimited animated television series. Villains created a clone of Supergirl named Galatea for nefarious purposes. Grown into a slightly more mature physical state, the clone resembles Power Girl.
A girl named Kara appeared in an episode of the Smallville TV series claiming to be from Krypton. This Kara did not claim to be Kal-El's cousin, though, and she seemed to be interested in him in a sexual way. She was not, however, an actual Kryptonian, but an innocent girl kidnapped, brainwashed, and given superpowers by Jor-El.
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