Monday, May 7, 2012
YEAR 1959: SUPERGIRL
Though Lois Lane was the premiere feminine influence on the Superman mythology, a case could be made that his super-cousin was number two in importance.
It must be admitted that Supergirl had a spotty career in the years of her introduction. Perhaps in keeping with the mythos' love of secrets, for the first year or so during her appearance in a back-up series in ACTION COMICS, Superman kept the "Maid of Might" secret from the world, with the justification that he might need to use her as a "secret weapon."
A skeptic might assume that Superman may've had some issues about not being the only Kryptonian hero on the planet any more. To be fair, the writers did employ Supergirl in a few stories that hinged on the populace's non-knowledge of her existence. In addition, the editor may have been waiting to see whether or not she sparked any popularity with the young audience. One assumes that there was some positive response by the time of ACTION #260 (1960), when Supergirl pleads with her cousin to be allowed more than "mild, secret adventures." However, it took another 25 issues before Supergirl officially debuted to the contemporary world of Silver-Age DC, in ACTION #285.
Once this took place, the character arguably became more assertive, with one of her best 1960s battles occuring in ACTION #339 (seen above), when she meets Brainiac for the first time and kicks his android ass.
Unfortunately, the 1970s and 1980s weren't that kind to Supergirl, as she wasn't able to sustain a successful series, be it in SUPERGIRL, ADVENTURE COMICS, or THE DARING NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERGIRL-- though to be sure, she never enjoyed the best art or writing in any of these venues.
The big comedown, according to fannish lore, was the failure of the 1984 SUPERGIRL film. The film suffered from its own creative problems, but allegedly DC was more willing thereafter to view the cousin from Krypton as an expendable commodity, leading to her famous fade-out in CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS.
Though that Supergirl died, arguably she continues to influence some if not all of her later incarnations.