Supergirl!

Trailer below the cut.

My comment:

Love the trailer. This is the golden age of superhero shows, friends, and let us rejoice, eat cheese-puffs, and be glad!

I have had a crush on Supergirl for a long time, which slowly mutates into an avuncular or paternal affection as I grow old and gray. I’ve always liked the character because she combines the sweetness and vulnerability of a Kansas farmgirl with the superhuman strength and power of a titaness.

SUPERGIRL, Helen Slater, 1984, © Warner Brothers

She never had that negative aura Wonder Woman always had for me proposing that women were equal to men, not in moral dignity, but in manliness. Supergirl never tended to use her powers in a direct, warlike, manly way, but as something more subtle.

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Now, having said that, I cannot think of a single good and well written story line in any comic in which she appears. There are no classic stories. She has no classic villains in her rogues gallery. Almost no writers know how to use this character correctly.

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Some writers tried to swap the sexes of Superman’s supporting characters to stuff into Supergirl story lines, usually to lame effect, creating Silver Age characters like Dick Malvern or Nasty Luthor — so obscure that even firm fans with solid geek street-cred have never heard of them.

Nasthalthia Luthor is the niece of the scientific criminal mastermind Lex, but without the science, the crime, or the mind.

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Her Uncle Lex wants her to track down and reveal Supergirl’s secret ID at the college where she is attending school. What Nasthalthia does is put together a gang called ‘Nasty’s Nasties’ who spend the issue terrorizing the campus. The Nasties frightens pedestrians with their motorbikes, or steal a student’s watch. Nasthalthia ends up getting thrown into a pool. She has no powers, no genius, no resources. Lamest villainess ever.

(Albeit there was a good shout-out to the character in the animated film ALL STAR SUPERMAN, that impressive homage to all things Silver-Age and silly that we love from days of yore.)

The aptly named Dick combined the scheming pettiness of Silver Age Lois Lane with the goofiness of teenagers in comicbookland. What a jerk.

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“I hid a lifelike dummy of myself here this morning! This will expose Linda if she is Supergirl!” Uhh… where exactly in Midvale does one purchase lifelike dummies of oneself at short notice?

I will say, however, that Superman is a bigger jerk to Supergirl when she first climbs out of her ultracatastrophic-worldwide-extinction-level-megadeath-escaping lifeboat rocket.

Superman is a jerk

“I’ll take care of you like a big brother, Cousin Kara!”

“Thanks, cousin SUPERMAN! … (choke) You mean I’ll come live with you?”

“Hmm… No! That wouldn’t work! You see, I’ve adopted a secret identity on Earth which might be jeopardized! But I have a great idea for your future life!”

What a creep.

 

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“Oh, how thrilling, SUPERMAN! Can I begin my super-career right away?”

“No, Kara! You’ll need long practice before you can use your super-powers properly! Meanwhile, this orphanage will be your home! I was raised by Ma and Pa Kent, a Kansas family who loved and cared for me! But you get to live here, unwanted and ignored, mourning the death of your planet and everyone you know!”

Okay, so I added that last part.

Supergirl’s life in a nutshell: all the men are jerks. Don’t get me started about the boyfriend who turned out to be an enchanted super horse that could only be human when a special comet approached the earth. Do these magical horse have no respect for a woman’s heart?! (Any boy dating my daughter would have to have her back home by Ten o’clock sharp, and would have to reveal if he is actually an enchanted were-mammal with superpowers right away, and not surprise me when my grandson suddenly morphs into a centaur on the approach of some celestial body with a high eccentric orbit! Sure, grampa, you can see little junior, uh, just as soon as Comet Kohoutek shows up again!)

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I said there were no classic nor memorable Supergirl comic stories, but there have been a few good Supergirl stories in animation, usually from the genius of Bruce Timm.

Bruce Timm knew how to make a version of Supergirl who looked like she loved to fly.

This version managed the difficult balancing act of making her adorable without subtracting from her superpowerful superness.

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My favorite is ‘Girl’s Nite Out’ where she teams up with Batgirl against Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and Livewire, for a pure overdose of superpowered cuteness. Even the supervillainesses are supercute.

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There was an awesome episode of JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED where the Question, Green Arrow, and Supergirl are investigating Supergirl’s nightmares, and discover that perhaps they are true.

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And I liked the character design and character arc in SUPERMAN UNBOUND.

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She also got to have a human moment with her cousin, just talking. No lectures, no explosions, just a family moment.

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And there was also this episode from JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED where she fights the whole Legion of Superheroes by her lonesome, and falls for a genius boy from another time.

But that is about it. Other screen version of Supergirl include the Helen Slater movie (and Helen Slater did an excellent job with the crap storyline she was given, and out-acted much more prestigious actors with much bigger names) but the story was so poorly written that it killed her career and the franchise.

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Helen Slater captured both the little-girl-lost sense of Supergirl and the kindness and the courage. She looked like she was delighted to fly. She was the only good element in this terrible, unwatchable movie.

I submit that female courage has a different tone and flavor from male courage. It suffers longer and is less self-centered. It is a thing that melt icebergs rather than shatters mountains. Anyone who does not understand feminine courage cannot portray Supergirl.

 

 

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For the record, this is the reason why I think that Wonder Woman is a poorer character than Supergirl, even though they are both simply female versions of Superman. Wonder Woman is competing with men at what men do best. The Amazon is more macho than a masked Mexican wrestler, at least in the recent versions of the character. Supergirl is stronger than any man but is not competing against men for the man-prize. She is still feminine, with all the mystery and paradox and allure that word implies.

I notice that the writers who put Supergirl into personal problems and paradoxes where her powers are not much help — such as when she is suffering nightmares and afraid she is killing people in her sleep, for example, or falling in love with a genius boy from another time — are the ones where she shines.

For that same reason, I liked the story arc in the Supergirl Vol 5 comics where she discovers that she was sent to Earth to kill the son of Jor-El, since her scientist father had discovered the poisonous effect of the Phantom Zone, and feared it would release the Zone Dwellers each time it was used as a super-prison. Why? Because this story centered around a psychological problem, a problem of her conflict of loyalties, and not something that could be solved with a super-punch.

I have not seen the SMALLVILLE version of Supergirl, so I can make no comment here, aside from saying that they captured the right look, and saluting their choice of actress.

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But what about the new Supergirl?

I am infatuated. The trailer looks like it was made for fans like me.

Kara is supposed to be the kind of girl who says ‘golly’ and gets shy and giggly around the grown up version of Jame Olsen, but who also stops an eighteen wheeler truck in full career.

I loved the short moment when she runs down the alley finds out whether she can actually fly — a leap, a stumble, but never giving up — and then she soars.

In that haiku-length moment of film, everything I like about Supergirl is summed up. She is still a girl, still unsure, still needs help, but she never gives up because she never thinks of herself, and she then finds the strength and the superstrength to help others.

I like the classic costume.

I was very pleased that there was actually an anti-PC ergo pro-sanity moment in the trailer, which the editor showed in full: Cat Grant not only shuts down Kara for objecting to the ‘girl’ in ‘Supergirl’ but mocks her for it. Deservedly so.

This is the first time I can recall a pro-sanity shout-out put in popular entertainment. I hope to see more of them in the future. It was the opposite of the Politically Correct shout-out in the pages of Thor the Girl magazine, where Absorbing Man says everything disappointed fans like me have been saying about the girlification of Thor, and he get his jaw broken for his troubles, and his girlfriend is sucker punched as well.

To me it looks as if the writer and directors actually like the character of Supergirl and will treat her the way those of us who love her want to see.

As for black Jimmy Olsen? Meh. That is a minor point, hardly worthy of mention. He gets added to the list of Nick Fury, Johnny Storm, Ben Urich, Iris West, and Heimdall of Valhalla.

If I were Black and also gave a tinker’s damn about race, I would be offended. Falcon and War Machine and Black Panther and Captain Marvel and Luke Cage and Green Lantern John Stewart are apparently not good enough (even though all these characters are awesome), not to mention the Kaldur’ahm version of Aqualad (who was awesome and kicked ass); but characters who have been Caucasian for forty or fifty years must now be deeuropeanized, for some reason unclear to me.

If I were Black and also gave a tinker’s damn about race, I would wonder why the awesome black characters who have been black since the getgo are not good enough, but Caucasians must be turned into my people. We get the white man’s sloppy seconds? What is up with that?

Personally, I am not offended and not annoyed that they made puppyish Jimmy Olsen an imposing bald black man: but I am cheesed off that he is not wearing a bow tie.

Any show that has a Department of Extra-normal Operations, however, has my loyalty and support.

And it is high time Supergirl be reborn!

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Nota bene: the song playing at the end of the Supergirl trailer is ‘Fight Song’ by Rachel Patten. It is a perfect fit for the mood and tone of Supergirl, and the editor who clipped it in deserves applause.

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