Supergirl #18

I hate that feeling I get when I’m reading a comic story and thinking “I wish the author hadn’t decided to talk so blatantly to the reader”. This issue, written by Joe Kelly, features a second Supergirl who wants to destroy the first one. The new S says about the old one “the darkness… the ugliness… it’s made the world sick. You’re a cancer…. Supergirl does the right thing. All of the time… and she does it with a smile.”

Later, she continues, “Supergirl is happy. I’m fiery! I’m inspirational! People look to Supergirl to forget their problems… to see someone who can teach them to do it better.” (The new one also managed to find a shirt that stretched down to her belt.)

Supergirl #18 draft cover

I think we’re supposed to applaud that “our” Supergirl, the “right” one, eventually wins over the new one, but I have to say, I agree with the imposter. Who does want a whiny, screwed-up Supergirl with problems and a trampy wardrobe? Except for the clothing, that’s actually a pretty good description of the original heroine during the terrible soap opera days where she was hanging out in an orphanage and crying because she didn’t have a normal boyfriend she could show off to her friends. Ick.

I don’t know whether to blame Adam Archer or Alé Garza, the two pencillers, for the blow-up mannequin look of the faux femme. She looks like the air-brushed Jessica Alba on the Fantastic Four poster, with added fake frozen grin. I think it’s meant to support Kelly’s point about what he sees as a two-dimensional characterization, but it’s unpleasant to look at.

The worst part, though, is that the new Supergirl turns out to be Dark Angel. Remember her? John Byrne’s bad idea that turned Donna Troy into an eternal masochist? I don’t think I ever needed to see her again. But wait! Another revelation! She’s being controlled … and eventually destroyed… by the Monitor. Gack! Crossover continuity infection. Quick! Kill it before it spreads!

So why is it a bad idea for authors to directly address fan concerns? Because in superhero comics, writers who do this tend to be big fans of the strawman, a simplified misreading of the real discussion set up to be easy to beat down. Then again, perhaps it’s too difficult or bad fiction to insert a more nuanced position into a four-color punch-em-up.

I found myself reading this story thinking “how many more issues does Kelly have before he’s gone?” This week, that question applies to several series, this one, Birds of Prey, Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, … it’s lame-duck writing, and it makes the experience even more pointless than usual. Instead of “I *hope* editorial doesn’t force changes anytime soon”, we’re left with “I *know* this is all going to change in a month or two”.


18 Responses to “Supergirl #18”

  1. Adam Arnold Says:

    Supergirl just needs to be cancelled and this version of the character scrapped. I loved Peter David’s version of Supergirl and that entire run and really hated to see it go, but I loved how he brought her arc full circle in those last amazing issues of that run. It’s just too bad every Supergirl after that run has been so dang godawful to read…

  2. Johanna Says:

    I’d simply like someone to tell good stories about her without muddling in continuity all the time. I’d also like a much better character design. (I never thought I’d consider the ball-fringe hot pants costume a high point.)

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  4. Joe Williams Says:

    The other day I picked up my son from day care and there was a young girl with a Supergirl shirt on and it really bummed me out that DC can’t seem to find a way to make a comic she can read.

  5. bad wolf Says:

    Geez, that sounds so much like Infinite Crisis, with the writers putting fan complaints into the mouths of the villains, evidently to shoot them down without really addressing them.

    I kept expecting Hitler to show up complaining about decompression. “See? The only people complaining about comics writing are Hitler! Are you going to agree with Hitler?”

  6. Shawn Hill Says:

    Waitaminute! In those new SG costume designs, she’s actually wearing a real skirt. With pleats! That looks like it fits, and might even be attractive!?

    Can that really happen?

  7. Rob Vines Says:

    Am I the only one who’s not real fond of the ‘classic’ Supergirl costume? Aside from the impracticality of a flying heroine wearing a skirt, I’ve always thought it looked more like a cheerleader’s outfit than something you’d wear to fight crime in. Plus the classic silver-age outfit didn’t have enough red in it.

    I really liked the tweaks that Busiek and Immonen gave to the design in “Superman: Secret Identity”, myself–I liked the red leggings, in particular, but also apperciated the fact that they wore gloves. No pesky fingerprints to give away your secret identities!

  8. Johanna Says:

    The original original looked most to me like a skating outfit. Nowadays, the most sensible would be a kind of bodysuit, like Superman’s or the Legion’s costumes. But a pleated skirt over leggings is cute.

  9. Lisa Says:

    “Who does want a whiny, screwed-up Supergirl with problems and a trampy wardrobe? ”

    Actuallly I do. I would rather read about a character who has problems, YET WHO IS STILL HEROIC than someone who is cheerful all the time and has no problems. The first one I can identify with (I’m not perfect) the second one I can’t. Second the first characterisation takes more courage the second one doesn’t.

    Sorry you don’t like it John Williamns. But comic books are aimed at a demographic averaging at 27 years old with a college education. I don’t want to read a comic book aimed at five year olds.

  10. Johanna Says:

    Lisa, that strikes me as a false dichotomy — there are people with issues who still stay cheerful. And it’s possible to identify with a range of characteristics from a diversity of heroes. I always loved Superman’s ideals, even though I was never going to fly unaided or turn out to be from another planet.

  11. Lisa Says:

    “Lisa, that strikes me as a false dichotomy — there are people with issues who still stay cheerful. And it’s possible to identify with a range of characteristics from a diversity of heroes. I always loved Superman’s ideals, even though I was never going to fly unaided or turn out to be from another planet.”

    And there are people who don’t. I don’t see why it should make a difference whether or not Supergirl has a smile plastered to her face like the Joker or a Cheshire Cat, as long as she does the right thing. Which she has managed to do time and time again. I don’t know since when heroic has gone from being heroic or doing great things—to grinning like an idiot.

    It’s too bad people are more interested in SG being more of female clone of her cousine, than her own person.

  12. Johanna Says:

    Do you see why it makes a difference when a supposed “hero” is doing non-heroic things under the umbrella of supposed “realism”? I don’t want a female clone, but I do want a girl hero who lives up to the name instead of the sad fanboy doll we’ve got.

  13. Kevin Says:

    “It’s too bad people are more interested in SG being more of female clone of her cousine, than her own person.”

    Frankly, I’ve never wanted a female clone of Superman, but she ought to act heroic more often than not. Unfortunately, the writers on SUPERGIRL fall on NOT most of the time. And typically, they’ve lazily mistaken Hollywood celebrity ‘teenager angst’ cliches for realism.

  14. Lisa Says:

    You are mistaking ‘heroic’ with ‘perfect’. Kara has shown heroism time and time again since the beggining of the book. Whether that be in rescuing a girl from being hit by a truck, stopping a man from beating his wife, showing a broken down man the right way so that he could be re-united with his daughter. Standing up to a boy who hit her. Or walking away from a fight.

    Just because she’s not smilling while she does it or displays the type attitude I would associate with ‘Mary Poppins’. Does not make her or her actions less heroic.

    Kara is vastly different from her cousine. Clark lived on a farm and had a sheltered childhood with two loving parents. Kara on the other hand wasn’t. She grew up beneath a dominiring father who practised experiments on her and had high expectations of her.

    Kara’s mental outlook is actually consistent with that of many people or teenagers who underwent that kind of psychological trauma.

    Why you would expect her to be exactly like her cousine really strikes me as being bizarre.

  15. Kevin Says:

    “You are mistaking ‘heroic’ with ‘perfect’.”

    Nope, try again. The problem is this is ALWAYS the EXTREME, knee-jerk response by die-hard fans of this series to folks who keep complaining that ‘she doesn’t act heroic’, except when it’s in her self-interest. Trust me, it’s still NOT WORKING. :)

    “Kara has shown heroism time and time again since the beggining of the book. Whether that be in rescuing a girl from being hit by a truck, stopping a man from beating his wife, showing a broken down man the right way so that he could be re-united with his daughter.”

    Didn’t those things happen in the INFINTE CHRISTMAS SPECIAL? I sure don’t remember ANY of this stuff in SUPERGIRL’s OWN book.

    “Standing up to a boy who hit her.”

    Whoopee. And hauls off and hits him back; that really showed him how to treat a girl. That was REAL HEROIC of her, considering she’s SUPER-POWERED and INVULNERABLE anyway.

    Sorry, but I’m not seeing ‘heroism’ in that scenario; I’m seeing ‘vengence’.

    “Or walking away from a fight.”

    More like ‘FLEEING from a fight when she’s needed’. Kandor still probably thanks her for that, I’m sure.

    “Just because she’s not smiling while she does it or displays the type attitude I would associate with ‘Mary Poppins’.’

    Maybe DISNEY’S Mary Poppins? Because ‘smiling’ is NOT usually how the nanny behaved in the books the movie was LOOSELY BASED ON.

    “Kara is vastly different from her cousine.”

    Other than the thinly-developed personality thus far, I don’t think so. She’s young, blonde and wears next to nothing (but a cape she should be tripping over) for a costume; otherwise, she pretty much HAS THE EXACT SAME POWERS SET as her cousin (outside of “Daddy’s Mad Scientist Experiments”, which is such an old shock routine to add ‘dimension’ to a character). And Kelly checking off a laundry list of what the Silver Age SG DIDN’T DO in her comics doesn’t make this ‘new’ one all of a sudden “more contemporary” or “modern”.

    “Clark lived on a farm and had a sheltered childhood with two loving parents.”

    You know, life isn’t really such an idyllic existence when one ‘lives on a farm’. They used to have social programs where they shipped deliquient and unruly kids to WORK on farms just to ‘see how the other half lives’ and get an education. You know, maybe this ‘new’ Kara SHOULD have gone to the Kent farm after all…. :)

    “Kara on the other hand wasn’t. She grew up beneath a domineering father who practised experiments on her and had high expectations of her.”

    Nahhh, that’s part of the overdone “oooh, my Daddy was a BAD MAN, so now I’m damaged” cliche-fest, straight out of too many Hollywood teen dramas (or at the very least, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN). And that’s a really SICK way of developing what’s always been an ARCHETYPAL HEROIC FEMALE character, at any rate.

  16. Lisa Says:

    Then you clearly have no understanding what heroism means. Heroism is having or displaying the character or attributes of a hero; extraordinarily bold, altruistic, determined.

    Something which Kara has shown time and time again. Whether that has been in saving the lives of others. Standing up for those who are weak. Standing up to boy who was not only intent on beating her but dominating her. To being determined to live life on her own and not be given to nepotism. To taking down criminals. To being determined to make her way in the world. To meeting a problem head on as opposed to passively waiting for the problem to come to her. Refusing to be a pawn and played with.
    All of this has been shown in her book from issues #6-15. If you’ve been reading the book (and your remarks above make me feel that you haven’t) you would have seen that.

    The fact that she is supperpowers and is near invulnarable should not make her acts any less valid. One could argue the very same thing about her cousine. Is Superman not a hero now either?

    From your comments above it is clear that you haven’t been reading the book. Also from the venom

    Kara is not a ‘Hollywood cliche’. She is very, very real. Many young women all over the world come from abused and broken back grounds, and come from less than idealised lives and situations. To see that you’ve reduced something like this to being made up is very poor.

    It’s clear from your level of venom and sarcasm on t post, as well the many which I’ve seen you leave on various comic book forums. That you’re determined to hate the book, no matter what. So I’ll just end my part in this discussion right here.

  17. Vid Says:

    I liked Peter David’s Supergirl but couldn’t get past all the weird villains and other characters. I think that’s a problem I’ve had with DC in general (I’m more partial to Marvel but don’t read superhero comics much anymore). The heroes are great but most of the villains are hokey. The only good/popular villains are mostly cerebral with few of them actually being able to physically fight said heroes.

  18. Johanna Says:

    Trying to make ever-stronger heroes and villains for physical fights leads to a kind of “arms race” where things quickly become even more unbelievable than they already are. That’s why you often see contrasts with brainy villains/brawny heroes. Personally, I miss the days where Superman would outsmart the bad guys.

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