Supergirl is Hamstrung By a Lack of Status Quo   | CBR

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Supergirl has been a fixture in the DC Universe since the Silver Age of Comics, but in all of those decades of publication, she’s failed to cement a firm identity like the Big Blue Boy Scout himself. Superman has a pretty well-known premise and status quo, but Supergirl doesn’t really have that, even among comic fans.

Everything from the lack of a consistent set-up to Supergirl’s secret identity constantly changing makes the Supergirl is a lot harder to explain than Superman. This is one of the big reasons why she also has so few classic runs in comparison to him. The only way to truly develop Supergirl into a full-fledged character in her own right is to give her the same narrative benefits given to Superman.

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The most typical premise for Supergirl is that she’s Superman’s cousin Kara Zor-El. Beyond that, however, she simply lacks a consistent story or real narrative hook. When thinking of Superman, everyone knows that he’s Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent, who was raised by a couple that found him after his planet exploded. From there, he goes to Metropolis, romances Lois Lane, and fights foes such as the maniacal Lex Luthor. Supergirl lacks the day job, consistent setting, love interest, and rogues gallery, resulting in writers just bouncing from new status quo to new status quo whenever a new run of her book begins.

Speaking of a day job, sometimes Supergirl has a secret identity, and sometimes she doesn’t. Of course, this is different from Superman, who literally was raised as Clark Kent. The Clark Kent identity is also synonymous with Superman, and it’s this consistency that’s made him into such an endearing character. In the case of Supergirl, however, she’s had tons of different civilian identities. This include Linda Lee, Linda Danvers, Linda Lee Danvers, Kara Danvers and Mae. Many of these identities were fairly useless outside of simply following the generic superhero archetypes of the time period. Wonder Woman’s Diana Prince identity has been mostly done away with for years, and Supergirl sometimes follows suit. The fact that DC can’t quite say one way or the other whether she definitively has one has definitely been an issue, though. She’s also lived in no less than 10 different locations throughout her publication history, none of which have become her versions of Smallville or Metropolis.

The aforementioned Mae identity was also during a period when Supergirl wasn’t Superman’s Kryptonian cousin, which was her status quo for around half of the Post-Crisis era. Even though this weird decision was eventually fixed, a lot of the Supergirl material published beyond the Silver and Bronze Age features a character who isn’t even the “real” Supergirl. It doesn’t help that the Peter David Supergirl run from the Matrix/Earth Angel era is considered one of the two great Supergirl runs along with the Sterling Gates/Jamal Igle book. The result has been a character who’s floundered in her publication history and who mainly coasts off of being a spin-off character for one of the biggest heroes in comic books.

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The first step in truly making Supergirl into a successful character would be for DC’s editorial staff to stamp out an official status quo. This would include secret identity (or lack thereof), an official city, supporting cast and love interest, as well as a group of at least 5-10 exclusive villains that she would tussle with. This wouldn’t be hard to mandate, as it was DC editorial’s guidelines in the Post-Crisis that initially kept Superman as the only surviving Kryptonian.

To craft this new state of affairs, elements could be taken from the various versions of the character. Since the DC Rebirth Supergirl run has already introduced National City from the Supergirl TV show which could be used as her base of operations. Supergirl being a full-time hero might also work, since most of the attempts at giving her a secret identity have just derived the classic “nerdy” Clark Kent persona. In terms of her supporting cast, while Superman characters like Jimmy Olsen, Lucy Lane, and even Cat Grant could show up, Supergirl should mostly be hanging out with her own cast of original characters. The same goes with the villains she faces, with Max Tycho, Reign, and maybe even the witch Selena from the 1984 Supergirl movie all being brought back instead of just sharing her cousin’s rogues gallery.

All of these steps would need to be taken in order for Supergirl to truly stand out from the shadow of Superman’s cape, which was a problem that her show constantly had. Now with that series finally over, it’s the best time for a fresh start for Kara Zor-El, one which could define her for generations to come.

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