Thursday, September 7, 2006


My new rule is if I find myself stating having more than three things to say about a comics character in IM, and it's in a ranty manner, I should rant on here. So now I will.

SUPERGIRL. Just saying the name makes me feel eleven years old and oh so excited. She was a girl! She was just like Superman! A girl could be just as strong as Superman and just as smart and just as able. My introduction to Supergirl via comics was rather brief and I admit, I fixated on the movie version for many, many years. But given that I was Batman's girl since the age of five or six, the fact that Supergirl made any impression on me whatsoever is a big thing, a very big thing. She was Wonder Woman, only young enough and confused enough about Earth, that a little kid like I was then could relate to her. I can remember thinking I'd never understand the grown up world, and bucking myself up with thoughts that Supergirl managed to figure out Earth, so I could too.

I wasn't fully satisfied with Supergirl again until The Adventures of Batman and Superman on the WB, where Kal-el found Kara and brought her back to Earth where she could live with the Kents as his cousin. I didn't like her superhero uniform, but I loved her. I loved her family issues, I loved her looking up to, feeling jealous of, feeling overshadowed by Superman. Even though Justice League lost me when it became the JLU, I did actually tune in when there was anything going on with Kara. Because it was going to be about Supergirl!

The Supergirl in the comics now has so much potential. She thinks of Batman and Superman both as her fathers. Supergirl has two dads! How's that for a new way of looking at the world, and Earth and human politics and prejudices etc. She's spent time with the Amazons, surrounded by indepenent strong women who make no appologies for being that way. She has three role models who keep telling her she can tell them anything, talk to them about anything. For me at least, that's total wish fulfillment. As a teenager I'd have given darn near anything to have even one person who wanted to be there for me like that.

Instead everything I read, and see discussed is about this girl who wears a Supergirl outfit, but who's someone totally different. She's trapped in her head with her issues. She's morose. She's potentially masochistic. She's emotional. She feels misunderstood. She's lost. She has no goals. She feels she has no purpose. She has no actual direction and no clue where to go for direction. She has impulses she doesn't understand. And she just happens to have Kryptonian physiology.

Who is this girl? Why does she seem so listless in all her poses? Why does she seem without focus on the covers? How could she have been among Amazons and not learned the basic body language of two feet solidly planted on the ground, spine straight, shoulders back? Why is her skirt so teeny? What true reason does she have to be so lost? How and why did she become a character that I want to avoid? A character who seems spoilt to me and unable to see her blessings? Where's her gratitude gone?

The Supergirl I remember was grateful to be alive. She was grateful for the chance to be a hero and do something with her life. She was grateful for family to feel jealous of in the first place. Where did the gratitude go? The more I write, the more I realize what bothers me is the utter lack of graciousness. There seem to be no wonders of the world, to this new Supergirl. I don't look at her and imagine seeing the world through new eyes. She's world weary and cynical when she should be young enough to bounce back. All my memories of her are about bouncing back. She felt and she felt deeply and she made it ok for girls to cry. If Superheros like her could cry, then I could cry and it didn't take away from my tomboyishness or my strengths or any of my accomplishments. Because crying wasn't weak, it was simply emotion. After Supergirl cried, she did something.

For all the story of Powergirl has become so convoluted and I feel a keen sense of disappointment in the prelude to crisis arc where nothing new came out of having her confront all the varied aspects of her past; Powergirl is more like the Kara I remember as a girl. She's determined, she's sassy, she's powerful, she's a role model.

The new Supergirl seems like an appendage. Since when was it ok for SUPERGIRL to be an appendage?! I don't know about her earliest incarnations, was she Superman's appendage then? Because I remember her as her own damn entity. Even when she was doing the wrong thing for the right reasons, or doing the right thing the wrong way, she was her own person.

Superman was an adult but Supergirl was somewhere in between. She could see adulthood but she was somehow innocent enough that I could put myself in her place far easier than I could with Superman. (And we can get into why I so strongly identify with Batman later). When playing with my cousins and they chose to be Superman and Spiderman and any number of male characters and then told me I couldn't play - I loved saying 'Sure I can. I'm Supergirl!' and whipping out my comic books. Boom. In your face. A real girl superhero!

Can little girls do that with the new Kara? Or do little girls not exist like that anymore? Is that what the new Supergirl comics are trying to say?

No comments: