With the current cross-platform appeal of superheroes, it’s quite common to see two or three different iterations of popular characters appearing concurrently in different mediums. And while it may get confusing for some, at least it’s easy to visually distinguish them due to their medium. For example, you know just by looking at an image of Wonder Woman if she is the comic book, movie or animated version of the Amazing Amazon.
Then there are cases like Supergirl. DC Comics’ Girl of Steel has not only had multiple iterations spread across comics, film, television and more – she’s had multiple iterations within DC’s comic book line alone (and that’s without even counting the ones from DC’s non-continuity comics aimed at younger readers). And these iterations have been so distinctive from one another that when a fanboy talks about “Supergirl from the comics”, she will most definitely be given an era-specific tag. And then add to that mix the various other Supergirls you’ve got floating around pop culture and things can start to get real confusing, real quick.
So let’s just break ‘em all down right here and now, shall we?
The Current Line-Up
These are the Supergirls regularly appearing in currently-produced content:
Supergirl (DC Comics)
AKA the “Rebirth Supergirl”. The current comic book version of Kara Zor-El, last daughter of Krypton and cousin to Superman was recently given a soft reboot to bring her more in line with the other high-profile Supergirl currently appearing on television in…
Supergirl (The CW)
Melissa Benoist flies high as part of Greg Berlanti’s superpowered “Arrow-verse” line-up of connected CW shows that include The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow. As Linda Danvers, she works for CatCo Media and as Supergirl, she fights superhuman threats alongside her special agent adoptive sister and the D.E.O (Department of Extra-Normal Operations).
DC Super Hero Girls (multi-platform)
As part of DC Entertainment’s animated/graphic novel/toy line aimed at young girls, Supergirl here is a neophyte hero sent to Super Hero High to hone her skills alongside super-powered classmates that include teen versions of Wonder Woman and Batgirl.
The “Pre-Crisis” Supergirl
This was the first (and for many people), most definitive Supergirl. For her first 26 years as a comic book character, it was smooth sailing for Supergirl. She was introduced to the world as Kara Zor-El, cousin to Superman, whose family lived on a fragment of Krypton that had survived that planet’s destruction. Eventually the city was threatened by a cataclysmic meteor shower and her parents sent her to safety in a rocket to Earth, much like her cousin Kal-El, years before.
Placed in an orphanage under the alias “Linda Lee” and keeping her identity as Supergirl hidden from the world, she was eventually adopted by the Danvers, went public as Supergirl and was an admired heroine from her teens into her twenties.
Then came the Crisis on Infinite Earths, where DC Comics decided they needed to tidy up all their multiple-earth continuity by rebooting their whole universe and starting fresh. And to signal that they meant business, they killed off some of their biggest names, the first of which being Supergirl.
The Post-Crisis Supergirl(s)
Now here’s where it starts to get a little crazy. Shortly after killing off Supergirl and rebooting their universe, there was talk around DC about bringing Supergirl back somehow (in the post-Crisis DCU “Supergirl” never existed, so no one was aware there had ever been a “Supergirl” and that she died saving the universe in the Crisis). So here’s what DC did next.
A shape-shifting blob of protoplasm (really), Matrix was from an alternate Earth and she took the guise of “Supergirl” when she came to seek Superman’s help in saving her Earth. She eventually stayed on the Earth of the DCU proper and permanently adopted the role of Supergirl.
Supergirl (Linda Danvers)
To save a dying woman, Matrix Supergirl merged with her (remember, she’s really just a blob of protoplasm). The woman, one Linda Danvers, and Matrix Supergirl then permanently become one being, “Supergirl”. After having a number of adventures (and modifying her costume to look similar to the animated version of Supergirl that was currently appearing on television), she eventually retired from being Supergirl, which paved the way for DC to bring in the new…
Supergirl (Kara Zor-El)
The classic Supergirl was finally properly reintroduced to the post-Crisis DC Universe, as Kara Zor-El, long-lost cousin of Superman, crash landed to Earth in a meteorite that was once part of Krypton. The teen super-heroine was eager to learn about her new home and eventually worked alongside the Teen Titans, Legion of Super-Heroes and the Justice League. All seemed well, until…
The “New 52” Supergirl
The “New 52” was DC’s attention-grabbing but poorly-thought out and hastily-executed attempt to gain exposure, sales and general interest for their comic book lineup. They rebooted their universe (again) and relaunched all of their titles with new #1 issues. Supergirl, here again, was a refugee from Krypton, arriving to Earth as an teen, albeit one who was prone to bursts of anger and was, dare I say, not very likeable. And she also had a very questionable costume – thigh-high boots with knee cut-outs and a bathing-suit like outfit with a very unfortunate placement of red paneling. She did, however, manage to make friends with others long enough to briefly join the Justice League United (it was this Supergirl who was given the soft reboot to become the “Rebirth” Supergirl mentioned above).
But wait, there’s more!
- Kara, as portrayed by Helen Slater in the 1984 film Supergirl.
- Kara, as portrayed by Laura Vandervoort (in the television series Smallville)
- Supergirl from the DC Animated Universe (Superman Adventures and Justice League Unlimited)
- Supergirl from the Lego Batman video game franchise
- Supergirl from the Injustice video games and tie-in comics
As well as these other (non DCU) comic versions:
- Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures In The 8th Grade
- Tiny Titans
…and there you have it!
Although there’s bound to be some outliers I missed here and there…just be glad I didn’t fold Power Girl into the mix (aka the Supergirl of Earth 2), because she’s a whole ‘nother ball of confusion!