Name: Kara Zor-El
Powers: Super strength, flight, invulnerability, super speed, heat vision, freeze breath, X-ray vision, superhuman hearing, healing
Appears in: DC comic series Supergirl, Action Comics, Superman/Batman Adventure Comics, The Superman Family, The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl, and CW‚Äôs television series Supergirl
- Hank Henshaw: I see you share your cousin’s appetite for wanton destruction, Miss Danvers.
Supergirl: You know, I am starting to answer to Supergirl.
- Alex Danvers: Hey, you’ve been dodging missiles and pushing your endurance for the last two hours. Even you have your limits.
Supergirl: For the last twelve years I hid who I was. I don’t have to anymore. And I don’t want to waste a minute of it. Besides, this sounds like a job for Supergirl.
The character of Supergirl has seen several forms, but the one I‚Äôm going to focus on is the most popular and long-standing one of Kara Zor-El, Superman‚Äôs cousin and the star of her own comic book series and television show. She‚Äôs generally shown as a teenage girl (around 15 or 16) who has to deal with all the problems of adolescence alongside you know, being a superhero.
My main issue with Supergirl is that she is a copycat of Superman. Their identical powers are explained by the fact that they‚Äôre related, but for me it puts her immediately and constantly in his shadow. As she was created as his female counterpart, I don‚Äôt feel it‚Äôs possible to really see her as a stand-alone hero, she will always be a spin-off of a more successful male character. Even her outfit is the same as his (though the tight trousers are replaced with a short skirt).
For me Supergirl seems an example of people attempting to expand the superhero universe to include and interest girls, yet being too lazy to think of a new character. It‚Äôs for this reason that I could never get fully on board with her, I feel as though she was not given the same thought as original male superheroes were. Admittedly at the time Supergirl was first introduced as a stand alone figure (around 1972), the existence of a series dedicated to a female superhero was in itself an achievement, however now we have so many other more original and interesting female heroes, Supergirl still fails to capture my interest. Additionally, the problem I always had with Superman was that he was too perfect. It is hard to relate to or invest in a character that does not really have any tangible imperfections. And as Supergirl is based around the same characteristics, I find the problem transfers down to her.
However, I won‚Äôt deny credit where it is due. I know that in 2011 she ranked 94 on IGN‚Äôs list of Top 100 Comic Book Heroes of All Time, and in 2013 was 17 on IGN‚Äôs Top 25 Heroes of DC Comics. I also know she is the first female superhero to topline her own show, and current depictions of her often avoid overt sexualisation and paint her more as an intelligent and (superficially) normal teenager. CW‚Äôs show has however been criticised for being somewhat heavy handed with its message of female empowerment, becoming something of a caricature of itself. In this there is the interesting point that sometimes in attempting to highlight feminist principles, there is a danger of actually undermining the fact that female strength should not be noteworthy, but rather an accepted dynamic. At the end of the day however, I can‚Äôt fully dismiss a show that places importance on promoting female empowerment, and which has developed a much loved protagonist to inspire thousands of fans. Indeed, Supergirl has undeniably carved a space for herself in the superhero universe that manages to stand somewhat separately from Superman. I do believe, however, that there is only so far Supergirl can go and I would personally rather watch or read about a female superhero who is original, who is a new invention rather than a copycat of a male hero.
Girl Museum Inc.