Why The World Needs Supergirl
Introducing: “THE SUPERGIRL FROM KRYPTON!” Is She Friend or Foe?
In 1959, D.C. Comics introduced Kara Zor-El to the world in Action Comics #252. Created by writer Otto Binder (who’s also responsible for Captain Marvel/Shazam) and artist Al Plastino (who, with Binder, also made badass Superman villain Brainiac), Kara Zor-El was a younger, blonde Kryptonian sent by her parents to Earth to be raised by her cousin Kal-El/Superman.
Kara, better known of course as Supergirl, was an instant hit with the fans. She quickly became one of the most recognizable female superheroes around, her in-comic power and out-of-comic popularity rivaling (but never surpassing) her more famous cousin.
Since her debut, she’s come and gone from the comics (most notably a two-decade absence after her comic book death in the ‘80s), but her popularity is peaking once again, thanks to the new show Supergirl, which debuts tonight on CBS.
Since the superhero renaissance began with Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight in 2005 and launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Jon Favreau’s Iron Man in 2008, we have seen extremely few female superheroes grace the big or small screens. Unfortunately, most women in comics are portrayed as second fiddle love interests to their superhero counterparts. Pepper Potts, Rachel Dawes, Jane Foster, and Lois Lane may all have been updated to be strong, independent women who can run billion-dollar companies and win Pulitzer Prizes, but the fact remains that these women take second billing to Iron Man, Batman, Thor and Superman.
In fact, no women has led a superhero film since the superhero movie renaissance has led a film (the horrendous box-office bomb Elektra in 2005 is the last one). Scarlet Johansson’s Black Widow, a badass character who has been a high point in all the films she’s appeared, still hasn’t been given her own movie. The first female superhero lead on the big screen in over a decade will be 2017’s Wonder Woman, followed by Captain Marvel in 2019.
Which is why Supergirl is so important, and why the world needs her. Like it or not, these superheroes become role models and objects of admiration to young children and teens. Young boys will dress up as Iron Man, Thor, Batman, Superman, and even Ant-Man (who’d have thought?!) this Halloween. But young girls don’t have as many female superhero equivalents, and they have never been center stage. Beyond Black Widow and Catwoman (both leather-clad), who is there? What does dressing up like Jane Foster or Pepper Potts look like?
Supergirl will help change this equation. The show has tremendous promise, if its pilot (which I saw as press) is any indication. Supergirl is not a show about Kal-El’s younger cousin — it’s about Kara Danvers, the almost-invulnerable Kryptonian learning how to use her powers while protecting National City from dangerous criminals. It’s about Kara Danvers, who plays second fiddle to nobody on her own show (thanks in part to Melissa Benoist perfectly embodying the role).
Supergirl was one of the first female role models who showed young girls that being strong, brave and independent were virtues, not vices. In an modern superhero landscape lacking in female heroes, NBC’s re-imagining of Kara Zor-El’s story is a breath of fresh air.
The world is ready for Supergirl.