A KC Column by KC Carlson
Let’s get the obvious out of the way up front: The only reason that this new Supergirl: The Silver Age Omnibus exists at all is because there’s a reasonably successful TV show starring the character. The CW has picked Supergirl up for Season 2 after CBS (which aired the first season) passed, and it’s currently scheduled to start up again on October 10th. It’s a pretty great TV show, if you haven’t seen it yet. Supergirl Season One will be available on DVD and Blu-ray on August 9.
It also doesn’t hurt that this is a fairly easy book for DC to produce, since two-thirds of it was already published in 2001 and 2003 as The Supergirl Archives Volumes 1 and 2. However, this new Supergirl: The Silver Age Omnibus is 686 pages big, and that means that this volume has an additional 22 vintage Supergirl stories reprinted in an upscale format for the first time!
(Those 22 stories would most likely have been in a projected Supergirl Archives Volume 3, but the Archives line petered out in 2014. Since then, DC has mostly concentrated on upscale Omnibus projects — such as this Supergirl Omnibus — which repackage vintage DC stories that were first restored and published in the Archive series into the larger, and apparently more popular, Omnibus format.)
THE GIRL OF STEEL, VERSION ONE
These Supergirl stories are the Silver Age stories that appeared in (mostly) Action Comics from 1959 up to 1963, beginning with the first appearance of Supergirl/Linda Danvers (Kara Danvers on the TV show) in Action Comics #252 (May 1959).
Those of you who are Mort Weisinger fans/scholars/junkies know that Mort liked to try out new concepts as single-issue stories to gauge readership reaction about a new character or idea he was thinking of introducing. Supergirl was originally one of those try-out concepts. There was an untitled proto-Supergirl story first published in Superman #123 (August 1958) retroactively titled “The Three Magic Wishes: The Girl of Steel”. In this book-length story by Otto Binder, Dick Sprang, and Stan Kaye, Jimmy Olsen accidentally conjures up a “Super-Girl” by wishing upon a magic totem for “a Super-Girl, with super-powers equal to Superman’s, (who) would appear and become his companion!”
Because comic books, this actually works, and soon there’s a mysterious woman who looks like the eventual Kara Zor-El (except not a teenager and with a red skirt instead of blue). Typical of the way the men of that era wrote female spin-off characters, she makes mistakes and causes Superman problems but ultimately sacrifices herself to Kryptonite exposure to save Superman. Instead of see her die on-panel, we watch Jimmy reappear to wish her away “back to the mysterious limbo from which she came”. And this happens on page 10 of a 26-page story. Gotta love Weisinger Super-stories. We never see this version of “Super-Girl” again.
Sadly, you won’t see her in this new Omnibus either. The story has been dropped (despite appearing in Supergirl Archives Volume 1), most likely because it will confuse the heck out of those folks who only watch the TV show and might be confused by it. (Or maybe it’s because the TV-only people might be confused that this Jimmy Olsen is white (and a redhead) and TV Jimmy is not white (and bald). This is so confusing.)
By the way, there’s something else in that Supergirl Archives Volume 1 that also doesn’t appear in this new Omnibus, but I’ll get to that later. So don’t sell that Archives yet…
The stories in this Supergirl Omnibus are largely the work of just five talented creators. Out of the 56 Supergirl stories in this volume, 55 of them are drawn by artist Jim Mooney. (The sole other story is drawn by Al Plastino. And it’s the first/origin story of the character.) Mooney, who died in 2008, had a long career in comics drawing Golden Age Batman stories, Tommy Tomorrow, Supergirl, and several long runs on various Spider-Man titles, as well as dozens of other characters for many different publishers.
Otto Binder wrote 13 early Supergirl tales (including the origin), followed by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel (26 stories, including the story where Superman reveals Supergirl’s existence to Earth, as well as several early Legion of Super-Heroes appearances). Beginning in 1962, Leo Dorfman wrote 17 of the later stories in this volume, including the multi-chapter Super-Horse saga, and the introduction of Lex Luthor’s sister, Lena Thorul. (Anagrams, another quaint sign of Silver Age super-writing.)
Although Supergirl was primarily designed to appeal to young girls, I always enjoyed the series as a young reader — certainly more than the Jimmy Olsen stories that I was “supposed” to be reading instead. Even as a young kid, I couldn’t put up with how dumb Jimmy and the other characters acted in his stories, and despite how much I loved Kurt Schaffenberger’s art on Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane, those stories often seemed more cruel than funny or entertaining. (Thanks, Uncle Mort!). As an only child, I would often relate to the loneliness of those early Supergirl tales, set in the Midvale Orphanage, where young Kara was placed by Superman to provide her a secret identity until she was properly trained. Or something like that… (It was always fascinating how often Weisinger’s “because I said so” explanations could be unraveled by logic without warning.)
SILVER AGE SUPERGIRL: THAT’S THE LIFE!
The Silver Age Supergirl series is also an interesting study to watch how slowly DC was taking rudimentary baby-steps into developing a quasi-Marvel ongoing continuity. The Supergirl feature was one in which character developments actually happened and continued without being reset, not the least of which was Supergirl/Kara/Linda actually aging! (Unlike most of DC’s other characters.)
Plus, real human things actually happened in this series! Linda eventually gets adopted and gains a family, friends, and even a boyfriend or two. (So what if one of them is really a horse?) Before long, Superman introduced Supergirl to the world, and she no longer had to hide her existence. Her powers grew and evolved. Eventually, she time-traveled to more adventures (and friends!) in the Legion of Super-Heroes, where she somehow confusingly hangs out with Superman when he was the teenage Superboy. But it’s all 1,000 years in the future, so OK!
The Omnibus doesn’t get this far, but later, she graduates high school, goes to college, and eventually has to go out and get a job! Over the years, she’s been a student counselor, news reporter, and an actress in a TV soap opera called Secret Hearts. Hey, wasn’t that the title of an old DC Comics romance comic?
In addition, she also very famously died. Over the continuities, she has had so many different versions of herself (one of which actually became a character for an indy publisher. Shhh! Don’t tell DC!) that she is now frequently considered to be one of DC’s more confusing characters. Because of that, I am SO waiting to read her new Rebirth comic — mostly to see if they can actually resolve all of this in less than 100 pages. Or 100 issues. (NOTE: Not holding my breath…)
BUT THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS OMNIBUS…
Supergirl Archives Volume 1 had a wonderful, setting-the-stage Forward written by now-legendary comics editor and Supergirl fangirl Diana Schutz. After displaying her fandom, she relates the story of how, after meeting the great Supergirl artist Jim Mooney for the first time, she started campaigning for DC to produce a Supergirl Archives series for both her and Jim Mooney. She promised then-DC Publisher Paul Levitz a new cover by Frank Miller for the first volume if they made the book happen. Only after Levitz agreed to the plan, did she ask Miller to draw the cover! Good thing he did!
(Incidentally, this is the exact way that a lot of things in comics happen, unbeknownst to most comic book executives.)
Sadly, this Miller Supergirl Archives cover (one of a very few Archives covers that is not vintage, reprinted art) is not included in this Omnibus. Which possibly explains why the Schutz Forward, included in the Omnibus, has been edited to remove that story.
All things being equal, Supergirl: The Silver Age Omnibus is all about fun stories. It may seem a little bit old-fashioned and probably kinda silly in places, but if you’re looking for something other than things blowing up, or heroes dying in senseless superhero battle stories, or confusing endless origin reboots, then this is your book. It’s also a perfect book for parents to share at bedtime with their own little supergirls and superboys. I’m so happy it’s here right now.
KC CARLSON loves the cover of this Supergirl: The Silver Age Omnibus. It’s a beautiful piece drawn by a guy who was born to draw this era of DC Comics characters — Darwyn Cooke. As usual, all his versions of DC characters of this era (even sometimes Batman) are happy and smiling and full of life. We probably won’t see many covers like this again. Because Darwyn Cooke passed away a little over a month ago… and… excuse me, but I’m having a lot of trouble finishing this sentence…
WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you.
Classic covers from the Grand Comics Database.