The Evolution of Supergirl | From Sidekick and Sex Object to Leading Lady


Supergirl. It is a name that carries a long history, but it is largely unknown outside of comic book circles. To think that Kara Zor-El (the OG Supergirl) is just a Superman female counterpart ignores the more than fifty-plus-years that the character has been a part of the DC Comics world. While there is no way to fully delve into the long history of the Girl of Steel, with the upcoming show on CBS, she becomes one of the few female heroines to be leading a show on her own. So, we wanted to at least give you a taste of Kara Zor-El, the Girl from Krypton.

Before Kara Zor-El there were other characters who donned the title of “Super-Girl”, but it wasn’t until Action Comics #252 that she was first introduced. Since Kara’s introduction there have been alternative forms of Supergirl, but the focus is on Kara as she is the most well- known. Here’s the history of our girl and all you need to know in preparation for the upcoming show:

Kara was the last surviving member of Argo City, which was dislodged from Krypton when it exploded. Sent by her father Zor-El, Kara was to be raised by her cousin Kal-El (or Clark Kent to you Earthlings), taking on the mantle of Supergirl. In 1971 she received her own magazine, but it was not successful due to changes in creative staff and her solo stardom was later canceled. Still she remained a fixture in the Superman universe until 1985.

In 1985 writers decided to kill of Supergirl in a series entitled Crisis on Infinite Earths. The orchestrator behind it, Dick Giordando, best describes the reason for Supergirl’s death:

“Supergirl was created initially to take advantage of the high Superman sales and not much thought was put into her creation. She was created essentially as a female Superman. With time, writers and artists improved upon her execution, but she never did really add anything to the Superman mythos—at least not for me.”

Discarded as an obsolete piece of the Silver Age, Kara was then replaced by other women who would take on the title of Supergirl, unrelated to Superman: Matrix, Linda Danvers, and Cir-Eil.

Up until this point, it is hard to describe Kara’s role in the series. She was never as well used as she could have been, although she was given her own supporting cast, and her Earth-2 counterpart, Power Girl, fulfilled the sex object role. Overall, despite having powers and great potential it was rarely acted upon even though they did their best to make her a dynamic character. She was always a heroic character, but it seemed like they did not want to make her seem stronger than Superman.

Our modern version of Kara Zor-El Supergirl did not return until 2004. Her costumes have gone from semi-modest to showing a lot more skin, but also showcasing her powers more. Due to now being biologically older than Superman, she has the potential to surpass him as the most powerful hero.

Superman: The Animated Series and the Justice League DC Animated Universe have also picked up the slack, having Kara deal with arcs that test whom she is as a person, her allegiance to Superman, and her identity as a heroine. Supergirl has worked hard to slowly move out of the S shaped shadow of her cousin and it is hoped that the CBS show will continue to make her the heroine she deserves to be.

Images c/o CBS, Alex Ross/DC Comics, Warner Brothers,

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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