Thursday, January 25, 2007

Supergirl Tug-of-War

Yeah, she's being torn in every direction. Her longtime fans want one thing, DC seems to want another, and I'd hate to see one of my favorite characters ruined. Again.

This Eddie Berganza editorial in DC Nation is the latest oil tossed on the fire. First, I'm not as annoyed about the character as Rachelle is. But I am annoyed with the patronizing tone of Mr. Eddie Berganza.

I'll repeat my history with Kara. I started reading her adventures in the mid-'60s. We pretty much grew up together. I had LoCs printed in her own title. Mr. B says, "I'm looking to attract women to read SUPERGIRL." Well, here I am. A woman. A 53-year-old woman. And I'm reading Supergirl.

I was thrilled to have Kara back. After all, it was her death in Crisis on Infinite Earths that led to my 10-year boycott (except for a few more years of Titans) of comics. I have lots of time and emotion invested in this character. And yet, I allowed for the changes in this version, that her father and his brother weren't on the best of terms. That he seems to have sent his daughter to Earth with an ulterior motive. That Kara has a lot of baggage and shit to work out. Fine. I can even see, now that Joe Kelly's taken over, some of the sweetness of the original character.

Aside from her emaciated look, I'm not gonna rail much about the costume. Yes, the skirt could be longer and less midriff could be on display. But given what I see teen girls running around in in weather above the freezing point, Kara's almost modest. At least she doesn't have piercings and tats. Hmmmm..... with her super skin..... never mind.

I wasn't thrilled with this statement from Mr. B:
"Jeph Loeb with the incomparable Mike Turner had already created the buzz, and Greg Rucka kept your attention during his all too short run."
But I understand he can't diss his creative staff, even the ones no longer on a particular book. And I can ignore the fact that much of that "buzz" was rather negative.

Okay, he can talk the good talk, even if not everyone will concede the point or even agree.
"No standard hero on patrol bit here. We were gonna make Kara a typical teenager, which meant she wouldn't listen to the grownups (in her case a guy named Kal) and wouldn't appreciate being given chores (killing Kal for her dad, Zor-El). She'd just be a girl trying to find her place in the world. Sure, some of you may not be keen that we didn't go straight into America's Sweetheart mode with her, but, hey, we know that's what she will eventually become. For us, it's the hero's journey that's interesting. I compare this to what's being done with Clark on SMALLVILLE."
But I hate Smallville. I found it cloying and annoying and nothing's changed my mind on the few occasions I stumble across it, so this isn't a good comparison for me.
Yes, Eddie, the journey is what fascinates. I'll give you that. But with her beginnings, she can't ever bee the sweet, innocent character she once was, who had to grow up and became a bit jaded about things because she discovered what life is like. This Kara started out that way and some horrible things have already happened to her and you can't go back from that, no matter how resilient you are. I have a BA and half a masters in psych. I do have some understanding about this. It's a given that all these experiences will influence who she becomes, or should.

Also, can we speed it up, this journey? Sure, Kelly made great strides in his first issue, but things are stalling a bit, getting a tad repetitious and backward feeling. Sure, life's like that, but this isn't real life. It's fiction, a comic, a story being spread out and if it goes on too long, all those readers you want to embrace Kara are going to be long gone by the time she becomes this wonderful, sweet person, if the book hasn't been canceled by then due to low sales. And I do not want that to happen.

I've been reading superhero comics since I was 7 and discovered Superman and Batman, along with all those Archies and Classics Illustrateds and romance comics I devoured. I liked them then, and now, because I'm an action/adventure junkie (as an observer or reader, only) and if you throw in great characters, strong dialogue, and wonderful art, you'll have me completely hooked. I suppose I'm not typical, or at least, I wasn't typical of my generation when no other girls I knew would touch a superhero comic. And if you're looking for women to read Supergirl, you've got to take into account that women are adults and not many adults of either sex read comics, or at least, not past their early 20s. It's taken graphic novels to make "comics" sexy for grownup readers.

And here's another news flash, Eddie:
"Now, she has a new love interest in Power Boy, a "hero" that Ian designed, keeping in mind the great attributes that are usually associated with female characters…and the reason most women don't like the super-hero genre. Like the chest window of his costume? His constant posing? Yes, he's a mimbo, but he'll be a lot worse to Kara when issue #15 hits."
This whole "mimbo" thing? I don't like it. I don't want role reversal. Sure, sexy male characters are nice, but fully rounded characters of both sexes who are sexy is even better. We can't move forward to equality if we stereotype any character, male or female. I think you mean well, Eddie, but this is just so wrongheaded.

I appreciate the job Joe Kelly has done to rescue the new Kara from her sucky beginnings, (though I didn't mind her appearances in Superman/Batman nearly as much as the early issues of her own title), but it's time to pick up the pace and get Kara to be the character we love and want to read about, because this journey of hers isn't something that's cutting it. Personally, much as I have no problems with the changes in her background, I think a simple updating of her original origin, her two sets of parents (yeah, can't use the Danvers anymore, huh?), even her working behind the scenes and learning about Earth and being a normal teen before going public as SG would have been a fun read. I'll bet Gail Simone could've done wonders with her, because she's been doing a marvelous job with the new Atom.

Oh, and Ale Garza is taking over art chores on the book? I think he draws ugly females. I am not happy about this at all.


  1. That's weird. All the stuff Berganza claims he wants in Supergirl was already done - by Peter David and some decent artists (particularly Leonard Kirk and my husband Robin) during that 75-issue run, which was of great appeal to female readers. And the payoff? Not a single TPB featuring their work. (The Gary Frank storyline got collected, as did the sexploitation one with the Benes and Lai art, but nothing from Leonard's and Robin's very long tenure on the book.)

  2. I did like the return of the doomed Kara in Peter David's Supergirl, but I did not like the other Supergirl. I only read a couple of issues of that and didn't return to it until Kara was brought in. Since at that time, they were still working under the assumption of no multi-verse and you can't undo Crisis on Infinite Earths, they couldn't keep that Kara, which was a shame, because she was just what we fans wanted.

  3. Well, I have been trying to wait out the plot arch on Kara, but it is beginning to work my nerve. Her and Power Girl not getting along is in my opinion stupid, I would think if anyone in the DC universe she would be close to it would be her (as Stargirl is to Power Girl).

    Second, I'm telling you all now, Power Boy is Darkseids daughter with Kara from when she was his slave on Apokolips. Yes, yes it's a sick thought but with all the rapes and murders in comics these days, the next shocker.

    Third, I don't want Kara to be the same character as she was pre Crisis, but they need to give her more than this rebel teenager act.

    Just my 2 cents, of course I'd like to see her duke it out with Mary Marvel!

  4. I don't want her to be the pre-Crisis Kara, either. That character would be too out-of-place today. But Kara always had a sweetness about her that's not there now and I guess I'm too old to care about teen rebellion unless there's real growth/maturity going on.

    Kara vs Mary Marvel, huh? Could be interesting.

  5. I don't have a whole lot of faith in Berganza to begin with. He was the editor when it was decided that Hal Jordan should be turned into a psychotic murderer. Gee, THAT storyline went well!

    I don't like the new Supergirl. I wouldn't read her if you paid me...unless they change her a whole lot. And she's certainly no role model for little girls wanting to read comics either. She's whiney, self-absorbed and a brat, and the art just hurts my eyes.

    Sorry, I'm REALLY cranky today.

  6. I'm just generally offended by Berganza's whole "Ladies, why won't you read our comic?! I don't understand! It's got a chick in it!"

    I liked the old Supergirl quite a bit, but this new one looks like a Bratz doll and embodies everything that makes me sad and afraid for the new generation of females. I don't mind a sassy, rebellious Supergirl (I kind of wish the first one gave Superman more lip about being stuffed in an orphanage for so long), I just don't want her to look so gross. And I don't want her to be useless.

  7. I'm willing to see where Kelly takes Kara and where she ends up, and the art doesn't really bother me, though I don't like the costume. But I agree about Berganza. I wish he would read all these discussions and see that there is no one "women's view" of Supergirl or superheroes or of comics. We are not all reading for the same reason or looking for the same things. We're simply readers, individuals. Just like the males of the species.

  8. Kelly had me hopeful with the first few issues after the Kandor debacle, but his recent stories are just painful to read and look at.

    Personally, I'm kind of nostalgic now for the Loeb issues. Aside from Luthor's crass comments on Kara's breast size, the stories did kind of work as stoopid punch-outs.

    But if DC really wanted to remake Supergirl, they already had a perfectly good modern rendition to work from - Kara In-Ze from the Superman and JLU cartoons.

  9. I don't watch the cartoons, so I'll have to take your word for it.

    I guess I'm just not ready to give up on Kelly. I've enjoyed his other books.

  10. Did he REALLY say "the incomparible Mike Turner"? I swear, I think my head is going to explode.

  11. Well, you can say no one compares with Turner. It doesn't have to mean anything good. ;)

  12. Sorry to butt in here, but I really, reeeaaallly confused about the whole Supergirl in the 30th century( or is it 31st?) thing going on in the LEGION title. Is it really Kara? A dream?

    The little I've read leads me to believe she's being written as much closer to the ideal version of the character over in that book than in her own. Apparently the Supergirl of the future actually eats as well.

  13. I've read that the Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes is really good, better than Supergirl, but I couldn't get into the new version. I do like how Barry Kitson's drawing her. Is he still doing the book?

  14. Shelly: 1. Yes, Kitson's still on the book, apparently full-time now, and yes, he does draw her well. 2. I agree with you about Turner. The only character he draws well seems to be Robin the Boy Wonder. If he didn't have Peter Steigerwald coloring him, he wouldn't get a fraction of the acclaim he gets. Also, don't forget that he provided much of the template for what's wrong with the current Supergirl. Look at that costume, for example. Do you honestly think THAT would be the design that Ma Kent, a middle-aged mom from Kansas, would make for a teenage girl? Hell, even the Annette O'Toole Ma Kent would have been more conservative than that.

    Elayne: 1. This is off-topic, but I'm sorry to hear about MANHUNTER. I read your husband's two issues and I felt his inks really took the art to the next level.

    Although some of the reasons I read the first Loeb issues were the Churchill art and the guest appearances, I found even these points became weaknesses:
    1. Drawing teen girls is apparently Churchill's Achilles heel, as his Supergirl, Wonder Girl, and even the Outsiders' Thunder were drawn a)exactly alike except for wardrobe (though Thunder's hue was different)and b) quite anorexic-looking

    2. Those guest appearances amounted to pointless fights.

    I read the Rucka issue (which had a strong plot and storytelling but was a little too cheesecakey, then skimmed through the next one which ended with Supergirl making out with an alternate version of her cousin, and that was it for me. I've been sporadic since then.

    Mark Sable co-writing is a good sign, as his GROUNDED was great. If he leaves, I suggest getting someone like Dan Slott, Jeff Parker, or the recently-exclusive Sean McKeever. (I've apparently become infected with a mild strain of Joe Q's Disease which causes names of current female writers save Gail Simone, Tamora Pierce, Colleen Doran, and Ann Nocenti to be stripped from my memory. Or it could be lack of sleep.)

    I'm glad Churchill was reassigned (hopefully to Superman/Batman, which would showcase his skills better and get that damn book on schedule.) I'm not a big Garza fan, but maybe it can work. I'd prefer someone like Andrea DeVito or Mike Norton.

    My suggestions for appealing to female readers:

    1. Make the damn book FUN. Put in some interesting old-school villains. Read Slott's short-lived THING series. Although Ben Grimm and Kara Zor-el couldn't be more different, the old-school fun of that series is precisely what you should be capturing.

    2. Ask yourself this question: Who the %$@! are you gearing this book to? That's the question I ask about this book all the time, and I can't figure it out for the life of me. If you want it to be a book geared to a wide-scale audience, treat it like one. Meaning, dial down the Lolita crap. Speaking of which:

    3. CHANGE THAT DAMNED COSTUME!!! Lose the navel exposure and replace the mini with shorts similar to Stargirl's except all red. Make it look relatively athletic.

  15. Good points and I'm glad Kitson's still on SG and the LSH. I don't know some of the artists you mention, tho.

    I have no problem with Kara wearing a mini-skirt. I would like it to be a few inches shorter, however. I also loved the top she had when she had her own book the first time, with the big sleeves and the v-neck.

    And that's part of the problem. Gearing a book to female readers when females have varying ideas of what's good might be an impossibility. My suggestion is to just write a good book (yes, a fun book) and remember Kara is still a teen.

  16. Anonymous6:12 PM EDT

    I have to admit that I hated the idea of a female "superman" just for the sake of "let's make a female superman to attract women", but after reading Superman/Batman's run on SG, I started to see the angle: it's not just a younger troubled "superman" but a younger troubled GIRL at that. Now Supergirl can be interesting if you consider certain things: Women generally tend to think about a lot more things than men when dealing with a situation, whereas Batman will just save the day, Wonder Woman would ALSO confort the victims. Now teen girls think about even more things, so if the book was aimed at girls taking all this into consideration it could be an interesting "how would I deal with that if I had superpowers" kind of thing. But Supergirl inherently presents certain problems: superheroines are portrayed in comics with idealized bodies, sometimes exagerated (Power Girl anyone?), but they are idealized GROWN-UP bodies, how do you portray an idealized teen body? a body that is still developing? you can't have the overly voluptous physique, because then it's a full grown woman, you have to look skinnier to convey the age, but you walk the dangerous line of the anorexic girl, and more: how do you do it without making it's intended audience feel self-conscious? and even more at that how do you keep the male audience interested? if you make it too muscular it could look not too sexy, if you make it too skinny it would look weak, it's a trade off and something it's got to give. So the costume was made to appeal at boys (the short low cut skirt) and girls (the mid-riff: teen girls wear that!) but in the end you get a costume that is not very good for real fighting, and looks "made-for-posing-but-little-else" and her body was made for the boys. Also what kind of action can you have? if the villains are too powerful you can imagine that Superman would take care of that, if they are too whimpy why would a Kryptonian (with all it's implied might) take care of that? send the other less powerful heroes to take on it. OK, you can tackle the angle of "the girl finding her own place in the planet" but with so many heroes in the DCU it's practically imposible to find a place someone else is not already protecting. And a story about self discovery can only last so long. So supergirl presents a problem from almost every angle. Some people want the sweet girl back, I hate to say this (because I like sweet girls too;) ) but any saavy media person will tell you that rebellious and angst is what attracts people, take Smallville: people don't want to see Clark alwas happy and never suffering and fixing everything with his superpowers, people want to see him sad thinking about how to get Lana, and how to handle his kryptonian heritage and angst, angst, angst. People love conflict, series on TV all have teens with conflicts, you rarely see happy people always smiling and sweet because what kind of journey as a character can you have with that? he/she is already happy! Supergirl first has to know who is its audience and stick to it, instead of becoming ridiculous trying to please a lot of demographics, diluting itself in the process. If it's teenaged boys: ok, have a fem-fatale-fest and loose the female audience, if it's teenage girls, fine have a story about "what would I do if I had superpowers" full of girl-to girl talk with friends, and loose the male audience. If you want to appeal to Women, then have a story about a sweet daughter or a girl becoming a woman, with mature topics (or else) fine but loose the teen aged audience. But you can't have the cake and eat it, and supergirl is trying to please to many people, loosing everybody in the end.

  17. Good points, Anon. I don't care at this point what Kara's personality is, provided she's a hero and that she's written well and consistently. And she should look her age. If she's to be a teen, then she should look it. And yeah, I wish DC would make up its mind.

  18. Anonymous11:25 AM EDT

    Thank you Shelly, I agree with you on the "she's written well and consistently. And she should look her age." requirement. I'm sorry but if DC wants to know how to write a good teen aged hero, look to the first issues of spiderman, he was a teen when he started out. A teenaged girl superhero doesn't have to show skin to be interesting, she has to show human (Kryptonian?) qualities.

    - Bruce Wayne