Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures - Production art... Part 7

I promised Supergirl next. And that's what you're going to get. Kind of.

Supergirl isn't just Supergirl, of course. Unlike Superman she didn't arrive to Earth as a baby. Unlike Superman her Kryptonian name isn't simply a part of his heritage he discovered late in life. Supergirl's name is Kara Zor-El. But when she first arrived in her rocket back in the 50's, Superman tells her she needs an Earth name. Of course, I know a few Kara's. But I suppose times have changed just a bit.

So Linda Lee was born.

That's Linda Lee on the left.  I think we debated between a ponytail and the final hair design. The images on the right were a bit of an experiment. How to properly portray Kara Zor-El in her native Kryptonian guise.

Anyway, I felt I needed a bit more of a rationale for her not using Kara as her name while on Earth. So when she crashes in the middle of Metropolis, she's swarmed by reporters. Why wouldn't she be? And they want to know who she is, the poor disoriented, confused girl stammers out her name. Again, why wouldn't she? Subsequently, she needs an identity that no one associates with a blond girl in a Superman style uniform.

In her original appearance, Linda's solution to disguising herself from her Supergirl self was to wear a brown wig. I think that if you have a formula that works, stick with it. Glasses coupled with a hairstyle change = Secret identity. I once tried this myself to great effect. Readers are conditioned to this formula. It's comfortable. They don't question it. So giving Supergirl a glasses based secret identity seemed the way to go. In fact, I was rather amazed that it wasn't already the common solution for her.

And I know there are a great number of people who question whether or not Supergirl even needs a secret identity. The answer is: Yes. Sure, she could fly around all day, performing acts of incredible strength and what not. Sure. And while that might even be the reality if a teenage girl had superpowers, comics are not reality. Comics are entertainment. And one of the key factors in entertainment is relatability.

Peter Parker/The Amazing Spider-Man hits this balance perfectly. I find now that when I go back and read Ditko's early work on the character, I skim the moments where he's Spider-Man and focus instead on the trials of Parker. I'm much more interested in how Parker will deal with Flash Thompson than I am how he will deal with the Green Goblin. I know the frustration of being a regular person with regular problems. I don't know what it is like to fight a guy in a fright mask on a flying broom stick.

Don't get me wrong, those fantastic moments are the glue that holds the rest together. But there is a balance that should be maintained. The recent Pixar film "The Incredibles" is another good example. Yes, we want the fantastic and the amazing. But we want to care about the characters first. If we don't, than the fantastic and amazing can become trite and trivial.

Of course, there is room for another take. MiracleMan is a perfect example of this. Why would MiracleMan ever change back to his human self? But this is Supergirl. A character who, despite her alien origins, was always shown to be more human than humans were. A deeply empathic and caring person who would allow herself to live in an orphanage because she believed that the rest of the world would be better served by her sacrifice.

So Linda Lee was an unquestionable necessity. Particularly when you consider that Linda is a more accurate reflection of who Supergirl really is. A young teen-age girl alone in a confusing new environment. She's not like Superman, pretending to be bumbling Clark Kent. She's really a normal young girl who just happens to have suddenly been given amazing powers and is striving to live up to an impossible heroic ideal. She's still going to be awkward and nervous and shy. If she isn't, than we can't relate to her. And if we can't relate to her, why would we want to read about her?

Next up: Supergirl. For real.


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