REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE INFINITE HEROES "CRISIS" SUPERGIRL
Worlds lived, worlds died, and the DC Universe was never the same again! This was heralded the CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS - a 12-issue limited series that ran throughout 1985, DC Comics' 50th Anniversary, which dealt with some of the continuity gaffes that had come along as a result of a half century of publishing, as well as streamline and simplify the massive history of the DC cosmos by taking a "multiverse" of multiple universes, and bringing them down to a single world on which all -- surviving -- DC characters would co-exist.
There were casualties. Several Earths we had gotten to know on occasion perished. Numerous characters had their natures altered or were otherwise eliminated. Two of these were especially notable -- the Flash, specifically Barry Allen, who seemingly perished destroying the Anti-Monitor's primary weapon, and Supergirl, Superman's cousin, who died in battle against the Anti-Monitor himself.
The demise of Supergirl served as part of a subsequent reworking of Superman's own history which would follow the Crisis, in which the Man of Steel was once again the sole survivor of Krypton -- at least at the outset. The creative heads at DC Comics believed, after decades of publishing, that too much of Krypton had survived -- Supergirl, Krypto, the bottle city of Kandor, the villains of the Phantom Zone -- it made a person wonder if there had been anyone left on Krypton when the place exploded.
Supergirl was created by Otto Binder and Al Plastino in 1959. Kara Zor-El first appeared in Action Comics #252.
Kara Zor-El was the last survivor of Argo City, of the planet Krypton, which had survived the explosion of the planet and had drifted through space. When the inhabitants of the colony were killed by Kryptonite, Kara is sent to Earth by her father Zor-El, to be raised by her cousin Kal-El -- Superman
On Earth, Kara acquires super-powers identical to Superman's and adopts the secret identity of Linda Lee, an orphan at Midvale Orphanage. She conceals her blonde hair beneath a brunette wig and functions as Supergirl only in secret, at Superman's request, until she can gain (in his opinion) sufficient control of her powers. After being adopted by Fred and Edna Danvers, Superman decides his cousin is ready to begin operating openly as Supergirl.
In her secret identity, Linda attends Midvale High School as Linda Lee Danvers. In later years, after graduating from Stanhope College, she changes careers several times, holding jobs in student counseling, news reporting, and acting in a TV soap opera. She also operates as a member of the 30th century Legion of Super-Heroes for a time.
She also became a close friend of the original Batgirl, allowing for the occasional Batgirl-Supergirl team-up.
As Supergirl, the Kara Zor-El character played a supporting role in various DC Comics publications, including Action Comics, Superman, and several other comic book series unrelated to Superman. In 1969 Supergirl became lead feature in Adventure Comics and later starred in her own comic book series which debuted in 1972 and ran until 1974, followed by a second monthly comic book series entitled The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl, which ran from 1982 to 1984.
And then there was the Crisis. Why do I bring this up? Because Mattel's DC Universe Infinite Heroes line has created a new Supergirl figure, entirely different from the "modern" one sold in the three-pack with Superman and Wonder Girl (or Bizarro and Wonder Girl if you picked up that particular variant), and the new Supergirl figure has her wearing the costume that she wore during the Crisis.
Unlike her cousin Superman, Supergirl went through quite a number of costume changes over the years, reflecting the fashion trends of the times, as much as anything. She started out with a simple outfit of a blue shirt and blue skirt with am "S" symbol on it, with red boots and a cape. Over the next couple of decades, as she matured and as fashions in general got more daring, Supergirl would later change her costume on several occasions.
By the time of the Crisis, Supergirl was wearing a costume that was, basically, a blue shirt, red skirt and boots, red headband, and an "S" symbol that actually merged with a red collar that tapered into the cape. I'll go into greater detail later, but a friend of mine, who is something of a Supergirl expert, actually discovered an interesting history to the costume, of which I was unaware, and it actually ties into the live-action Supergirl movie, which starred Helen Slater. The movie unfortunately tanked at the box office, and some have wondered if its failure was the reason for Supergirl's demise during the Crisis.
Here's the information concerning that, and the costume's origin: This costume is best known as the one Supergirl wore when she met her demise at the hands of the Anti-Monitor in Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985.
Contrary to popular belief, the poor box office performance of her movie did not cause Supergirl's death in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Writer Marv Wolfman had already scripted her death before the movie was released in late 1984.
Supergirl wore the red headband in the comics as a symbol of her Kryptonian heritage. It also reflected the popular culture of the early 1980's with headbands being worn by Olivia Newton John in the music video for her song "Lets Get Physical" and in movies such as Fame and Flashdance.
The costume was originally designed for the movie that stared Helen Slater in 1984. When producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind decided to make a Supergirl movie, she was wearing red shorts and a low cut blue blouse in the comics. (This costume was used for Mego's Supergirl action figure in the mid-1970's). The Salkinds thought this costume was not appropriate for a family audience, so they asked DC Comics to change it so it would match the costume to be used in the movie.
The new costume that included the "S" integrated with her red shoulders, and a red headband, debuted in Supergirl #17 in March 1984. Screen tests were shot with Slater wearing this costume, that were seen briefly in an ABC television special on the making of the movie. (This special is included in the limited edition Supergirl DVD set released in 2000). To the consternation of DC Comics, the movie costume was then changed yet again to the one audiences saw in the theater, notably with the headband dropped and more traditional take on the "S" symbol.
Supergirl's history since the Crisis is way too involved to get into here, and I have reviewed other Supergirl figures where I go into greater detail on those matters.
Personally, I find it very interesting that Mattel has chosen to make a figure of this particular edition of Supergirl. It's far more than just a repaint of the previous Supergirl figure. The headsculpt is entirely different, as is the skirt. The DC Universe Infinite Heroes figures have carried the "Crisis" logo on them since the outset, and have referenced the Monitors on the back (even though there was only one Monitor, and one Anti-Monitor, in the original Crisis), but given the scope of the Crisis on Infinite Earths, you could throw just about anybody into the action figure line and claim it fit. This Supergirl is really the first figure to come along that is rather specifically FROM the Crisis on Infinite Earths.
It's interesting to compare the two DCIH Supergirl's. Apart from the obvious costume and headsculpt differences, the "Crisis" Supergirl has a brighter color palette overall. The blue is a distinctly lighter and brighter shade of blue, the red slightly so. Frankly, it's an improvement.
The cape is the same as before, but Mattel has done a nice job of painting the figure's shoulders in red, as well as merging the "S" symbol into the design, so that it all tapers together about as well as one would expect for an action figure in this size range, which is really quite effectively.
The skirt is an entirely new sculpt, with a wide, downward pointing yellow belt, very much in keeping with the costume design as it appeared in the comics.
Obviously, the figure largely uses the same female body molds that most of the female figures in the DCIH line have been using, so many of the details, including the boots, are simply painted on, but this works well, and the colors are correct, the parts molded in appropriate original colors, and the paint detailing is generally very neatly done. I'd give the paint work on Supergirl higher marks than usual. Someone was really paying attention on this one.
Then there's the headsculpt. Never mind the headband for a minute. I'll be honest here and say that not a lot of the headsculpts in the DCIH line have really impressed me. Don't get me wrong. They've generally been very well done. It's not easy to get decent facial features and hair details and whatever else that are going to reproduce in plastic well at this scale, to say nothing of paint detailing like tiny little eyes. Mattel has done an excellent job at this. But I can't say that there's been any one headsculpt in this line that's really caught my attention and made me think that whoever did it was really putting the supreme effort into it.
The Crisis Supergirl figure is an exception. Wow! Whoever did this sculpt absolutely nailed it, and it can't have been easy. I have to believe that they had several pages of Crisis of Infinite Earths propped up right in front of them for reference, and were absolutely determined to match it as best as they could, and when you consider that Crisis was illustrated by George Perez, one of the best and most precise artists in the business.
The person or persons responsible succeeded astoundingly well. Supergirl looks like she flew right off the pages of Crisis. The facial image is right on the money, and the very curly and wavy hair that Supergirl had at the time is perfectly duplicated. I may not be the biggest fan of the headband, but even that came out well here.
Then there's the painted detailing. I have no real idea how this is set up for production, just a vague sort of idea. But in this instance, I have to believe that it was done by someone who was just as determined to get it right as the sculptor. At the risk of sounding boastful, I think I'm enough of a graphic artist so that I am reasonably skilled in spotting the work of some of the better artists in the comics business, as well as some of their more "trademark" techniques. There are certain ways that certain artists draw certain things, certain mannerisms or methods that they employ, that if, at the very least, you read enough comic books, you're going to pick up on.
I can pretty well spot the work of George Perez, John Byrne, Jack Kirby, Tom Grummett, John Buscema, and several others, as soon as I open the book, and without even reading the credits.
Somebody at Mattel was pretty dang determined to make this Supergirl figure look like she came right off of one of Perez's pages from Crisis, because not only is the headsculpt right on the money, so are the painted details of the face, especially the eyes, which are amazingly well-detailed. I really hope someone sent one of these figures TO George Perez as a gift and as thanks, because he's all over this. And maybe that's why I'm so impressed with it. If Mattel ever does another Supergirl figure in the 6" Universe Classics scale -- hey, here's your reference for it right here.
The figure is nicely articulated, although the DC Infinite Heroes has taken some criticism from some collectors for not being fully poseable. Supergirl is poseable at the head, arms, mid-torso, waist, and knees. I wouldn't mind if the female figures in this line were poseable at the elbows, but they do have rather narrow arms, and it might be difficult to work out. The figure also stands well on her own, which is probably a pretty good trick given the relatively small feet.
Let me say this to the critics. I'm all in favor of a well-articulated toy. But I do think there's a point, especially in these smaller size ranges, where there comes a point where so much articulation is put in, that a given figure starts to look less like a small representation of a person, and more like something put together out of an erector set. That, to me, costs the figure a certain amount of its charm and personality, and honestly, turns me off. Supreme articulation is not the be-all, end-all of the action figure world, especially when it's not a fair trade-off for the character of the figure, to coin a term. I have no major gripes with the DC Infinite Heroes line as such, and I've generally been impressed with how cool the ones I have look.
So, what's my final word here? I'm abundantly impressed. This is Supergirl in her best costume, in my estimation. And whoever made the decision at Mattel to produce Supergirl in this costume was also very obviously highly determined to make sure it was done right. The headsculpt is as good as anything I've seen even in larger lines, and I don't just mean DC, or even Mattel. If whoever did this didn't have a copy of Crisis of Infinite Earths in front of them, I'd be stunned.
If you're looking for the coolest Supergirl in the 3-3/4" - 4" scale range, here she is, right here. The DC UNIVERSE INFINITE HEROES "CRISIS" SUPERGIRL definitely has my highest recommendation!