Guess who's turning 50 this year? Well, a lot of people, probably. But one particularly notable fictional individual turns 50 in 2009, and in celebration of that, I thought I would review an especially impressive action figure of her.
I'm talking about SUPERGIRL. And the figure in question is the DC Super- Heroes 6" scale Supergirl figure. DC Super-Heroes was the precursor to the current DC Universe Classics line. It was more Batman-Superman-centric in its figure offerings, but the figures were just as impressive as DCUC.
The history of Supergirl is one of the more complicated ones out there, thanks in large part to the events of the Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985, and the "reboot" of the Superman backstory in 1986, and subsequent events. The particular Supergirl figure from this DC Super-Heroes assortment is the modern Kara Zor-El. That, however, requires some explanation, especially since this is the 50th anniversary of the character.
Supergirl was created by Otto Binder and Al Plastino in 1959. Kara Zor- El first appeared in Action Comics #252 (May 1959) written by Otto Binder.
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 are slain by Kryptonite, Kara is sent to Earth by her father Zor-El to be raised by her cousin Kal-El, known as Superman. Fearing that she might not be recognized by Superman, Kara's parents provide a costume based on the Man of Steel's own.
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 titled Secret Hearts. She also attends college in Chicago. Kara has many boyfriends, including Richard (Dick) Malverne, Jerro the merboy from Atlantis, and member of the Legion of Super-Heroes, Brainiac 5. She does, however, shun serious commitments, putting her super-career first.
She also became a close friend of the original Batgirl (Barbara Gordon), allowing for the occasional Batgirl-Supergirl team-up, a female version of the frequent Batman-Superman team-ups.
Supergirl's secret identity is a closely held secret and is known only to Superman, her foster parents, and the Legion of Super-Heroes, of which she serves as a member for a time. Like all Kryptonians, Supergirl is vulnerable to kryptonite.
Supergirl's biological parents survived the radiation poisoning that killed everyone else in Argo City by entering the Survival Zone (a sort of Phantom Zone). They were eventually rescued from the Survival Zone by Supergirl and decided to live in the bottle city of Kandor. (Supergirl story in Action Comics #309-310 Feb-Mar 1964, confirmed in Action #370).
As Supergirl, the Kara Zor-El character plays 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 an eponymous 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.
Then came the Crisis... Supergirl was killed by the Anti-Monitor in the pages of Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 in 1985, and when the Man of Steel's own backstory was reworked in 1986, it was decided, at the time, that he should be the only surviving Kryptonian.
Afterwards, DC Comics tried to revamp the Supergirl concept, introducing several more non-Kryptonian Supergirls. Eventually, the rule that Superman should be the only surviving Kryptonian was relaxed, allowing for a return of Kara Zor-El as both Superman's cousin and a Kryptonian survivor.
Notable among the non-Kryptonian Supergirls was an alien being named Matrix. In Superman v2, #16 (April 1988), a new Supergirl debuted as a man-made lifeform (made of synthetic protoplasm) created by a heroic Lex Luthor of a "pocket universe". Lex implanted her with Lana Lang's memories, and she could shapeshift to resemble Lana Lang. Matrix even believed herself to be Lana for a time. She wore a miniskirted version of Superman's costume, but Matrix did not have Superman's exact powers. While she possessed flight and super-strength (like Superman), she could also employ telekinesis, shape-shifting and a cloaking/invisibility power (her cloaking power made her undetectable even to Superman himself).
Matrix's Supergirl form resembled the pre-Crisis Supergirl. She lived in Smallville with the Kents, who treated "Mae" like their own daughter. While new to Earth, Matrix began a romance with the DC Universe's Lex Luthor until she realized Luthor's evil nature. She left him to find her own way in the world, serving for a time as a member of the Teen Titans and a hero in her own right.
Beginning in September 1996, DC published a Supergirl title written by Peter David. The 1996 Supergirl comic revamps the previous Matrix Supergirl by merging her with a human being, resulting in a new Supergirl. Many old elements of the pre-Crisis Supergirl are reintroduced in new forms. The woman that Matrix merges with has the same name as pre-Crisis Supergirl's secret identity, Linda Danvers. The series is set in the town of Leesburg, named after pre-adoption secret identity, Linda Lee. Linda's father is named Fred Danvers, the same as pre-Crisis Supergirl's adopted father. Furthermore, new versions of Dick Malverne and Comet appear as part of the supporting cast.
This storyline gets pretty convulted, and I'd just as soon not get into it too much since this is NOT the Supergirl represented by the figure. I will note that this particular Supergirl was best noted for a uniform consisting primarily of a white shirt, a radical change from any previous design, and a blue skirt, with red cape. This design of the character also received treatment as an action figure, in both the DC Super-Heroes and Justice League lines, and appeared in the Superman and Justice League animated series.
Issue #8 of the Superman/Batman series originally published in 2004 re-introduced Kara Zor-El into DC continuity. Like the pre-Crisis version, this Kara claims to be the daughter of Superman's uncle Zor-El and aunt Alura In-Ze. Unlike the traditional Supergirl origin, Kara was born before Superman; she was a teenager when he was a baby. She had been sent in a rocket in suspended animation to look after the infant Kal-El; however, her rocket was caught in the explosion of Krypton, became encased in a kryptonite asteroid, and she arrived on Earth years after Kal-El had grown up and became known as Superman. Due to this extended period of suspended animation she is "younger" than her cousin, relatively speaking (she is referenced to be about 16). At the end of "The Supergirl from Krypton" arc, her cousin Superman officially introduces her to all the heroes of the DC Comics Universe, then she adopts the Supergirl costume, and accepts the name.
A new Supergirl series, written by Jeph Loeb, began publication in August 2005. The storyline in the first arc of Supergirl depicts a darker, evil version of Kara emerging when Lex Luthor exposes her to Black Kryptonite. The evil Supergirl implies that Kara's family sent her to earth to kill Kal-El as revenge for a family grudge; at the time, Kara herself refuses to believe this, but later flashbacks indicate that not only was this partly true but Kara had been physically altered by her father as a child before being involved in several murders on Krypton.
Some of the darker elements of this backstory were found to be disagreeable by the fan base, and a recent storyline in the "Super" titles, featuring the release of some 10,000+ Kryptonians from the city of Kandor onto Earth, has been reworking Supergirl's backstory into something more in keeping with her original backstory, with fewer of the dark overtones.
So, how's the figure? Really very impressive. About the worst thing I can say about it is that the hair and the cape are a bit too "pre-posed" for my tastes. Otherwise, this is really a superb Supergirl figure.
The figure is really a superb likeness of the character as she presently appears in the comics. The white shirt is gone and I don't think anyone misses it. It really did make the character look like some sort of Super-cheerleader. However, the bare midriff remains. This is likely a debatable point among fans. Personally, I'm not that fond of it. I don't mind the mini-skirt, but I think the bare midriff is just a little inappropriate for someone wearing the "S".
However, my personal feelings aside, that's what Supergirl wears these days, and in that regard, it's a really excellent likeness. One thing I could especially impressive is that the "S" symbol on the shirt is not just imprinted on the costume -- it's sculpted into it. And with truly astounding accuracy.
I've seen the "S" botched before. For that matter, if you want a really poor version of it, check out the Justice League Unlimited Supergirl figure. But this? Perfect. Right on the money. Looks like they took the outline of the absolute official logo (which can be seen on the back of the package), and somehow turned it into a sculpt. It's THAT precise. I realize that the "S" is open to a little bit of artistic interpretation here and there, but it's still supposed to be recognizable within certain parameters, and it doesn't get much better than this.
The facesculpt is really nicely done. Even if I was talented at sculpting, which I'm not, there are some faces I wouldn't want to tackle, certain iconic characters that other people know better than me that I just wouldn't want to mess with. Supergirl would fit into that category. Arguably, the DC Super-Heroes/Universe Classics line is presenting, as far as possible, the most iconic action figures it can of these legendary characters. This isn't DC Direct, where you're going to get fifteen versions of Superman all based on different artistic interpretations of him from this or that published comic story. What I truly believe Mattel has in mind here is as "ultimate" a version of these characters as possible.
And they've done a really nice job with Supergirl. She's supposed to be around 16, and looks it, but also looks intelligent and determined. A very heroic 16, shall we say? The hair, like the cape, is sculpted to look windblown, as I said earlier, and really, that's about the only area in which I can fault this figure, as I would've preferred something a little more straightforward, but I will say that the sculpt as it is, is very neatly done and very superbly and extensively detailed.
For that matter, so's the cape. Unlike some of the DC Universe Classic figures, especially some of the male heroes, which use the same body parts, Supergirl is an entirely unique figure, and the overall work to craft as impressive a Supergirl as possible really comes through. The boots are superbly done, complete with yellow painted trim at the top, and the sleeves come down over her hands just a tad, as they do in the comics, with a bit of yellow trim there, as well. About the only thing missing the yellow trim is the cape, but I'm hardly going to gripe about that. Besides, as pre-posed as the cape is, putting a yellow border around its edges would've been a nightmare, I suspect.
Supergirl is superbly articulated, just about as well as any current DCUC figure, and is poseable at the head, arms. upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso (the one time the bare-midriff look comes in handy), legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. She is not poseable at the waist, but given that the mid-torso articulation is side-to-side and not forward-backward, this compensates for that.
The skirt hinders the legs a bit, but not as much as one might think. She can't move her legs too far, but she can move them. Here I would draw a comparison to the last couple of years' worth of female Power Rangers, from Jungle Fury and RPM, who also have plastic skirts, but which are not especially flexible and who, as such, can barely budge their legs, something I find extremely annoying.
Supergirl stands just a little over 6" in height, which might make her seem a little short compared to the 6-1/2" standard of the line, but let's remember, she's supposed to be a teenager. Still some growing to do, doubtless.
Any complaints? Just one, and it's relatively minor. It looks like whoever glued the hair onto the head, and it is a separate piece, was a little sloppy with the glue. There's a slight glossy sheen on part of the figure's forehead, that looks like a bit of excess glue. But you can barely detect it unless it's in the proper light, and compared to the quality control issues the line is having as of this writing, that's really minor.
So what's my final word here? Supergirl's status as a major player may be slightly debatable. She's generally not thought of in the same breath as Superman and Batman. But she's still pretty prominent, and has done well enough in her fifty-year history to warrant several previous figures, from other companies mostly, a live-action movie in 1984 starring Helen Slater, a very well-received presence on the "Smallville" series, considerable animated appearances, and it looks like her comic backstory is getting back on track after a rather lengthy period of -- weirdness, for lack of a better term.
And this figure, even if it came out a while back, is certainly a superb representation of the modern Supergirl, and not a bad way at all to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the character. And it might still be out there somewhere. With that in mind, the DC SUPER-HEROES SUPERGIRL figure definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!