Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Supergirl, the girl with a 1000 costumes

I wanted to confirm a few important facts before I made this post. When I review these costumes I like to look at them within the context of the comic book world they were created in because obviously we know there is no real skin tight fabric that could be made into a costume that would survive in battle for more than a few seconds. In most of her incarnations, Supergirl has access to Kryptonian fabric and it shares in her invulnerability to a certain degree. But not all Supergirls are Kryptonian and have access to all her powers. Seen here in a drawing by Ed McGuinness is a collection of the various Supergirls, going clockwise from the top left we have Linda Danvers (the Earth Born Angel), Kara Zor-L (Supergirl from a Parallel Earth), Cir-El (a human hybrid clone genetically engineered to have Kryptonian-esque powers)& Kara Zor-El (another Supergirl from a Parallel Earth). In the bottom left corner we have Bizzaro (an imperfect Clone of Superman) presenting these Supergirls to the Supergirl of the primary Earth in DC Comics. Its confusing, but I figured we needed that much information to address the various costumes she has worn. We'll start in the sixties when Supergirl made her first appearance. Originally created by Otto Binder and Al Plastino Kara Zor-El arrived on Earth and was the long lost cousin of Superman, whom he hid in an orphanage so that she could be his secret weapon in times of need. Eventually he allowed her to be adopted and go public with her Supergirl persona and after time, the girl could not decide what to wear. She originally appears in a simple blue dress with a short skirt, belt boots and cape. This costume was made by her mother after they had spent some time watching Superman on a "super-telescope" from the floating Argo City which was doomed much like its home planet Krypton. However once she went public it seemed Kara decided she needed to mix it up a little. So she traded in her cute mini dress for some shorts and a blousy top--its not entirely her fault it was the early seventies, and for superheroes a particularly interesting time in terms of fashion. Artists were starting to become a little more fashion conscious and started drawing their female character in different outfits that they supposed were a little more hip. It was shortly after this point that the Supergirl eponymous title offered reader/artists the chance to design new Supergirl costumes and she would wear winning designs in the book. One such costume, pictured her, shows Kara being fitted by Diana Prince (aka Wonder Woman who at this point in her life is a super spy/Mod Boutique Owner), in the panel they promise to reveal which contributing artist designed the costume in the next issue as well as several other designs. Here she wears a long sleeved variant of her blue mini-dress, adds red trim to the hem of her skirt, a seventies-rific belt, thigh high red boots, red gloves and keeps her cape. It's a cute look and probably a step up from the blousy shorts and shirt combo but that outfit returned and she continued to wear variations of the blouse/shorts outfit over the years until the 1980's when Supergirl got her second eponymous title, and after a few issues got a brand new look to go with it. The S-logo on her chest is lifted to her collar and attached to her cape, which gives her a neat draping look with the cape sometimes. Her red shorts became a red kilt and a v-shaped belt was added, along with boots to complete the look. Than she added one more thing, a red headband which in Kryptonian custom only men wore. I'm all about remembering past traditions but...let me put it this way, my ancestors were hanging people they suspected of being cattle thieves because they had wire cutters on them. I'm sure if I resurrected this tradition and starting hanging people who came around my house with lock picks or glass cutters it would be frowned upon. And whether DC agrees or not I think that headband was one of the factors that led to Kara Zor-El's death in "Crisis on Infinite Earths" (which has been released in TPB form--go by it its a great Supergirl story). They claim they wanted to return to the idea of Superman being the last son of Krypton and rebooted a great many of titles. They quickly realized though, that people wanted a Supergirl and they made a couple of efforts to satisfy that desire. Supergirl's first feature length film had been released a couple of years prior to "Crisis" and the look she wore in the movie was a mix of different comic looks and has become one of the most recognizable looks for Supergirl. Say what you will about the movie (I loved it but I saw it when I was a kid so...) but Helen Slater joins the list of people who were cast absolutely perfectly to play the role of a superhero. It was a lot of fun but something more suitable for kids to watch than adults (unless like me you enjoy a healthy helping of cheese with your movies). Seen here in a still shot in the fictitious town of Leesburg, Supergirl prepares to defend the innocent. So when DC comics reintroduced the character of Supergirl she was reinvisioned as a protoplasmic matrix made in honour of Superman with telekinetic and other gifts that allowed her to mimic his powers. The look of Helen Slater's Supergirl was so popular they simply adapted the costume and the Matrix Supergirl was born, or Mae as she was called by the Kents who helped her adjust to life on earth. She floundered around for a little while until getting her own series written by Peter David, drawn by various artists over it's six year run. I avoided this series like the plague because to me there was only one Supergirl: Kara Zor-El, Superman's cousin from Krypton. The little I knew about was the Matrix Supergirl had merged with the dying body of a woman named Linda Danvers and now as one they were fighting crime. Meanwhile the "supergirl" of Earth Two who was known as Power Girl was also kicking around, but she'd been given a new Atlantean origin and thinks got more confusing from there. Eventually they settled on the white uniform pictured her with the circle peek-aboo to show off Power Girl's ample chest--which has become something of a joke in the industry. In this picture by Amanda Conner Power Girl is rethinking her life and trying to understand her place on this Earth. It is eventually revealed to her that she's Superman's cousin from another universe and in a tearful explanation to this Earth's Superman Power Girl explains that the hole in her costume was left open because she didn't feel worth to wear the S-logo and left it blank until she could. Power Girl is now appearing in her own monthly title and I encourage you to support if for no other reason than Amanda Connor's art which is great for this character and drawing women in general. Meanwhile in Supergirl's 3rd eponymous title, it got more complicated than it had previously been and Linda Danvers had to find a new outfit. Forced to pick clothes from a Superhero-centric store she came up with this ensemble. A white crop top with black trim at cuffs and hem with the standard S logo, a blonde wig and headband (which stuck to her head due to the telekinetic nature of her powers) a blue mini skirt that's often drawn as little more than a large spandex belt that barely covers her, white gloves (presumably to hide her fingerprints) and red chunky heeled lace up boots. Not bad and definitely different from any outfit she'd previously worn. It wasn't until the 79th issue of the book that I actually read it and, boy was I amazed. I've since tracked down Peter David's entire Supergirl run and let me tell you, it is awesome. Despite the dramatic changes imposed on him by DC he never lost sight of Kara and though she isn't the main character, Kara is a guiding force in Linda Danvers life. The book was cancelled with issue #80 (I think) and Linda Danvers retired her cape and disappeared to make room for a new Supergirl, this one called Cir-El. Cir-El was part of a plot by Superman's enemies to make his life more difficult and she was presented to him as his daughter from the future. He eventually figured that out and she faded into obscurity or maybe disappeared from the time line, I'm not to sure. I was not in favour of this new Supergirl anymore than I had been in favour of Linda, despite the fact that this Supergirl broke from the previously established costume mold even farther than any Supergirl before. Seen here in a drawing by Ed McGuinness, Cir-El is wearing a black unitard with a mostly full bottomed seat and a red S painted across it, a blue cape, black boot and black gloves, but also black short hair. The first time any Supergirl hadn't been a blonde. Cir-El was a temporary measure and finally 20 years after her death in Crisis Kara Zor-El officially returned to the main Earth of the DCU. This time the story was complicated by the involvement of both Batman and later Wonder Woman so Supergirl ends up hiding out in the Fortress of Solitude while Supes and Bats do their tests. Superman gets Lois Lane to buy her clothes, having never met her and she comes up with this top (which suggestively features a snap crotch) and low riding jeans, as demonstrated in this picture by artist Michael Turner. If your partner came to you and asked you to buy clothes for a sixteen year old girl you'd never met, would you buy her slut wear? In another shot, also by artist Turner you can see Kara in another Lois provided outfit, this one contrasted by what Supes is wearing--his typical Clark Kent suit and tie ensemble. Is there a power deferential here? You tell me. I can just imagine how the conversation went; Clark: "Honey my sixteen year old cousin crashed on earth a few days ago and Batman thinks she's evil so can you buy here some clothes, I think she's a size 0." Lois: "No problem Honey, I just did a Pulitzer winning expose on a bunch of underage hookers and I can get some of their clothes from the Police impound with my contacts there." Having established casual clothes for Kara, Clark takes her out shopping which,"like any normal earth girl" she loves. Wackiness ensues and Kara ends up moving to paradise island where she trains to be a warrior and Clark goes home to get his Mom, you know wholesome Kansas born and Bred Martha Kent to sew a Supergirl costume for Kara (whom she's never met--"C'mon Ma, she's a size 0 I'm sure we've still got enough Kryptonian fabric somewhere.") as she's determined to join the "family business" of righting wrongs and triumphing over evil. Eventually presented with the costume (as seen here in art from Superman/Batman #12, again by artist Michael Turner, Kara at last wears her uniform as she and Superman fly cross country so that Clark can at last introduce his cousin to his adopted parents. Kara, of course, loves her uniform.I want to point out again that Ma Kent, having never met this girl made her a crop top with long sleeves and a mini skirt that puts the mini in minimum length of skirt to avoid portraying superhookers. This also established Kara as one of the thinnest superheroines and unlike Power Girl her breasts were not large and out of control. Now she just looks like in order to maintain her figure and be able to wear the costumes and clothes provided to her shes' decide to never eat again and live off solar energy. If I ever get the chance to pitch a Supergirl story to DC that'll be it: Supergirl "Anorexia", take another look at her waist and you tell me how often you think this girl eats. Both these pictures were drawn by Turner but the super thinness of Supergirl was continued by other artists even up to today. Supergirl needs to eat and dress less like a teenage hooker and more like the hero she's supposed to be. Kara Zor-El's reintroduction into the comic world
was a big deal and I still follow her monthly title despite the fact that internally it makes no sense that her costume should look like that. Do you really expect us to believe Ma Kent would make something like that? She'd have shortened the sleeves or cape to extend the skirt. And would Superman, big over protective cousin that he is, want his sixteen year old only relative wandering around like that? Most importantly, how must Kara feel as everyone around her keeps trying to shoe horn her into impossibly small and embarrassingly revealing clothing? Maybe I'm asking to much of the industry to be internally consistent, or maybe the artist needs to pay more attention to the clothing and where its coming from. I've heard rumours that this look for Kara was based on looks worn by Paris Hilton. Why would they do that? Why dress someone whose supposed to be good and kind with someone whose only just now growing out of her slutty selfish phase and whose mostly famous just for being rich? Well, I guess there's not much more I can do about it. Except wait for DC to come to their sense and hire me as a fashion consultant. All the comics companies could use the services provided by the Fashion Sentinel. I've also received reports on DC Comics' Edward Nygma AKA the Riddler, Marvel Comics' Hank Pym AKA Yellow Jacket, Giant Man and Ant-man, and Marvel Comics's Hercules. Thanks to Ipstenu for turning these criminals in, and Fashion Sentinels have been dispatched to locate them. Join me in my next post as we take a look at some of my ideas of what Supergirl should wear and I'll leave you with a few more images to spark your own thoughts...

Superman, Supergirl, Power Girl,
Darkseid, Kara Zor-El, Kara Zor-L, Linda Danvers, Matrix, Cir-El, and all related symbols, insignia, costumes etc, are all © Trademarks of DC Comics and the images reproduced here are used only as illustrations for the purpose of costume critique and the promotion of DC Comics


  1. I love the Amanda Connor picture, it's a favourite. It's got great character!

    And I didn't really understand how bad that yellow t-shirt outfit was. Holy crap. Yeah, I think Lois would be a little classier than like, 'Okay, sweetie, here's a thong. No panty lines, but wear it with low-rise jeans so boys will think about your underwear.'

  2. My favorite Supergirl is Kara Zor-El (all those years of conditioning, thank you, Ghirdietus), but I am worried about what's happening with that miniskirt. In the drawing above, with the birds, she's bending over and the skirt is blowing up! And with Lois buying her lingerie, you know what that means!

  3. Yeah, some artists don't think about things like that. That's why I'm also a big fan of Ed McGuinness' Supergirl because she looks so solid. That's also his Cir-El--I've purchased most of the line of DC Direct action figures done in his art style, and his Supergirl looks like she eats.