Quite unexpectedly, we already have a picture from the upcoming tv show Supergirl, to be haired next autumn (man, this series are becoming far too many…): the snapshot is of the protagonist herself, Supergirl, who’ll be portrayed by Melissa Benoist. In the show, she will be Superman‘s cousin, Kara Zor-El, who arrived on Earth at 12 years old following the destruction of her planet, Krypton, and who’ll be adopted by an American family, the Danvers, who’ll teach her to hide her powers fearing people’s reaction. A sudden tragedy forces Kara to show her powers in public, and from that moment she becomes a heroine. Supergirl already had a couple of live action appearances: the first one was in the movie of the same name, portrayed by Helen Slater: in this version, she arrived on Earth as an adult, and was immediately involved in an adventure against a witch (…); the film was supposed to be the first of many, but it sucked, so everything ended there. Supergirl returned decades later in Smallville, in a much less childish and innocent version, portrayed by Laura Vandervoort: quite a stronger portrayal, who acted as Clark Kent‘s mentor of sort regarding Krypton. First time Supergirl appeared in the comics was in 1959, so many versions of her have been seen: let’s get a look to the main one.
Kara Zor-El was the daughter of Zor-El and Alura, two Kryptonians living in Argo City. When planet Krypton exploded, Zor-El managed to protect his city with a force field, so that a large piece of the planet remained unscathed, and drifted to space as a meteor with Argo City still intact on it. The planetoid, clearly, was made of Kryptonite, and when the mineral’s radiation started to become lethal for Kryptonians they isolated the soil with lead. Kara grew up with her parents and other Kryptonians until another catastrophe occurred: a meteorite storm hit Argo, piercing the sheeting that protected its inhabitants from Kryptonite. Argo City was doomed, and the citizens started dying from radiation poisoning one after the other: wanting to save at least their daughter, Zor-El and Alura decided to use the only remaining escape pod to send Kara to Earth, a small blue planet far from them, on which they knew the son of Zor-El’s brother, Jor-El, had been sent prior to Krypton’s destruction. Kara said goodbye to her parents, and arrived on her new homeplanet with a costume resembling the one her cousin Kal-El used there, so that he could trust her and believe her story. Kal-El, who went by the name Superman, found her and believed her; he offered to train her in the use of the amazing powers the radiations of Earth’s yellow sun were giving her, but he told her to keep her abilities, and her very existence as another living Kryptonian, a secret (during the training, he would have also decided if he could trust her and her story). She adopted the identity of Linda Lee, an orphan from Midvale Orphanage, and wore a brunette wig over her blonde hair and eyeglasses. While Superman trained her, she wasn’t supposed to show herself to the world outside, since she wasn’t yet ready and able to fully control her abilities: from time to time, however, she helped people while remaining unseen, and she even learnt to travel to other worlds (or eras in time!) to act more openly. While “in incognito”, she even discovered her cousin’s dual identity as the journalist Clark Kent, but she kept it a secret. After a “final exam” outside Earth, Superman was finally confidant Kara would have been a fine heroine, and he had learnt to trust her: he presented her to the world as his cousin, Supergirl, a new superhero ready and willing to protect the world.
The same day Supergirl was introduced to a cheering world, Linda Lee was adopted by Fred Danvers, an engineer and rocket scientist, and his wife Edna. The Danvers were a loving family, and even provided her a nice cover for her heroic deeds: since she wanted to be honest with them, Kara revealed her true identity to her adoptive parents, and they accepted to welcome her nevertheless, and to help her anyway they could in both her everyday life and her extraordinary one. Now Linda Lee Danvers (later only Linda Danvers), Kara started a dual life as an international heroine, who saved the world just as many times as Superman, and as a high-school student in Midvale High School. As a student, Linda met her best friend, Lena Thorul (actually Lena Luthor, sister to Superman’s nemesis Lex Luthor), who helped her from behind the curtains in many adventures, until she got married to a guy named Jeff Colby and “retired”. After high school, Linda moved to continue her studies in Stanhope College. In the meanwhile, even her life as Supergirl had become more various (and complicated), and she wasn’t alone in crime fighting anymore: apart from seldom teaming up with her cousin Superman, Supergirl had two inseparable companions in Streaky, a pet cat who had accidentally gained superpowers thanks to the X-Kryptonite, and Comet, a magical, immortal horse who was actually a centaur transformed centuries before by the enchantress Circe; Supergirl also grew close to other superheroes, especially the Legion of Super Heroes from the 31st Century, and she became a honorary member of the team, often joining them in adventures in the future (she even fell in love with the team’s leader, Brainiac 5, but always refused a serious commitment, not wanting to end up like Lena who now lived only for marriage). When Kara started having dreams about her parents being still alive, she believed that they could be more than just dreams, and investigated on it: she found a dimension similar to the Phantom Zone, in which some Kryptonians from Argo City, including her parents, had teleported before dying. Following her father’s instruction, Kara built a machine to access the “Survival Zone“, and freed her parents from their dimensional “escape pod”. The family was reunited once again, and while Zor-El and Alura moved to Kandor (the bottled city Superman kept in his Fortress of Solitude), Supergirl chose to live on her own, doing what by now she did best: saving the world, protecting people.
Despite some other versions of the character see Kara Zor-El as a disenchanted and sometimes harsh girl, she’s originally a cheerful and gentle young woman, enamored with her own freedom and passionate about what she does, first of all being a heroine. As Supergirl, she possesses the same Kryptonian powers of her famous cousin: she can fly, she possesses incredible speed, strength, durability and agility, she’s nearly invulnerable and has superhuman senses, she possesses Superman’s characteristic heat vision and freezing breath, and a variety of other powers. With a strong morality given to her by both Superman’s training and her adoptive parents’ love and teachings, Kara/Linda/Supergirl is a true heroine, who does what must be done not for the glory or to be loved, but because it’s the right thing to do… and she always does it with a smile, not renouncing to flirt with boys in the process. She never seriously committed in a relationship, however: the things she values the most about being what she is, is freedom.