Review by Win Wiacek
This superb trade paperback compendium starts with Supergirl’s 1959 introduction and follows the early career of Superman’s cousin Kara Zor-El of Argo City to 1962. Also included and kicking off proceedings is the delightful DC house ad advertising the imminent arrival of a new Girl of Steel. Sadly missing, however, is the try-out story The Three Magic Wishes’, which told how a mystic totem briefly conjured up a young girl with super powers as one of three wishes made by Jimmy Olsen. Such was the reaction to the plucky heroine that within a year a new version was introduced to the Superman Family. Find it in black and white as part of Showcase Presents Supergirl Vol. 1, or in colour in Supergirl Archives Volume 1.
Her groundbreaking introduction was crafted by Otto Binder and the hugely talented Al Plastino, whose story relates how Superman’s cousin Kara had been born on a city-sized fragment of Krypton, somehow hurled intact into space when the planet exploded. Like her cousin, Kara arrives on Earth via rocket, and meets Superman who creates the cover-identity of Linda Lee whilst hiding her in an orphanage in small town Midvale. It allows her to learn about her new world and powers in secrecy and safety.
Once the formula was established, many tales involved keeping Supergirl’s presence concealed, even when performing super-feats. Jim Mooney was selected as regular artist and Binder remained as chief scripter for most of the early run. These stories feature a lot of a protective Superman, introduce Streaky the Super Cat, have Supergirl try out for the Legion of Super Heroes (she narrowly fails to qualify!) and Supergirl has her first romance. ‘Supergirl’s Busiest Day!’ is packed with cameos from Batman and Robin, Krypto and Lori Lemaris all celebrating a very special occasion, while Jerry Siegel and Mooney soundly demonstrate the DC dictum that history cannot be changed in ‘Supergirl’s Three Time Trips!’
The accent on these stories generally revolves around problem-solving, identity-saving and loneliness, with both good taste and the Comics Code ensuring readers weren’t traumatised by unsavoury or excessively violent tales. Plots akin to situation comedies often pertained, as in ‘The Six Red “K” Perils of Supergirl!’ Red Kryptonite, a cosmically-altered isotope of the radioactive element left when Krypton exploded, caused temporary physical and sometimes mental mutations.
Throughout her formative years Kara of Krypton underwent many changes as editors sought to find a niche the buying public could resonate with, but for all that, these stories remain exciting, ingenious and utterly bemusing.
These stories are combined with those found in Volume Two as the oversized hardcover first volume of Supergirl: The Silver Age Omnibus.