Supergirl's Fortress


To me Kara Zor-El will always be the real Supergirl, not that protoplasmic lump John Byrne came up with when he destroyed Superboy's Earth (which I really despised because it not only rendered Superboy sacrificing his life to save it meaningless but also made Superman violate his most sacred rule about never killing anyone. But I digress) Anyway you probably already know Kara's story, despite DC's best efforts she remains Supergirl to most people. Originally believed to be the sole survivor of Argo City, which had survived the breakup of Krypton only to fall victim to Anti-Kryptonite radiation (a special pre-Crisis Kryptonite variation that affected non-powered Kryptonians), Superman's cousin landed on Earth and adopted the name of Linda Lee. Initially she kept her existence secret while she trained herself to use her powers. Superman helped conceal her presence with the idea that she would serve as his secret weapon. That lasted until she lost her powers for the first time, during this period she was adopted by the Danvers and renamed Linda Lee Danvers. After she regained her powers she went public and Supergirl became a household name on Earth-1 Unlike many Earth-1 characters Supergirl grew older, not at a realtime rate but she went to university and graduated then moved to take a job in San Francsico at KSF-TV. These three covers below are from her days as a california girl. One thing you notice about in looking back at the early seventies is that Supergirl wasn't content to wear the same costume year after year. Very unlike her cousin (and most heros and heroines) whose attire had remained pretty well unchanged since the forties.

Here we see a different kind of peril as Supergirl gets forcibly recruited by a basically decent alien queen as a gladiator. It seems if the queen can't come up with a champion her reign is over so she grabs Supergirl out of desperation. Problem is the rules state it's a fight to the death and like her cousin Supergirl has sworn never to kill. Which means the queen's life is forfeit when Kara refuses to conclude the fight by killing her unconscious opponent. To simplify the story Supergirl straightens things out without killing anyone and stops a coup by an ambitious general. The cover's pretty accurate except that on the inside the queen is blonde.

Yes, the cover's very accurate. So how does Supergirl get herself bound and helpless? No, it wasn't Kryptonite coated or magical rope, just plain old hemp. The answer? This was back in the days where DC writers figured they'd better depower Superman and Supergirl as they'd made them too powerful and unbeatable. Superman's powers were halved while Supergirl faired worse. Her powers became erratic and periodically faded away unless she renewed them with the (plot gimmick) power bracelet. So Vortex zapped her while she was weakening and before she could use the bracelet thus knocking her out. Then he trussed her up and took her back to his home base to gloat. Luckily for Kara he didn't know that eventually her powers would return naturally, the bracelet just accelerated the process.

Like all Kryptonians Supergirl is vulnerable to magic. Fortunately for her Dr. Tzin Tzin's magic consisted of casting illusions or she'd have wound up as dragon chow. She did wind up stonecoated thanks to a few guys with cement spraying guns but that was more of a minor inconvienience to the Maid of Might.

By the mid Seventies Supergirl had stopped varying her costumes and was sticking to the red shorts, blue blouse combo that most people are familiar with. Shortly before the end she was experimenting with new styles again but this was her costume for most of her career. As an example let's turn to Superman 312.
This was the second part of a multipart story. In the previous installment Superman had apparently accidentally killed a mutated survivor of Krypton named Nam-Ek. To make matters worse Nam-Ek possessed a healing power that might help cure the unknown plague that had infected a journalist's convention with Lois Lane one of the most critially ill victims. Supergirl managed to drag Superman out of his guilt-induced helplessness and between the two of them they discovered Nam-Ek had been teleported rather than incinerated by kryptonite laced lava. Tracing the teleport beam brought them face to face with one of Superman's old foes, Amalak the Space Pirate. For some reason he now had a grudge against all Kryptonians instead of just being out to enrich himself. While Superman took on Nam-Ek Supergirl faced Amalak's Kryptonite energized and animated aura. She destroyed it but the energy flash that accompanied it's destruction temporarily blinded her. Allowing Amalak time to teleport his ultrapowerful handgun out of storage in the Fortress of solitude and strike!

Things certainly looked bad for Supergirl, so how did she get out of this? I'd love to show you but unfortunately my copy of Superman 313 was tossed out quite a few years before I owned a scanner. Still here's the lowdown; Before he pulls the trigger Supergirl managed to get Amalak to explain his masterplan. Being a villain of the old school the space pirate couldn't resist an opportunity to gloat over a helpless captive. Everything was intended to put Superman in a situation where he would have to choose between saving humanity from the plague that was coming and killing the carrier. For the greater good Superman would have no choice but the guilt would be unbearable and force him into retirement (wish John Byrne had read this one, or Alan Moore's wrapup to the pre-Crisis Superman {Action 583} that had him exposing himself to Gold Kryptonite after killing Mr. Mxyzptlk) Then having gloated enough Amalak pulled the Star Cannon's trigger!! Nothing happened, it seemed while Superman had been wrestling with his dilemma over saving Kara or Lois he had actually been using his heat vision to melt the Star Cannon's circuits. Something Kara could have done herself if she hadn't been dazed though she had been together enough to realize what Superman was doing. So while she could have broken free and punched out Amalak a lot sooner than she did the cousins had been hoping Amalak would make the classic villain mistake of explaining. Which he did and armed with the information Supergirl intended to go fill Superman in. Since this story didn't wrap up until the following issue it shouldn't surprise you that a few things popped up to delay her. But everything ended happily, except for Amalak who fatally injured himself in a last-ditch effort to convince Superman he had taken a life. It didn't work he as saw through it and knew he wasn't responsible for Amalak's injury. The answer to why Amalak acquired such hatred of Kryptonians that he would sacrifice his own life for a failed vengeance scheme seems to have died with him. If there is an answer let me know as its one of those little questions that has always bugged me. That's about if for this page. As we know DC never quite knew what to do with Kara and decided to get Crisis on Infinite Earths some media coverage by killing off a few characters they considered obsolete. Barry Allen, the Flash bought it in issue 6 and in issue 7 it was Kara's turn. A sad day, personally I prefer Superman Family 200's "twenty years on" issue which had Superwoman dividing her time between being a heroine, her husband and serving the people of Florida as Governer Linda Danvers.

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