Sunday 14 September 2014

Supergirl #8. Kara Zor-El's baddest of bad hair days - Part One.

Krackling Kandorians! This is a unique moment in this blog's history because Supergirl Sunday has now reached issue #8 of our heroine's 1970s solo series.

With my stupendous mastery of organisation, it turns out I randomly reviewed it a whole four years ago. Therefore, it's time for me to dust that old post off and, in the interest of sequential correctness, re-post it right now.

Because the post was more of a general look at the series, I'm going to treat it as Part One of the review and tomorrow I shall endeavour to write a more specific critique of the issue in question.

So, here it is, what I had to say about that very issue way back in April 2010...

Supergirl #8, Art Saaf, Supergirl v MedusaI was never sure if the deal Supergirl got in life was raw or simply half-baked. Either way, it's a miracle she didn't end up in therapy. First of all her home planet's blown up then her home city's destroyed and then her own cousin puts her in an orphanage while telling her to keep her trap shut and not get noticed.

That's not to mention that, for decades, all her boyfriends turned out to be aliens or robots or ghosts or crooks, or spies, or women or horses.

Still, through all these setbacks, Kara Zor-El battled on, for year after year, until, at last, in 1972, she got her own comic.

The odd thing was that while she'd been able to sustain a lengthy run of stories in Adventure Comics for three years, her own title lasted just ten issues, which poses the obvious question, why would people buy the exploits of Supergirl in Adventure Comics but not in her own mag? Was it that boys, the main comic buying audience, were happy to buy a mag with "Adventure" in the title but not one with "Girl" in the title?

Either way, it was their loss because the comic has a charm all its own. No longer in that orphanage, Superman's cousin's packed her bags and gone to university. If she thought this was the start of a fresh new life, free of the trials and tribulations that fell on her like a sack of anvils at every opportunity, she was to be much disappointed. Her bad luck simply grew and and, by issue #8, she'd sprouted a headful of snakes, and her boyfriend - possessed by the ghost of Perseus - was out to kill her.

Supergirl #8, Art Saaf, Supergirl v Medusa

Apparently it was all a plot by Medusa who, imprisoned somewhere or other, was out to get him to slay Supergirl so she could take possession of the Maid of Might's (presumably hacked up) body. With Supergirl chopped to pieces and Perseus still on the loose, I can spot two problems with Medusa's plan right there but, clearly, the gruesome Gorgon was an optimist. Still, as always, it all ended nicely, with Medusa defeated and Supergirl off back home, no doubt to prepare for her next romantic catastrophe.

For Cary Bates, coming up with Supergirl plots must've been even more of a challenge than coming up with Superman tales. He had the same problem of dealing with a character who was far too powerful for the sake of good drama but with the added problem that this was about a girl and - this being the 1970s - you couldn't show a girl getting a good chinning from a bad guy, meaning the violence levels had to be toned down even further. Still, Bates was nothing if not resourceful and did his usual charming job of it.

But the stories' real selling point was Art Saaf's artwork. With Saaf in charge, it was a whole new Supergirl. No longer the wholesome and blandly pretty ingénue of Jim Mooney, or the plucky girl next door of Kurt Schaffenberger, here she's all legs, cleavage, lips and eyes. For some of us, it's the most visually appealing portrayal of Supergirl ever but maybe in the end that's what did for the strip. Should Supergirl be sexy? Maybe, ultimately, the strip didn't know who it was aiming at. If boys were never going to go for all that romance, and girls weren't going to go for the legs, cleavage, lips and eyes, then who exactly was going to buy it?

Potential further reading and viewing:


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the compliments about my dad, Art Saaf

Steve S

Steve W. said...

Steve, thanks for dropping in, and thanks for the link to his site, which I've added to the end of the review. I didn't know as much as I would've liked to about Art, so it was nice to learn a little more.