Why hasn't Excitement For SUPERGIRL TV Show Translated To Comic Books?

"Supergirl" cover by Mahmud Asrar
Credit: Mahmud Asrar (DC Comics)
Credit: CBS

CBS might be generating excitement about Supergirl with the debut tonight of the superhero's television show, but it's a frenzy that hasn't translated to comic books.

In fact, in current DC comic books, Supergirl has very little presence, with the latest attempt at her own Supergirl  series ending earlier this year. Despite a documented spike in interest about the character, the current offering from DC, in the absence of a Supergirl series, is a DC Essential: Supergirl #1 collection that DC rushed onto the shelves for the TV debut.

And so far, reviews are positive for the character's television show, giving hope for comic fans who'd like to see her show up in print. Jim Lee, DC Entertainment's Co-Publisher, told IGN in September that the company recognizes the potential of having Supergirl content.

"We'd be remiss if we did not use that as an opportunity," Lee said. "If you look at all the shows, we've tried to do things that both tie in directly into the core mythology of the show itself. But a lot of times you see the best stories featuring, let’s say Green Arrow or The Flash, those are the ones which see the greatest lift when a show becomes a hit. I think you'll see an interesting mix of Supergirl content come out, some of which will closely mirror what's going on in the show, but there's some of the great stories that we publish that we will put out."

"I think it's exciting to see one of the key franchises lifted and showcased and we have really high hopes for it."

Fans aren't impressed.

"Lee’s answer is frustratingly vague and tepid, but what it comes down is that they’re waiting for the show to become a hit before relaunching the Supergirl book," said Michelle Bacon, a self-described "lifelong Superman and Supergirl fan" on the Supergirl Maid of Might fan site. "The publisher could be joining in on the Supergirl lovefest right now and putting Kara all over their books. Instead they’re playing a ‘wait-and-see’ game."

Former Supergirl writer Sterling Gates said he's seen episodes of the Supergirl TV show and thinks it will win new fans for the character and her comic books.

"Melissa Benoist is simply incredible as Supergirl. Just incredible. Fans are in for such a spectacular take on this character," Gates said.

Credit: Amanda Conner (DC Comics)

Mike Johnson, who co-wrote the latest Supergirl series when it began in 2011, also has high hopes for the TV series and the potential for new Supergirl comic fans.

"My hope is that the TV show introduces a whole new wave of readers to Supergirl," he said.

Oddly enough, the vacancy of the Girl of Steel in comic book hasn't resulted from a departure from female-helmed series in general by DC. This summer, the company launched ongoing solo titles for characters like Black Canary and Starfire, and even gave space to an alternate-universe female president in Prez. And in early 2016, the future-based Justice League 3001, will have an all-female Justice League that includes Supergirl. That said, when compared to male character headliners — and in particular, the number of comics starring Supergirl's cousin Superman — the ladies are still at a disadvantage in comic books.

And although Supergirl herself is related to Superman — and is often depicted fighting by his side — the constant presence of her cousin Kal in the DCU has also contributed to the challenges with maintaining her popularity among readers. Johnson said that he and co-writer Michael Green opted to take those challenges and see them "more as opportunities."

"Kara didn't grow up with her powers from infancy like Kal did. She had a life before she arrived on Earth, a life she remembers, and that unique backstory provides storytelling opportunities distinct from her cousin's," he said.

Since Supergirl was introduced in the 1950's, she's been killed, reinvented and reintroduced several times. The latest was the 2011 DC reboot known as the "New 52," which saw Superman's Kryptonian cousin crashing to earth yet again, as the entire DC Universe began anew with younger, more modern versions of the company's iconic superheroes.

Credit: Mahmud Asrar (DC Comics)

Yet there's a core to Supergirl that runs through all her incarnations, according to creators who've worked on the character.

"I think what makes her special is that she is so relatable despite that fact that she is literally a super-powered alien from another planet," Johnson said. "She has the best qualities of humanity: kindness, courage, empathy, honesty… and she can stop an asteroid with her bare hands."

"Supergirl is a bright, selfless hero in an increasingly cynical world," said Gates. "Her positivity could run the risk of sounding forced or overly saccharine, but her biggest secret weapon is that she's completely genuine. When she smiles, you smile with her.

"To me, Supergirl as a concept is about learning to be responsible to your own internal strengths while navigating the external pressures of the world," he added. "It's a hard balance, but Kara's response to those pressures and how she handles them is what makes her such an admirable hero."

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