For seven years and over 80 issues, writer Peter David and a group of artists including Gary Frank, Terry Dodson, Sean Phillips, and Leonard Kirk told the story of a Supergirl who wasn't actually Supergirl - or the Supergirl. And how that was the entire point.
Linda Danvers was a normal human girl who went down a dark path after meeting the devil himself - and after s demonic ritual gone right (for the devil at least), Linda is at death's door but is ultimately saved by a protoplasmic version of Supergirl – Matrix. Linda then merged with this entity to become a new version of the superhero that blended the themes of the original Supergirl Linda Lee’s silver age tales with an edgier touch.
Newsarama caught up with David now years on since his Supergirl run's finale back on March 19, 2003 for a trip together down memory lane. With the benefit of hindsight and time passed, David talked with us in depth about the creation of Matrix, the biblical allusions explored in the series, the critically acclaimed “Many Happy Returns” that led to the “return” of Silver Age Supergirl, and a pitch for a Birds of Prey-esque spin-off series that never made it to print
Newsarama: Peter, did you come up with the pitch for Supergirl or did DC come to you?
Peter David: I didn't come up with the pitch. DC approached me about writing it because they offered it to John Byrne, who created that version of the character, and John passed on it. That's why it amused me when he subsequently despised what I did with her, since he apparently didn't have the faintest idea where to go with her.
My concern about her was that she was a shapeshifting Matrix with no real reason to be Supergirl. She could have been Supergirl, or Superman, or an Oldsmobile, or whatever. There was nothing about her that really grounded her to humanity. I mean yeah, she had Lana Lang's memories, but I wasn't even sure what that was about.
The entire background was so convoluted and muddied that I wanted to simplify it, and I also wanted to give her a reason to be a human (or at least humanoid) female. That was when I hit on the idea of merging her with a real human being. It would give her humanity, not to mention family and friends. And then I further hit on the idea of making the girl she merged with - Linda Danvers, in a tip to the original Supergirl - evil. That way she would have an arc of redemption to embark upon.
Nrama: What do you think makes Linda Danvers such a unique character that fans gravitate towards?
David: The fact that she is genuinely a merged character. Unlike Firestorm, she's not two separate individuals sharing the same body. She is one personality: she's Linda Danvers, with Linda's soul and memories and love for her family, but she has Supergirl's memories as well and Supergirl's determination to do good.
Nrama: What was it like tapping into the darker side of Supergirl?
David: I never felt I did that at all. Instead I tapped into religion and spirituality, topics that have never been explored in an "S" book before. Supergirl explored faith in many ways, from Linda's exploration of her own actions to Linda's mother's falling apart upon discovering what happened to her daughter and her slowly coming to terms with it. I mean, even God was a character. A supporting character. How many comics have God as a supporting character?
Nrama: Since you brought it up.... there were many biblical allusions throughout your run - why was that important to you to include?
David: Because I was trying to examine something that no previous "S" book had done. After all, Superman was decades old, as was Superboy and the previous Supergirl books. I didn't just want to regurgitate that which had already been done. Religion was completely new territory.
Nrama: One of the most remembered stories from your run was “Many Happy Returns” - issues #75 through #80. What went into developing that story? Did you know it would be your last of that run?
David: I wanted to bring back the original Supergirl. It was as simple as that. Sales were dropping, I wanted to do something dramatic, and I felt that was the best way to go.
I actually had something longer-term in mind. I was hoping they would let me keep her around and that we'd transform the book into an "S" version of Birds of Prey teaming up my Supergirl, Kara, and Power Girl, and call it 'Blonde Justice.' Unfortunately, the editor brought in some utterly incompetent artist to do the first couple of covers, and that was all the art DC chose to show. Sales tanked. By the time people picked it up in the store, opened it and saw the fantastic art inside, it was too late.
Nrama: Did editorial tell you that you needed to introduce that version of Kara or was that your idea?
David: Mine. I actually had to fight with them to allow me to do it.
Nrama: Have you seen the TV show, what do you think of them using the Danvers name?
David: Well, it's not like I came up with the name "Danvers." All they did was use the same roots that I did.
Nrama: Would you like to see your run adapted into other media?
David: If I were writing it, sure.
Nrama: Final question then - Would you like to see Linda Danvers return in some capacity in comic books?
David: Honestly, no. I'd be afraid they'd screw it up.