Comics / DC Comics History

DC Comics History: Supergirl (1964 - 1967: The New Look)


By Deejay Dayton
January 26, 2020 - 10:08

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Supergirl’s series in Action Comics underwent some big changes during the period 1964 – 1967: the New Look. Linda graduated from high school, and left home to go study at Stanhope College, shedding almost all of her supporting cast along the way. On the plus side, Supergirl did face off with Brainiac, but her team-up with Wonder Woman in Brave and the Bold is embarrassing to say the least.

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Leo Dorfman and Jim Mooney held the reins on Supergirl’s series, and shared a highly emotional three part tale, which began in Action 314. Supergirl’s mother, Alura, has fallen deathly ill due to being separated from her daughter.  We get some flashbacks to their life on Argo City, when Kara was a baby. The Danvers intercept a message from Kandor, letting Linda know how severely her mother wants her back.  They try to make her feel unwanted, so that she will willingly leave them.  But Linda is suspicious of their change in behaviour, and finds out the truth. Zor-El and Alura do not want Supergirl to have to give up her crime-fighting career, so they decide it the Danvers who should make all the sacrifices in this situation.  They use the exchange ray to bring one set of parents out of Kandor, and replace them with her other set.  And though there is no clear reason why Supergirl has to leave Midvale as a result of this, she nonetheless bids farewell to Dick Malverne and Lena Thorul. Meanwhile, in Kandor, the Danvers meet a young orphan girl, who looks identical to Linda.

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As the story continues in issue 315, the Danvers have been raising the identical double to Linda, called Dar-Lin (which makes it sound like they have southern accents when they address her.)  They worry that their mementos of Linda are distressing Dar-Lin, and pack them all away. Dar-Lin’s parents disappeared during an exploration of the caves below Kandor.  Hard to believe anyone could get lost in the caves between the city and the bottle.  Even the map makes it look like a fairly small area.  Her parents get rescued, and Dar-Lin leaves the Danvers. Although Edna Danvers actions get blamed on a spine from a fish, I think she just loses it. After all the couple has given up, being trapped in a bottle could drive anyone insane. She adopts a disguise, and contacts Zor-El and Alura, pretending to have found an antidote for kryptonite. She actually leads them to kryptonite itself, and gloats as they slowly die. Supergirl shows up, furious.  She saves Zor-El and Alura, and has the Supergirl Emergency Squad cart Edna back to Kandor.  This is the final appearance of her Emergency Squad. The last few panels have Edna use the fish spine excuse, and Supergirl forgives her.  A kind of let down from the intensity of the climax.

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By Action 316, Supergirl, living with Zor-El and Alura on Earth, is depressed by the absence of her adoptive parents. Zor-El uses a time viewer to explore how their lives on Earth will play out.  It displays a future in which the Zygor, an alien monster, comes to Earth seeking vengeance on Zor-El, who had driven it away from Argo City. The Zygor has the power to control the minds of Kryptonians, after eating a lot of red kryptonite (?), and forces Supergirl to choose between killing Superman or Zor-El. Zor-El insists that they cannot possibly let this future come to pass, that he and Alura must return to Kandor, so the Zygor will never find them.  This allows the Danvers to come back, and Linda is also re-united with Dick Malverne and Lena Thorul. At the end, we discover that the Zygor was actually captured by Zor-El many years ago, and died in captivity.  So the whole thing was a lie.  Alura agrees to keep Zor-El’s lie, as they will “all be happier that way.” Which is likely the best she could make of things, after being so rejected by her own daughter, who prefers the psychotic Earthling Edna Danvers.

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Lena Thorul appeared in a couple of other tales at this time.  In Action 313 the FBI order her to write a criminology paper, as part of her application.  Lex Luthor is one of those she must question. Luthor has taken up raising flowers, and does his best to make a good impression on Lena, but her psychic powers reveal to her that they are siblings. Lena is so shocked she flies to Africa and loses her memory, living as a jungle princess for a while. She returns to the US, and takes on a job as a circus performer, but remains miserable.  Supergirl works with Luthor, as he gives her a bouquet of flowers, whose scent induces amnesia.  Lena loses her memory of being Luthor’s sister, and writes a nasty report on him, insisting his flower hobby be stopped.  Oh, the irony.

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Lena Thorul falls in love in Action 317. Her boyfriend is Jeff Colby, whom she happily introduces to Dick Malverne and Linda Danvers.  Linda had just helped him survive a plane crash, as Supergirl, and when he makes no mention of that, or burying his parachute, she becomes suspicious. Spying on Jeff, she sees the he is working with organized crime, who operate from a sea base in international waters. Lex Luthor has also been watching Lena on his own monitor, and is shocked when he sees Jeff Colby. Supergirl does not want to be honest with Lena, and tell her what she knows of Jeff, so instead she butts in at a dance, and hypnotizes Jeff into falling for her, humiliating Lena in public.  Jeff remembers none of what happened, but Lena calls off their engagement. The Supergirl discovers that Jeff is actually an FBI operative, and was working undercover, infiltrating the organization.  Oops! 

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She helps him take them down, and then builds a robot of Jeff and programs it to tell a ridiculous lie, all to cover her own, unfounded actions. Lena and Jeff marry at the end of the story.  We learn that Jeff had arrested Luthor, which seems to be setting up some later story, but doesn’t. In fact, this is not only the final appearance of Lena Thorul in Supergirl’s run in Action Comics, it’s the one and only appearance of Jeff Colby.  When next we see Lena, in Supergirl’s run in Adventure Comics in the early 70s, she is a widow and single mother.

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Marrying off Lena seems to have been part of a larger plan to shake the series up, as in the very next issue of Action Supergirl graduates from high school, and moves away to attend Stanhope University.  It’s kind of weird, as the last year or so of Supergirl stories have placed so much emotional weight on which parents get to raise her, and now she’s off on her own. Of course, the first order of business is joining a sorority.  Linda sees one, Alpha Lamba, where Donna Storm treats the pledges appallingly.  So that’s the one she intends to join.  Because.  Umm.  Ok. So Linda is assigned a variety of humiliating tasks, which she turns into popular triumphs. 

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When she is tricked into having to kiss a monkey in public, the monkey turns out to be Beppo. When she has to find a last minute mascot, Super-Horse steps in.  Dick Malverne does have a cameo, but we learn he is attending a different school. The super-pets raise Donna’s suspicions about knowing, or being, Supergirl.  She drives her car off a cliff, in an attempt to prove that Linda is the heroine, but she tricks Donna into thinking the car landed safely.  Remorseful, Donna agrees to stop tormenting the pledges, and becomes Linda’s friend.  Hoping to suck up to Supergirl, I expect.

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Donna Storm, the villain from the previous issue, returns to plague Linda Danvers, and Supergirl, in Action 319. Donna feels she needs to be the best at everything, but has no problem cheating to achieve this. She gets scientists at her father’s lab to do her chemistry work, and has a mini tape recorder in her earrings, feeding her for presentations. Supergirl decides to outdo her, because that is the maturest way to handle the situation.  When Donna spends a lot of money on pictures for a presentation in biology, Supergirl takes the rest of the class to Atlantis for a lesson by Lori Lemaris. Donna is even more upset with Linda, and her friendship with Supergirl, after this.  She steals some jewels, and plants them in Linda’s room.  They are found, and Linda gets expelled. But Donna Storm makes her big mistake, when Linda comes to confront her. 

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She admits everything, bragging to Linda about it, but her words get broadcast to the entire campus. Supergirl had called on the Legion of Super-Heroes for help, and Shrinking Violet had re-wired her tape recorder earrings to become a broadcast device. Linda’s expulsion is rescinded, and Donna Storm gets the boot instead.  She never appears again. Considering the self-esteem issues that Donna clearly has, after the public humiliation of her activities being exposed, and the, likely, forthcoming criminal charges, I expect she just killed herself.

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From this point on most of Supergirl’s adventures would take her into outer space, or have her struggling against magical foes. Her series seems to have lost popularity with the readers, and in more than one issue of Action during this time it was replaced with a reprint of her earlier adventures. For the most part, Stanhope College was simply a backdrop, and there was little effort made to show Linda as a university student. The lack of supporting cast added to that problem, though Dick Malverne would return for a two part story, which began in Action 335.

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The story sees Linda Danvers become a beauty pageant contestant. Linda gets spotted by a talent scout while on a date with Dick Malverne.  She is flattered by the attention, and agrees to enter a competition.  Dick has a charmingly cute nightmare about Linda becoming successful and leaving him in the dust. Linda wins pageant after pageant, eventually making it into the finals of the Miss Universe competition.  She has no problem sabotaging the other contestants to ensure her victory. After being crowned, Linda finds herself being transported into space for the real finals of the real Miss Universe pageant – exactly as she had planned. She had discovered that the previous winners had vanished, and never returned. Once again she wins, although this time as Supergirl.  But the “prize” is a transformation into a hideous monster.

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Supergirl comes back to Earth with her transformed face in Action 336.  Superman tries to help restore her features, but with no success.  Comet doesn’t care about her looks (he’s a horse after all), but notices her way of thinking has changed, and doesn’t like that. She feels like a freak, and takes off for Bizarro World, thinking to fit in there.  Wanting to fit in on Bizarro World is a pretty dumb idea. Linda is stuck wearing a mask over her real face, but discovers that , somehow, her original appearance returned.  She learns that the man who caused it was so grief stricken by his actions, that he changed her back.  And so she ends, happily dancing with Dick Malverne. An easy out.

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Action 350 contained one of her better stories from the period, pitting her against some unheroic Heroes. The Heroes are a rock band, who dress as Batman, Green Arrow and Green Lantern, as well as a girl dressed as Supergirl.  Linda enjoys their music, but they are really a gang of thieves, who steal from the locations they perform at, while everyone is watching their Supergirl. Supergirl notes the correlation between the thefts and their performances, and goes to question their Supergirl.  She has also just figured out what is going on, and wants no part of the ban anymore.  When Supergirl shows up to rehearse for their next gig, the boys are suspicious.  She seems to be much better than she had been previously, and they suspect she is the real thing. They lay a kryptonite trap for her, but their pans backfire badly.  It was not the real Supergirl, just their singer, pretending to be, so the kryptonite does nothing.  Supergirl calls on the Justice League of America, and Batman, Green Arrow and Green Lantern are happy to help her round up the band, while Hawkman sits, stuck on monitor duty.

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Supergirl has her first solo outing against Brainiac in Action 339.  Superman leaves Earth in her care as he goes into space with the Justice League of America. Brainiac has a trap all specially prepared for Superman, and comes to challenge him.  He refuses to take Supergirl seriously, and tries to avoid having to fight her. But Supergirl will not give up, and keeps attacking over and over.  Finally, Brainiac considers her enough of a nuisance to use his special kryptonite cage on her. But the cage was built for Superman’s size, and Supergirl slips through the bars. It’s painful, but possible, and she defeats the unwary Brainiac and sends him running. While it was great to see her confronting an enemy as powerful as Brainiac, the story itself was a bit of a let down.

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Speaking of let downs, Brave and the Bold 63 brought together the two most powerful women in the DC universe, Supergirl and Wonder Woman. This could have been an amazing adventure. But don't hold your breath.  This story is just an awful waste of the duo. It begins as Supergirl gets tired of having her super-hero career get in the way of her romantic life.  She informs Superman that she is giving up being Supergirl so that she can focus on being Linda Danvers, and getting a date.  Figuring that Supergirl might listen to another woman, Superman heads to Paradise Island to recruit Wonder Woman into straightening Linda out.  Hippolyta cameos, as does the new Wonder Girl, her appearance here coming between the Teen Titans issue of Showcase, and the debut issue of their own book. Wonder Woman catches up to Linda in France, where she is already dating a guy named Henri.  Before Wonder Woman can talk any sense into Linda, she meets Andre, and immediately falls head over heels in love with him.

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Now both women want to give up their super hero careers, just to devote themselves to their men, and both couples head off for the Isle of Love.  But both men are really working for a shape changing villain Multi-Face, who is using that island as his base while he plots to steal a rocket. Multi-Face learns from his men about the women they are dating, and devises emergencies to keep them out of the way while his plans proceed.  Both Wonder Woman and Supergirl are so determined that their men should not find out they are still using their powers that Multi-Face's plans work perfectly. Only at the very end of the story do the two realize they need to act to stop the bad guy, and that their men never deserved them.  Somehow, the story misses condemning their subservient behaviour in their relationships.  Ah well.  They triumph over Multi-Face, ditch their loser boyfriends and resume being superheroes.  About the best one can hope for in this story.

 

 

Supergirl continues in the next period, 1967 – 1970: It’s a Happening!

 

Supergirl: Action Comics 312 – 340, 342, 344 – 350, 353 (May 64 – Aug 66 , Oct 66, Dec 66 - May 67, Aug 67)

Brave and the Bold 63 (Dec/Jan 65/66)

 

Next up – Rip Hunter, Time Master!

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Last Updated: January 26, 2020 - 10:27

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