A Tribute to the of

I’m a little late to the party, even though I’ve been fully aware of the success of the DC television series offerings. I’ve caught the odd episode of Arrow and the Flash, including the season premiere with the tantalizing upcoming meeting with Jay Garrick. Therefore, I’m intrigued with the new Supergirl series that is on deck the latter part of this month.

Inevitably, I think of the great Al Plastino. He was easily the creator I got closest to and I miss him very much. I’d love to call him up and see what he thinks of how they’ll be handling his co-creation. He was pretty proud of Supergirl. He even did a pencil sketch of her for my daughter and one of his last Christmas cards featured her. Man. I really miss my buddy.

Any Silver Age fan worth their salt already knows that Supergirl made her debut in the pages of Action Comics #252 from May of 1959 [Sage #32], courtesy of Al and scribe Otto Binder, but did you know Otto cranked out another character named “Super-Girl” about 9 months prior? "The Girl of Steel!” in Superman #123 with a publication date of August 1958 was drawn by Dick Sprang and inked by Stan Kaye under a Curt Swan/Stan Kaye cover. The Grand Comic Database tells us that editing credit goes to Whitney Ellsworth, but was actually by Mort Weisinger. It’s a 3-part story, but I’m going to take things in a slightly different direction, because part I, which is the Super-Girl segment was reprinted in Superman #217 from June/July of 1969.

The 64 page GIANT issue had a cover by Curt Swan with Vince Colletta inks and Gaspar Saladino letters. This Mort Weisinger/ E. Nelson Bridwell edited issue is all reprints of “famous firsts,” and they took Part I of “The Girl of Steel!,” and “edited it slightly” and changed the title to “Presenting…The First Supergirl!” In a page by page comparison the obvious differences, possibly to avoid confusion with Kara Zor-El, was some color changes as the original story had a familiar blonde-haired heroine in the classic Superman colored uniform, although her boots had high heels on them. Therefore in the revamped story, the uniform, both interior and on the cover featured a redhead with an orange top and green skirt, cape and boots. Also, the final panel, rather than leading the reader on to Part II, simply contained some text and led the reader to a reprinted page showing Superman revealing his cousin to the world, or at least main street Metropolis as originally seen in Action Comics #285, the February, 1962 issue.

So, let’s see what sort of contrasts we have between Super-Girl and Supergirl, shall we? The story begins with Superman in action, saving victims of a flood. Simultaneously the Daily Planet’s chopper is on hand with Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane aboard to cover the story. Jimmy snaps some photos while Lois jumps out with a parachute(!) to get a better look at the action. You’ll find this hard to believe, but the ‘chute malfunctions and she’s scooped up by the Man of Steel. Lois is grateful and says she wishes she could always be in his arms as his wife, but Supes responds that only a Super-Girl could keep up with him.

Jimmy, overhearing, thinks that he could solve his pal’s problems if he only had a wish that he could use to conjure up a Super-Girl. Careful what you wish for, Jimmy, because, of course, an avenue will soon be provided when…Superman rescues an archaeologist who was studying ancient Indian relics when he got caught in a cave-in. He asks how he can repay Superman and our hero suggests he give Jimmy a souvenir.

Later, that’s exactly what takes place, when Jimmy is presented with a totem, which is inscribed, “Once every century, magic totem grants three wishes when jewel is rubbed under full moon!” The impetuous Olsen gives it a whirl, since there is a full moon that night and while he thinks it’s all hokum, he thinks in his mind that if it were legitimate, he’d “…wish that a Super-Girl, with super powers equal to Superman’s would appear and become his companion.

The young reporter then heads for bed, but in his wake the jewel glows in the moonlight and a figure appears. The totem instructs her to join Superman tomorrow and she flies away.

The next day she makes her first appearance when Superman is about to save a plummeting airplane. Super-Girl arrives and does the heroics herself and makes an introduction, explaining how she came into being and that she will be his constant companion. Next stop, the Daily Planet, where Superman introduces Super-Girl to Jimmy and Lois. Jimmy is thrilled. Lois, not so much. She figures she’s just lost out on the chance to marry Superman forever. She briefly contemplates following the inscription and rubbing the stone again to wish Super-Girl out of existence, but then decides it would be a rotten thing to do, though her heart is breaking.

Things aren’t all unicorns and sugar plums, though, as an eager, but inexperienced Super-Girl tags along on the adventures. Each time she tries to help, however, she miscalculates and does more harm than good by adding super breath and heat vision and then overdoing whatever deed Superman is attempting. Fortunately no lasting harm comes about, but Superman is beginning to wonder if his new companion is what had been hoped.

Finally, Supes decides the only way to avoid future mishaps is to clear the way for Super-Girl by taking refuge in his Clark Kent identity. That is a short-lived solution, though, when she happens to be flying by on her way to stop a calamity and calls down to Clark, along with Lois, “Why hello there, Superman!” She’d used her x-ray vision to spy the familiar red “S,” and thought nothing of saying howdy-do.

Lois says the jig is finally up and Clark wonders how he’ll talk his way out of this one. A bit later, he explains to Super-Girl that she’s done it again. She’s left crying on a bench while he goes to take care of another disaster, but this time there’s a twist. A plane had been following the Man of Might and used the opportunity to drop a chunk of Green Kryptonite on him. Just then, Super-Girl arrives and scoops up the Green K, explaining that since she wasn’t born on Krypton, but was conjured by the totem, she is immune. Soon we learn the truth, however. She is an exact duplicate, so she said that only to atone for her goofs. A greatly weakened Super-Girl finally makes it to Jimmy’s place and tells him she’s received a fatal dose of Kryptonite. “But I—I was no help to Superman anyway! It is best that I go! Rub the magic gem, Jimmy…please…so that I’ll disappear!

Reluctantly, Jimmy does as Super-Girl wishes and she fades away in the same mysterious fashion that she first appeared. That leaves only one loose end.

Jimmy tells his colleagues at the Planet what had happened and says that Super-Girl sent her love to Superman and then vanished. Lois is a bit relieved, but still ponders how to proceed when she discovers a note from Clark, proposing marriage. The reporter then reasons that Clark cannot be Superman or he wouldn’t make the proposal and it must have been a simple case of mistaken identity by Super-Girl. She turns Kent down and our hero is relieved that his plan worked.

That, my friends, is how Super-Girl was given a “test drive” to see how the readers would react. Obviously the feedback was favorable, because less than a year later a slightly redesigned version was rolled out and the rest is history.

I’ll rate this story (or partial story, if you will) a 7 on the 10-point rating scale, mainly for historical significance and novelty. I certainly look forward to seeing how the new series unfolds.

As per usual, feel free to send a message if you’ve got questions or comments. My handy e-mail address is: professor_the@hotmail.com.

Join us the first of the month for a new review right here at this location, when we will continue to dig into DC comics history.

Until then…

Long live the Silver Age!

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