Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Exercise in Egotism: My Ideal Supergirl Story

I was thinking about the post I made yesterday. The idea of Guy as Kara's mentor was largely a joke, but the more I think about it, the more I can see it as, weirdly enough, a genuine way to make the character more approachable/appealing.

Kara is growing on me, honestly. She really is. I still think the "being programmed to kill Superman" angst and the crystal spikes are a pretty silly idea, but I think at her core, Kara has the possibility to be an appealing character.

The thing is, for me, the appeal of the post-Crisis Kara is that she's, deep down, a stupid teenager. Hey, I can sympathize with that. I was a pretty stupid teenager once myself. I think most of us were. We know what it's like to be angry and lost and confused, to have to live up to the seemingly impossible expectations of authority figures who couldn't possibly understand what we're going through, while trying to get out from the overpowering shadow of those same figures...

Or maybe it's just me. :-)

Kara's the most appealing for me when she gets to act like a teenager. Crushing on Nightwing. Even the inappropriateness of her relationship with Boomerang. The whole issue where she was at school (except for the end...WE can't just fly away like that). Even her "Thinking isn't my strong suit" sort of self-deprecating joke. These are all things I resonate with, and I'd imagine a lot of youngish women would too.

Kelly's actually really good at that part, I think, but those threads get lost with everything else going on, and well. Honestly. The end product isn't very appealing to me.

I was thinking though, a big difference between a teenage character that gets on my nerves and a teenage character that I actually like has to do with the presence of a guiding figure. The constant presence of a truly guiding figure has the advantage of reminding me that yes, this character is a teenager and she's going to make stupid mistakes and be incredibly silly. The guiding figure starts to provide a stabling influence, someone for the teenager to bounce off of, rebel against, grow accustomed to, allowing for the exploration of different sides of the character.

Ideally, the guiding figure gradually earns the reluctant respect/trust of the teenaged character and through that respect/trust, the seeds of the growing hero start to become visible.

Some teenaged characters don't need the presence of a guiding figure, being self-sufficient enough to operate largely as a miniature adult. However, Supergirl's clearly not equipped for that. She's all fire and attitude with no experience, and honestly I think she needs someone to reign her in. Superman is too distant of a figure to really cut it. Batman is too scary. And Diana has her own problems.

But Kara needs someone or something, I think. Original Kara had Clark, who might not have been perfect, but he was much more of a presence there than he is now. Most sidekick characters really come into their own through their relationship with their mentors. Kara would really benefit from that chance.

You know what I think would work? After this current mess with Power Boy and the Outsiders and everything else. I want Clark to have a good look at his cousin and realize, hey, she needs discipline and guidance, more than I can give her here. And ship her off to military school.

By military school. I mean Oa.

Seriously. The Green Lantern force is hierarchal, authoritarian, and has strict rules. Admittedly the Earth Lanterns are all crazy idiots, but they're focused and directed crazy idiots, and if nothing else, maybe a breather away from Earth would be of benefit of her.

I don't think Kara should necessarily show in the GLC book, but heck, if she can spend a few issues of Supergirl hanging around the Outsiders without showing in that book, she can do the same thing with the Corps.

And the Corps are full of characters that are smart, empathetic, compassionate, and would not have a whole lot of patience for teenage angst. They have respect for Superman, but he's not the overwhelming presence on Oa that he is on Earth, so she'd have some time to escape his shadow. And EVERYONE is an alien and out of place on Oa, so she shouldn't have trouble finding friends within the new recruits.

And considering that the Corps include everything from lizardmen, germs, mathematical equations and planets, a Kryptonian that grows spikes is not that freaky.

There's also the advantage of quite a few potential role models. I mentioned Guy in my last entry. He's got the educational background to understand her issues, and well, a lot of experience with being angry and juvenile. But there's also Soranik Natu. Soranik's cool, professional, competent and independent. There's Boodika. There's Kilowog. There's even Salakk.

Okay. Maybe not Salakk.

The advantage of the setting is that it's a really good place for her to really experience being a teenager, without all the baggage that comes from being on Earth. It's a good setting for action. (There's no reason Kara can't help out on some of the rookie missions, after all.) A good place to develop a rapport with many different types of characters: kids and adults, and explore some new aspects of her personality.

And finally, there may be a solution to my real problem with the Kara Zor-El character right now, which is the apparent lack of real altruism. I don't have any trouble with flawed or erratic superheroes, but ultimately I'd like to see some sign that they're doing this because they genuinely want to help people. I don't get that from Kara yet.

But maybe exposure to the sort of everyday, professional type of heroism we see in the Corps (akin to what we see in firefighters, cops or military in the real world) may reach her where the flashy superheroics on Earth can't, inspiring her to find her own inner hero.

Mostly I just think it'd be fun!


  • At February 25, 2007 4:07 AM, Blogger Flidget said…

    Oa's a bit of a commute though, isn't it?

    You're right, though, that she does need a mentor. Dubbilex is still around somewhere and he has experience in raising Kryptonian teenagers, I'd like it to be him.

  • At February 25, 2007 4:23 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Oa presumably has residential living. :-P Dorm life would do her good.

    Dubbilex is neat, but honestly, with him, she'd still be living under the shadow of both Clark AND Kon. Which would suck.

    (Besides, it'd be good to get away from Earth for a time. :-))

  • At February 25, 2007 6:22 AM, Anonymous Mark Question said…

    Intruiging idea. Certainly better than teaming her up with *shudder* Lobo, which seems to be the most recent direction this trainwreck is taking..
    I still maintain that the best thing that could happen to Kara right now would be Mary Marvel.

  • At February 25, 2007 6:44 AM, Blogger LurkerWithout said…

    Sounds like you want something akin to the Max Mercury/Impulse relationship...

    As for sending her to boot camp, Clark should just go all out and send her to the tender mercies of Granny Goodness. Ok, maybe not that far. But having Barda mentor her could be intresting...

  • At February 25, 2007 9:53 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    "Admittedly, the Earth Lantersn are all crazy idiots, but they're focused and directed crazy idiots".

    Heh heh.

    Actually I quite like the idea of Oa as a finishing school. Wouldn't you just love to see Kara and Kilowog? Or even better, Kara and Boodika? It would be for her own good!

    Heck, I think that they should have a summer camp, and send the Titans for a couple of weeks in June...just to whip them into shape.

  • At February 25, 2007 11:19 AM, Anonymous Loren said…

    I think this would be a fun idea. I definitely think, given the whole "I was sent here to kill Kal-El" thing going, that mentorship from Superman would seem a little odd to Kara. So, joining the Corps. Interesting. And, I agree that separating her from Earth for awhile might do her some good.

  • At February 25, 2007 1:05 PM, Blogger Zaratustra said…

    One of the issues of the new Supergirl is that she doesn't accept anyone as an authority figure or role model, and thinks she can handle being an 'adult' on her own without anyone watching over her shoulder. And then spikes come out of her back and OH GOD WHAT AM I GOING TO DO.

    This could be an interesting angle to go for, if it weren't for the -other- issue of the new Supergirl, which is that the book has no identity whatsoever. She's in Kandor beating cults with Power Girl, she's in the year 3000, she's a regular girl in school, she's with the Outsiders, she's WHOA HEY ALL OVER THE PLACE FOLKS LOOK AT ME. She doesn't get the title of Paris Hilton of the DC Universe just for the tons of eye makeup, you know.

  • At February 25, 2007 7:30 PM, Anonymous "Starman" Matt Morrison said…

    I'm afraid I have to disagree with you on this one for one simple reason.


    They already tried putting Kara into a military school of sorts and aside from teaching her all sorts of new ways of hurting people without having to use her powers, it didn't really do much for her emotionally.

    I mean, all of the "kill Kal-El" and spike-growing stuff aside, Kara was going through some major trauma when she woke up. Ignoring all the usual teenage girl issues, she just woke up on an alien world, has all these strange powers she can't really control fully and she has partial amnesia regarding her previous life.

    Does Clark take her to a specialist? No. Does he get her into survivors guilt therapy? No. Does he take any steps to introduce her to the strange new world she's in and try to help her acclimate? Not at first.

    No, instead he locks this girl up in the Fortress of Solitude and starts grilling her for information on the home world he never knew.

    Not so Super.

    Diana wound up going to the other extreme - she wound up becoming all gung-ho "this girl needs discipline if she is ever going to become a hero worthy of her legacy."

    One problem: nobody ever asked Kara if she even wanted to do the superhero thing. Sure, great power means blah blah... but she's at an age where she doesn't even know what she wants to do with her life and she's getting pressure from two dominating personalities telling her who she is supposed to become when, thanks in part to her amnesia, she doesn't even know whos he is NOW.

    No wonder Kara is all over the place trying to find a place to fit in! Given the treatment she's had so far, I'd be running away trying to find my own path too.

  • At February 25, 2007 7:53 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Matt, I'd acknowledge your point about the Amazons, except that the story wasn't actually told.

    The story was hinted at and bypassed which is annoying because it's a time when she could have been given depth.

    No one doubts she's a traumatized child that needs help, but she's still a child. Running away's understandable, but teenagers can't find themselves alone, most of the time. Adults can, but teenagers are still transitioning. Even if she wants to be left alone, she really shouldn't be. (Especially considering how stupid she's been so far, this is NOT a girl who can be trusted to take care of herself. And not being 18 yet means that, well, she doesn't have the right to anyway.)

    Also. It doesn't really matter if she wants to be a hero. The girl needs discipline if she wants to GROW UP. And she NEEDS to learn to control her powers so as not to hurt someone.

    The Corps has an advantage of the Amazons too. One, there's lots more room for action. Two, Kara won't be the only child among hundreds of parents. (Which is where the Amazon model really fails, there ARE no new Amazons who can really understand her). The Corps is full of recruits as lost and confused as she is, some even more traumatized by their circumstances. They're getting the guidance that she needs.

  • At February 25, 2007 8:15 PM, Blogger Ragnell said…

    One problem: nobody ever asked Kara if she even wanted to do the superhero thing. Sure, great power means blah blah... but she's at an age where she doesn't even know what she wants to do with her life and she's getting pressure from two dominating personalities telling her who she is supposed to become when, thanks in part to her amnesia, she doesn't even know whos he is NOW.

    "Great power blah blah"? Dude, she's a fucking Kryptonian. She can crush not just bones, but diamond, in her hands. She can kill people with a fucking look.

    No one should be asking her if she wants to learn control. She either learns to control her powers, her actions and her temper, or she's a danger to everyone and everything on that yellow-sunned planet.

    I'm with Kali, ship her to Oa. If she comes up with a "no one asked ME" whine, she'll get the lecture she should've gotten on Themiscyra. The whole "Great power blah blah" because when your temper tantrums can cost lives, you don't get to be left alone until you learn some discipline.

    Besides, this is a teenager. Who asks teenagers if they want to go to school? To get a job? to do their chores? To hold in their temper and not punch everyone who makes them angry?

    Plus in the Corps there's the option of a Daxamite teammate who's just as much of a rookie.

  • At February 26, 2007 10:46 AM, Anonymous Jack Potts said…

    I don't know. If she was with the GL Corps, we'd see her in her GL cadet uniform all the time, instead of the distinctive red, blue and yellow, Supergirl duds, so she'd lose her unique visual signature. Without it, she's just another blonde.

    I say, reconcile Pete Ross and Lana Lang, and have her jet around the globe with them and their baby, Clark, while Lana tries to make Lex's psuedo-criminal empire into something wholly respectable.

    Inevitably, they would encounter problems as Lana tries to shut down some of LexCorps' more dangerous divisions who may not WANT to be shut down, assassins, or mad scientists with a grudge.

    Lana could be the headstrong, adventurous spirit, while Pete could be the wise, nurturing, down-to-earth stay at home dad, trying to make things as normal as possible for the former First Family. This could be part of the reason why Supergirl is brought in. Pete might want to eschew the large, intrusive Secret Service detail a former President is entitled to, in favor of a single super-powered operative, who would still fit in with their family and their unique needs. Let's face it, Ross and Lang have a long history of encountering superhuman threats, and there's not much a bunch of guys with guns and sunglasses can do when a horde of alien Manhunters come knockin' on the door.

    In this situation, Supergirl could be part adopted daughter, part super au-pair, and part bodyguard. She'd be like Jonny Quest and Race Bannon rolled into one!

    C'mon, let's make it happen!

  • At February 26, 2007 10:50 AM, Anonymous Jack Potts said…

    I have to amend the last sentence from my first paragraph. I should have said, "Without the costume, Supergirl would LOOK like just another blonde."

  • At February 26, 2007 12:48 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    jack: I don't actually want her as a GL cadet there. Just as Supergirl learning discipline (with her powers, she could help out pretty well without a ring anyway. :-)), kind of like going to military school without actually joining the military. (Though I do like the idea of a Lantern uniform with an "S" attached. :-P)

    I do like your idea too though. :-)

  • At February 26, 2007 1:14 PM, Anonymous Matthew said…

    Two words.

    Linda Danvers. Not that DC remembers her.

    The other way is to just make this SUpergirl an avatar of the Anti-Monitor...sorry, I'm just annoyed.

  • At February 26, 2007 2:44 PM, Anonymous "Starman" Matt Morrison said…

    kalinara - I agree with you - they missed out on a lot of story potential when they sort of skimmed over any survivors guilt or emotional trauma that Kara might have experienced.

    I think it's fairly telling that the one friend Kara actually made while on Paradise Island was the one other woman there who didn't really fit in either (Harbringer). And I think the best thing Kelly has done in his run was develop a friendship with Wonder Girl, simply because a)it makes sense that they WOULD have run into one another and talked before Loeb's "stay away from my boyfriend" fight in the first few issues of Supergirl and b)Cassie knows the whole "girl among powerhouse women" feeling well.

    That being said, if they really want to put her someplace where she can bond with heroes her own age - Teen Titans are right there.

    I agree that Kara dealing with the GLs would be an interesting story but - they are an actual police force, not a military academy. All respect for Superman aside, I can see Salak telling him quite pointedly that they are not a day-care center.

    You know what I'd like to see? Give her to Ollie - he could use the help and lord knows he's just enough of an iconoclast to bond with her like Guy. And hey - Mia's there for the teen riot grrrrl support.

    Ragnell - I never said that Kara doesn't need to learn control or that she should be left to her own devices. I'm saying that-

    1) nobody ever explored the option that she might not want to be a superhero.

    2) given her experiences with her cousin and his friends so far, it is understandaible why she wanted a looser leash.

    I mean, Clark got her to the point where she could walk down the street without burning things by looking at them on accident as well he should have. At that point, he should have focused on trying to get her acclimated to her new homeworld.

    But he didn't. He kept her locked up in the Fortress of Solitude like a princess in a tower "to protect her".

    And then Diana put her into Amazon boot camp on the assumption that she was going to become the new great white hope, so to speak.

    My point is: Nobody ever stopped to ask "Do you WANT to become a superhero?"

    Teach her how to control her powers, yes. Have SOMEONE checking in with her at least once a week (It looks like Bruce has been doing this anyway), yes. But don't put her into yet another professional group on the theory that THIS is what will make her join the family business, so to speak.

  • At February 26, 2007 4:27 PM, Anonymous Jack Potts said…

    I think "Starman" has a good point: There is no in-story reason for Kara Zor-El to be a superhero. Her Silver Age counterpart had a certain amount of hero worship of her older cousin, Kal El and was pretty much sent to Earth by her parents to follow him in the family business.

    I think this lack of clarity in her mission in life makes it difficult for some writers to get a handle on her, but the circumstances of her life should be great fodder for good stories.

    Kara is a teenager who lost everything she ever knew or loved. She wakes up with bizarre, but amazing abilities in a strange world where the kid whose diapers she used to change is their greatest hero. She quickly has greatness thrust upon her, but everytime she thinks her world is settling down, the rug gets pulled out from under her.

    Given that set of circumstances, it would be easy to make Kara a little cynical, but cynicism and the Superman Family don't mix well. She was a teenager when she lost her family and her world, so she would quickly come to the realizations that many of us have only when we get older: "Man, I should have paid more attention to X when I was younger? Man, why didn't I do this or that when I had the chance? If only, if only, if only..."

    I think her story would be about self-discovery and living in the moment, but not in a spoiled, selfish, Paris Hilton manner. Kara would have tremendous empathy for the lost, unfortunate, or outcast, because she knows that lie can literally change in the blink of an eye. Kara would want to understand all that this world has to offer before she loses that too. She would encounter each new setback with a "can-do" attitude, curiosity, and zeal, but not naivete. Being a teenager, she might still occasionally bristle at anyone suggesting how she handle matters, though.

    I see Kara hanging out with other super-powered sorts, but I can't see her joining an organized group or going on patrol. I think she would want to discover life on her own terms.


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