Silver Age Nods

The 1996 SUPERGIRL series is full of nods to the Silver Age Supergirl comics, which help bring Supergirl back to her roots as girl-next-door Linda Danvers, secret identity Supergirl.

Peter David explained the references on his blog:

When I took on the book, I was all too aware that any number of fans would just as soon have seen Kara return and take up her mantle once more. But that wasn’t going to happen; DC wasn’t going to dilute Superman’s status again. Still, I wanted to make the fans feel more at home. So I gave her as many of the exterior accoutrements of Kara’s former life as I possibly could. I gave her parents, and a secret identity of Linda Danvers, in a small town (called “Leesburg”, in deference to Linda Lee), and a boyfriend named Dick Malverne, and put Stanhope College nearby. Some fans thought I was being “in-jokey.” Nah. I just wanted to make the old readers feel at home as best I could.

The History of Supergirl

Name – when Kara first landed on Earth she took the name of Linda Lee and concealed her identity by living as an ordinary girl in the Midvale Orphanage. She wore a brown wig to conceal her natural blond hair (in the 70’s she acquired a special comb that could change her hair from blond to brunette on the molecular level). Kara was adopted by Fred and Edna Danvers, becoming Linda Lee Danvers (the modern Danvers’ names are Fred and Sylvia). The modern Linda Danvers was an Earth girl with a human childhood and life before she became Supergirl. She has naturally brown hair and brown eyes. Upon merging with Supergirl, her eyes were permanently changed to blue and she could morph into the blond-hair, statuesque form of Supergirl. When she became permanently separated from Matrix in Supergirl #50 she could no longer change forms, so she assembled a new costume and wore a blonde wig while disguised as Supergirl.

Like Kara growing up in Argo City, Linda grew up on Earth without superpowers before suddenly acquiring them in her teens. In contrast, Superman came to Earth as a baby and grew into his powers, never really experiencing life as fully human. Linda and Kara both adapted to their new powers very quickly: although Kara grew up in an alien world very different from Earth, she was portrayed in the comics as being completely acclimatized to life as a white middle class girl (realism, what’s that? =). The Silver Age comics tended to refer to Kara as either Supergirl or Linda; rarely was she referred to by her original name by even Superman (an editor once explained in a Supergirl letter column that this was intended to make the stories more friendly to new readers.) Human Linda, naturally, fits into human life perfectly – at least as perfectly as she ever did. She was always an outsider in her ostensibly middle-American small town. Ironically, Supergirl (Matrix) longed to fit in with humanity; Linda came to have a far better relationship with her parents and friends after she became Supergirl.

Leesburg – Linda Danvers’ hometown and Supergirl’s base of operations. Named after Linda Lee’s alias in the Silver Age stories, Leesburg is a magnet for otherworldly weirdos and is under constant reconstruction ever since Supergirl has taken to beating up bad guys here, frequently causing considerable property damage. Unknown to its citizens, Leesburg is set on a “Chaos Stream” which attracts unnatural characters and incidents. The Silver Age Supergirl lived in a similarly small, Midwestern town (Midvale) for many years before going to college at Stanhope, another perfectly “normal” middle-America town which nonetheless attracted some peculiar personages.

Dick Malverne – Linda’s romantic interest in the first half of the modern series. Dick was one of Linda’s long-time boyfriends in the Silver Age comics. When Linda and Dick first met in the modern series, they both felt a curious deja vu, as if they’d had known each other in a previous life.

Comet the Superhorse – Kara had a pet horse with superpowers named Comet the Superhorse. Comet was actually the centaur Byron from ancient Greece, and could transform into a human man when under a shooting star (comet). Quite the unusual boyfriend! There are two equine characters in the modern Supergirl series: an ordinary horse named Byron (!) owned by Dick Malverne, who has a curious marking on his forehead which looks very much like a comet. When Byron first appeared, Linda’s friend Mattie — and readers — wondered if this horse might also be the mysterious newcomer Comet, an armored horselike superhero whose secret identity turned out to be a very good (human) friend of Linda’s.

Braniac 5 – a member of the 30th century Legion of Super-Heros in both the Silver Age and Modern Age, Braniac 5 was an on and off boyfriend of Kara’s when she used to periodically travel to the 30th century. Braniac 5 and Supergirl meet each other in the Supergirl Annual #2 while the Legion is stranded in the 20th century. Brainy immediately falls for Supergirl, hard. She also feels an attraction, but just as in the past, it is not as serious as Braniac’s.

Streaky the Wondercat – the original Supergirl adopted a stray cat whom she named Streaky. He was exposed to some “X-Kryptonite” which gave him sporadic superpowers. Supergirl’s Silver Age pet has made a couple of cameos in the current series (issues 25, 42):