Kara Zor-El was sent to Earth by her parents as Krypton was about to be destroyed, with her escape rocket programmed to follow the trajectory of her infant cousin Kal-El. Her ship became trapped in a meteor formed out of the exploding planet and Kara was kept in suspended animation for three decades before her rocket crashed into Gotham Bay. She awoke in the Batcave to find that her baby cousin had outgrown her and become the world-famous Superman. Kara was eventually reunited with her parents after Superman discovered they had been trapped by Brainiac with other Kryptonian survivors in the bottled city of Kandor. (“The Supergirl From Krypton”, Superman/Batman #8-13). This origin story was adapted into the animated movie Superman/Batman: Apocalypse.
The first 19 issues of the 2005 Supergirl series portrayed Kara as suffering from amnesia about her past and struggling with the disturbing possibility that she had been sent by an evil Zor-El as a sleeper agent to kill her cousin. This unpopular storyline concluded in Supergirl #19, marking the departure of writer Joe Kelly and then-Superman group editor Eddie Berganza. The Supergirl series was quietly rebooted under new Superman group editor Mark Idelson with a new look at Kara’s life prior to Krypton’s destruction starting in Supergirl #23.
While the 2005 Supergirl series proved a disappointment for its first year and a half, a much more enjoyable version of Kara was published simultaneously in the future-set Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes series (which continued its number from 2004’s Legion of Super-Heroes). Kara arrived in the 31st century with no memory of the events occurring in her own book at the time and behaved like a completely different person with a much sunnier personality that better resembled Silver Age Supergirl. Kara returned to her own time period in Action Comics #850. Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes can be read without any knowledge of the then-ongoing Supergirl series, fitting in between the Superman/Batman origin story and Supergirl #22.
Supergirl co-stars in the animated movie Superman Unbound adapted from the Superman: Brainiac storyline originally published in 2008.
From The Essential Superman Encyclopedia (Robert Greenberger and Martin Pasko, Del Rey (USA) and Titan Books (UK), 2010).
All of Earth had been on alert as a gigantic green kryptonite meteor approached. While President Luthor was blaming Superman for the incident, the meteor plunged into Gotham Harbor and sank deep. As a result, Batman was the first to arrive to secure the area and investigate. What he found surprised him: an empty alien space vessel. As he returned to the Batboat, it was being hijacked by a naked blond teenager. Once on land, she tried to understand why she was suddenly feeling so powerful. People tried to take advantage of her, leading to the arrival of the police. Things continued to escalate out of control until Superman arrived. She returned to the ground, upset, and the Dark Knight used the kryptonite he carried with him to subdue her. When she awoke in the Batcave, she panicked, but Superman’s presence started to calm her. He was stunned, though, when she began speaking KRYPTONESE.
Quickly, Superman gathered the girl, the rocket, and the Caped Crusader, bringing everyone to the Fortress. There he translated the inscription from the vessel, which read, “This vessel carries my daughter, Kara Zor-El from the now dead planet Krypton. Treat her as you would your own child for you will see the treasure she will be for your world.”
She explained she was Kara Zor-El, his cousin, and that she had been sent to precede Kal-El’s ship to Earth. Her ship was stuck within the meteor, however, and she slumbered for years in a state of suspended animation. When Krypton blew up, she was the older of the cousins, but now she was the younger (Superman/Batman #8-13, Mar-Oct 2004). Superman was pleased to have a relative on Earth, while Batman was suspicious of the girl and the circumstances surrounding her arrival, a situation compounded by the fierce reaction Supergirl elicited from Krypto.
Deciding that the best thing to do was have her trained in the use of her newfound superpowers, Superman arranged for Kara to stay on Themyscira, the island home of the AMAZONS. There she was tutored in the fighting arts and quickly mastered her powers until she was abducted by the FEMALE FURIES, who brought her to APOKOLIPS and the feet of DARKSEID. The naïve teen had her mind altered until she was a powerful engine of hatred, groomed to lead the Furies. Superman, assisted by the Dark Knight and the Amazon Princess, arrived to free her. When she was returned to Earth, she adopted the costumed persona of Supergirl.
The Girl of Steel painfully learned that she and Power Girl could not be near each other since the latter was from the pre-Crisis universe and was an anomalous version of Kara (Supergirl [fifth series] #1, Oct 2005). Shortly thereafter, she was recruited by Donna Troy to join a team heading into space at the beginning of the events known as the INFINITE CRISIS (JLA #123, February 2006). While in space, Supergirl was transported to the thirty-first century, where she was convinced that she was really in a dream state (Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #16, May 2006).
The Legionnaires were pleased she was with them and conferred membership status on the bewildered heroine. She was given the Legion Flight ring from the deceased Dream Girl, and there she remained for several months. During her time in the future, she aided the team in several missions, also becoming the object of affection for ULTRA BOY and INVISIBLE KID. Because she continued to believe this was all an elaborate dream, the team began to grow concerned she would pose a danger if she did not soon accept that she was in reality. They used kryptonite to weaken her, and then transported her to Rokyn, the world colonized by the denizens of Kandor (Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #23, December 2006). While there, she helped stop the mercenary Wanderers from stealing a PHANTOM ZONE PROJECTOR. Now aware that this was the waking world, Supergirl began to seek a way to go home.
She returned to the twenty-first century exactly one year after the restoration of the multiverse and settled back on New Earth (52/WW III Part Two: The Valiant #2, June 2007). Kara learned that her cousin had expended all his powers to help stop SUPERBOY-PRIME and had taken time away from adventuring to recharge his body. While he was gone, she filled in as one of Metropolis’s protectors. Now that she and Power Girl were able to stand side by side, they journeyed to Kandor where they donned the identities of NIGHTWING and FLAMEBIRD. The duo attempted to free Kandor from Earth-3’s ULTRAMAN, working with the vile SATURN QUEEN from the thirtieth century. The Kryptonian Crusaders would have remained had Saturn Queen not provided information that rocked Supergirl’s world and sent her back to Earth. Power Girl saw this as a selfish act, and a rift developed between the women (Supergirl [fifth series] #8, September 2006). The news was that Argo City and her parents had survived.
From that point on, Kara sought a place for herself in this new world, with each step bringing new discoveries about her adopted planet and herself. Unfortunately, not all of the lessons proved helpful. Supergirl tried to establish a civilian identity for herself, this time as Claire Connors, and she tried to fit in with high school students or adventure with other heroes such as the Outsiders—but she never seemed to fit in. Many were in awe of her powers, and some shunned her because of them. Her closest friend for a time appeared to be the second Captain Boomerang, who was still trying to decide his own path, that of hero or villain (Supergirl [fifth series] #9-10, Oct-Nov 2006).
She was once more manipulated, this time by Power Boy, who appeared as powerful and kind-hearted as the Kryptonian but turned out to be Apokolips-born. His true personality eventually revealed itself (Supergirl [fifth series] #13-15, Feb-May 2007).
She was visited by a projection of her father. Zor-El explained that the Phantom Zone was not an uninhabited realm, but one that contained spectral entities none too pleased to share their world with others. They had sworn vengeance on the living members from the House of El, so Zor-El implanted Sunstones—the only defense they had discovered against the phantoms—within her skeletal structure (Supergirl [fifth series] #16-17, June-July 2007). Upon returning to Earth, the Maid of Might discovered that phantoms had pierced the barrier and begun possessing humans as they sought revenge. Superman and Supergirl beat back the threat. Once dispatched, she came to realize that much of what had happened to her since she’d arrived from space was a construct of Dark Angel, who meddled in her life in various ways, including masquerading as the Earth-1 Supergirl (Supergirl [fifth series] #18, Aug 2007).
During their attack on America, Amazons overran Washington, DC, and Supergirl came to the capital to help. She and Wonder Girl wanted to free friends and family who had been placed in internment camps under the McCarrran Internal Security Act. Defending the law were Teen Titans, with Robin advising them to try diplomacy over violence. However, QUEEN HIPPOLYTA scoffed at the notion given that the president was nowhere in sight, safely ensconced aboard Air Force One. While trying to gain custody of the president, the two actually crippled the jet, and it crashed. Only then did they realize the impact of their actions. At that point, they joined the heroes to oppose the Amazons until the war was successfully ended (Amazons Attack! #1-6, Apr-Oct 2007). Her actions, and the lessons learned, led Superman to approve of her joining the Titans (Teen Titans [third series] #50, Oct 2007). On her very first mission, she wound up battling a potential future version of the Titans complete with a resurrected version of Conner Kent, her sort-of cousin Superboy. The exploit led to an argument between Supergirl and Wonder Girl, and the Krytonian decided she was better off away from the team (Teen Titans [third series] #55, Mar 2008).
Kara then tried to make good on her potential, refusing to let her errors and gaffes define her. However, she blundered once more when she promised a young boy battling cancer that she would find a cure. Instead she got distracted battles against super-menaces and a came to realize there were some things superpowers could not resolve. The boy died, and Kara was shattered (Supergirl [fifth series] #26-32, Apr-Oct 2008).
Feasting on her misfortunes, Daily Planet staffer CATHERINE GRANT wrote a scathing column, “Why the World Does Not Need a Supergirl,” which turned public opinion against her, Without an alter ego, she was Supergirl day and night, and this was proving more than she could bear (Supergirl [fifth series] #34, Dec 2008). After discussing the matter with other heroes, she came to accept an offer made by LANA LANG. Kara transformed herself into Linda Lang, introducing people as Lana’s niece who had come to live in Metropolis.
While this was transpiring, Superman was in deep space, having his first real confrontation with BRAINIAC. He also discovered the real bottle city of KANDOR and desperately fought the Coluan to prevent him from attacking Earth. Zor-El managed to contact his nephew and explain how his family, including his wife Alura and daughter Kara, had used Brainiac’s technology to save Argo City with a force field. Brainiac traced the signal and found the remnant of Krypton, integrating it with the already captured Kandor. It was during that process that he sent Kara toward Earth to find baby Kal-El (Supergirl [third series] #35, Jan 2009).
Superman freed himself and then recruited Supergirl’s help to save Earth. As they defeated Brainiac, they also rescued Kandor, which was restored to its proper size in the Arctic. Suddenly Earth gained one hundred thousand new immigrants, all with superpowers, and Kara was joyfully reunited with her parents (Superman: New Krypton Special #1, Dec 2008). The great scientist concluded that his daughter’s recent behavioral problems, from the mood swings to the cloudy thinking, to her hallucinations about Zor-El’s seemingly evil plans, were a result of long-term kryptonite poisoning as the radiation slowly seeped in through the spacecraft’s shields during her years-long voyage through space. He used one of his devices to cleanse her body of residual radiation, leaving her in vastly improved shape (Supergirl [fifth series] #35, Jan 2009).
The Kandorians’ adjustment to their powers and living among humans proved very difficult and led to numerous misunderstandings. Zor-El, the leader of the people, was killed. Alura’s heart hardened, and she directed the city to leave Earth (Action Comics #872, Feb 2009). Using Brainiac’s technology, Kandor and a large chunk of the Arctic were freed from gravity’s hold and then grew to planet-sized, placing NEW KRYPTON in orbit directly opposite Earth.
Alura demanded that Kara remain with her in Kandor, and the teen was torn between the life she’d had as a child and the one she was forging as a young adult. She largely spent her time on Earth, befriended by a newly arrived Superwoman, who lent her a sympathetic ear (Supergirl [fifth series] #36, Feb 2009). Under orders from her mother, Supergirl sought REACTRON, a villain who’d tried to kill many Kandorians (Supergirl [fifth series] #37-39, Mar-May 2009). The Girl of Steel ultimately discovered that Superwoman was plotting against her, having been responsible for freeing Reactron in the first place and thus indirectly implicated in Zor-El’s death. In a violent clash, Supergirl unmasked Superwoman as LUCY LANE and accidentally killed her while trying to destroy the battle suit that gave Lucy her powers. Kara was horrified on many levels, not the least of which was Lucy’s connection by marriage to Lois Lane and Clark Kent (Supergirl [fifth series] #40-41, June-July 2009).
On her birthday, Kara was required to select a GUILD, and while she was very much her father’s daughter she was drawn to the arts. In the days leading up to the ceremony, Alura assigned Kara numerous tasks, which she took as punishment but were in fact her mother’s birthday gift: an opportunity to sample many of New Krypton’s Guilds so she could make an informed choice. She was even offered a place as student to the celebrated sculptor Zal-Tel, who once mentored Zor-El. In the end, though, Kara selected the Science Guild in an attempt to better understand her mother (Supergirl [fifth series] #43, September 2009).
Kara divided her time between New Krypton and Earth, briefly joining a splinter group of the JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA (Justice League: Cry for Justice #2, Oct 2009). It was Supergirl who first discovered their ranks had been pierced by Promethius (disguised as Captain Marvel). He silenced Supergirl with a magic bullet he had purchased from Mercy Graves (Justice League: Cry for Justice #6, Mar 2010).
Soon after, Kara and Alura were visiting Zor-El’s tomb when his corpse emerged, possessing a black power ring, and they watched in horror as Zor-El joined the Black Lantern Corps under the command of the demon Nekron. He terrorized his family until the women realized he was a re-animated corpse that did not possess Zor-El’s true soul, and this led to his defeat (Blackest Night: Superman #1-3, Dec 2009-Feb 2010).
Supergirl then wound up being targeted by Project 7734, which was designed to rid Earth of all Kryptonians. Run by General SAMUEL LANE, the ultimate goal was to ignite a war between Earth and New Krypton using his advanced magical technology to destroy the fledgling world. As a result, Lane made every effort to discredit and destroy the Maid of Steel along with her allies Nightwing and Flamebird. Kara was having trouble working with Thara Ak-Var, refusing to accept her former best friend’s unfailing belief in the Flamebird entity. The trio worked uneasily with one another as they rushed around the world trying to expose the Kryptonian sleeper agents Ursa had planted and prove General Lane wrong about Kryptonians. Reactron had been assigned by Lane to track down and kill Supergirl and nearly succeeded until he was stopped by Nightwing. When Reactron next targeted Lois Lane for elimination, the true Flamebird manifested within Thara and saved the kindly reporter’s life. After destroying the gold kryptonite that gave Reactron his power, Flamebird moved to kill him until Supergirl intervened. In the emotional aftermath, the two friends reconciled (Supergirl [fifth series] #44-46, Oct-Dec 2009). No sooner did Reactron travel to New Krypton for trial than Supergirl had to face the Silver Banshee, who left Kara in peace when she learned the Kryptonian was merely being tested as a possible new clan leader (Supergirl [fifth series] #48-49, Feb-Mar 2010).
Supergirl came to Lana Lang’s aid when the seriously ill woman had had her body usurped by the insidious INSECT QUEEN. Lana was eventually restored to health and the alien defeated, but she had a falling out with Kara over trust issues (Supergirl [fifth series] #50, Apr 2010). She then accompanied Superboy and a handful of Legionnaires back to New Krypton in order to prevent Superman from being killed by Brainiac, which would mean a literal end to time itself. She also fought to make sure Alura would remain free of the Coluan’s grasp as well (Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton #1-3, May-June 2010). Not long after, Kara returned to New Krypton and was horrified to come across her mother torturing Reactron. The villain, however, had been a plant by General Lane, who had turned Reactron into a literal time bomb. Reactron’s body built to a critical mass and detonated, causing seismic tremors that destroyed New Krypton entirely. Alura saw to it that her daughter survived the explosion at the cost of her own life (Superman: War of the Supermen #1, July 2010). The devastated Maid of Might worked alongside her cousin to keep the enraged Kandorians from making all of humanity pay for General Lane’s perfidy. She then watched as Superboy gathered the remaining Kryptonians and sent them to the Phantom Zone, leaving her and Kal-El the last of their race (Superman: War of the Supermen #2-4, July 2010).
Supergirl’s origin story as told in Superman/Batman and expanded upon in the first 19 issues of Supergirl would be tweaked and revised by following writers to present a more heroic characterization and a more positive vision of her parents. Supergirl #35 provided an explanation for the changes in Kara’s personality and memories in a story titled “The Secret Origin of Supergirl”. Kara is reunited with her parents, who are discovered to be alive and living in the bottled city of Kandor. The effect of Kara’s ship being encased in a Kryptonite meteor for three decades had caused her to develop “Kryptonite poisoning”, which is used to explain her amnesia, her confused memories, and some of the stranger plot points of the first 19 issues of Supergirl – primarily her mission from her father to kill Superman. Sterling Gates explained in a Newsamara interview that “Just some of the things that happened — Phantom Zone ghosts, “kill Kal-El” — those sorts of things are going to be seen in a different light. All those stories still happened to Supergirl…it just didn’t necessarily happen the way Supergirl thought it happened.”