Last week, we rocked out PART 1 of our timeline tracing the history of the various Supergirls and Superwomen of DC Comics, along with two ladies who called themselves Power Girl. Now, we’re continuing with the Post-Crisis DC Universe all the way up to the current New 52 reality. Enjoy!
1986 – Thanks to Crisis on Infinite Earths, the old multiverse is gone, replaced by the Post-Crisis DC Universe which fuses many elements of the previously existing Earth-1 and Earth-2, as well as adding new ideas. DC now has a rule that Superman is the only survivor of Krypton. Supergirl (Kara Zor-El) has been erased from history and memory. History now says that Superman was not the first public superhuman champion of Earth, he was only the first of the modern age. The Justice Society of America (originally inhabitants of the parallel Earth-2) now exist in his history and predated him by decades.
1987 – Power Girl (Kara Zor-L of Earth-2) has survived the Crisis and exists in the DC Mainstream Universe still. As far as history is now concerned, she was discovered in what looked like a starship and thought she was Superman’s Kryptonian cousin, but then scientific tests revealed that this was not so. As far as Power Girl knows, she has always lived in the mainstream DC Universe and never fought alongside an older Superman, though she did fight alongside the surviving and still active Justice Society members.
In Secret Origins vol. 2 issue #11, Power Girl discovers that she is apparently Atlantean and granddaughter of that nation’s greatest sorcerer Arion. To save Power Girl’s life from enemies, Arion placed her in suspended animation and gave her false memories. She starts wearing an Atlantean symbol belt buckle, stops calling herself Kara and mostly now uses the name Karen (based on her cover identity Karen Starr), and no longer seeks to form a connection to Superman beyond friendship. Since the source of her power is now revealed to be magic, Power Girl starts getting involved in magic-based stories, starting with appearances in the sword and sorcery comic Warlord.
1988 – On a parallel Earth in a pocket universe, Lex Luthor accidentally frees his reality’s version of the Phantom Zone villains. Since this universe’s Clark Kent is dead, Luthor creates a new champion with artificial “protomatter” (the same substance that the Silver Age Luthor used to create life when he was a young man in Smallville). This life form is referred to as a “protomatter matrix” and initially believes itself to be Lana Lang, as Luthor used her genetic structure in the experiment.
The life form is called Supergirl or Matrix, and she wears the same basic costume that Helen Slater wore in the live-action movie. Her powers are limited shapeshifting/invisibility, telekinesis, flight and superhuman strength. She comes to the main DC Universe and recruits Superman to aid against her reality’s Phantom Zone villains. Their efforts fail and everyone on the pocket universe Earth is killed before the villains are stopped and executed.
With her world gone, a traumatized Matrix is brought to the mainstream DC Universe Earth. She is cared for by the Kent family. She takes on a new pink-skinned, androgynous appearance and is called “Mae.” The trauma of the pocket universe adventure has left Mae with a child-like mind.
On television, the live-action Superboy series begins. Stacy Haiduk plays Lana Lang. Clark Kent is played by John Haymes Newton and then Gerard Christopher. The show lasts four years.
The short-lived Ruby Spears Superman cartoon airs. Beau Weaver plays Superman. Ginny McSwain plays Lois Lane, Ursa and Faora. Russi Taylor and Liz Georges play Lana Lang.
1989 – During Superman’s self-imposed exile from Earth, Matrix becomes convinced that she is Clark Kent and adopts that identity. When Superman returns to Earth, he and “Clark” are photographed together.
Mae later becomes confused, convinced that she is Superman and that the real Superman is a fake. Matrix adopts a Superman-like appearance but with a gray and black costume. After realizing the truth, Matrix decides it would be better to leave Earth for a while.
1992 – Panic in the Sky! Matrix resumes the Supergirl form just before the villain Brainiac find her and hypnotizes her into joining his invasion against Earth. In the end, Supergirl comes to her senses and helps Earth’s heroes, but wonders where she now belongs.
Matrix is later found by the mainstream DC Universe’s Lex Luthor, who recently faked his death and is now living in a younger, more athletic clone body so he can masquerade as his own son Lex Luthor II. Pretending to be a good man trying to make up for his father’s past, Luthor gives Matrix a home and recruits her to be LexCorp’s on-call superhero. They become lovers. Although she trusts Luthor, Matrix keeps the secret that Superman is Clark Kent.
1993 – The debut of the TV series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. Teri Hatcher (age 29) plays Lois Lane while Dean Cain (age 27) plays Superman. The show lasts four seasons.
In the comics, the creature called Doomsday appears. Superman and the creature seemingly kill each other after a battle that lasts for hours, carries across multiple state lines, and results in numerous deaths and injuries. Matrix attempts to join the fight but is dropped in one punch. In Superman’s absence, she hopes to enhance her role as a protector in Metropolis.
Superman is revived and returns to his superhero life. Matrix disguises herself as Clark Kent to help Superman explains the absence of his alter ego. Several members of the press witness, photograph and videotape Superman rescuing “Clark Kent” from a basement buried under rubble from Doomsday’s attack, having barely survived there for three months due to a supply of water and some stored provisions. Superman thanks Matrix for making it possible for him to have a personal life again.
1994 – Zero Hour: Crisis in Time. After having been mystically impregnated months earlier, Power Girl gives birth to a son during the event called Zero Hour. The boy starts aging rapidly into an adult. If you saw the Star Trek: TNG episode “The Child,” rest assured, this story is as bad.
Matrix gets her first mini-series. In the 4-issue Supergirl mini, she meets Lex Luthor’s third wife Elizabeth Perske, who warns her that “Lex Luthor II” is not being honest with her and has been having her monitored at all times. Supergirl discovers that LexCorp owns the rights to her likeness and has been creating merchandise without her knowledge. Further investigation leads Matrix to discover Operation: Protomatter, Luthor’s project to create dozens of mindless Supergirl clones with different powers and abilities. In a rage, Matrix destroys her clones and leaves Luthor. It is revealed soon afterward that Lex Luthor II is actually the original Luthor in a cloned body.
1995 – In the crossover Superman/Aliens, Clark meets a woman named Kara from a place called Argo City and assumes she’s Kryptonian. He later learns she’s of a different race that revered the people of Krypton as spiritual protectors and adopted some of the planet’s culture.
1996 – Power Girl’s son Equinox leaves her life and is never mentioned in comics again.
In the new Supergirl comic series, writer Peter David has Matrix fuse with a human woman named Linda Danvers in order to save her life. This fusion transforms Matrix into an “Earth-born angel.” Along with having her powers altered, she must now split her time between being Supergirl and Linda. Supergirl now operates in Linda’s home of Leesburg, Virginia.
On television, Superman: The Animated Series begins. It continues the DC Animated Universe that began in Batman: The Animated Series and will be followed by other cartoons. Tim Daly (age 40) plays Superman and Dana Delany (age 40) plays Lois Lane. Joely Fisher (age 29) appears as Lana Lang.
1997 – The Post-Crisis version of Comet appears, a superhuman horse/human hybrid who rather fancies Supergirl. It is revealed that Comet is Andrew Jones who was trampled by horses and then genetically “rebuilt” with horse DNA by a group called the Stable. Like Supergirl, events led him to becoming an Earth-born angel when he bonded with another person: stand-up comedian Andrea Martinez who has a crush on Kara.
1998 – Superman: The Animated Series introduces Supergirl. Since DC still wants Superman to be the only Kryptonian, the animated Supergirl is an alien named Kara In-Ze (taking her mother Alura’s family name), sole survivor of Krypton’s sister planet “Argo.” Her race’s biology is similar to Kryptonians, so she becomes the hero Supergirl. In her secret identity, she pretends to be Clark Kent’s cousin Kara Kent. The animated Supergirl is voiced by Nicholle Tom.
2000 – Matrix and Linda Danvers are separated. Linda continues operating as Supergirl, now wearing the 90s cartoon costume. Matrix later fuses with the character Twilight and they become a new form of angelic being, after which she disappears. During this story, we learn that Linda is looked over by a guardian angel who calls herself “Kara.”
Superman runs into Dana Dearden, a stalker who first showed up in 1996 and was dubbed “Obsession.” Using magic to give herself superpowers, Dana dons a new Superman inspired costume , earning her the nicknames “Superwoman” and “Mrs. Superman.” Not long afterward, Dana dies in battle while trying to help Superman fight crime.
In JLA: EARTH 2 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, the Justice League learn that evil versions of themselves exist on a version of Earth inhabiting the anti-matter universe (a universe with which the Green Lantern Corps has a lot of experience). The evil Justice League is called the Crime Syndicate of Amerika and includes the evil Superwoman among its members. Unlike the Pre-Crisis evil Superwoman of Earth-3, this anti-matter Superwoman is her universe’s Lois Lane, endowed with Kryptonian abilities and a noose that lowers inhibitions.
2001 – Smallville debuts on TV, featuring Clark Kent’s life leading up to when he became Superman. Tom Welling (age 24) stars as teenage Clark Kent and Kristin Kreuk (age 19) stars as Lana Lang. Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain all make appearances on the show.
2003 – A meeting with the Pre-Crisis Kara Zor-El and personal losses lead Linda Danvers to give up the superhero life and disappears. The Supergirl series comes to an end.
Soon after ending his Supergirl series, Peter Davis starts a new series called Fallen Angel, featuring a woman with a mysterious past. Many readers assume this is Linda Danvers. After Fallen Angel switches to another publisher, the series confirms that she is a different character with a different backstory.
A new character called Supergirl appears, claiming to be Superman’s daughter Cir-El from the future. This is later revealed to be a falsehood, part of a larger trap by an enemy.
Power Girl discovers that she’s not Atlantean nor are her abilities magical. Arion says he lied to her at the behest of her real mother. This particular story element is never really explained.
2004 – In the third season of Smallville, a mysterious girl shows up in young Clark Kent’s life. She appears to be Kryptonian and calls herself “Kara.” Played by Adrianne Palicki (age 21), this young woman turns out to be an Earth human named Lindsey Harrison who was given false memories and whose body was engineered to simulate Kryptonian DNA.
This same year, Erica Durrance (age 26) debuts as young Lois Lane on Smallville. A later episode will feature Teri Hatcher as her mother.
DC Comics has, by now, decided to relax the rule that Superman must be the sole survivor of Krypton. It is decided that there should be a Supergirl character whose story is far simpler than having to explain pocket universes or Earth-born angels. Since “she’s Superman’s cousin” seems the easiest backstory to use, DC finally introduces a Post-Crisis version of Kara Zor-El.
This Kara is actually older than Kal-El, having been a teenager when he was born. She was supposed to follow him to Earth and help care for him, but her starship was damaged, making her journey much longer. Now on Earth, she is still a teenager while Kal-El has grown to adulthood and already established himself as Superman (so basically, we’re borrowing some of the Pre-Crisis Power Girl origin). Initially, Superman keeps her existence secret from most people, hoping to train Kara in her abilities first (similar to the Silver Age). This only lasts a few weeks, before Wonder Woman offers Supergirl to live among the Amazons for a while and learn their ways (similar to when Pre-Crisis Kara was welcomed to Paradise Island and made an Amazon). After weeks of training and an encounter with Darkseid that temporarily turns her evil (just as Darkseid once did with Superman years before), Kara is introduced to the superhero community as Supergirl.
After weeks of Amazon training and an encounter with Darkseid that temporarily turns her evil (just as Darkseid once did with Superman years before), Kara is introduced to the superhero community as Supergirl.
In the cartoon series Justice League Unlimited, Supergirl discovers that she was cloned. The clone is older and has been trained to act as a secret weapon for the government. The clone is named Galatea and is basically an animated version of Power Girl, only villainous and without a cape.
2005 – JSA Classified #1-4. Power Girl discovers that she is actually Kara Zor-L, survivor of a Krypton that existed in a parallel universe, and that she had a life on the parallel world designated Earth-2. She learns that this reality was wiped out during Crisis on Infinite Earths and that she’s an anomaly who survived into the mainstream reality even though it was fated to have its own version of Kara Zor-El. With her memories restored, she reconsiders her life.
Kara Zor-El gets her own series. This makes the fifth DC Comics series titled Supergirl.
2006 – Supergirl #3. Lex Luthor exposes Supergirl to black kryptonite (a new form of kryptonite implied to be created by Darkseid). An evil Dark Supergirl is created, splitting off from Kara’s body, emulating the Silver Age story where red kryptonite created “Satan Girl.” After a battle involving several superheroes, Dark Supergirl and Supergirl are merged again thanks to the magic of Wonder Woman’s lasso.
Superman Returns is released to theaters, starring Brandon Routh (age 27) and Kate Bosworth (age 23) as Lois Lane.
Infinite Crisis! In this sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths, Power Girl reunited with her real cousin, Kal-L, and his wife the Earth-2 Lois, both of whom secretly survived the First Crisis. The multiverse is under threat again. Earth-2 Lois passes away and later Kal-L dies in the final battle, leaving Power Girl the sole survivor of her native universe.
Following Infinite Crisis, the evil future villain Saturn Queen takes over a strange version of the Bottle City of Kandor, with Ultraman of the anti-matter universe at her side. Power Girl and Supergirl go into this version of Kandor. During this adventure, they use the costumed identities of Nightwing (Power Girl) and Flamebird (Supergirl), based on legendary Kryptonian heroes (and emulating a Silver Age story where Superman and Jimmy Olsen used those identities in Kandor).
In a story arc featured in Legion of Super-Heroes, Kara Zor-El winds up in the 30th century. This version of Kara has, of course, never met or heard of the Legion beforehand and decides that this must be a bizarre dream. Eventually, she’s sent back home.
2007 – On the TV series Smallville, actor Laura Vandervoort (age 23) is introduced as Clark Kent’s cousin Kara Zor-El in the seventh season premiere. She adopts the cover identity of “Kara Kent.”
2008 – After various writers and stories indicate that Kara Zor-El may or may not have different powers to Superman and may or may not have been intended to act against Kal-El, new creative team Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle take over the Supergirl series and create a new status quo. Kara’s inconsistent behavior and powers are explained as the effects of kryptonite poisoning she had suffered during her flight from Krypton, poisoning which is finally treated. Kara establishes a new secret identity as “Linda Lang,” fictional niece of Lana Lang, whom she adopts as her mentor. Daily Planet columnist Cat Grant decides to dedicate a lot of attention to criticizing Supergirl in the press, labeling her as a reckless vigilante and a bad influence for young women. The work of Sterling Gates seems to be a big influence on the 2015 Supergirl TV series.
After a battle with Brainiac, Kara and Superman discover the true lost Kryptonian city of Kandor and find out that Zor-El and Alura In-Ze are both alive there.
Lucy Lane, sister of Lois Lane, is tasked with becoming an anti-Kryptonian soldier. As the agent called Superwoman, she is given a mask and costume vaguely similar to what Kristin Wells wore in Pre-Crisis stories.
The villain Reactron kills Zor-El. Soon afterward, Allura and the other Kandorians use their technology to create an artificial planet called New Krypton. They establish a new home there.
2009 – DC publishes the out-of-continuity limited series Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade. It’s amazingly fun and, frankly, should have been made canon.
On the planet of New Krypton, Kara celebrates Guilding Day, where Kryptonians are recognized as adults by joining a guild that one of their parents belonged to. Kara chooses to follow her father’s path and joins the Science Guild of Krypton.
2010 – New Krypton is destroyed. General Dru-Zod leads the survivors against Earth, resulting in the “100 Minutes War.” Kara Zor-El mourns the loss of her mother.
In the series Smallville, Kara Zor-El debuts as a colorfully clad superhero, predating her cousin’s public debut as Superman in that universe.
2011 – After joining the Justice League of America, Kara encounters a dark energy villain called Omega Man. This causes her to transform into her Dark Supergirl personality. Later, during the story “Reign of Doomsday,” Kara is told she is dying.
It is quickly determined that Supergirl’s illness and her reversion to a Dark Supergirl persona are psychosomatic, brought on by the fact that she never properly faced and processed the loss of Krypton, a situation which was exacerbated by reuniting with her parents and other Kryptonians only to lose them all again in less than a year. Realizing that she is not responsible for any of these tragedies causes Kara to revert to her true personality (and costume somehow). Presumably her health was restored as well.
In the wake of the story Flashpoint, DC Comics reboots its superhero multiverse. All titles are canceled and replaced by 52 new comics establishing a new version of events.
The New 52 reality begins. Kara Zor-El is once again Kal’s older cousin, entrusted with protecting him when they are both sent away from Krypton. Her journey takes longer and she arrives on Earth almost six years after Kal/Clark made his debut as Superman. Although Superman suggests that she lie low and learn how to hone and control her powers, Supergirl doesn’t trust him and determines to find her own path.
In the New 52 reality, Kara Zor-L and her best friend Helena Wayne are heroes on a new version of Earth-2. On that world, they call themselves Supergirl and Robin. When the Earth-2 Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman die while defending Earth from an invasion, a space warp sends Kara Zor-L and Helena to the mainstream New 52 Earth (also called Earth Zero). Kara adopts the identity of Karen Starr, businesswoman, but after five years she goes public as a hero called Power Girl. Helena operates as the vigilante called Huntress.
2012 – The digital-first comic series Smallville Season 11 begins, written by Smallville TV series script editor Bryan Q. Miller. It continues the continuity established in that TV show.
2013 – In Smallville Season 11, that reality’s Kara Zor-El gets a full superhero costume designed by Cat Staggs, one that does not involve a skirt or a cape.
Supergirl meets H’el, a being from Krypton who wants to bring the planet back. Kara helps him and fights against Superman until she realizes that Earth would be sacrificed in the process.
In the Post-Crisis DC Universes, an Earthman named Hank Henshaw became the villain Cyborg Superman. This year, Kara encounters the New 52 universe’s Cyborg Superman, who is actually her own father Zor-El.
The movie Man of Steel hits theaters, beginning a new cinematic universe for DC Comics heroes. The film stars Henry Cavill (age 29) as Superman and Amy Adams (age 39) as Lois Lane.
2014 – Supergirl temporarily joins the Red Lanterns, who are dedicated to rage and vengeance. She later becomes a founding member of Justice League United.
Helena Wayne and Kara Zor-L AKA Karen Starr journey back to the New 52 version of Earth 2, their native reality. After their departure, one of Karen’s employees at Starr Industries discovers that she has powers. She discovers that Karen apparently knew he would develop powers and wanted her to become the new Power Girl.
2015 – The heroes of the New 52 version of Earth 2 (called Wonders on their world) battle against Darkseid. Space arks take much of humanity into the stars for safety. Despite the efforts of the Wonders, this version of Earth dies.
Convergence! The heroes of Earth 2 wind up on the strange planet Telos, discovering that Brainiac has kept pieces of previously existing universes preserved. This leads to several meetings and battles between the survivors of these various realities, while the heroes of the New 52 universe are prevented from interfering. During these events, we see the temporary return of Matrix as Supergirl and a version of the Pre-Crisis Kara Zor-El who is soon to die in the First Crisis.
At the end of Convergence, Pre-Crisis Kara returns to her proper place in time and space to fulfill her role in the Crisis. But she is followed by the Post-Crisis Superman and others, in hopes of altering the past just a little bit. The plan apparently works and the older version of the multiverse never dies as a result. Somewhere out there, the Pre-Crisis Kara Zor-El may still be alive, having now survived the events of the First Crisis. Maybe. In the meantime, the heroes of the New 52 Earth 2 find themselves on a new planet that they and their society can call home.
The lives of the New 52 Supergirl (Kara Zor-El) and Power Girl (Kara Zor-L) are still forming and being established. Time will tell what happens next.
Soon to happen! CBS’s Supergirl series premieres in November. Melissa Benoist (age 26) becomes the third woman to play Supergirl in live-action. Dean Cain and Helen Slater play her adopted parents. This version of Kara Zor-El (who takes the cover name “Kara Danvers”) is raised alongside Alexandra Danvers (played by Chyler Leigh) and regards her as an older sister. Superman knows the Danvers family and entrusts Kara to their care when she arrives on Earth as an adolescent.
Hope you all enjoyed this timeline, folks. Until next time, stay nerdy!
Alan Kistler (@SizzlerKistler) is the New York Times Best Selling author of Doctor Who: A History. He is a geek consultant, writer and actor who hops between New York City and Los Angeles. He regularly speaks on the history of superheroes and science fiction, as well as representation and feminism in pop culture. He very simply loves superheroes. Look for him at SDCC panels.
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