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Apr-21-12, 11:43 AM (EST)
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"A Reflection on "Last Transport""
 
   I was reshelving some of my comics comps the other day and ran across the first DC Archives volume of the 1959 Supergirl stories, which I hadn't read in many years. As I thumbed through it, I was struck by the contrast between the way Kara's presented there - and in later reinventions of the character that have been done in less startlingly dated eras - and the way she appears in Last Transport.

I'm not just talking about the fact that any 1959 comic, particularly one with a female protagonist, is going to be jaw-droppingly different when viewed from the early 21st century. The main point that keeps coming to my mind is also in evidence in much more recent treatments of Supergirl's origin. Here's what I'm getting at:

In the comics, when Kara arrives on Earth, established characters always react with a sort of patronizing high-handedness. In 1959, Superman isn't particularly suspicious (which is odd considering that her original story of where she came from and why is ridiculous even by the standards of 1950s comics, but that's another rant), but he is almost instantaneously pompous and controlling. "The world isn't ready for you and you're not ready for the world," he decrees at once, and packs her off to an orphanage(!) with instructions to wear a mousy wig, not get noticed, and on no account run even the smallest risk of appearing in public as Supergirl. When she inevitably does (because the stories wouldn't even be as interesting as they are if she never did), he carps at her constantly about her cover, even if she risked blowing it to save his stupid Silver Age ass.

Something similar, albeit a little more friendly, happened in Superman: The Animated Series. Instead of an orphanage, Superman packs her off to live with his parents in Kansas (an option I acknowledge he didn't have in 1959, since they were dead by the time he was an adult in the pre-Crisis DCU), only reluctantly allowing her to make use of her powers and nearly pitching a fit when she does it in a colorful outfit. ("Three. Years. On a farm. In Kansas," as she explains to Stargirl in JLU.) At least, though, he doesn't immediately straight-arm her to a discreet distance; she does become part of the family.

(This is particularly surprising compared to the original version because the Animated Universe Kara isn't actually related to Superman. Hell, although biologically Kryptonian, she's not even from Krypton. 1959 Superman shuttles his own first cousin off to an orphanage and mostly tries to ignore her; cartoon Clark Kent admits in public that she's his cousin when she isn't.)

Even in the 21st century, when Loeb and Turner revived her in Superman/Batman, something similar happened. She got out from under it a lot faster than in the old days, and didn't wear as many clothes doing it, but still - no sooner had she arrived on the scene than both Superman and Wonder Woman were telling her she needed to hide herself from the world. Clark at least didn't repeat his original "obviously my secret identity would be ruined if you were hanging around" business from the old days, but he wanted her to stay with him in Metropolis as a civilian and, I don't know, pretend she didn't have superpowers, while Diana took over the old-timey "you need training, you're not ready" line and dragged her off to Paradise Island. (Compared to all that, Batman's assumption that she must've been some kind of villainous McGuffin must almost have been refreshing. At least he just wanted her to leave.)

In the light of the above, note the trajectory of Last Transport. Upon arriving in New Avalon, practically one of the first things Gryphon asks her once she's past her give-me-space-to-grieve period is whether she's gone flying yet, and upon finding out that she hasn't, he prompts her to do so. He's making offhanded remarks that she could go into the El family business later that same day, and when she turns up in costume having a superpowered punch-up shortly thereafter, he's neither surprised nor dismayed to learn that she plans to make it a regular thing - in fact he's delighted. He certainly doesn't try to talk her out of it, much less decree she shouldn't do it.

Part of that is just because that's the way the UF universe rolls - she doesn't even need a secret identity in New Avalon - but the contrast still sort of belatedly leaped out at me as I reread those old comics. I don't know that I was consciously trying to say "this is stupid, you guys, it works this way" when I plotted LT, but looking back on it now, it seems evident that it must've been somewhere in my mind.

--G.
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Benjamin D. Hutchins, Co-Founder, Editor-in-Chief, & Forum Mod
Eyrie Productions, Unlimited http://www.eyrie-productions.com/
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A Reflection on "Last Transport" [View All] Gryphonadmin Apr-21-12 TOP
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