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Monday, August 3, 2015

Static Thoughts - Supergirl, What Will Appear?

Edited by Robert Beach

Of the myriad of superhero shows coming this fall, Supergirl actually strikes me as one of the more intriguing entries. Supergirl marks the return of CBS to the superhero genre for the first time since their moderately successful Flash show in the ‘90s. It also marks the first time Supergirl the character will return to the live-action frontier since her failed 1986 film. What’s more, it’ll be one of the first major attempts to realize characters and plot elements in a TV continuity after their appearance in theaters, in particular stuff like Superman, Jimmy Olsen, & the Daily Planet. There’s a lot riding on this show and details are currently pretty sparse; however, some casting decisions are beginning to slip through, so I thought I’d go through my list of characters, organizations, and plot points that might show up in CBS’ Supergirl. Unlike the Gotham stuff, this will all be compacted to one list, starting with the villains and… 

The Supergirl creators have stated Superman won’t be appearing on the show as a supporting character, but I still think Bizarro makes perfect sense to bring in as an antagonist.  Like it or not, all of Superman’s foes are defined by their ability to combat his incredible power and Bizarro makes the most sense to introduce of all the super-strong superman foes.  Partly this is Bizarro can be utilized for a lot of different experiences: sometimes he’s light comedy as he bumbles through opposite life; other times he’s a compelling tragedy as someone who desperately wants to do good but is simply too mentally broken to achieve it. He even works on a creepy factor as some designs depict him as a living corpse possessed of a base malevolence and hate for life. In addition to Bizarro, Bizarro World would make a great addition to the show. Most of Superman’s foes come from space in some capacity, so bringing in the square planet of Bizarro's would be a great season arc (especially if you followed Grant Morrison’s designs of it as a predator planet that mimics its prey).  Finally, Bizarro works because there already is a Bizarro Supergirl, so it’d be an easy swap if the show wanted to keep the focus on her and not do any Superman stuff.  

This is a moderately more obscure Superman villain, but she is still a strong choice for a Supergirl antagonist.  Insect Queen was an infesting consciousness that took over the body of Superman’s long-time ex Lana Lang in order to try and take over the Earth, naturally with an army of alien bugs. What’s so great about the Insect Queen, aside from being a big, flashy, megalomaniac villain who is also a woman for a change, is her legions are fairly easy to do while also being highly creative. The whole idea with her bug army is they utilized the wide array of natural abilities bugs have to overwhelm Superman’s super sense, and while also being so small, there wasn’t a big target for him to take down. It’s already been established that Supergirl will feature a government vault of alien criminals, so it’d be easy for them to have the Insect Queen burst out of it; additionally, it’d be a nice way to bring Lana Lang into the show. Even without Lana, there’s plenty of drama to be found in Supergirl having to fight a close friend now corrupted by an alien brain bug. 

Another low-rent villain, not for lack of personality, the closest parallel I might have for the Prankster is Batman. He’s like a Batman villain as imagined to fight Superman. His whole shtick is jokes and pranks, as his name suggests, but he uses them as a way to distract Superman while other criminals pull off successful crimes.  It’s a neat idea, and his pranks usually end up like a Riddler or Joker death trap blown up to the size of the moon. A lot of Prankster’s appeal comes down to his characterization: a former kid’s show host turned super villain, so his goofy, joyous, over-the-top persona ends up really endearing. Though it might be difficult to pull off some of his really out there ideas, the character is still a solid villain; his Superman distraction business helps the world of the characters feel more fully realized. The Prankster lands as unique as a Superman villain. Not looking for anything huge like global domination or even money, he just loves the showmanship of it all. The Prankster is a good villain to bring in as the lead up to more dangerous things or for some fun & imaginative action. 

Live Wire feels like such an obvious villain choice I’m shocked she hasn’t been confirmed already. She was originally created for the very popular Superman animated series, yet her role as a female Superman villain with a lot of fans helped her translate into the comics. Her story is she was an early-morning shock jock until getting electrocuted and gained electricity powers. She blames Superman for her situation, so she tries to kill him in between using her lightning powers for crime. That’s a pretty basic origin, and it’d be easy enough to swap in Supergirl for Superman. From there, Live Wire would make a great antagonist, thanks to her abrasive and in-your-face personality.  She’s a lot like an angrier and more violent version of Janine from The Real Ghostbusters in terms of personality, so it’d be fun to see how that clashes with Supergirl’s more "Every woman" persona on the show. 

Mongul is probably the least likely character on this list to show up, but I still think he’d be a knock out on the show regardless. There’s not a ton of depth to his character beyond being a giant yellow alien warlord with a planet-sized battle station, even though I don’t think you need much more than that. He’s a solid big bad and could work as a season-long antagonist easily. Additionally, he tends to gravitate towards gladiatorial storylines, so having Supergirl fight her way through Mongul’s arena would be a good way to shake up the show at some point. Best of all, he can fit as a work around for Darkseid. I love Darkseid, though chances are DC Film want him for Justice League, and they’re very touchy about holding onto character depiction hence why Captain Boomerang and Deadshot aren’t allowed on Arrow anymore.  Bringing in Mongul would allow Supergirl a Darkseid-like figure without running a fowl of DC/WB overall. 

Given the nature of Superman adaptations, it’s basically only a matter of time before Supergirl brings in Kryptonian antagonists of some kind; however, rather than rely on the standard, Phantom Zone escapees plot, they’d be better served to bring in the Eradicator. Eradicator was a humanoid Kryptonian robot inquisitor tasked with excising any aspect of Kryptonian culture that clashes with traditional Kryptonian values. When it comes to Earth, it simply assumes Superman and Supergirl as corrupted traitors and tries to destroy them then remake Earth as new Krypton. Call it nostalgia, I really like the Eradicator, at least in concept and visual design.  His appearance as a freaky, alternate Earth Superman is a cool design, especially because villains with visual reflections of the heroes in their designs are pretty unique. Furthermore, Eradicator could serve as a slow reveal on Krypton’s true nature, having it start as an enshrine utopia before slowly revealing the more compromised reality. 

Now onto heroes and this one is so obvious it hurts.  Steel was created during the "Reign of the Supermen" comic that followed up the Death of Superman arc. He was a construction worker turned scientist whose life was saved by Superman, so he built himself an Iron Man-style mech suit and wields a hammer because his name is John Henry. Steel is an amazing hero mainly because of how often he seems out of his depth. He’s a brilliant scientist and decently competent fighter, yet he’s usually pitted against alien conquers and evil Gods. You always get the sense he’s straining to succeed, and that also makes him more relatable.  It’s a lot like Belanna Torres on Voyager because she isn’t shown to be a master engineer who can do everything in a snap. Her struggle is more engaging, and her passion defines her more than her ability. Steel has been a key player in the Superman mythos since his inception, and given CW’s The Flash has already claimed S.T.A.R. Labs, he’d be a good work around for all Supergirl’s science needs. 

This is another long shot, similar to Mongul, though I think it’d be pretty great if it did happen. Martian Manhunter often goes hand-in-hand with Superman because they’re both the last members of their respective races and have similar power sets. It’s easy to see Martian Manhunter working as a Superman surrogate for Supergirl as he’d have a lot of shared experiences with her. He would be one of the harder characters to adapt given his bizarre appearance and cavalcade of super powers. If they could find a workable visual for the character like Smallville did, he’d make a good moral center for Supergirl’s character. Interestingly, he has his own Supergirl-type character in Miss Martian, who was popular on Young Justice, so even if they didn’t go with Martian Manhunter, she would be a good alternative. 

The Guardian originated as part of Jack Kirby’s contributions to the Superman mythos. He’s best described as a lesser version of Captain America for DC, sporting enhanced physical abilities and a shield as a primary weapon.  The Guardian works really well in a multitude of positions, but he’s best utilized as a representative of government authority. His power and intelligence mean he decently holds his own against most threats, and he’s been a key figure for both Government science projects and Metropolis police over the course of his existence.  Personally, I’d like to see him adapted from the Grant Morrison mini-series Manhattan Guardian as, despite how different that version was, he was still unique and compelling.  If Supergirl ever needs a government superhero or even just a street-level hero for their show, The Guardian would be a strong choice. 

The Legion of Superheroes are so bizarre they almost need an article of their own to explain them and their weird history. They’re a group of aliens and super people who defend the universe in the 31st century, taking a cue from Superman’s example. They were first introduced coming back in time to get Superboy to come on adventures with them, but in more recent stories, they had a greater relationship with Supergirl. Like Bizarro or Mongul, their world of the 31st century would be an interesting alternative setting for Supergirl as a way to spice things up from just the Metropolis setting.  Additionally, a lot of their powers are pretty easy to achieve like magnetism or telepathy to the point that they even got to show up on Smallville. The legion have always had trouble maintaining popularity once they were supplanted by the X-Men & the Teen Titans as the most popular young team but using them as supporting characters would circumvent that. Also, their position in the future would be a good way to drop hints about future storylines. Their nature as aliens and super-powered youths would give Supergirl a larger community of heroes to relate to without needing to explain why they don’t help out in every crisis. 

Lori Lamar is a weird and obscure Superman supporting character from back in the silver age when Supergirl first enjoyed a lot of her popularity. Lori was Superman’s girlfriend for a time, one of the three main ones of the silver age.  She was also a mermaid. This is one of those weird silver age ideas a lot of modern comics tend to just gloss over, though I think she still holds up as an interesting character and a way to do underwater stories without needing Aquaman. What’s more, Lori works an interesting exploration of comic book weirdness without obvious reward. Her mermaid nature does let her breath underwater and swim better, but it also means she needs a wheel chair to move around on land; it’s an interesting dichotomy and shows a lot more depth than most people afford silver age comics. A lot of that is probably owed to the efforts of Lori’s creator, Bill Finger, the guy who invented Batman. So if Supergirl wanted to tell a story about the burden of powers or have a fun water adventure, she’d be a good way to do it.    

Now we’ve moved passed heroes and villains and into plot points and organizations starting with Project 7734.  Project 7734 was a government umbrella operation created to combat Kryptonian threats. There are a lot of interesting subsets to Project 7734: the political fear monger Morgan Edge slamming superheroes, the time-displaced barbarian hero Atlas, Super Woman, Squad K, and it’s all lead by General Sam Lane, Lois Lane’s father. Project 7734 was a solid menace in the days immediately before the New 52 relaunch, though they never really got the full use they deserved. They work well in the role of a moral gray area as their fear over Superman and other kryptonians is pretty justified all things considered, and the breadth of their operations got really imaginative. We already know that a secret government alien prison is part of Supergirl, so it’s not a stretch to see Project 7734 as a center point for future stories. 

Cadmus is another Jack Kirby creation and one of his best by a long mile. In fact, Cadmus was the agency that The Guardian was originally tasked to protect when his group of fans, the Newsboy Legion, cloned him back to life. Cadmus was part of Kirby’s latter day fascination with the blossoming science of genetics and its many weird derivations. That ultimately ended up as a loose excuse for the agency to do whatever sci-fi weirdness Kirby felt like; although, they’re a cool scientist enclave with a lot of unique characters, and their concepts that would actually work well on the small screen. 

The Science Police were initially a supporting agency for the Legion of Superheroes before DC had them show up in Superman as a way of creating the sense the universe was progressing forward in time. They’re basically police with advanced suits and technology in order to try and tackle Superman-level threats on their own without heroic help.  They’re an interesting group and work well as a means of creating a textured universe that actually responds to Supergirl's and Superman’s presence rather than just lying static to it. It could allow for some Supergirl-less episodes where the focus is on an additional character, and how they react to Supergirl.

The bottle city of Kandor is one of the most enduring and iconic aspects of Superman’s mythos; it’s also the easiest to realize on TV. Everything about the city is basically right there in the name. It’s a shrunken city in a bottle.  Kandor was a Kryptonian city that the computer menace Brainiac shrunk and bottled for his own collection. It’s possible to go inside the city, though if Superman or Supergirl do enter the city, they actually lose their powers.  There have been a whole slew of stories involving going to Kandor and attempting to re-enlarge it, so there’s plenty of source material for the show to draw on. It would be another way to get out of the city setting, a cool manner of giving us some alien/Kryptonian focus and a good way for Supergirl to explore her non-human heritage.  Speaking of which…

New Krypton was a major storyline that ran through the Superman titles for a little over a year in the time immediately before the New 52 re-launch. In it, two Kryptonian cities were planted on Earth. After some major tensions with humanity, the Kryptonian cities left the Earth and created their own planet, New Krypton, situated in a synchronous opposite orbit to the Earth. The New Krypton story was a bold and imaginative approach to the mythos and a great way of shaking up the status quo that managed to avoid wearing out its welcome. Best of all, a lot of the key elements to it were very intelligent and character driven, revolving around questionable loyalties and fractured relationships.  It’s a story that could be adapted to TV because of how much of its best elements didn’t come from pyrotechnics, but from engaging world building and well-written characters.  This may seem like an unlikely story for Supergirl. Actually, they’ve already confirmed two key elements of it coming to the show: Lana Lane, who was the Earth hero Superwoman, and Reactron, a Superman villain used by the government to act an anti-Kryptonian agent. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if more elements from the story started showing up before season one is over. 

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