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Monday, May 23, 2016

Static Thoughts - 12 Things They Need in Supergirl Season 2

Edited by Robert Beach

Supergirl season 2 has now been officially confirmed, with one significant twist: it will be on CW instead of CBS. At this point, that shake-up makes a lot of sense. Supergirl was a big hit show that never quite had the ratings to sustain its budget with CBS, so farming it out to CW’s legion of superhero shows make a lot of sense. It remains to be seen if Supergirl will in some way immigrate to the main universe of CW shows or if it’ll take place on Earth-4, separate from the adventures of Arrow, Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow. However, as we wait for that answer, let’s all climb aboard the Supergirl Season 2 hype train with a list of all the stuff they should include in the next, installment of the girl of steel. 

So far, Supergirl has featured 3 kinds of Kryptonite: Green, Blue, and Red.  Granted, the show’s iteration of Red Kryptonite was pretty lame, just making Supergirl evil rather than causing her to become part-car or develop giant fingers but we did see the forms of Kryptonite.  Gold K is the only remaining form of Kryptonite we’ve yet to see pop up on the show out of the big 4 interesting ones out there.  If you’ve never heard of it before, Gold Kryptonite originally caused Kryptonians to completely lose their powers though recent reimaginings of the concept have been retconned to only temporarily drain the super powers out of Kryptonians. 
Supergirl has already hinted at Gold K with the villain Reactron in one of their earlier episodes.  In the comics, Reactron was the Gold Kryptonite man, powered by a hunk of gold K in the same manner as Metallo.  Given Reaction already being on the show and the fact the series has already shown a tendency towards exploring other forms of Kryptonite and anti-Kryptonian gear, it’d be pretty cool to see them bust out yet another isotope. 

Ever since the Fortress of Solitude episode in Supergirl, the question of the Legion of Superheroes has hovered around the show.  The entire idea of the Legion entering the modern canon of superhero myth has been flittering about since DC said they were considering developing a Legion series in the wake of Guardians of the Galaxy’s monster success but seeing that Legion flight ring in the Fortress of Solitude was a pretty great easter egg.  No one really knows how the Legion will fit into Supergirl, especially given the show’s financial issues making showing them a pretty difficult undertaking.  However, the character of Mon-El seems like a pretty good way to do it. 

In the comics, Mon-El is a Daxamite, a species that, like Kryptonians, gains superpowers from yellow sun radiation.  The main difference was that instead of Kryptonite making Daxamites weak, sick, and powerless, led affected them that way.  In order to save Mon-El from led poisoning Superman put him into the Phantom Zone, which would make him a thoroughly likely candidate for whoever or whatever was inside the pod that popped out of Fort Roz at the end of Supergirl season 1. 

Season 1 of Supergirl introduced the character of Indigo, a living computer from a whole species of living computers, the leader of which, is the Superman archvillain, Brainiac.  Brainiac is one of the few Superman bad guys who stands out as an all-time great, threatening him throughout almost every incarnation and going through a multitude of iterations himself.  He’s a great bad guy and a really useful big bad alien invasion to bring in for a season long arc if you wanted to.  A big part of this comes down to Brainiac’s power set, which is partly machine control meaning he wouldn’t need an army to do anything, and shrink technology which could make for some interesting storytelling. 

Speaking of shrinking, though, Brainiac was also responsible for the major Superman staple the bottle city of Kandor.  Kandor was a Kryptonian city Brainiac had shrunk down to add to his collection of bottle cities at the time (it’s a whole thing that we can’t get into here.)  After Superman rescued the city from Brainiac he would often travel into the bottle city and have adventures as a non-powered superhero under the name Nightwing.  Kandor would be a great way to get Superman out of the show’s hair or a cool setting to drop Supergirl into if you wanted to produce less expensive episodes without the cost of showing off her abilities. 

Speaking of invasions, let’s not forget that Supergirl has already introduced the White Martians as a possible new risk to Earth in season 2.  The White Martian force is a massive army of alien monsters that have all of Martian Manhunters powers such as shapeshifting, super strength, flight, heat vision, psychic powers, and the power to turn intangible as well as invisible.  The White Martians have become a very solid invasion force in plenty of DC stories including the supremely successful Justice League relaunch comic from 1996, the animated Justice League show in the late ‘90s/early 2000s, and most recently in the very good Martian Manhunter comic book series to come out of DC You.  What’s more, their shapeshifting powers would make for a great secret invasion type event that could emphasize distrust and uncertainty rather than a massive invasion force, which would probably be more costly to show off.

The biggest problem with this approach would be how to fit the Martian Manhunter into everything.  J’onn Jonz is a really great character and one of Supergirl’s great triumphs but he’s also supremely costly in terms of CGI and make-up work, hence why the show relegates him to background duty so very often.  I certainly love the Manhunter from Mars but I really don’t see how they could fit him into this plot.

One of the coolest parts of Supergirl season 1 was the introduction of Bizarro, a failed clone of Supergirl that became a bizarre inverse duplicate with black eyes, cracked white skin, heat breath, and ice vision.  Bizarro has always been a key villain of the Superman mythos, to the point I did a whole Cover Story on his appearances, so bringing Bizarro back would be a great follow-up and a chance to flesh out the character even more.  After all, Bizarro in the comics didn’t just have backward powers he had a backward mind, speaking in opposites and viewing the world in a twisted and inverted manner.  Bringing back Bizarro with an aim toward adding those elements of the character to the screen version could be a real winner.

Conversely, they could expand the role of Bizarro to a full on Bizarro world.  Another weird comic concept, Bizarro World was original a square planet full of Bizarro counterparts of everyone on Earth that was created by the imperfect duplicate ray that also produced Bizarro.  Obviously, that origin wouldn’t work for Supergirl but the basic idea isn’t beyond the realm of possibility.  When Bizarro world was at its heyday in the ‘60s writers used it for all kinds of crazy adventures throwing Superman into strange alien situations, which is something Supergirl is badly in need of.  What’s more, the Bizarro setting would emphasize surreal action over the heartfelt speeches and sincerity that came to dominate a bit too much of season 1. 

One of the big hit episodes of Season 1 was the crossover with CW’s hit superhero show The Flash.  It wasn’t a great episode but it was enjoyable and cool enough but it also opened the door for all kinds of future parallel Earth adventures from Supergirl.  One of season 1’s big problems was Superman and the rights issues that prevented the series from actually showing us the man of steel so dropping Supergirl onto Earth-10 would be a great way to circumvent that problem.  As much as I like the National City cast there’s really no one spectacular or indispensable in the line-up so ditching the whole cast for a few episodes of Kara bouncing around weird alternate realities wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Additionally, multiple dimensions open up the realm of possibility for Mr. Mxyzptlk, a hyper-dimensional imp with god-like powers that would often bedevil Superman. Mxyzptlk is one of the weird Silver Age characters a lot of modern fans like to pretend doesn’t exist but he’s particular brand of undiluted wackiness is perfect for the extreme sincerity of Supergirl.  It would be tricky realizing his powers on a diminished budget but far from impossible, what’s more, he’d be a villain that Supergirl couldn’t just punch her way through and would actually have to get clever about defeating as the only way to banish Mxyzptlk is to make him say his name backward. 

As I mentioned, one of Supergirl’s biggest problems is the role Superman plays on the show.  The omnipresent threat of Superman rushing in to save the day or constantly existing off the frame was downright comical by the end of the season and really needs to be addressed in some capacity and I think killing him off is the perfect way to do it.  I think some folks would be opposed to this idea on the basis that Superman’s death is usually a very lame story, like in the comics or the rightly maligned Batman v. Superman.  The thing is that in Supergirl, Superman’s death could be afforded actual weight as he wouldn’t ever need to come back.  

Killing off Superman on Supergirl could be a legitimately permanent change and one that raises the stakes for the entire Supergirl universe.  Suddenly, there’s no more safety net, no matter man of steel to pick up the pieces if Kara can’t handle it, for the first time, it’ll all be on her.  What’s more, it’ll add a greater amount of stakes in terms of death and Kara’s state of isolation.  She was always cut off from her cousin owing to her memories of Krypton but now, for the first time ever, she’d be truly and thoroughly alone.  It’d be a dark and bold move but one that could really pay off if done right. 

This two tie-in to the idea of killing off Superman in that they both emerged as characters out of the Death of Superman comic event.  However, both these character concepts could make great additions to the Supergirl universe and real adversaries.  Eradicator was a kind of Kryptonian robot designed to go forth and make whatever place it landed more like Krypton.  It’s a weird idea but given how much the Kryptonians have served as villains on Supergirl so far it’d hardly be out of place for the story.  What’s more, the Eradicator also served as a Superman stand-in in the wake of Superman’s death, dawning a Superman-esque costume but acting more alien and willing to kill.  Given that Kara’s character has always been defined by isolation from how Kryptonian she is the Eradicator would be a great way to externalize that struggle.

Cyborg Superman was another possible Superman who emerged out of the original’s death, claiming to be the real Superman but with robot bits owing to how devastated he was by death.  Since then he’s become a major bad guy in the DC universe, destroying an entire city and then eventually taking over the Green Lantern villains the Manhunters.  The Manhunters themselves would be great bad guys but they’d need a strong figurehead like Cyborg Superman to really make the concept stick.  Additionally, Cyborg Superman has already technically been introduced as he was previously an astronaut that Superman failed to save known as Hank Henshaw.  Following up on that particular lead would be a great twist on the role of the Martian Manhunter and provide a more menacing bad guy for the series. 

Supergirl hasn’t been shy about digging up chunks of Superman mythos for stories but they’ve also been playing a very bizarre kind of game with those elements.  Rather than just bringing in Bizarro or Red Kryptonite they’re now having these events happen to Supergirl rather than Superman.  In Supergirl continuity Red Kryptonite happened to Kara first and foremost, not Superman, Bizarro was a failed Supergirl clone, not Superman.  

This has left a lot of folks questioning how other things fit into the Supergirl mythos, most specifically Lex Luthor.  Luthor’s been Superman’s oldest foe but if everything else is turning against Supergirl first how does Lex fit into all this.  Does Luthor even exist in this continuity?  We haven’t seen any indication or reference toward LexCorp technology so it’s entirely possible he’s not around but if he is he’d make for a great new adversary or a co-conspirator with Maxwell Lord. 

However, bringing in Lex Luthor would probably necessitate dropping into Metropolis overall.  Metropolis, as a location, seems to exist in a nebulous zone of copyright where no one knows if CBS can show it or not so I’m assuming they could if they wanted to.  There’s a tendency to think to drop into Metropolis must mean meeting up with Superman and company but there’s a lot more to the city of tomorrow like the Science Police, Steel and Natasha Iron’s lab, Dr. Emil Hamilton, and plenty of low-level superheroes like Gangbuster. 

Speaking of field trips to classic Superman locations, it’s long past time Supergirl took a trip to Smallville, Kansas.  Even if Supergirl couldn’t actually meet with the Kents over rights issues Smallville has a lot of potential in terms of supporting characters like Lana Lang, fellow superbeings like Krypto, and an access point to the future of the Legion of Superheroes. 

At the end of season 1 of Supergirl Project Cadmus had been introduced as a part of the lore along with the first steps towards Cadmus’ resident comic superhero the Guardian.  In case you’ve never heard of it before, Cadmus is one of DC’s all-purpose government agencies, mainly specializing in building superhuman weapons.  They’ve been tied to a lot of weird and crazy ideas from the king of crazy comic ideas Jack Kirby and the biggest idea Cadmus became tied to was Jack Kirby’s Fourth World of the New Gods. 

Starting out, Cadmus has long been a solid DC response to Marvel’s SHIELD in terms of “secret organization for dealing with superhumans.”  Though originally created as a weird science hub that purview is easily expanded and the collection of bizarre super humans that come out of Cadmus make them a solid first line of defense for humanity.  Their main hero is the Guardian, a shield wielding super soldier created by Jack Kirby and one of his more transparent Captain America recyclings.  Despite that, Guardian has been a pretty fun character though I personally prefer Grant Morrison’s Manhattan Guardian reimagining as he’d be another great way to find more diversity on the show.  Honestly, though, Guardian is pretty pedestrian for Cadmus, the really crazy stuff like OMAC, Dubbilex, Habitat, or the tiny worlds of Dabney Donovan could keep the show humming for weeks. 

Additionally, Cadmus has always been the entry point from which the Superman comics made the leap to Jack Kirby’s 4th World and the New Gods.  The New Gods are essentially space deities, similar to Thor but without the Norse myth connections.  They’re a great concept and have become a cornerstone of the DC mythos over the years, to the point that DC is already trying to introduce them into the films.  Things that are now making a big splash in comics media like Thanos or Apocalypse trace their origins back to the New Gods.  Finding a way to fit them into Supergirl would be a great move and an easy way to up the stakes for future adventures, especially if they followed the story where Superman is mind controlled by the god of evil to attack Earth and Supergirl must stop him. 

I mentioned this back when Supergirl was first headed towards screens but it bears repeating.  New Krypton was a major storyline that ran throughout the entire collection of Superman comics in the late 2000s just before the 2011 reboot.  The story revolved around the bottle city of Kandor being enlarged to full size and its citizens forming their own planet in a counter orbit to Earth.  It was a great concept and a pretty great event comic in the old Superman tradition of “think up the craziest thing ever and drop Superman into it to see what happens.” 

Part of what made the story so great was that it gave the writers a chance to really explore Krypton again and create a new synthesis of the planet’s many, many previous incarnations.  What’s more, the idea of every Kryptonian having super-powers was a pretty unique concept and made for a lot of cool situations, especially dealing with interplanetary politics.  Throwing Supergirl into a tug of war between her adopted home and the planet she grew up on would be a great source of drama and either location could serve as an answer to “where’s Superman?” for the episode. 

There’s also the question of Project 7734, an anti-Kryptonian cross-agency operation run by General Sam Lane, who’s already premiered on the show.  Project 7734 was a well of old topics revived to unique effect, with a ton of characters drawn from DC’s forgotten but amazing First Issue Special anthology comic.  First Issue Special is the book that gave us Lady Cop and for Project 7734 gave the world Atlas and Codename Assassin, both of which are awesome for completely different and amazing reasons.  And if all that weirdness wasn’t enough of a good reason to draw on the New Krypton story, the series also featured Lucy Lane, another Supergirl supporting cast member, becoming Super-Woman, a mysterious and quasi-mystic superbeing.  It’s a big ball of political drama, conflicted morals, and crazy concepts ripe for adaptation. 

Now let’s end this list on the traditional “no way it will ever happen but imagine if it did?” type entry.  For those not in the know, Supergirl spent some time in her New 52 incarnation as one the Red Lanterns, a crop of ring wielders similar to the Green Lanterns only powered by rage and hate instead of will and courage.  The Red Lanterns are a weird concept in that instead of criminals and murderers, most Red Lanterns are actually victims filled with rage in the face of loss so they work as something closer to anti-heroes than actual villains.  As such, Supergirl fit perfectly into that set-up as she’s teetered in the realm of anti-hero for awhile now ever since being reintroduced to the DC universe in the early-mid-2000s. 

Overall, giving Supergirl more of GL’s bad guys makes a lot of sense.  There’s no way DC TV is going to make good use of folks like the weaponers of Qward, Major Disaster, Tattooed Man, Evil Star, or the Manhunters so letting Supergirl take them down would be a great way to actively use your catalog of characters rather than waste them.  Giving her a Red Lantern ring could make for an amazing season long arc, augmenting her powers and identity in strange and unpredictable ways as well as straining her relationships with friends and family.  You could even use the ring to send her into space, which I maintain would be a great way to shake things up for the second season of the show. 

More than anything else, though, I like the idea of Kara getting a Red Lantern ring because it would emphasize the fact that there’s more to her than sunshine and happiness.  To be clear, I like Supergirl a lot and a big part of that is the lighter tone and how genuinely good all the people on it are.  It’s a show about big emotions and genuineness at a time when those things are viewed as dirty words, there’s an optimism to it that’s infectious.  But the sunshine is only impressive if there’s something darker to compare it to and having Kara actually let out a darker side of herself would be a very necessary bucket of the Cold War on the show’s touchy-feely aspects.  What’s more, Supergirl as a Red Lantern does make sense and serves to enhance her character.  She grew up in the world infinitely more advanced than ours and now has powers that make her a living God, she’s forced to hide all of that and live amongst cavemen, constantly being careful not to break anyone, wouldn’t you be angry too? 

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