In order to secure copyrights, comic companies would often create characters that they had no intention of ever showcasing on a permanent basis - after all, if you're publishing Captain Marmelade Adventures and it's a big hit, you don't want the competition to put out Kid Marmelade and start riding your coattails. However, sometimes these copyright-preserving characters found their way out to the public, and actually became quite popular in their own right. Case in point? Supergirl, the Maid of Steel.
Originally Superman's cousin Kara, Supergirl achieved some moderate popularity, but not enough to keep her from getting offed in Crisis on Infinite Earths when DC Editorial realized that about half the population (and 30% of the zoos) of Krypton had survived the planet's destruction and therefore Superman wasn't really the last anything. When continuity was rebooted, Supergirl was both gone and forgotten - but not for long.
It wasn't long before various Supergirls began to appear, trying to fill the void. Power Girl was the first, a pre-Crisis holdover, but writers wanted an official Supergirl. Thus began the parade of alternate dimensions, protoplasmic entities, angels, aliens, Elseworlds, genetic modifications and any number of stop-gap measures, none of which proved as popular (or as simple) as the animated series' version. She proved so popular, in fact, that even the main comics adopted her costume to cash in on the merchandising popularity.
It's that same costume that Mattel has given us in the second series of their new DC Superheroes line. She's wearing a blue skirt, red cape and boots, white gloves and a white t-shirt with the S shield logo. The boots aren't your normal superhero fare, but instead look like hiking boots - they're laced all the way up the front, rather than just magically sealing themselves in place.
The skirt is more loose-fitting than her animated counterpart, which is good:
the hip-hugging miniskirt that was seen on the cartoon would definitely have killed any articulation, and that's one of this figure's strongest points. She moves at the head, shoulders, sleeves, elbows, wrists, chest, hips, thighs, knees, boots and ankles. Want to count that again? 20 points on a female figure? Nice! It would have been cool if Mattel had given Supergirl a balljointed chest (like the Marvel Select Black Widow), but come on - they're new to this whole "toys that you can move" thing, so we can cut them some slack.
The sculpt is good, making Kara look feminine without losing any of her strength.
The face is a bit too square, but that means she fits in with the style of this line. Actually, on second look, it's not too square, it's too flat. She looks good head-on, but turn her to the side a bit and she's kinda like a pug. It cuts down on her femininity, if that matters to you. I'm sure some people feel weird thinking about whether or not their action figures are sexy enough, but face it, it's a part of the toy, and it could be better.
She's 6" tall, which is a bit too big - Mattel needs to start putting a little more variety into these toys, because everyone comes out to be nearly identical. I can see Wonder Woman being able to look Clark in the eye, but his younger cousin should probably be a tad smaller. As tall as his chin, maybe, or shoulder. Like Doomsday, you can tell that Mattel tried a liitle bit to show a difference in size, but they didn't do enough. Don't be afraid, Mattel - push those sizes! Variety is cool, and it makes your line look neat. If tiny ToyBiz can do it, so can you!
Supergirl's cape is a solid piece of molded plastic, a step up from the half-plastic/half-cloth capes Mattel gave their first DC figures. Hers is shown blowing to the side and folding over itself, giving even static poses a bit of dynamism. Thankfully, the Four Horsemen are a smart bunch - they had the good sense to make her hair blow the same way. Yes, that sounds like an obvious thing, but sometimes the easiest things are the easiest to overlook.
The figure comes with a reprint of Supergirl #5, a decent comic that explores the then-current Supergirl's unease with her life. However, it does present a small problem - namely, she's not wearing this costume in the book. She adopted it later, but the Supergirl who wore it (Linda Danvers) is no longer in the role, and the current Supergirl is wearing the classic gear. So no matter how you look at it, this figure was out of date before she even hit the shelves. There's a Supergirl variant on the shipping schedules for later this summer, and the popular guess right now is that it will be Kara in her current uniform.
DC Direct released a version of this Supergirl in June of 2003, but with three years between the release of that one and this, it should come as no surprise that Mattel's is better. But before Mattel can truly school DCD, the two companies need to put out similar figures at the same time. Looking at how good the entire Superman wave of DC Superheroes is, however, it's not going to be long until DC needs to kiss its mama at the bus stop.
Which Supergirl (and Supergirl costume) is your favorite? Tell us on our message board, the Loafing Lounge.