By Scott Tipton
These kinds of columns are coming up far too often lately.
Even worse, they're carny grifters, who adopted Kara to use in their scheme to sell "power tonic" to unwitting yokels who'll see the young girl performing faked-up feats of strength.
And not to harp on it or anything, but where's Superman when his cousin is getting adopted by a couple of greasy snake-oil salesmen? Naturally, Kara quickly figures out that her new parents are a couple of swindlers, and uses her superpowers to put them out of business (including a bit of super-ventriloquism, one of Superman's more arcane powers that the neophyte superhero picks up rather quickly) and since they now can't afford to support her, it's back to the orphanage for Linda.
Kara finds herself doing the old secret-identity dodge with another kid at the orphanage, Dick Wilson, starting with ACTION COMICS #256 (September 1959), in "The Great Supergirl Mirage!" When Dick realizes that Linda Lee is doing her homework at super-speed, then sees a photo of a flying girl in a Superman costume, he begins to put two and two together, and embarks on a Lana Lang-style crusade to prove that Linda Lee is Supergirl.
Just when Linda is at the end of her rope, the arrival of a Supergirl robot, courtesy of an eavesdropping Superman, puts Dick's suspicions to rest, while at the same time making one wonder just how often Superman is spying on Linda from afar with his telescopic vision.
Superman's long-distance snooping comes up once again in "Supergirl's Farewell to Earth," from ACTION COMICS #258 (November 1959), again by Binder and Mooney. When Kara meets Krypto for the first time, the two begin to play, until Super-Killjoy shows up and chastises Supergirl for revealing herself to Krypto, claiming that the dog could follow her back to the orphanage and jeopardize her secret identity. As punishment, Superman decrees that Supergirl must be exiled from Earth for one year.
Talk about your toughlove. So he shoves Kara in this big plastic tube and chucks her into deep space to a distant planet where she's to spend her yearlong sentence. It's a nice enough place, but still...
So she does, concocting a story about being lost in the swamp for days. When a reporter questions her about why there are no mosquito bites on her skin, Linda apparently panics and reveals her identity as Supergirl to the disappointed reporter, who turns out to be none other than Clark Kent. It's all been a test to see if Kara can protect her secret identity. Before Clark can leave, Kara tells him that she knows he's Superman, having tried to crack his glasses with her x-ray vision to prevent him from checking her invulnerable arm for bites. When the lenses, made from Kryptonian glass, don't crack, Kara deduces his secret.
Naturally, Kara assumes this means the end of her life in hiding, with no one in the world knowing of the existence of Supergirl. Not so, as Superman wants to keep her in reserve as his secret weapon to help out if he's ever trapped by his enemies. While this is admittedly a little paranoid for a guy who can juggle planets, it works much better from a narrative standpoint, as the Supergirl character now seems more validated as a valued assistant to Superman, rather than just his uncle's kid who he dumped in an orphanage. It does, however set up a dynamic we'll see time and again in the Supergirl stories, as she'll perform some miraculous feat and save Superman's bacon, and once he congratulates her, she'll excitedly ask "Does this mean I can reveal myself to the world?" To which the answer is always "No, not yet..." In the very next issue, after Supergirl has just spent days posing as the new superhero "Mighty Maid" in order to make the world think Superman was falling in love and leaving the planet (a role that required Superman to spend a disturbing amount of time kissing his 15-year-old cousin, if you ask me), she asks again, and well, you can guess the answer...
Man, he can be a tool sometimes...
Delighted to finally have super-friends, Kara agrees, and heads to the 30th century to audition for the team. Too bad for Supergirl that, on her tryout, she stumbles across some Red Kryptonite, that offshoot of the deadly rock that has a different effect on Kryptonians with every exposure. This time, the Red K ages her to a fully grown woman, and since the Legion has a strict policy forbidding members from being over the age of 18, Kara is rejected and sent back to her own era.
As always, the Red K's effects soon wear off, and Kara is left wondering if she'll get a second chance with the Legion.
On a tour of Atlantis, Kara and Jerro get better acquainted, and soon have their first kiss. Too bad for Kara that she forgot that Atlanteans communicate by telepathy, and her thoughts about Jerro has been transmitted to everyone in the area. Humiliated, Supergirl takes her leave, leaving a heartbroken Jerro behind.
Again, Weisinger and Binder find a clever way to target the series to more of a female audience with a bit of romance (and even symbolically work in the notion of how awkward teenagers feel when first dealing with tricky things like relationships).
Naturally, Supergirl is suspicious of the green-skinned computer-brained teen, and resolves to keep an eye on him. After Supergirl performs her Legion audition, the teens are taken by surprise by the sudden arrival of a Green Kryptonite meteor hurtling toward Legion HQ. Putting his own life on the line, Brainiac 5 removes his force-field belt and quickly gives it to Supergirl, allowing her to safely destroy the meteor.
Supergirl and Brainiac 5 are chosen to be the newest Legion inductees, and the now-lovestruck Brainiac asks Supergirl to stay in the future:
Naturally, she refuses, due to her commitment to being Superman's secret weapon, but now Kara has two long-distance boyfriends to moon over...
Kara now finds herself in the tricky position of having to keep her Super-secret from her new parents. But not for long.
Next, Superman unilaterally takes control of all the world's television broadcasts to introduce Kara to the globe.
A little heavy-handed, granted but hey, the guy's proud of his cousin, and he's saved the world, what, a zillion times by now? Cut him some slack. Then the two embark on a whirlwind tour to give the world a glimpse of the new Supergirl...
Followed by a quick trip to the United Nations, to greet the world's leaders and receive her certificate authorizing her to visit any UN country without a passport, and to make arrests worldwide. (I had no idea there was so much paperwork involved...) Next comes a stop at the Fortress of Solitude to see the salute from the Bottle City of Kandor...
And finally, Superman does what he should have done three years earlier: he adds a wing to the Fortress of Solitude, just for Kara.
About damn time.