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CSBG Archive

Silver Age September – The Supergirl From Krypton!

After a month of spotlighting the strange (if endearingly strange) history of comic books (and especially the Silver Age), I think it is worthwhile to show the comic books of the Silver Age that are simply great stories period. Here is an archive of all the Silver Age comics features so far!

Today we look at the 1959 introduction of Superman’s cousin, Supergirl, in Action Comics #252, by Otto Binder and Al Plastino!


Action Comics #252 is particularly interesting because the first Superman story in the issue is a tale by Robert Bernstein and Al Plastino that introduces the long-standing Superman villain, Metallo.

But the real standout story in the issue is the second story, the first appearance of Supergirl, in a nifty tale by Otto Binder and Al Plastino…

First off, look at the beautiful facial expressions by Plastino!

And then, check out the clever origin story Binder came up for Kara to explain exactly how you could have another survivor of Krypton who was YOUNGER than Superman and yet dressed just like him!

Then the next big twist – she’s RELATED to Superman!!

Remember what I said about Plastino and facial expressions? Check out Superman’s mug! Priceless!

Then Binder sets up a strong backdrop for future Supergirl stories (as well as a cute secret identity for her)…

What a wonderful job by Binder and Plastino to both introduce an interesting new character AND set her up for future stories. All in less than a dozen pages!!


Yes, great art & story. But…

As others have pointed out, isn’t Superman kind of creepy here? I mean, Kara just lost her home & family and he’s worried about his secret identity so he sticks her in an orphanage?

always thought super man was being a tool when he first comes across super girl the way he seems to be angry over her saying she can now live with him . plus superman is kind of creepy around her.

I love that last panel. Its what sets up Kara for her entire history. She’s not disobeying Superman she’s just going on a technicality in what he said and doing what she wants anyway. Such a teenage girl, so endearing, so Supergirl.

Totally agreed, Nikki.

And again, the depiction of her face as she MAKES that decision? Classic Plastino!

There is such a sadness to the best Silver Age Superman stories that really comes across here. Otto Binder was born in 1911 and Al Plastino in 1921. They lived through both the Great Depression and WW2. They had living knowledge that very bad things happened.

While leaving Supergirl at an orphanage is sad, I am not really sure what the viable options for Superman actually were. The Kara Zor-El that Plastino is drawing here is a cute and flirtatious teenager. She is telling wildly improbable story that is totally unverifiable. She flatly admits that she is wearing a variation on his costume to gain his trust. As we have seen in the other Silver Age stories that have been featured here, there is an attraction between the two of them. It was apparently immediate, because Superman’s whole demeanor changes once he discovers she is his cousin.

So, what else is he supposed to do here? Wouldn’t taking her home to live with him in his one bedroom apartment be very bad idea on several levels? Remember that this before the era when DC clearly even had a shared universe, so you cannot really shuffle Kara of to Paradise Island.

For me, that is what makes this story remarkable. It is plainly a happy story. Both Superman and Supergirl are going to have a better life together than they would have separately. Still, there is a dark undertow. It is a joyful situation that presents no perfect solutions. It is pretty amazing what Binder & Plastino were able to covey in a handful of pages meant for ten year-olds.

I dunno, this story always bugged me. You’ve got super-science and a month to find answers, and you decide to send one kid off to Earth while everyone else dies? Let’s call that Plan B, shall we?

And yeah, the orphanage thing sucks, but Ma and Pa Kent were dead by that point (which, incidentally, is another stupid aspect of DCnU). So it’s not like Clark could keep her around. Who’s that you’re living with, Clark? Your cousin? Sure, she is …

I get that this story is iconic and all, and it’s worth reading on that level, but objectively speaking it just seems workmanlike and unremarkable otherwise. It’s like a backdoor pilot that was just churned out, like Binder was just given an assignment and a bunch of status quo elements he was expected to establish by the end of the story (Superman’s cousin, new secret ID, lives in orphanage, etc.) and he just infodumped them mostly through exposition. I don’t know if the rest of the issue attempts to have a real plot narrative or emotional connection, so maybe I’m wrong.

It also bears noting that Superman’s origin in Action #1 had him raised in an orphanage; Ma and Pa Kent were a later retcon.

Its also worth noting that this story sets up Zor-El is set up as a greater scientist than Jor-El and it would later emerge he not only saved an entire kryptonian town once, he took them all into the survival zone after this. Gates brought this back in 2008 when Zor-El uses Brainiac tech he was studying from the abduction of Kandor to create a force shield that saved Argo. Yet, when the final days of Krypton are often told Zor-El is completely absent.

I’ve seen this story many times over the years. But it just now dawned on me that the Kara Zor-El experienced and survived a horrible tragedy that no other DC character can match. She was a cognitive teenager that lost everything and everyone she ever loved. She didn’t relive it with a super time viewer machine. Batman could learn a thing or two from this kid.

Looks like Kara put on a pair of blue leggings at some point.

On Krypton, scientists built rockets only for one person at a time. It may have been a religious edict in the Kryptonian Bible. You know, Great Rao forbid space arks or something.

Judging by how his leg is always cocked, Superman may have been born with a condition that causes leg spasms.


“I’ll take care of you like a big brother”…by putting you in an orphanage. Not even one located in Metropolis, but in the distant town of Midvale.

He may have been thinking of how Bruce Wayne was rumored to have a pedophiliac interest in Dick Grayson. He didn’t want to open himself to similar charges.

What if Alura had spotted Gotham City, Atlantis, Paradise Island, Mars, Thanagar, or Oa in her Super-Space Telescope? Someone could do a good series of Elseworld stories about that.

I agree with T. that this story is more iconic than great. Indeed, it may epitomize the difference between iconic and great.

The only bit about the orphanage that bugs me is how the director doesn’t ask for, oh, say, a birth certificate.

Superman is so ticked off at the idea that he’s not the last Kryptonian.

There looks like some help from Wayne Boring in the art (walking/flying Superman, some flying poses) Either he helped out or Plastino copied Boring. Great art but recognized some Boring poses.

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