Kelly Sue Deconnick is not your average comic book writer, she is an extremely excellent one that has no problem breaking down barriers when it comes to female representation. Currently, she is extremely well-known for her current run with the amazing Captain Marvel. She also adapts comics for television with her comic-book-writing husband- honestly, they are the greatest nerd power couple of all time.  Still, she has been in the game for a long time with writing credits going back to 2006. Over the course of the next few months we will be going back and looking at what makes Deconnick a player and a game changer by looking at the current catalogue of her work. Today, we are going to begin with her run of Supergirl in 2011, issues 65 through 67.

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Supergirls Throughout History

Supergirl was born during a period of time when everything was “super”. Super things were gimmicks, and yet, something stuck with this Supergirl. She has gone through many changes and interpretations to become to be her own entity with her own television show. But the Supergirl that Deconnick writes for and about in her comics is definitely not the original model. When Supergirl was introduced, she was introduced via a wish from Jimmy Olsen with one purpose… help Superman… and she doesn’t do a very good job of it. She lacks personality to a comical effect and causes more trouble that she is worth in some senses. Ultimately she gives her life for Superman.

She is then reintroduced as a real character, but she is simply a female teenage ideal. She lives to serve Superman and is constantly involved in odd love plots that don’t really make any sense or ever have a lasting effect. A personal favorite is the time that she accidentally fell in love with her horse in Action Comic #301. (I just wish I could have been around when that idea came up. Leo Dorfman: Women really love horses… Wait they love horses… I’ve got an idea!) Overall, she was never very special. She was constantly portrayed as subordinate to Superman, occasionally with some very odd cousin-cousin sexual tension, and she didn’t have much going for her.

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Supergirl: The Rebellious Teenager

Queue the new reboot of Supergirl. This time around she is skinnier, sexier, and a lot more difficult to control. Sporting the new midrift-baring fashion that was popularized by girl power groups like the Spice Girls and pop star Britney Spears, Supergirl was not going to be controlled anymore. She was stronger than Superman and that whole secret identity thing wasn’t really going to work for her. As she said in issue #10: “Be yourselves, it makes life a hell lot easier.” However, it seems when Supergirl was revamped that she might have gone a little too far out into the deep end of debauchery. Putting out cigarettes on her steel hand or lamenting that because of this she could not get her belly button pierced, she wasn’t really a person quite yet. Instead she became text book teenage rebellion. So she changes again. She understands what is good and what is evil, and her back story is used as justification for the terrible behavior she used to exhibit. She even tries to cure cancer! Just saying that going from putting out a cigarette on your hand to curing freaking cancer is a big leap, which leads us too…

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Kelly Sue Deconnick’s Supergirl

At the very end of Supergirl Vol. 5’s run came a treatment by Kelly Sue Deconnick in a three comic arc entitled “This Is Not My Life.” In this arc, Lois Lane has a chance encounter with a young girl that goes missing from Stanhope College. Lois is in a large accident with the girl, but she is saved by Supergirl and Starman while the man behind this attack is revealed to the reader to be Professor Ivo. After a failed attempt by Lois Lane to make a joke to the all too serious Supergirl, Supergirl complains to Starman that occasionally she does not feel as though she fits in. Mikaal replies in hysterical fashion that as a gay blue alien he has never felt as such, but that some others feel more other than others, you know?

In order to get to the bottom of this disappearance Lois asks Supergirl to go undercover as a prospective student, not only because she is perfect for the assignment, but also because she believes that Supergirl needs to take a break and be a little less serious. As Linda, Supergirl hurries off to the tour and quickly meets her roommate, Shirley. Their tour guide shows them around and introduces them to the Silk Pajama Society, headed up by Henry Flyte. Henry is singing mocking songs about the disappearing girl, which causes Linda to get into a shouting match with the group before she is called away. However, the girls that night get a visit from the boys despite their quick first meeting. Linda and Henry engage in an exchange of poetic words before Shirley jumps out the window in a less than graceful way and Linda follows.

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The girls follow the Silk Pajama Society to their lair, where Henry informs them that he has figured out exactly who is getting kidnapped and that he is the next target.  Unfortunately, he reveals this just in time to actually go missing. His club members think it is a joke, but they go and search anyway. At the same time, Lois Lane has snuck into the office of the Stanhope’s president where she accidentally runs into the president and her husband. She asks about the disappearances, but is turned away with a cold shoulder. The president immediately calls Ivo and informs him that he needs to move more quickly on his project. Ivo replies that he does not have the resources, but, after seeing the students searching for Henry, admits that he can make due.

During their search for Henry, the group comes across huge amounts of mechanical rats. Supergirl subdues them with her laser vision, but convinces everyone that it was the fast thinking of Shirley with her flashlight instead. Linda’s cover is almost blown immediately after this, as she lifts an entire shelf to block the door from the influx of MONQIS and rats they can hear coming. She then splits off from the group to find Henry and Ivo as Supergirl. They fight while the crew decides they are going to arm themselves by building their own weapons, and Lois gets some insider information from the Stanhope tour guide named Ngoze. She informs Lois that the disappearing kids are a part of a larger trend, which she picked up on because Henry informed her that only first chairs were kidnappped, and she was not one.

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Back underground, the crew has pulled together their weapons and are prepared to storm in and fight off Professor Ivo with Supergirl. Supergirl and Shirley combine fighting skills while the boys find Henry and the kill code, and Ivo is foiled. The day is saved. Lois Lane gives Ngoze her card after she informs her that she only had a B average in college, and Supergirl turns back into Linda. Chris wishes he could have gotten Supergirl’s number, but is happy to take Shirley’s offer of hers instead. Henry feels as though the entire situation is his fault, but Linda tells him it is not and asks him to stay with her. Two weeks later, Linda goes back to visit Henry. They exchange witty banter as she informs him that she cannot be with him, but that she wants him to never forget her. They kiss and end up in the air above the ground, which Linda explains as magic.

“This is the Best Day of My Entire Life”

This comic is not Deconnick’s first by any stretch of the imagination, and we will go back and look some of her even earlier looks, but this comic was published before some of her most famous ones: Captain Marvel, Pretty Deadly, and Avengers Assemble. Looking at it here, I can say that it has the threads of some concepts that will continue to be present in her work and will continue to make it awesome.

The Humans

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When you write a superhero comic, there is always the problem of the characters that are not super and how you are going to make them stand up to the awesomeness that is being done by the hero. Supergirl is not only super strong, invulnerable, and powerful, but she also has a personality that has been brewing for 64 issues. She is a fully fledged person, especially when compared to what she used to be like. When introducing a character that will only exist for three issuess, it is difficult to force the reader to care, but boy did I care about these humans. Let’s begin with my favorite: Shirley. Shirley is introduced as an everyday girl that just wants to make friends and enjoy her college experience. She is in it. Now, a lesser writer would have used this against Shirley. She could have easily fallen into being a complete stereotype- the vapid and pretty college girl who is dumb and has nothing to contribute to this group.

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Instead, by the end of the story, not only has she really added to the kick-ass group that made their own weapons and found the kill code to aid Super girl, but she is a fully fledged character who loves adventure and seems like she is a good person. It’s not easy to do it, and it is amazing that Deconnick can create such interesting and awesome characters in just three issues. Similarly, I really enjoyed Ngoze and Henry as well. Still, I have to admit that I didn’t get quite the same enjoyment out of their arcs. Ngoze felt more like a plot device then a person because someone needed to inform Lois of the evil scheme, but Henry did have some fun and interesting characteristics. Ironically, I think that Henry is the most cliche character. Since lazy intelligent men are becoming more and more popular, his characterization feels kind of boring and stale to read.

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Lois, on the other hand, is used excellently. Much like Supergirl is her own entity, so, too, is Lane. Therefore, her presence in this story is totally justified and extremely enjoyable to read. Much like the kids find their own way to help out Supergirl, so, too, does Lois- by using her journalism skills to get to the bottom of the entire situation and call the police so they are on hand when the kids are freed. In addition, it is great to watch Lois fight with the president of the school and mentor the hard-working Ngoze. She kicks ass intellectually, and it is a great compliment to Supergirl’s work.

The Girl of Steel

Outside of the background characters, however, how does our protagonist measure up? Well, I have to say that she is excellent here because she is both funny, intelligent, and a hero- a hero triple threat. She has to make sure she maintains her cover, but then accidentally lifts an object three times her size and explains it by saying that she works out. She gets to have witty banter with Henry by exchanging the words to a poem by Guillaume Apollinaire, and she gets to save the day and kiss the guy.

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When it comes to Supergirl’s arc, there is also a nice amount of depth. As opposed to the previous version of Supergirl, who had plots that focused solely on love or on service to Superman, Linda has a focus here on what she has given up by devoting herself to saving the world. She has given up sending time with people her own age. She has given up friendship, which is why Lois put her on this mission. Lois wanted to give her a chance to be a teen, and Linda takes this chance with gusto. She learns to let loose a little bit and take a joke.  Even though she ultimately has to return to her post, Deconnick gives Supergirl a chance to have a little fun, and that is a lot of fun to watch.

 

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