It’s no secret on the Internet that Superman is a dick. But I’ve been reading a new collection of 1950s Supergirl comics, and I’m now convinced that “dick” is probably a super-understatement. Consider how the Man of Steel treats his cousin–his only living relative, in fact: Kara “Supergirl” Zor-El.
Check out “the happiest moment in Superman’s life,” from Supergirl’s first comic book appearance, in 1959:
“See, I’ve got this pretty sweet job and apartment in Metropolis and stuff. But wait! I have a better idea…”
“Surprise! When I say ‘take care of you like a big brother,’ what I really mean is ‘dump you in this small-town orphanage’! Well, I have to be getting back.”
Of course, Linda’s life isn’t all peaches and cream, even with the fun of living in a state facility! Superman evidently didn’t think of this, but what if someone were to actually adopt her? That would ruin his little plan. So Linda spends most of her days humiliating herself in various ways so that no one will ever, ever be tempted to adopt her and give her the loving home she so yearns for. Like this:
While Linda wallows in super-filth, the better to protect Superman’s swingin’ Metropolis lifestyle, her cousin sometimes drops by on Visitors’ Day to “test” her in various sadistic ways. But even once she’s mastered life on Earth, he comes up with new excuses to leave her in the orphanage:
“See, I plan to leave you in the orphanage and exploit your abilities for my own career! If I were a better mechanic, I wouldn’t need to, but my robots are sort of crap, so you’ll fill in at my beck and call instead! Okay, better get back to your room now. I think Tuesday is Lima Bean Night!”
Silver Age Superman stories usually end with a jaunty wink. Supergirl stories end in tears!
Yep, there’s Supergirl, the second most powerful person on Earth, sitting in a lonely orphanage, watching her friends get adopted one at a time into happy families. Meanwhile, Superman’s probably off cutting the ribbon at the new Superman Museum of Wonders or flirting with mermaids or dressing Perry White up like a time-traveling medieval knight to fool Jimmy Olsen for some reason.
What a jerk.