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It's an image seared into the minds of those who read DC Comics' universe-shaking "Crisis on Infinite Earths" 20 years ago: the sight of a weeping Superman holding the body of Supergirl.
Supergirl, Superman's cousin, died in "Crisis" fighting to save the universe.
Superman's history was subsequently rewritten to make him the sole survivor of the destruction of the planet Krypton. That meant Supergirl never existed - except in the memories of longtime fans.
Now Kara Zor-El, aka Supergirl, has returned to the DC universe. She was introduced in "Superman/Batman" last year; her self-titled series launches this month.
DC introduced a couple of new Supergirls with convoluted histories over the years. This time, it is returning to the Supergirl that generations of comics fans grew up with.
"With huge respect to other attempts to bring a
new' Supergirl to life post-Crisis,' the core idea that Supergirl was his (Superman's) teenage cousin is so pure and simple that it had become part of the mythos," "Supergirl" writer Jeph Loeb said in an e-mail interview.
Superman, as even casual comics fans know, was sent off in a spaceship as the baby Kal-El to escape Krypton's impending destruction. He landed in a field in Kansas, was raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent and grew up to be the Man of Steel.
Cousin Kara was supposed to follow him in her own rocket. But before her ship could take off, it fell into a crevice and was buried under tons of rock. When Krypton exploded, a Texas-sized chunk of the planet broke away with Kara's rocket - and Kara, in suspended animation - trapped inside.
Years later, Kara has finally arrived on Earth.
Although he sticks to the familiar family ties, Loeb has tinkered a bit with the back story. The original Supergirl looked up to Superman; this one will display a more rebellious and typically teen attitude.
"A major difference between this Supergirl and your grandfather's is that our Kara came here thinking she was going to be helping a baby named Kal-El," Loeb said.
"When she arrived, that baby had grown up into an adult who happens to be the greatest hero in the universe."
As a result, expect a Supergirl with a bit of a chip on her shoulders.
"It occurred to me that this teenager isn't going to idolize her older cousin - she'll have some difficulty going to him for advice or judgment," Loeb said.
Kara will explore her relationship not just with Superman, but with Wonder Woman, the Teen Titans and other DC mainstays.
"In the first six issues, she'll encounter nearly all the DC heroes one way or another," Loeb said.
"Some will be good experiences, some really won't. Kind of like life."
Although he notes that he has spent as much time or more writing the adventures of Batman, Loeb can't seem to stay away from the Superman family.
He wrote DC's "Superman" for nearly three years before moving on to "Superman/Batman." Now that his stint on that title is winding down, he is tackling "Supergirl."
He also has been a producer and writer on TV's "Smallville," but is taking time off as he deals with the recent death of his 17-year-old son, Sam, from cancer.
Loeb also explored Superman's early days in the well-received "A Superman for All Seasons" miniseries, illustrated by frequent collaborator Tim Sale.
There are few true icons that inspire us to do the right thing, Loeb said. Superman is one.
"I guess I'm a sucker for those who wear an `S' on their chest."
(Bill Radford writes for the Colorado Gazette. Contact him at comics(AT)gazette.com.)
(c) 2005, The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.). Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.