DC Did Not Stop Superman Cartoon From Using Supergirl’s Comic Book Costume

In the latest Comic Book Legends Revealed, learn whether DC wouldn’t allow the Superman cartoon to show Supergirl in her classic comic book costume.

Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the eight hundred and thirty-sixth installment where we examine three comic book legends and determine whether they are true or false. As usual, there will be three posts, one for each of the three legends. Click here for the first part of this installment’s legends.

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DC wouldn’t allow the producers of Superman: The Animated Series to have Supergirl wear her classic comic book costume.



One of the interesting things about adapting comic book characters into ongoing series is that there are a lot of hoops that you have to jump through to work with licensed characters. There are already plenty of things that can pop up at the last minute when you’re doing a NON-licensed series (like having to rewrite an episode of Ally McBeal from Ally marrying her boyfriend to writing the boyfriend out of the series because the actor who played the boyfriend, Robert Downey Jr., got arrested for buying drugs), but when you’re working with licensed characters things get so much more difficult, because the company that is licensing you your characters can change its mind about stuff whenever it feels like and suddenly, instead of introducing Ted Kord on Arrow, you find yourself introducing Ray Palmer instead.

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Those were the sorts of things that the producers of Superman: The Animated Series dealt with, as DC especially had some strong views about Superman, who had had his continuity rebooted a decade earlier. One of the major points in the Man of Steel reboot of 1986 was that Superman was now the only survivor of Krypton’s destruction. Gone were the days of the Man of Tomorrow running into countless other survivors of his home planet. Now he was the ONLY survivor. That didn’t really cause all that many problems, all said and done, but it did cause a major problem with one specific character, Superman’s cousin, Supergirl.

In the comic books, the solution of the early 1990s was to introduce an alien from a pocket dimension who could shape shift and the alien took on the identity of Supergirl while basing itself on Superman. By the time that Superman: The Animated Series had debuted in 1996, DC had altered Supergirl once more, and now the alien (known as Matrix) had merged with a human named Linda Danvers and the end result was mostly a human version of Supergirl with a mixture of Matrix’s powers and some possible magical abilities (as the merger occurred during a ritual sacrifice to a demon).

In any event, that restriction about Superman being the ONLY survivor of Krypton led to the creators of Superman: The Animated Series, Alan Burnett and Bruce Timm, have to be creative in how they introduced Supergirl on the series. Their solution was to establish that Supergirl didn’t come from Krypton, but a planet called Argo (a reference to Argo City, the Kryptonian city Supergirl was originally from) that had been COLONIZED by Kryptonians before it, too, was destroyed, so Kara In-Ze had the same powers as Superman without technically being from Krypton. However, the show also gave Supergirl a brand-new costume…

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As the years went by, DC eventually gave in on the whole “no other survivors of Krypton” thing and in 2004, it introduced a new version of Kara Zor-El who was from Krypton…

By this time, Supergirl had joined the Justice League in the Justice League Unlimited animated series that followed the Superman: The Animated Series and an earlier Justice League series. She wore her white costume, but in the final season of the series, after Supergirl received her own ongoing series from DC, Supergirl debuted a new version of her classic costume on the cartoon…

That led to a legend that DC wouldn’t let the animated series use Supergirl’s classic costume until it had finally brought Kara Zor-El back, which is why the cartoon didn’t debut her new costume until that point.

However, Bruce Timm dispelled those rumors on the Toonzone forums, explaining:

Sorry, but those two things are un-related. We could have put Supergirl in her “official” comics outfit at any time, if we’d wanted to. Historically, DC always PREFERS that we stay as close as possible to their “canonical” looks.

He continued:

Maybe you’re thinking of situations like the Katana/Tsukuri thing, or Katar Hol/Hro Talak or the Justice Society/Justice Guild or Black Manta/Devil-Ray , where we had to resort to dopplegangers with similar but clearly not identical designs. Not the case with Supergirl. Changing her planet of origin was the only thing we had to do to satisfy DC (fortunately!) — we put her in the “White Tee and Doc Martens” outfit just because we thought it would be fun to update her look a bit.

But yes, DC can be very tenacious about what their characters can and can’t do, what they should look like, how long or short their hair should be, their marital status, whether or not they can bleed, whether or not they can even exist (and if they CAN, which universe do they exist in) — etc. etc.

Have to admit it’s not always fun jumping through those hoops, but as I’ve said many times before, in almost every instance where the Powers That Be have said “Absolutely NOT”, we managed to find a workable compromise — and in many cases, the workaround actually turned out to be a better creative choice.

Amusingly, by the late 1990s, the Supergirl ongoing series had actually adopted the cartoon’s costume for the previous incarnation of Supergirl!

Thanks so much to Bruce Timm for the great information! And heck, just a general thanks for all of the awesome cartoons over the years!


In the latest Movie Legends Revealed – Discover the fascinating and bold request that Vin Diesel made from Universal Pictures in exchange for making his franchise-saving cameo in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.


Check back soon for part 3 of this installment’s legends!

Feel free to send suggestions for future comic legends to me at either cronb01@aol.com or brianc@cbr.com


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