With five seasons to its name, the Supergirl television series continues to be a great showcase for a character once maligned in a feature film and killed in the comics. Not simply another character with a red cape who came from Krypton, Kara Danvers (no relation to Carol, one assumes) has charted her own course in the DC universe and, more recently and famously, into the Arrowverse as well.
Though production of the series has been halted this season due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, there’s still plenty for fans to chew on. Now might be a good time to go back and take a look at where the television version of Supergirl differs from the comic book one. Let’s see!
10 INACCURATE: She’s Not Dead
So Supergirl’s comic book history is complicated. Really complicated. DC, in general, gets complicated and that’s where Supergirl became a casualty in the landmark 1985 mini-series Crisis On Infinite Earths.
At the time, the character was seen as redundant and not particularly interesting. So to revitalize Superman and make him more unique, DC executive editor Dick Giordano had her killed. Almost twenty years would pass before Kara Zor-El made her way back into the comics.
9 ACCURATE: Kara & Kal Are Cousins
In the show and in the comic, Kal-El and Kara Zor-El are biological cousins. Kara’s father is Zor-El, the younger brother of Kal’s father, Jor-El. Zor-El was a scientist on Krypton and supportive of his brother’s warnings that the planet was doomed. This ultimately led he and his wife Alura to send Kara away like Kal-El.
Depending on where a reader stands in terms of continuity, Zor-El is either a benevolent figure who did everything to help his family or a resentful sibling who later becomes Cyborg Superman. Pretty hard switch, but that’s reboots in a nutshell.
8 INACCURATE: Argo City
This one is another aspect of the character’s history that depends a great deal on what era and continuity is being discussed. Supergirl’s origin differs pretty heavily between the show and her early comic book roots.
In the show, Mellisa Benoist’s Supergirl leaves directly from Krypton. In the comics, this is true, but only kind of: she and her parents live in Argo City. The city survives the death of Krypton (though the insurance rates probably didn’t improve) and it’s only later that Kara leaves the city for Earth and her cousin Kal.
7 ACCURATE: Costume
Any superhero costume from the comics undergoes some changes in adaptation for film or television (comic book costumes tend not to be… practical) and that’s true of Supergirl. But by and large, her initial costume on the series stuck pretty close to the core idea (minus the hot pants).
Kara’s look echoes her cousin’s pretty closely except for the skirt, and all those elements were represented in the initial Melissa Benoist costume. The red cape, skirt, and iconic crest made it in, giving her an immediately recognizable if not entirely pragmatic look.
6 INACCURATE: The Orphanage
Comic book Kara, at least the original Golden Age version, hailed from Argo City. When she arrives on Earth, she doesn’t luck out the way Kal-El did with the Kents. Instead, she winds up in the Midvale Orphanage. Kara grows up there and only later connects with her cousin, who’s now grown up and just super.
In the television series, Kara is taken in by a loving family like her cousin, but there are some notable differences there as well, which further distance the comic and television versions (more on that later).
5 ACCURATE: Powers
The show departs from the complex history of Kara Zor-El in many ways, but one area it remains faithful to is her powerset. Like her cousin, Kara draws her superhuman abilities from the rays of Earth’s yellow sun. She can fly, is super strong, durable (that’s putting it mildly), and incredibly fast.
Also like Superman, she has X-ray vision, freeze breath, and heightened senses. Depending on which version of Supergirl under discussion (there have been numerous in mainline continuity and otherwise), she also features unusual powers like intangibility and a supersonic voice.
4 INACCURATE: Alex Danvers & Supergirl’s Family Life
In the comics, Kara grew up in an orphanage (though later versions of her had her trapped in an asteroid or lands in Siberia) and never had the adoptive family Kal-El did. In the show she does, and with that comes her adoptive sister, Alex.
One of the best things about the series is the dynamic between Kara and Alex, a protective older sister whose need to look out for others often comes at the expense of her own needs. Their relationship forms the heart of the show and provides Kara dimensions she has never had in the comic books.
3 ACCURATE: DC Rebirth
The DC Rebirth version of Kara mostly closely resembles that of the television series, primarily because it debuted almost right after the show aired. Taking some cues from the popular adaptation and translating them back into the comics, the Rebirth Kara now works for CATCO and lives in National City as well.
Her classic costume also echoes the television version pretty much wholesale, including the fingerless gloves. One difference unexplored in the series however is Rebirth Kara owns a pair of glasses that darken her hair to help protect her identity. Now those are some nice glasses!
2 INACCURATE: There’s No Legion of Super-Heroes (Yet)
While Supergirl has crossed over (a lot) with the other members of the Arrowverse on television, she’s yet to team up with a major component of her comic book past: the Legion of Super-Heroes. After being Kal-El’s ‘secret weapon’ for a while (really, did he just not want anyone getting the credit?) she teams up with the Legion in the ’70s.
Supergirl found her way on the team after Superboy, their initial leader, was phased out and the team was gradually developed into a group of time travelers from the 30th century. DC currently has no plans for a live-action version of the Legion, but that’s not to say it’s impossible.
1 ACCURATE: Fighting Side By Side With Kal-El
While it took some time, Kara eventually does join forces with her cousin Kal-El on the television show. For the first few years of the series, Superman was only referenced, perhaps due to some rights issues.
That’s all been resolved and not only has the character been featured on the show – in multiple iterations! – he’s getting his own series. Not a secret weapon or a carbon copy, Supergirl is Superman’s equal in every way and together they’ll fight whatever crossover the CW throws at them next.
Melissa Benoist's performance as Supergirl has been widely praised by fans, but even she got some things about the character wrong