This post originally appeared on Panels, which is now Book Riot Comics
DC, let’s talk.
Supergirl is premiering on CBS on October 26th and Rao knows I’m stoked. I’m a huge Supergirl fan and am thrilled that she’s getting such a prominent vehicle – and not just that, but that the show seems to be pretty much everything her fans could have hoped and dreamed. I’ve been talking the show and the character up like crazy. Seriously, CBS should be sending me a cut, I’ve been hand-selling this show so aggressively.
Since I basically never shut up about my love of Supergirl, people have already started asking me where to start reading Supergirl comics. Naturally, I drew up a primer, but here’s the embarrassing part, DC: I always have to end it with “She doesn’t have a current comic book.”
And I mean embarrassing for you. Not me.
Supergirl is a character with a 56-year-old history. She is one of the most recognizable female superheroes in existence, just after Wonder Woman, despite the fact that her biggest non-comics showcase was a flop of a movie in 1984. She has starred in a monthly comic book almost without a break since 1996 and I’m pretty sure if you walked into a Target right now you could find like four T-shirts for little girls with her logo on them.
But for some inexplicable reason, she is not currently appearing in a comic book.
The Supergirl book that started in 2011 was one of the overlooked gems of the New 52. Despite battling a revolving door of creators and constantly being thrown into confusing Super-crossovers, the series gave us a smart, heroic Kara whose grief over her lost planet and desire to find a new place to belong were moving and relatable. It went out on a high note with the delightful “Crucible” arc by Mike Johnson, Kate Perkins, and Emanuela Lupacchino – only to be canceled in the lead-up to Convergence. When DC announced their new, diverse slate of DC You titles, full of female leads, Supergirl didn’t make the cut.
Wait, you guys said at the time. We’ll definitely announce something closer to the show’s premiere.
So I waited. After all, the Flash has two comics, a main universe one and a TV tie-in. So does Green Arrow. Constantine got a DC You book despite his show’s cancellation, and we’re certainly not hurting for books about Bruce Wayne.
But it’s October, and we’ve gotten solicits for all DC titles through the end of the year, which means that if a Supergirl book is in the works, it won’t be out until January at the earliest.
I’ve gotten the impression, hinted at by DC folks, that they’re waiting to see if the show is going to be a success before launching a new book, because they might want to soft-reboot Kara’s status quo in the comics to more closely match the TV version. There’s two issues there:
1. That’s what a TV tie-in comic is for. The main DCU’s Oliver Queen is not going by just “the Arrow” and he still calls Star City home, not Starling. Sure, the general vibe [insert Cisco joke here] is probably closer to Arrow than it used to be, but it’s not like they stopped everything they were doing just in case the show took off.
2. The show is already getting great buzz. Yes, I know it hasn’t premiered yet, but CBS’s marketing department is hurling their weight behind it, and people are responding. The trailer generated tons of excitement, as did the leaked pilot. Pictures of star Melissa Benoist with little girls went viral, which just goes to show how hungry people are for a joyful, positive show about a female hero – a show that, not incidentally, CBS is making it clear is aimed squarely at young women and girls.
And that’s kind of the Super-elephant in the room here, because there’s only one thing that differentiates this character from all of the other DC characters who have TV shows right now. DC’s got a lot of great female-led books right now, but the public perception of how they treat female characters and fans has been an issue for them for a long time – particularly in the Super-books, where Lois and Wonder Woman have not been handled especially well recently. The complete failure to get behind Supergirl and her new show with a solid book (or two! because there should be a main universe book and a TV tie-in) doesn’t help that perception. It makes it look like DC doesn’t have faith in this character, or in her explicit audience of young, female readers and viewers. That’s…not a great look for DC.
On the other hand, DC has an opportunity here to grab an even larger share of the market they’re pulling in with books like Batgirl and Gotham Academy. Put out a couple of books in line with the peppy tone of the show, keep the main universe Supergirl a teenager to appeal to that younger audience, get the trades out fast and at a nice low price point like $9.99, and pop an ad for them in the show’s credits and on the CBS website. Bam! Lock in enough 12-year-old girls off of this show on a book that appeals to them and you’ve got a new bumper crop of fans for life.
And seriously, even if the show bombs? (Unlikely, but possible.) All that means is that we’ve got a regular Supergirl book on the stands, as we have since 1996. It’s hardly an unprecedented risk.
So DC, it’s time to get the lead out. Stop half-assing it by re-releasing the first issue of the 2011 series and calling it new. Get some great (and ideally female) creators on these books and make a big, Super deal of them. Because when the show takes off, all those months without a Supergirl book will look like money you left on the table because you’re scared of a teenage girl.
And I believe you can be so much better than that. The S means “hope,” after all.