Comics/Graphic Novels

Did Supergirl Really Date Her Horse?

It’s one of the better-known oddities of DC history. You see it crop up on lists of wacky comics history all the time: Back In The Silver Age, Supergirl Dated Her Horse! It’s the sort of old school zaniness with an undercurrent of tawdriness that modern readers love to chuckle over, like that one Batman story where the Joker says “boner” a few hundred times. But is it actually based on comics fact?

Well…yes and no. Yes, in the sense that Supergirl did have a romantic relationship with Comet the Super-Horse in the Silver Age. And no, in the sense that she didn’t know she was doing it, and so this is actually a story of a teenage girl being groomed and manipulated by a much (much, much) older man. Y’all, it’s creepy.

One panel from Action Comics #292. Supergirl is riding a white stallion with a big smile on her face while alien spaceships shoot rays at the city behind them. There's a Supergirl logo at the top of the panel.

Supergirl: "Super-Horse, I don't know your name, or where you came from, but you came along just in time to save me from the kryptonite rays of those enemy aliens!"
Narration Box: "Imagine it! A magnificent stallion appearing out of nowhere to flash across the sky at super-speed, a gallant charger whose iron hoofs can level mountains, whose silken hide is invulnerable to the deadliest of weapons! Impossible, you say! No such super-horse exists...yet, these are the powers of the fantastic steed fated to be Supergirl's companion as she battles against the forces of crime and evil! What is the origin of this amazing horse? How did he gain his incredible powers? What mysterious mission brings him to Supergirl's side? Even Supergirl herself is baffled by the eerie mystery of...THE SUPER-STEED OF STEEL!"
This image is so charming, it just makes me even madder that Comet ruined everything by being gross.

Comet was introduced in 1962, when the Superman franchise was going gangbusters and constantly adding more Super-characters in order to capitalize on its own popularity (Comet was the fourth Super-Pet added, after Krypto the Superdog, Streaky the Supercat, and Beppo the Supermonkey). After being teased in Adventure Comics #293 (February 1962), he was properly introduced in Action Comics #292 (September 1962).

In the story, Supergirl, in her civilian guise of Linda “Horse Girl” Danvers, attends a movie about a heroic horse. Linda is so excited by the movie she can barely sleep, and when she does, she dreams obsessively of a white stallion of her very own, with superpowers to match hers. It gets weird.

Two panels from Action Comics #292.

Panel 1: Supergirl pets a white horse as he nuzzles her face.

Narration Box: "As Linda's dream adventure nears its end..."
Supergirl: "Super-Horse, I still don't know where you came from, or even what your name is! But because of this strange mark on your back that resembles a shooting star, I'll call you Comet!"

Panel 2: Linda wakes up in bed, looking excited.

Narration Box: "The next day, as Linda awakens..."
Linda: "Now I get it! After seeing that wonder-horse in the movies last night, it was only natural that I had that weird dream! But not even the famous Firebrand could perform super-deeds like my dream horse, Comet!"
Those wide eyes are pretty alarming.

After days of obsessing over her fantasy horse, Linda goes on vacation to a dude ranch — and what should she find there but her dream horse, Comet! Not only is this wild stallion tame as a kitten for Linda and Linda only, he clearly A) has superpowers and B) knows she’s Supergirl. How can this be?

Two panels from Action Comics #292.

Panel 1: A white stallion rears, breaking the halter around his neck which is being held by a man in a maroon suit (Mace Greede). Another man in a green shirt talks to Linda, who looks astonished.

Narration Box: "Changing to her riding clothes, Linda heads for the corral, where...
Green Shirt: "That's right, miss! Mace Greede has been trying to saddle that white stallion for an hour! But it's a waste of time! Nobody's ever ridden that critter!"
Linda (thinking): "Gasp! That stallion looks exactly like Comet, the super-horse I dreamed about so often!"

Panel 2: Linda strokes the horse's face while the men watch in surprise.

Narration Box: "Eagerly, Linda approaches the corral, and amazingly..."
Mace: "Well, I'll be! That crazy critter won't let anyone near him, yet he's as gentle as a kitten with that girl! It's almost as if he knows her!"
Linda (thinking): "Greede is right! For some reason, I'd almost swear this horse recognizes me!"

The incredibly convoluted explanation is given in the next issue, #293. See, Comet is actually an ancient Grecian centaur named Biron. One day, centuries ago, he saved the witch Circe from the evil wizard Maldor (you know how ancient Greece was full of…wizards…). In gratitude, Circe offered her a boon, and Biron asked her to turn him human. However, Maldor switched the vials, and she turned him into a horse instead. Womp womp.

Two panels from Action Comics #293.

Panel 1: Circe hands Biron a vial.

Narration Box: "For days she mixed her herbs and magic potions. Then, at last..."
Circe: "This is my greatest achievement as a sorceress! One vial contains an elixir that would turn you into a horse! This one will turn you into a man! Drink, Biron!"
Biron: "Circe! How can I thank you for making my dearest wish come true?"

Panel 2: Biron's face elongates into a horse's face, to the horror of both him and Circe.

Narration Box: "As the brew touched my lips I felt a change come over me...but to my horror!"
Biron: "Something's happening! My's changing! Growing longer, heavier!"
Circe: "Gasp! I gave him the wrong potion! No! No!"
“A llama? He’s supposed to be dead!”

Circe tried to make it up to Biron by giving him the powers of the gods, including the, uh, telepathy of Neptune, because apparently that’s a thing, at least to people who can’t tell the difference between Greek and Roman gods. Maldor, furious that his revenge had been thwarted, banished Biron to an asteroid in the constellation Sagittarius. Even though constellations aren’t made of asteroids. This origin is exhausting.

Two panels from Action Comics #293.

Panel 1: Linda, in western clothes, talks to Comet.

Narration Box: "As Linda interrupts Comet's telepathic tale..."
Linda: "Comet! This is incredible! I was that girl inside the rocket! My parents had launched me toward Earth just before Argo City perished! It was the last surviving fragment of the shattered planet, Kryton!"
Comet: "Yes! You were rocketing toward your future destiny as Supergirl! It was that rocket that gave me my freedom!"

Panel 2: A rocket speeds past an asteroid, and Comet leaps away from the asteroid.

Comet's narration: "Your rocket was equipped with repeller rays designed to destroy any meteor that might approach! When those rays struck my asteroid prison..."
Comet: "The force of those repeller rays shattered the magic aura that imprisoned me! I'm free! Free!"
Well, this might as well happen.

There Biron waited, immortal thanks to Circe, until Supergirl’s rocket passed by his asteroid centuries later and somehow broke the spell. He tracked his benefactor down and…well. Just watched her from a distance. And sent her dreams about himself to prime her for their meeting so that she would love him. He justifies it by saying that he just happens to know about an imminent alien attack on Earth and he needed her to trust him so that they could stop the aliens together, but come on. This is just telepathic grooming and it’s weird and gross.

But where does the dating come in, you ask? Well, in issue #301, Supergirl and Comet go on a mission to “Zerox, the sorcerers’ planet” (amazing). I’m not going to get into the ludicrous situation they fly into the middle of, but the short version is that they do a favor for the planet’s ruler, Prince Endor, and in gratitude, he enchants Comet to temporarily turn into a human whenever a comet is nearby. Also, there’s a whole thing where an evil wizard (again with the evil wizards!) attempts to trick Supergirl into drinking a potion that will turn her into a golden statue, but Comet saves her just in time, and catches her as she swoons. (Yes, she’s an invulnerable Kryptonian superbeing, but it’s the Silver Age and she’s a girl, so she’s still forced to swoon in the face of alarming situations. Sigh.)

Four panels from Action Comics #301.

Panel 1: Supergirl reels back as an arrow strikes the cup she was holding, sending its contents splashing over Lord Nomed and turning him to gold.

Narration Box: "An instant later..."
Supergirl: "Gasp! An arrow knocked the cup out of my hand!"
Nomed: "The potion splashed all over me! I'm turning into gold! Oh, no!"

Panel 2: Supergirl backs away from the golden statue in horror as Comet comes running in in human form.

Narration Box: "In the next incredible moment..."
Supergirl: "That liquid turned Lord Nomed into a golden statue! Choke! If I had tasted even a drop of it...ooohhh!"
Comet (thinking): "The shock made Supergirl faint! I'd better see if she needs help!"

Panel 3: Comet holds a swooning Supergirl, his image foggy.

Narration Box: "As her senses reel, Supergirl sees a misty face above her..."
Comet: "Supergirl! Are you all right?"
Supergirl: "Everything went black -- feeling better now...who are you!"

Panel 4: Supergirl is helped off the ground by Prince Endor.

Narration Box: "But as Supergirl comes to..."
Supergirl: "That handsome man who was just here, Prince Endor! Who was he?"
Prince Endor: " archer! He had to leave! It was his arrow that saved your life, Supergirl!"
I want to know more about Prince Endor and his hipster beard.

Supergirl and Comet return to Earth, where a comet passes by almost immediately, turning Comet temporarily human again. He decides to get a job at a rodeo because why not, taking the name “Bronco Bill.”

Meanwhile, Supergirl shows up at the rodeo looking for her horse, and instead finds a man who strangely resembles both the archer who saved her life on Zerox and her horse. How weird! Anyway the rodeo makes them kiss, which seems weird to me but I’m no centaur-turned-horse-turned-human, so what do I know?

Four panels from Action Comics #301.

Panel 1: Supergirl points to Bronco Bill's back, bared by his shirt being torn.

Supergirl: "Wait! Where did you get that strange mark on your back? It looks just like a comet!"
Supergirl (thinking): "It's exactly the same mark Super-Horse has on his back! What a weird coincidence!"
Comet: "Oh, that's just a birthmark, Supergirl!"

Panel 2: The rodeo owner approaches Supergirl and Bronco Bill as two rodeo employees lead a bull out of the pen they're standing in.

Narration Box: "Just then..."
Rodeo Owner: "Bronco Bill...for your spectacular performances, you are hereby named King of the Rodeo! ...And Supergirl, for your amazing super-deed in stopping that bull, we're naming you Queen!"
Supergirl: "Thank you!"

Panel 3: Bronco Bill and Supergirl kiss.

Narration Box: "Soon, as flashbulbs flare, king and queen kiss for the cameras.
Supergirl (thinking): "Odd! Bronco Bill strangely resembles that archer who saved my life on Zerox! But of course, he couldn't possibly be the same man!"
Bronco Bill (thinking): "Chuckle! I wonder what Supergirl would say if she knew who I really was!"

Panel 4: Supergirl prepares to fly away, while Bronco Bill watches.

Narration Box: "Presently, as Supergirl streaks off into the night..."
Supergirl (thinking): "Groan! I guess Lena's ESP powers slipped this time! Super-Horse isn't at the rodeo! I'll have to keep looking for him!"
Bronco Bill (thinking): "Supergirl never spotted me! I could have told her who I was, but I wanted to keep my other identity secret! It could help me in my super-tasks some day!"
That little chuckle is so gross. “I wonder what Supergirl would say if she was kissing me with informed consent! Chuckle!” The excuse for not telling her is also tissue-thin.

And that becomes our status quo for the rest of the Silver Age — Comet skulks horsily in the background of Supergirl’s life, occasionally turning human and messing with her, and we’re all just supposed to think this is…normal? Romantic? Unclear. (In one particularly tasteless story, he dons a turban to convince her that he’s a mystical fortuneteller, so we can add cultural appropriation to his tab.)

One panel from Action Comics #311. Bronco Bill and Linda, both dressed in western gear, kiss in front of a waterfall. She has a thought balloon of Supergirl by her head, and he has one of Comet. There is a Supergirl logo at the top of the panel.

Linda: "Bill, my dearest! I love you!"
Linda (thinking): "He's the man of my dreams! Some day soon I'll have to tell him my secret identity!"
Bronco Bill: "Linda, how I've dreamed of this moment!"
Bronco Bill (thinking): "I wonder how she'll react when she discovers who I really am!?"
Narration Box: "As Supergirl's frequent companion in her adventures, Comet, the Super-Horse, has always shown deep devotion for the Maid of Steel! But one day a mystic spell works a wondrous change on the Stallion of Steel, transforming him into a mortal! And on that day loyalty and affection turn to love...the love of a man for a beautiful girl! That's just the beginning of the weird chain of events that occur on -- THE DAY SUPER-HORSE BECAME HUMAN!"
That “one little fist flailing in the air” is a really common Silver Age kiss pose and I don’t know why.

The “romance” reaches it zenith — or nadir — in #311, when Comet, overcome by his longing for Supergirl, time travels back to the past to ask Circe to try again to turn him human permanently. She agrees, giving him a potion that will turn him into a man once he returns to the 1960s.

Comet returns to the present, where he’s immediately dumped into a convoluted adventure where he suddenly gets horse amnesia, becomes an outlaw’s horse, turns human, remembers everything, borrows the outlaw’s clothes because he was obviously naked as a horse, is mistaken for the outlaw, flees from a posse, and eventually regains his Bronco Bill identity just in time to conveniently run into Linda Danvers on a school trip out west with some classmates. Whew!

Three panels from Action Comics #311.

Panel 1: Bronco Bill takes Linda's hand as they stand on a ledge on the side of a mountain.

Narration Box: "As Linda is hauled to safety..."
Bronco Bill: "Glad I was able to help you, miss! I'm 'Bronco Bill' Starr!"
Bronco Bill (thinking): "That's the name I used last time I was a human!"
Linda (thinking): "'Bronco Bill!' I met him once before, as Supergirl! But if I reveal that, I'll expose my secret identity!"
Linda: "You saved my life! I'd like to thank you...with a kiss!"

Panel 2: Bronco Bill and Linda kiss.

Narration Box: "'Bronco Bill's' reward revives old memories..."
Linda (thinking): "He doesn't know it, but I kissed him that time we met, too!"*
Bronco Bill (thinking): "How I love her! Wonder what she'd say if I told her I remember her kissing me once before in her Supergirl identity!"
Caption: *"See Action Comics No. 301. - Editor"

Panel 3: Bronco Bill speaks to Linda and her three friends.

Bronco Bill: "These mountain trails are dangerous! Could you use me as a guide?"
Bronco Bill (thinking): "As Super-Horse, I roamed this area when I first came to Earth!"
Linda: "The guide we hired took sick, so the job is yours, Bill!"
Linda (thinking): "He's so ruggedly handsome! Sigh!"
The thought-ballooning in these panels is WILDLY out of control.

An aggressively whirlwind romance ensues, which I guess her classmates just think is normal? I mean, issue #309 has Linda almost marrying her substitute teacher, so clearly age of consent wasn’t a concern for anyone in these stories. But she’s 16 and Bronco Bill is clearly an adult, so this is all pretty horrifying even without him being thousands of years old and telepathically manipulating her.

Sadly for Bill (but not for us), all that nonsense from before pays off with Supergirl becoming convinced that he’s really an outlaw and trying to arrest him, only to be thwarted by stumbling upon some kryptonite. Comet cries out to Circe for help, reaching her through her crystal ball (you know, like ancient Greeks had), and she transforms him back into Super-Horse so that he can save Supergirl from the kryptonite. The real outlaw is then arrested, and Supergirl is heartbroken that she chased Bronco Bill away with her accusations. Comet, of course, says nothing.

Comet continued to have adventures with Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Pets for the next couple of decades, although his appearances became rarer as comics grew more serious in the ’70s. He was retconned out of continuity, along with Kara Zor-El herself, by Crisis on Infinite Earths. A post-Crisis version of Comet was introduced in the 1996 Supergirl series, but this character is very different: a jockey named Andrew Jones was trampled by horses and rebuilt with equine DNA by a sketchy organization called the Stable, only to die trying to rescue a suicidal lesbian stand-up comedian named Andrea Martinez from an avalanche, causing them to merge into the Earth Angel of Love, a cosmic being with the powers of speed, flight, ice, and giving Supergirl a sexual identity crisis. You know, like you do. This version was also retconned out eventually, and since then Comet has been relegated mostly to non-speaking Easter egg roles, most recently in the current Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow miniseries.

And yet that old “Supergirl dated her horse!” chestnut keeps being trotted out (horse pun intended). I’m not really mad at these 60 year old comics for being weird and creepy — such is the nature of the Silver Age. What bothers me is how this story of a teenage girl being groomed, manipulated, and lied to by a trusted adult is repeatedly referenced as a joke — and the joke is always on Supergirl. I know we’re talking about silly comics about a cartoon horse here, but this is hardly the only example of our culture creating a story about a young girl being oversexed and perverse when she’s actually a victim.

I love the Silver Age, and I clearly love making fun of the Silver Age. But let’s make sure our punchlines land where they should, yeah?

One panel from Action Comics #311. Underwater, Supergirl kisses the merboy Jerro. Comet and the mermaid Lori are in the background.

Narration Box: "Comet's memories are interrupted as Lori and Jerro appear..."
Supergirl (telepathically): "Thank you! This kiss is for you, Jerro!"
Comet (thinking): "Supergirl doesn't know it, but she kissed me like that once!"