After decades of popularity on his own, Superman was given a female counterpart in 1959 with Supergirl. Kara Zor-El, the biological cousin of Superman, had all of Superman’s powers, plus a feminine approach which made her a hit with readers. After being killed in 1985 to make Superman more unique, new versions of Supergirl came along including a shapeshifter and an Earth-bound angel, until 2004, when the Kryptonian Kara came back for real. Over the years, there has been more than one Supergirl and she’s gone through a lot of changes, but the core idea of a woman with Superman’s power remained.
Over the years, Supergirl has proven herself to be more than just a female Superman. She’s often said to be stronger and faster than Superman himself, but fans also love her iron will that matches her physical strength. She can take a beating and will never give up, but also has a vulnerability and an empathy that her male cousin lacks. Supergirl just ended her second season of her hit TV show where she’s winning new fans, so it’s a good time to look at her most challenging moments. Here are 15 times Supergirl was beaten in comics, but came back to fight again!
16. WISHED AWAY
Before Kara came along, DC had tested four other characters to be the female Superman, including when Lois Lane turned into Superwoman. In 1958, the first Supergirl injury came along, specifically in Superman #123 (Dick Sprang, Otto Binder), when Jimmy Olsen used a magic totem to wish for a “Super-Girl” to help Superman.
It didn’t work out too well, because she kept getting in Superman’s way. When she tried to protect Superman from a kryptonite meteor, she was hurt so badly that she asked Jimmy to wish her away. The story was so popular that DC made an official Supergirl in continuity. Later reprints showed her with red hair and an orange and green costume, so readers knew this wasn’t the “real” Supergirl, but she had the strength and self-sacrifice we all loved.
15. BLACK FLAME
1970’s Adventure Comics #400 (written and drawn by Mike Sekowsky) was another bad time for Supergirl, where Linda Lee Danvers (Supergirl’s alter ego) was tricked into walking into a trap by her old enemy, the Black Flame. The Black Flame had escaped the bottle city of Kandor and taken three criminals from the Phantom Zone to help set the trap. When Supergirl arrived, she was covered in kryptonite dust, leaving her knocked out and helpless.
When she woke up, she found herself in a typical 1970s deathtrap: a bowling alley with the villains rolling kryptonite bowling balls at her. When she escaped from that, she was taken down again by a leprechaun, and put in another trap with gold kryptonite and a green kryptonite spear ready to impale her. She escaped, but that’s two knockouts in one issue. Not her finest hour.
Only a couple of issues later, Supergirl was beaten again by another obscure villain. In Adventure Comics #402 (Mike Sekowsky), a crime-lord named Starfire (no relation to the Teen Titan) worked with a con man named Derek Ames to get a fortune by stealing from rich women. She wanted to branch out to world-domination, but decided she needed to get rid of the superheroes first. One of her scientists had invented a pill to take away superpowers, and Supergirl was chosen to be the target.
Derek met Supergirl at her college and took her on dates until he was able to secretly give her the power-killing pill. That’s when Starfire and her gang showed up to riddle her with bullets. With her weakened powers, she was knocked out and left for dead. She recovered, of course, but it was her heart that hurt the most.
13. SILVER BANSHEE
Silver Banshee has been a longtime enemy of Superman, ever since she was first created by John Byrne in 1987’s Action Comics #595. With her magical power to create unbearable screams, she’s been a deadly foe, but in 2010, she tangled with Supergirl… and won.
In Supergirl #48 (Sterling Gates, Jamal Igle), Supergirl found a coin that Banshee needed to lift her curse. To get it, Banshee attacked her with a sonic scream that knocked her down. Supergirl reached into a box said to hold another artifact, which allowed another banshee to take control of her. It took all her power to free herself, but she managed to escape the spirit’s control. That was just the beginning, and she and the Silver Banshee teamed up to stop the spirits.
In 2013, Supergirl #18 (Frank Hannah, Robson Rocha) brought Supergirl up against a deadly villain while she was at her weakest. In previous issues, Supergirl had been exposed to kryptonite and she still suffered from its effects, both physically and emotionally. She had been living at a space station to focus solar radiation and try to heal her, but she decided to go back to Earth.
It didn’t take long before she was attacked by Magmaid, a woman of liquid lava who had a grudge against Kryptonians. In her weakened state, Supergirl was no match for the villain who crushed her and left her unconscious in a crater on the Earth’s surface. Supergirl had learned she still had more work to do to recover, and learned it the hard way.
Supergirl and Batgirl have teamed up many times, but one memorable team-up came in 1981’s Detective Comics #508 (Gerry Conway, Don Newton), where the duo faced the Annihilator. In a previous issue, a geologist was exposed to a strange meteor that gave him a huge head and psychic powers, calling himself the Annihilator. When Supergirl attacked him, he was able to absorb her power, knocking her out.
Even with all her power, it was Supergirl who needed saving, and Batgirl was the one to do it. She used a tear-gas pellet to distract the Annihilator enough to grab her, and used Supergirl as a shield for the psychic blasts he gave off. That was enough to wake Supergirl up. The two of them retreated, but Supergirl returned to use her cold breath to beat him. Once again, she never gives up.
10. DEATHSTROKE’S TITANS
In 2011, “The Lazarus Contract” crossover brought the Titans and the Justice League up against Deathstroke, who wanted to use a Methuselah machine to save his son. Deathstroke created his own team of supervillain Titans to fight them, and the battle went down in Titans Annual #1 (Eric Wallace, Cliff Richards). Supergirl went up against three of Deathstroke’s Titans; the Tattooed Man, Osiris and Deathstroke himself.
It was a brutal but quick battle with Osiris dive-bombing her, the Tattooed Man using his magic barbed wire tattoo to snag and throw her to the ground, followed by Deathstroke carving into her with a kryptonite sword. She survived, but it turned out her blood was the last thing Deathstroke needed for the machine. As if her spilling blood wasn’t bad enough, it became a weapon for a supervillain.
9. POWER BOY
In 2007, Supergirl fell in love with a young man who had joined the Teen Titans called Power Boy. With his flight, super-strength and the power to turn emotions into energy, he was her match in body and soul… or so she thought. In Supergirl #15 (Joe Kelly, Ian Churchill), she discovered his dark side when she left him to see Captain Boomerang in the hospital.
In a fit of jealous rage, Power Boy smashed the wall of the hospital, hurled Supergirl across the city and ground her into the side of a building. She woke up to find herself in Power Boy’s lair, where he had a psycho shrine of her. She escaped and got him back, though, by dropping a building on him and kneeing him in the crotch in deep space. As the cover said, “Love hurts.”
8. LIVEWIRE AND KILLER CROC
In the video-game DC Universe Online, players join a very different world than the mainstream universe. In the game, Brainiac succeeds in conquering the world, so Lex Luthor steals his technology and goes back in time to stop him. Using nanotechnology called exobytes, random people around the world gained powers.
DC Universe Online Legends was a mini-series in 2011 based on the game, and the ninth issue was another bad time for Supergirl. Marv Wolfman, Mike S. Miller, Sergio Sandoval, Howard Porter and John Livesay contributed to the issue, where Supergirl faced supervillains who had been enhanced by the exobytes. Electric-powered villain Livewire was able to knock her down with a single blast, and Killer Croc knocked her unconscious with one punch. Those exobytes pack a wallop.
7. WONDER WOMAN
In 2013, Supergirl was going through a crossover known as “H’El on Earth” which we’ll get into more later. Here, we’ll be talking about Supergirl #17 by Mike Johnson and Mahmud Asrar, where the Maid of Might went up against Wonder Woman. The Amazon was trying to stop the Kryptonian H’El from using a machine to go back in time to save Krypton, which will destroy Earth in the process. Supergirl sided with H’El and tried to defend it.
Kara and Diana fought each other until Wonder Woman used her Lasso of Truth to hold down Supergirl and force her to see the truth about his plan. Even then, Kara unleashed a sunburst that freed her from the lasso, but left her weakened enough for Wonder Woman to throw down. Supergirl lost, but considering she was fighting to destroy Earth, that might be a good thing.
In 2009’s miniseries Superman/Supergirl Maelstrom (Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Phil Noto), Supergirl faced one of her most devastating enemies: Maelstrom. Maelstrom was a lowly member of Apokolips who dreamed of becoming the bride of Darkseid, and her plan to win his heart was by giving him Superman’s dead body. With a stolen boom tube, she went to Earth to fight the Man of Steel, but found Supergirl instead. Despite her confidence, Supergirl was beaten ruthlessly by Maelstrom. She was only saved by Superman.
Her beating was so severe that Supergirl retreated to the moon, where she thought of giving up altogether and Superman had to talk her down. Together, they trained on a red-planet world to fight and beat Maelstrom, proving nothing can crush Supergirl’s spirit.
As we mentioned earlier, H’El was a major villain of Supergirl during the “H’El on Earth” crossover, and he’s one of the most important when it comes to beating Supergirl. He’s one of the few villains who was able to bring Supergirl to his side. In 2013, Superman #14 (Scott Lobdell, Kenneth Rocafort), the Kryptonian H’El arrived on Earth, dedicated to restoring his homeworld. When Superman and Supergirl resisted him, Superman turned on her, beat her and left her hanging from a lamppost. Or so she thought. It turned out H’El had the power to create illusions, and only made Supergirl think Superman had fought her. That turned her against Superman and helped turn her to H’El’s side, almost destroying the Earth in the process.
4. LEX LUTHOR
Lex Luthor has always been known as an enemy of Superman, but he doesn’t much care for any of the Super-Family, including Supergirl. While he has no superpowers, his genius and engineering skill makes him deadly. This was clear in 2005’s Supergirl #3 (Jeph Loeb, Ian Churchill) when Supergirl tracked down Luthor in Utah. Since she had been training with the Outsiders, she felt ready to take him on.
She wasn’t as prepared as she thought, however, because Lex’s kryptonite-powered battlesuit gave him the advantage to beat her, throwing her around as he calmly told her he had arranged for them to meet all along. While Kara lay weakened on the ground, he exposed her to black kryptonite, which split her into an evil version of herself. She learned never to underestimate Lex Luthor.
If there’s another Superman villain you don’t want to mess with, it’s Darkseid. The tyrant ruler of Apokolips, Darkseid commands legions, but is more than capable of fighting Superman with his bare fists. That’s why Supergirl was already on thin ice when she magically transported to Apokolips in 1999’s Supergirl #29 (Peter David, Leonard Kirk), and it didn’t get better when she arrived to find herself the size of a gnat compared to the natives.
At the time, Supergirl was Linda Danvers, merged with the Matrix version and given powers that she used to try to rescue New God Twilight from Darkseid. It didn’t take long before she was caught. She thought she had the upper hand by beating up the Fury Stompa, but Darkseid blasted her with an Omega Beam, sending her down for the count.
The only villain who has ever killed Superman was Doomsday, a genetically engineered creature from ancient Krypton unleashed on Earth. First appearing in 1992’s Superman: The Man of Steel #18 (Louise Simonson, Jon Bogdanove), Doomsday began a rampage across the planet, smashing his way across the United States, headed for Metropolis. The Justice League tried to stop him, but were quickly defeated.
At the time, Supergirl was a protoplasmic lifeform from an alternate universe called Matrix. When Doomsday reached Metropolis in 1993’s Superman: Man of Steel #19 (Louise Simonson, Jon Bogdanove), Matrix tried to fight him, but the creature hit her so hard that she collapsed into her true gooey form. She kept her distance after that, unable to stop the monster from rampaging through the city. We don’t blame her for that loss; even Superman couldn’t stop Doomsday.
Without a doubt, Supergirl’s most devastating loss was during the epic 1985 crossover, “Crisis on Infinite Earths.” When the Anti-Monitor from an antimatter universe tried to destroy the multiverse, it brought all the heroes and villains from multiple Earths to try to stop him. It was in Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 (Marv Wolfman, Robert Greenberger, George Pérez) that Supergirl met her end.
With the Anti-Monitor using the energy of a star to merge the multiverse, Superman tried to stop the god-like being and was almost killed. Enraged, Supergirl unleashed all her strength, smashing the villain’s armor. The weakened Anti-Monitor managed to kill her, and she stayed dead for decades with others taking Kara’s place as Supergirl until she returned in 2004. There’s nothing like the real thing.
Do you think Supergirl could be beaten now? What other beatdowns did we miss? Let us know in the comments!