This is "Just Like the Time Before," a new feature where I examine instances from comic book history where comic book creators did early versions of later, notable comic book characters and plot ideas. Essentially, the "test runs" for later, more famous characters and stories.
We begin with the introduction of the "first" Supergirl!
In early 1959, Action Comics #252 was released. Interestingly enough, the first story in the comic book was, in and of itself, a notable story. It introduced a long-running Superman foe, John Corben, who is also known as Metallo. Corben, you see, was a criminal who died in a car accident and was brought back to life in a robot body that is powered by uranium. So Corben has to make sure he can get his robot hands on that stuff to power his body. However, he learns that Kryptonite can ALSO power him and that gives him a big edge when Superman comes a-calling, as now he can just open up his body and expose the Man of Steel to the one thing that can kill him!
Anyhow, after a Congo Bill (who, by this time, had transformed into Congorilla, where long-running jungle adventurer Congo Bill discovered that he could transfer his mind into the body of a giant gorilla known as Congorilla. It might sound like a silly concept, but that reboot is what allowed this feature to last in Action Comics when every other feature from the early days of Action Comics as an anthology were dropped).
Finally, the third main feature in this issue is "The Girl From Krypton," by Otto Binder and Al Plastino, which introduced Superman's cousin from Krypton, Kara!
I swear, I will never get over how Al Plastino draws Supergirl in this story. This is a brand-new character, the audience has to like her and so he makes her so damn cute that how could you possibly not be pulling for this lady? In any event, by the end of the story, Superman has set up Supergirl at an orphanage under the fake name of Linda Lee. He makes her promise him that she will keep her existence on Earth a secret. This has always been a really weird plot point for me, as while we have always known that Superman is one of those dudes who thinks that any idea that he has is automatically the best ideas, it is still strange to me that he is so adamant about her keeping her identity a secret. After he eventually lets her come clean to the rest of the world, it is not like her being known by everyone else diminished her ability as a crimefighter.
The Supergirl character was a big hit with fans and she was soon given her own back-up feature in the pages of Action Comics, where she would share the book with Superman for the next DECADE, appearing from Action Comics #253 through Action Comics #376!
So she certainly worked as a character. What's interesting is that Otto Binder had done a test run for the character less than a year earlier!