Crisis on Infinite Earths house ad
Featured in this house ad is the infamous cover of Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 (1985) - a.k.a the issue where Supergirl dies. Unlike previous marketing gimmicks in which a lifeless hero is displayed on the cover of a comic book only to be revealed at the end of the issue that it was all an elaborate ruse and the hero never died, Supergirl actually dies in this issue.
Supergirl was created by Otto Binder and Al Plastino, and first appeared in Action Comics #252 (1959). The goal was to create a female counterpart to Superman that could appeal to the young female demographic. The first appearance of Supergirl was a big hit and received TONS of fan mail, thus Supergirl became a recurring character. Over time she became a MAJOR part of the Superman mythos (see: Superman Family) and was featured in animation, television, a self-titled comic book series and her own film. So basically, she was heavily integrated into DC’s marketing/merchandising plan.
The original idea to kill off Supergirl came from Marv Wolfman and was further supported by executive editor Dick Giordano. Giordano argued that an iconic character would have to die in order for Crisis on Infinite Earths to be taken seriously. He also allegedly claimed that Supergirl was little more than "Superman with boobs" and that she really had no reason to be in the DC universe. Wolfman also added that Supergirl was detracting attention from Superman (Superman is supposed to be the LAST survivor of Krypton), she was an uninteresting character and that the Daring New Adventures of Supergirl was due for cancellation due to dwindling sales*. While they liked the idea of Crisis on Infinite Earths, Jenette Kahn (president of DC comics) and Paul Levitz were hesitant about killing Supergirl - mainly because a Supergirl film was scheduled for release in several months (1984). To make a long story short: after the Supergirl film flopped at the box office, DC decided to go ahead and give the ‘okay’ to kill Supergirl.
Paul Levitz, then-writer of Legion of Super-Heroes and DC comics chief, was not so keen on Supergirl being done away with. Prior to the Crisis, Supergirl was a recurring member of the Legion of Super-Heroes and was tied in deep with Legion history. Levitz actually went so far as to concoct a plan to get Supergirl back into the the Legion of Super-Heroes after her death (see: Sensor Girl), but had to shut the plan down after Jenette Kahn was adamant about Supergirl staying dead.
The death of Supergirl was a pretty big deal - I’m sure Supergirl starring in her own film one year prior had something to do with it - and various national new outlets (ex: USA Today, CNN) covered the story. Keep in mind, this was 1985, and it was very rare for any media outlet to cover anything ‘comic book related’, so this must’ve been something pretty significant.
The demise of Supergirl was planned for a year in advance before the issue was actually published. Somehow the surprise was leaked out and a few comic industry men were “in the know”, but for the most part the fan base was kept in the dark and surprised by the death of Supergirl. With the exception of a few livid Supergirl fans, comic fandom reacted pretty agreeably to the death of Supergirl. I think they were more in agreement with the streamlining of DC’s continuity than the death of any particularly character, per se. Supergirl gets a really nice send-off in Crisis on Infinite Earths #7, as she bravely sacrifices her life to save the multiverse.Supergirl gets a lot of “screen time” in this issue (as she should). Yes, quite a few characters kicked the bucket in the Crisis on Infinite Earths maxi-series, but few had the relevance or importance of Supergirl.
It’s a common fact that no really marketable comic book characters ever stay dead, they always return in one form or another. Supergirl was no exception, as she returned in 1988’s Superman v2 #16. The DC editorial board wanted post-Crisis Superman to be the LAST surviving Kryptonian, so this new Supergirl was not a Kryptonian and had no relation to Superman.
Crisis On Infinite Earths #7 was a double-sized issue written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by George Perez. The whole maxi-series is excellent and this particular issue was no exception. Aesthetically speaking, I always liked the 1980s Supergirl. This version was affectionately known as the ‘Olivia Newton-John version’ (a homage to the "Physical" music video).
*Actually, after her series was cancelled in 1984 she was scheduled to appear in a new series co-starring Superboy, but that idea never materialized.
For your enjoyment:
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- firestormfan said: Great write up! I collected a couple DC Comics in 1984/1985. The death of Supergirl was the first CRISIS issue I bought. That opened my eyes to the larger DC universe, I started picking up more books, and I’ve been hooked ever since!
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