CBS has begun production on the pilot episode of their live-action Supergirl series, starring Melissa Benoist as the Kryptonian powerhouse. Presumably set to debut in 2015 (though this hasn’t been confirmed), the series also features Mechad Brooks as Jimmy Olsen, Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant, Chyler Lee as Kara’s foster sister, and Laura Benanti as Kara’s biological mother. Dean Cain, who portrayed Clark Kent/Superman in the 90s tv series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, is set to appear on the show as well, though what role he will play is currently unknown. Former Supergirl herself, Helen Slater, will also appear on the show (like Cain, her role is unknown).
Coinciding with the beginning of production on the show, CBS has released an image of Benoist in full costume:
I think the costume is nice. Gone are the garish bright colors worn by Helen Slater in 1984, replaced by muted blue and red color scheme reminiscent of the costume worn by Henry Cavill in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. While the brighter colors can and do work in comic books, here in the real world such colors look silly and make it that much harder to take the character seriously (which is one of the reasons the creators of FOX’s X-Men chose to put the mutants in black leather rather than yellow spandex). I also like the textured look to it. Like Cavill’s costume, the Supergirl suit looks like real-world fabric that people wear, rather than spandex that functions as little more than a second skin. Another thing I appreciate? The suit, designed by Academy Award winning costume designer Colleen Atwood, is clearly influenced by more than Snyder’s Superman costume. Atwood’s design incorporates elements of Supergirl’s classic costume:
as well as her current one (which I am not a fan of):
So yeah, I think the Supergirl costume is nice. I was curious to see what it would look like and I’m satisfied.
Her costume isn’t the only thing I’m curious about. I want to know more about who this version of Supergirl is. Sure, we know she’s Superman’s cousin from Krypton and she has all his powers and she’s a superhero who fights for truth, justice, and the USAmerican way. But who is she? What hopes does she have? What are her fears? Does she have personal aspirations? Who are her friends and what traits does she share in common with them? How does she differ from them? What is she passionate about? What are her hobbies? What brings her joy? How close is she to her foster family? Does she have an opinion about immigration or the foster care system? These questions aren’t asked in the hopes that CBS will issue a press release offering answers (obviously, exploring her character is best left for the show itself). Those questions are merely examples of how to explore and develop Kara’s character. We know that as a derivative character, she is defined in some part by her relationship to Superman. For all that though, she is still her own person, and needs to be defined by her thoughts, beliefs, and actions. She doesn’t need to be further defined by her relationship to Kal-El. I hope the shows creators understand this and I look forward to seeing her character fleshed out and brought to life.
Whatever plans CBS has in store for Benoist and the Supergirl series (which they’ve given a series commitment to), I want to offer them a piece of advice-the 1984 Supergirl movie made many missteps, and this is one of them:
Superman’s debut was powerful. It was majestic. It was in keeping with his larger than life stature. None of that can be said about Kara’s debut in the 1984 movie. She didn’t get to save a civilian, prevent a tragedy, or fight a fire. The writers could have chosen any number of ways to introduce Supergirl to the people of Earth (and vice-versa). They had endless options available to showcase her powers. Instead, she got to fend off sexual harassment*. I hope all those involved in CBS’ Supergirl series give her debut the proper grandeur it deserves.
*I’m not arguing that the Supergirl movie writers shouldn’t have addressed sexual harassment**. I’m arguing that they should have had Supergirl debut in a heroic manner similar to how Superman debuted in the 1978 movie.
**Though in all honesty, they didn’t address it. Supergirl was sexually harassed and fought off her attackers. That’s it. There was no follow-up. There was no thoughtful examination of the causes of sexual harassment or the steps society should take to stop it. Plus the scene contributed little to the rest of the movie.