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Sunday, December 28, 2014 

Bob Wayne's one-dimensional view of Supergirl

Sometimes you find interesting tidbits about history right in the comments section of some websites. Here, it was a topic on Comics Should Be Good from 2007 about the fate of Kara Zor-El, explaining how, before the failed movie Alex and Ilya Salkind produced in 1984, DC decided to kill off Supergirl, not so much because they wanted to put her down as a creation, but rather, because they wanted to make Superman more "unique", a notion that strikes me as ridiculous. As explained by Brian Cronin, contrary to some earlier rumors the editors were going to go through with it even if the movie was a success, it turned out they had been ready to reconsider until the film's catastrophe solidified their decision to get rid of Kara at the time. But, more eye-opening was a commentor's revelation about DC executive Bob Wayne and what he said about the Maid of Might nearly 3 decades back:
…Actually, I’m strongly dubious about Marv’s recollections of this particular character death, and here’s why: back around the time the Supergirl movie came out, I was working for the local college rag, and because of my vast knowledge of comic books I got drafted to go review the film. I wound up being only one of about 10 people in the theater on the opening night, and one of them was a colleague who wrote movie reviews for the local professional birdcage liner. We spent that evening getting drunk off the booze we’d smuggled in to mix with our overpriced sodas – he brought rum, I brought vodka, and we shared just to make sure we could make it through what, according to all rumors, was going to be the biggest flop of the year.

…Right about the time Crisis was announced, and the leak came out that Supergirl was going to take the long dirt nap, I got a call from that fellow reporter, who’d let me in on a conversation he’d had with Bob Wayne, who confirmed not an hour earlier that the sole reason she was getting killed off was that the movie proved she sucked as a character. Prior to that, they were ready for a major push on the character, giving her a new solo title, and promoting the hell out of her in hopes of making her a major player in the DCU once and for all. But the movie proved that she wasn’t worth the effort, so they simply killed her off.

…So, if they were going to kill her off all along, why the plans to give her a new push?
While the page scan Cronin posted from a history book about the making of Crisis on Infinite Earths is evidence enough to prove they decided to go ahead primarily based on their intention of retconning the DCU, Wayne's comments, if factual, are the real eyebrow-raiser here. What kind of a brainless buffoon was he anyway, basing his opinion entirely on a movie's performance at the box office instead of the talents any professional writer could bring to the table? It's the mind of a man who was likely never happy working in his job to start with, and further compounds my theory there's quite a few people working in comicdom who aren't happy. I wonder if he would've had the guts to say that in front of Otto Binder, Curt Swan and Al Plastino? It makes no difference what they thought of their 1958 creation, Wayne's comment, if recalled accurately by the commentor, was an insult to the 3 of them, and Wayne's probably never apologized for being so incredibly stupid. What are the chances he'd say the same about Superman after the third movie from 1983 flopped? I figure that's where he'd draw a line, and take the polar opposite approach, because, in the minds of men like him, only Superman is valuable, whereas Supergirl is not.

It's a shame some of the people involved had so little faith in the company's spinoff creations, they'd restrict their creativity so badly, and made any reconsideration contingent on the movie's performance at the box office, and were perfectly willing to sacrifice Kara's 1982-84 solo book too. From what I know, the writers at the time made significant improvements in Kara's characterization over what writers of the previous volume from 1972-74 used. In the earlier volume, there were a few times when Kara sobbed over a failed relationship - obviously not a very inspiring characteristic, and must've alienated some audience - but when the 1982-84 volume was launched, the writers wisely avoided this misguided direction. I also thought the idea she'd wear a headband as a tribute to a custom her late fellow Kryptonians had was neat, and brings to mind the spandex clad dance classes of the early 80s.

And I sometimes wonder: what would've happened if the Supergirl movie hadn't done so poorly? My guess is that, even if Kara was erased in the Crisis, they'd be more open to her return as the "last daughter of Krypton", with some alterations to her background but otherwise, they'd allow room for more than one descendant of a destroyed planet. And if they thought Krypto the Superdog was too cartoonish to fit in, that could be countered by noting they'd downplayed/abandoned most of those ideas post-Silver Age, and were trying for a more serious angle, just not one that forbids having a sense of humor. But in the end, they should've been able to decide for themselves why throwing out the most workable ideas was ill-advised, and not base their steps only on a movie's performance with the public. There's plenty of novels that got turned into abortive movies, yet it never dampened enthusiasm for the original sources. So why should the DC executives have thought otherwise about their own products? I'd say this was an early example of people caring more about getting into filmdom than caring about the zygote. And now, look at what happened nearly 2 decades later: Kara was resurrected, but fell into the "by the time they did it, it was too late" category. Poor writing by Jeph Loeb and bad editorial mandates soon deep-sixed the new take on Supergirl, so finally, hardly anyone cared about Kara's return.

Wayne recently left his job at DC, and if he still holds these laughable points of view, then he'd be no real loss to the company.

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  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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