Supergirl and Man of Steel Parallels

I finally got to watch the pilot episode of Supergirl and can’t wait for the rest of the season.  Supergirl allows people to indulge in their preconceptions about Superman but also have those tested or turned on their side by Supergirl.

If you missed Monday night’s premiere and aren’t faced with region issues, you can watch or rewatch the first episode of Supergirl for free at CBS, Amazon, Google Play (with coupon), iTunes, and other streaming services.  Or watch the episode with commentary by Executive Producers Ali Adler and Sarah Schechter along with Director Glen Winter here[I haven’t watched the commentary yet.]

As someone with a broad palate for all things within the Superman family (even Krypto) I was really pleased with Supergirl especially from the character drama and soapy relationship angle.  Basically anytime Kara was emoting, I was engaged, and there’s some adventurous action that does its job.

Of course, as someone who loves Man of Steel, I couldn’t help but admire some of the parallels that show these two takes on Kryptonian cousins aren’t as far apart or as in conflict as some might like you to believe.  Rather, there are some elements that show both storytellers looked to modernize and update their respective supers in a grounded, human, and relevant.

Starting on Krypton

Both open on Krypton to establish these are beings from another world.  Very different yet also very human, with families who love them, mourn their loss, who feel fear and passion, experience tragedy, and hold hopes and dreams.  Both mothers, Lara and Alura send off their children with tearful goodbyes.

Sent With A Mission

Both Kal-El and Kara are sent to Earth with a mission.  Kal-El carries Jor-El and Lara’s hopes and dreams for a better world, one without the mistakes of Krypton.  Alura wants Kara to survive and from the outset to act as a protector.

Not According To Plan

Yet, both suffer frustrations with the plans of their parents as well was unexpected complications.  Clark isn’t a “god” growing up.  Kara doesn’t protect or look over Kal-El.  Zod’s survival was not a part of Jor-El’s plan.  Kara’s 24-year detour with Fort Rozz trailing behind was not a part of Alura’s plan.

Life Changed At Age 13

Both experience a life-changing moment at that critical age of 13.  Clark saves a bus full of children using his powers, his alien origins are revealed to him, and he agrees to have a normal childhood.  Kara is ripped from her home planet and family, then arrives on a new planet without her mission, and adopted by a new family.

Same Safe Human-Type Childhood

Despite this trials and changes, both Clark and Kara have commitments towards having “safe human-type childhoods.”  Clark didn’t become Superboy or act out adventures from Smallville.  Kara followed the advice of her Superman and grew up a normal well-adjusted person.

Decided The Best Thing To Do Is Fit In

Despite their great powers, potential, mission, and desire, both Clark and Kara spend their early years fitting in rather than confronting the world with their super powers and alien nature.  By the time they make their introductions, they are well and truly citizens of Earth and empathize completely with everyone around them.  They don’t view or judge Earth as aliens but consider Earth their home.

Menial Jobs and Disrespectful Bosses

Both start from the bottom with humbleness and humility, busing tables, getting coffee.  They have bosses that call them “Greenhorn” and demand they fetch things or threaten to fire them at the drop of a hat.  Yet this makes them patient, long suffering, and gracious.  At any moment they could lord their power of their bosses and bully them back, but instead they know the quiet honor of submissive servanthood.  Not for the sake of their bosses but for the sake of their own character and personal integrity.

The Secret Is Out

The first person in their adult lives to know their secret outside of family is a journalist from the Daily Planet.  For Clark it’s Lois Lane and for Kara it’s James Olsen.  The potential for love blossoms with both.

Mild Mannered and Dismissed

Both are in establishments with drinks and music when someone takes advantage of their mild mannered nature.  Clark easily towered over Ludlow, who nonetheless dismisses him as someone who wouldn’t fight back and thus bullies him.  Kara is adorable and tries to engage her blind date, who nonetheless dismisses her as someone who he can bail on without consequence.

Compelled to Rescue

Both are compelled to act and rescue a large vehicle as their first debut.  Clark saving the kids on the school bus and Kara saving her sister and the passengers of Flight 237.  Both get dunked in bodies of water and emerge wet from their efforts.  Moreover, rescue wasn’t effortless or easy.  Clark strained on the oil rig and Kara cried out with the plane as fire burnt around both of them.  Both rescued these people in spite of the consequences of being witnessed while rescuing others.

Learning To Fly

Both have incredibly joyous scenes where the hero doesn’t immediately fly perfectly, reminding us that flight isn’t something to be taken for granted.  However, the utter joy of it is apparent on Clark’s face and Kara likens it to the thrill of a first kiss.  Also, both feature flight as explosive and fast.  There isn’t much hovering or floating in either.

Guardian Angel or Human Wrecking Ball?

Both get divisive and mixed reactions to their altruistic efforts.  “My son was in the bus, he saw what Clark did.”  Clark will face those in Batman v. Superman, however, Kara experiences it immediately as the press questions her rookie effort.

“They don’t fear my cousin.”

“Plenty of people do.  It’s just not popular to admit it.”

Rookie Explanation

Clark isn’t as prone to talking to himself as Kara, but his inexperience is evident.  Kara, however, says exactly what the compassionate comprehend, “Well, you try saving a plane for the first time and see if you don’t make a mess!” /  “I- I’m still learning!”

What Was I Supposed To Do?

Both Clark and Kara have protective loved ones that prioritize their Kryptonian secret over their own lives.  Jonathan died so that Clark could have a little more time to get ready.  He didn’t want to die or relish leaving Clark alone, but he loved Clark more than his own life.  Kara’s sister Alex is the same.  “What were you thinking?”, she demands, “You exposed yourself to the world.  You’re out there now Kara, everyone will know about you and you can’t take that back! … What if people figure out who you are?  What you are?  It’s not safe for you to do anything like that ever again.”  The implication is that Alex may have preferred Flight 237 go down if for Kara’s sake.  Both Clark and Kara are discouraged from using their powers by the ones who love them most.

Pursued by The Press

Kara goes into work the next morning to Cat’s call-to-arms on getting the scoop on the savior.  Lois Lane relentlessly tracks down Clark.

Sharing The Burden

Kara tells Wynn and Clark tells Lois his story.  Both reach out to trustworthy others to help them with the burden of being who they are and into the adventure of their lives.

Suit Comes Second

Both engage in heroism and exploits before donning their respective costumes gifted to them by another.

He’s Kinda Hot / Really Pretty Without Your Glasses

Both have these cute but cringe-y moments.

It’s Not An “S”

On my world it means hope / The symbol of the House of El means hope / It’s my family’s coat of arms.

Knocked Out By A Weakness, Awakens Restrained

Kara by Kryptonite darts and Clark by Kryptonian atmosphere.  Both awaken restrained.  Both are released by family.

A Skeptical Government

General Swanwick raises security concerns about Clark, just as Director Henshaw does about Kara.  Both precipitate escalation with humanity.

You Brought Them Here

Both are facing off against escaped criminals who arguably came to Earth because of them (though with little true culpability).  Both are outnumbered by the enemy and facing overwhelming odds.

Named By Someone Else

Neither Clark nor Kara name themselves but by respective female journalists.

Villain Doesn’t Care About Collateral

Kara’s villain gets the greenlight to create casualties, Zod explicitly intends them.

Son of Jor-El / Daughter of Alura

The villains carry generational grudges against Clark and Kara.  Zod against Jor-El for stealing the Codex and having a natural-born son, Vartox against Alura for being his judge and jailer.

Military / Family Assistance

Clark and Kara both receive critical aide against their enemies from the military and their families.  While Clark was out of the Battle of Smallville, the military was just able to bring Faora down and chase the Kryptonians away.  While Vartox has Kara beat, the DEO was able to chase him away.  The ultimate battle plan comes from Jor-El (Phantom Zone Singularity) and Alex (super-heating the axe), require more than just brawn to defeat the enemy.


Both Clark and Kara suffer doubt about their calling.  Both get encouraged by family and holograms.

Concerns Vindicated

Jonathan and Alex’s good intentions are vindicated even if Clark and Kara overcome their fears.  Jonathan’s fears are proven true.  The world wasn’t ready yet.  Clark would have never been able to take on the Suicide Squad or an aggressive Lex Luthor or Batman, without first meeting Jor-El with the time that Jonathan’s sacrifice bought him.  Alex, meanwhile, was right that Fort Rozz escapees would begin to target Kara soon after her public debut.

A Different Destiny / Principles over Perfection

Despite the dreams of their Kryptonian parents, both want Clark and Kara to choose their own path.  “There is no correct path in life. You will lose your way many times.  …  Be wise, be brave, be strong.”  Pursuing principles instead of absolutes without mercy or grace.

Choice and Freewill

“One day you’re gonna think of them as a blessing. When that day comes you have to make a choice.” / “We wanted you to learn what it meant to be human first so that one day, when the time was right, you could be the bridge between two peoples.” / “He wanted you to choose it for yourself.”


If you keep an open mind and an open heart there’s no conflict for the Super Fan between Man of Steel or Supergirl.  There is so much to love in both for their differences and their many similarities.  I think it’s an incredible time to be thankful that we have:

  • a slate of big-budget feature films with Superman
  • an on-going broadcast network TV show featuring Supergirl
  • monthly digital and print Superman comics written by Eisner winners
  • a Superman mini-series with an all-star list of artists and a Hollywood hype-man writer who has won an Eisner writing Superman before
  • a YA novel series starring Lois Lane
  • a Justice League animated series with Superman on the horizon
  • with almost infinite access to anything and everything Superman-related published throughout time either digitally or through online vendors who can get nearly anything
  • the ability to communicate with fans around the world 24/7
  • countless podcasts and fan-made media to consume
  • and more!

It’s an absolutely wonderful time to be a Superman fan and Supergirl is a big part of it!  The heart swells with joy and gratitude.

Rebecca Johnson of the Supergirl Radio podcast adds:

I would also point out:

– Alura knew about Kryptonians becoming super powered when they get to Earth before putting Kara in the pod.
– While heat vision has a different color, the way it goes out of the eyes when both Clark and Kara stop using it is very similar.
– Supergirl is borrowing the way “Man of Steel” depicts breaking the sound barrier during flight (using jets as a visual guide).
– I’d even go as far as to say that Colleen Atwood borrowed the color scheme of Cavill’s Superman suit for Benoist’s look.

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  1. I’m glad you enjoyed it Dr., I’m sure you are also aware of the Pilot’s overwhelming rating success, however I have a little concern that I share with several fans;

    This Monday Supergirl had the U.S.A.’s No.1 TV comedy backing it up, but from next week onward The Big Bang Theory will move to Thursdays. Plus I still haven’t heard the official reason (assuming there is one) of why this series was placed right against Gotham. Series like this tend to have the highest ratings on their respective premieres, but can only retain around half their original audience by their season finales.

    Some shows like Flash are good enough to still remain strong for their entire first season, and hopefully so will Supergirl. So in your opinion, judging from the Pilot, you think Supergirl is, or has the potential to be, as good and high-quality as Flash and be a rating success episode-behind-episode?

    PS: Does this means you will occasionally cover and dissect the new Supergirl series alongside the DCEU?

    • I’ll adress some of that from my take on the pilot. I also found it to be very enjoyable – Melissa Benoist is terrific as Kara, and her CatCo. colleagues make a lively energy to the show. The effects and wirework was largely fantastic, and they packed in a lot of story for a 44-minute pilot.

      All that said, the most striking thing to me about it is that, even though the same folks who make Arrow and Flash make this, this show CLEARLY has young(ish) girls as their target audience. That’s not to say adult males can’t like it, it’s just to say, unlike every other comic book show on the air, I don’t think they’re giving much consideration to that demographic.

      And that’s good – I think it’s a great show for girls, with a positive message and good characters and not too much violence. So take any reviews/analysis from adults, especially men, with a grain of salt, because it’s girls and women who will decide if this show continues to be a hit. Remember, Lois & Clark had a majority feamle audience as well, and that was a big hit for several years.

      As for Gotham, it’s clear now that it’s not “going up against” Gotham as much as it’s counterprogramming Gotham. Gotham is not only geared toward men, but it’s practically R-rated (I’d call it “hard TV-14” – it’s got every warning they can fit in the label), while Supergirl is for women/girls and is a pretty soft TV-PG (and that’s just for the “fantasy violence”). So while these shows may split the adult male comic book fan audience, that’s not going to be a big enough dent to affect either show’s ratings too much I’d imagine. And if Supergirl loses that audience for live viewing, it’ll probably pick up a bunch from DVR viewings.

      So, Supergirl will sink or swim I think from the female, mostly non-comic book fan, and its ability to continue to gear the show around the tastes of that demographic.

      • I agree. These shows aren’t trying to be all-things-to-all-people. That targeted specificity is one of the reasons I like them for what they are. I’m not going to say Krypto The Super Dog deserves an Emmy, but as something safe and entertaining for kids while still promoting the Superman brand, I can enjoy and respect it.

        I haven’t thought about it too hard, but off hand, I consider Supergirl a modern successor to [something like] Lois and Clark and Gotham a successor to [something like] Smallville. They are their own things, but I suspect Supergirl is going to have action but lean into relationships and situational drama like L&C, while Gotham is always going to withhold Batman but press hard on action-adventure with some soap elements. I’m sure the audience will overlap some but we go to each for different things.

    • Scheduling TV time slots is an arcane art and inexact science. I assure you that when millions of dollars are on the line, they have people who analyze the issue from every possible angle and do what they think is best (even if not necessarily best from the perspective of the show or from the fans without access to all the information they have). It’s a case where it’s easy to judge but where we don’t have all the facts.

      With respect to how the two shows will do against one another, I think the bulk of their audience don’t overlap and the ones that do will watch both with their DVRs or streaming services. I don’t think one show is going to suffer because of the other much. The WB recently renovated their infamous Water Towers to show their pride and commitment to all DCTV shows.

      From the pilot it’s too early to tell. A few years ago a pilot like this might feel like it was promising something extremely formulaic, but the production team behind Supergirl has proven they can surprise and delight beyond expectations with Flash, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they turned expectations on their head every episode where you expect the long and drawn out thing or the contrived misunderstanding, but instead get smart characters, interesting choices, and fast paced plotlines. The real question is whether a property like this can do major network numbers, because as much as we love The Flash, it is doing great for a CW show. Supergirl opened to astonishing numbers but a big part of that is the network. I hope for the best, that stuff is out of my control though.

      Maybe? No real plans to, I just thought it was interesting that two very different approaches to the Super family zeroed in on many of the same essential elements for their first story, showing way more agreement on what these characters mean to us today, than critics who like to argue one as an indictment of the other would like to admit. I’ve wanted to do a comparison on the parallels between Flash and MOS for a while but never got around to it.

      • Thanks for answering me again Dr., there is also another similarity that I noticed in the form of:

        * Hank Henshaw=General Swanwick

        I finally watched the pilot, and what I enjoyed the most is noticing all those similarities you mentioned. The fact that DC/WB didn’t hesitated from using Man of Steel as such a prominent inspiration really strengthened the notion that they are very proud of that film, in contrast to what some people wants to believe.

  2. This is such an awesome post, considering junk like this gets written on The Internet.

    I would also point out:

    – Alura knew about Kryptonians becoming super powered when they get to Earth before putting Kara in the pod.
    – While heat vision has a different color, the way it goes out of the eyes when both Clark and Kara stop using it is very similar.
    – Supergirl is borrowing the way “Man of Steel” depicts breaking the sound barrier during flight (using jets as a visual guide).
    – I’d even go as far as to say that Colleen Atwood borrowed the color scheme of Cavill’s Superman suit for Benoist’s look.

    Thank you so much for writing this! I’m totally convinced that Kara Zor-El/Danvers would be Man of Steel’s #2 Apologist (after Dr. Awkward, of course).

  3. Wow, it’s a great feeling to listen to all the stuff I’ve missed. I’ve been busy but I’ve found time to comment and catch up. Loving the tornado series. I have two question regarding the DCEU

    If the MoS prequel comic is canon how would they introduce Supergirl into the modern day DCEU? Getting frozen?

    My next question is kinda a weird one. You and I and many others defend Man of Steel. This site is all about defending Man of Steel. Should that call into question the quality of the film? I’ve see some people say this and I personally don’t know what to think but what are your thoughts?

    • I’m not the Dr. but I will give you my own POV.

      The fact that MoS has such an intelligent person supporting it is evidence alone that the film is worth defending. Iron Man 3, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and even Age of Ultron ignited similar amounts of polarization, but they don’t have near the same amount of apologists in favor.

      And look at it this way; two of the three films I mentioned above were considered failures by their respective companies, whereas MoS became the very foundation of the entire DCEU, Superman is the catalyzer, the undeniable beginning of an entire new and unique cinematic universe that will bring us long overdue dreams like the World’s Finest and the Justice League in film, not to mention Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, Shazam, Cyborg, and even a second chance for Green Lantern.

      If MoS was even considered a disappointment, flop, or failure as some want to believe, they could have simply ignored it and start from scratch with another DC hero. Let’s not forget that 2011’s Green Lantern was supposed to be the one which would bring forth the JL, Superman Returns was supposed to be the beginning of a new Superman franchise and collide with Bale’s Batman to bring forth their first big screen confrontation.

      MoS succeeded were those two failed (by a long shot), people can say, post, believe what they want, but our new Superman was a big success, and nothing will change that.

    • I think the MOS Prequel Comic is a lower level of canon, like a deleted scene or something similar. You can rely on it unless or until it contradicts something that appears in the films and the filmmakers shouldn’t feel handcuffed or bound to remain consistent with the comic. I consider it unlikely they’ll ever introduce Supergirl into the films but if they do, it will probably be a totally different character from the one in the prequel comic.

  4. Dr. Awkward I have a question (which might just be self-explanatory, but nonetheless, I want to ask you your thoughts). My question is: Do you think that the success of the Supergirl TV show will positively boost Superman as well? Do you think that by Supergirl becoming popular again that this will in turn help Superman to get more respect and popularity again? I’d really like to know your thoughts, sir.

    • Honestly, it’s too early to tell. Ideally, the show sticks around and is popular enough to familiarizes people with the lore, the shield, and more. At a minimum, it shows that the Super family can serve a variety of takes and tastes and is worth continually exploring.

      From a narrative standpoint, they’re using Superman as a character foil to distinguish Kara, but it’s also clear that she admires and adores her cousin. Superman acts as a powerful device to get us to the heroics faster, because otherwise the first season would be like Smallville or Arrow where everything Kara does is ground-breaking. By following in Superman’s footsteps, somewhat, it allows her and the characters and the audience to take a lot for granted and move at a faster clip. It does double duty by elevating AND humanizing Superman… he’s humanized because you see everything Kara goes through and you realize he had to go through it alone and break ground on it, but he’s elevated because you realize he made it through all that. Kara allows you to admire and sympathize with Superman in a way you couldn’t if he was the show’s focus.

      If the show does take off, it’s important to the zeitgeist because the fans who grew up with Batman ’66 were the ones that flocked in droves to Batman ’89. Many of Man of Steel’s adherents grew up with Smallville. I think the general rule is that the longer you love a character the broader your experience of that character; your taste might be refined and narrowed, but you’ll have a broader appreciation for how the character gets adapted over time. A successful Supergirl has the potential to percolate into more Super Family fans down the road.

      At a minimum, it’s more merchandise! 😉

      • Doctor? Hope you don’t mind asking, but would you give your personal POV from Jonathan’s second question?

        I recently had a little…scuffle with a Man of Steel detractor, as always I used your articles and videos to support me (the terraforming Mars one to be exact), and while the detractor did ate its own words and had no choice but to change it’s argument from “should have terraformed Mars” to “they don’t need an atmosphere because they’re invincible”, that detractor went to point, like Jonathan said, that the mere existence of this website “confirms” the film’s low quality and that it automatically deems it a failure.

        I usually just point that Haters are gonna Hate when they say that, but it would really help to have a logical, short and intelligent answer to respond back, one supported not only with optimistic points, but also with cold facts. When someone tells you “The fact that you spend so much time answering that movie’s controversies proves that the movie is bad.”, what do you respond back?

        • Heart of Steel, my policy is not to get involved in comment debates, write hit pieces, or construct retorts for the same purpose.

          I’ll happily have a polite face to face discussion with someone with a mind open to conversation and basic adult-level respect… but there’s little value in engaging a bigot (“a person whose habitual state of mind includes an obstinate, irrational, or unfair intolerance of ideas, opinions, or beliefs that differ from their own, and intolerance of the people who hold them” – Oxford / Cambridge). Note, assessing them a bigot is not based on their dislike of Man of Steel. Plenty of intelligent, reasonable, and good people dislike MOS. This is based on the poor circular “logic” of the allegation which only works using bigot “logic” (which starts from the assumption and truism of defect with no possible room for alternatives). So in that case, a smart retort doesn’t “win”… you’re just in the position of making a comeback to the mental equivalent of a brick wall.

          That meta-critique (meta, because it literally says nothing substantive about the source material, it only erroneously infers a relationship between the material and subsequent commentary) is flawed on so many levels it’s a bit pointless to respond. The fact that it gets raised by bigots frequently should be no surprise, because they lack the mental flexibility, open mind, and essential basic logic necessary to have and be tolerant. So, of course, they will have basic viewing comprehension issues (contradictory on-screen data won’t be processed or accepted at face-value), they’ll rely on hindsight bias and unfairly judge characters for knowledge and information unavailable and unknown in the moment (using final outcomes known only to the audience as criteria for evaluating judgments made without that information), they’ll invent unnecessary facts or assumptions which can’t be internally consistent and claim that as a criticism when the actual work is silent on whether those facts or assumptions are true (insist that something off-screen and unsaid could not possibly happen any other way), and they’ll fumble causation.

          I can, right off the top of my head, think of a dozen thought-experiments which disprove the point, but it’s not worth writing out when it will go over their head and when it requires basic causal logic to follow. What if you engaged in commentary for a “good” film, would it become retroactively bad? Do only guilty defendants need zealous representation? Does the amount of commentary reflect the quality or more likely, the depth and breath of the work (how much sustainable, non-filibustering commentary could be said about a one-word work)? What is the quality of an unseen or unpublished work? What about works where appreciation must be taught? Are only uncontroversial things good? Are only easy understandings good? Is literally every work raised in /r/AskScienceFiction poor? Etc. Etc.

          It’s a “point” that’s so stupid, so easily laughed out of court… I’m a bit disappointed it has been raised more than once here. I’ll be even more disappointed if I see anything I’m typing now is adapted into a response. Please don’t.

          The most generous samplings find an overwhelmingly positive reception of Man of Steel, prior to any substantive commentary. 87% of those polled giving it an average or better score with 44% awarding it an “A” ( ), or where more respondents ranked MOS their favorite Summer 2013 film more than the 2nd and 3rd films combined ( ), etc. ( ). Even in the least favored metrics, the outcome is at “worst” an even 50-50 split, which would obviously generate more discussion than a film that was universally perceived one way. This means that some large percentage of viewers (whether an overwhelming majority or even a slight minority) appreciated the film for what it was without need for additional commentary. Commentary is not a necessity for appreciation, but nonetheless it may enhance it or provide other utility.

          The reasonable mind would understand that for something so divisive, there must be some kind of merit, reason, or value to other positions… and the tolerant and open-minded are able to hear them without characterizing the other person. However, if they raise a “point” that begins with premise that can’t be discussed without circular logic, my advice is to laugh to yourself and thank them in your mind for saving you the trouble of having to engage them. If that was their only fallacy, you can chalk it up as an isolated mistake and have a discussion, but typically one truism after another will follow. Basically, if doesn’t hold up to logical syllogisms and Venn diagrams, they’re airing a position and not engaging in a discussion.

          Look at it this way. The impulse to make a retort or come-back perhaps contains some desire to win. Personally, my advice is to let that impulse go, but if you can’t, substitute it with knowing you’ve already claimed the global win. MOS was more successful than not, more popular than not, more liked than not, and the cornerstone of a massive movie slate. The people who liked the movie won and are getting more. From that perspective, be a gracious winner and enjoy the spoils and let them upset themselves.

          • …I see. I knew it was a silly question, I wanted to make sure that you thought so too. I’ll give you my word I won’t use your answer as a response to any detractor, but canI use some of your cues as advice to any MoS lover that is defending it?

            I see many people defending it against the very few that didn’t liked it (that alone is proof that your points are true), but they should also be aware that they are better letting the losers have it, rather than fall to their level, don’t you think?

            I won’t say I heard it from you, nor from this website, I will only use the URL links you used as back-up, because they would come really handy alongside this one:

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