by D.W. Lundberg

Friday, May 15, 2015


On Wednesday, CBS released the extended trailer for their upcoming Supergirl series (set to debut this November), to general acclaim from fanboys and network nitpickers alike. Developed by Greg Berlanti (whose production company also oversees The Flash and Arrow for The CW) and Ali Adler (ABC'S No Ordinary Family), Supergirl stars Melissa Benoist as Kara Zor-El, Superman's Kryptonian cousin, who, "after 12 years of keeping her powers a secret on Earth, decides to finally embrace her superhuman abilities and be the hero she was always meant to be." In short, it's your typical superhero origin story, on a TV budget, with all the comic book existentialism and witty romantic comedy banter we've come to expect from our modern-day pop entertainments.

For her part, Benoist captures the cheerfulness and naivete of the character quite well, thank you very much, especially during the action scenes - check out her obvious glee, for example, at 4:35, when she discovers she's bulletproof. (Speaking of Glee: Benoist and her Flash counterpart, Grant Gustin, are both veterans of Fox's musical melodrama.) The writing, too, takes obvious delight poking at gender stereotypes ("What do you think is so bad about 'girl'? I'm a girl, and your boss, and powerful, and rich, and hot, and smart. So if you perceive 'Supergirl' as anything less than excellent, isn't the real problem... you?"), and, of course, includes its share of Easter Eggs.

Kara's first reveal to the world, meanwhile - rescuing a downed passenger plane from a fiery crash - should strike a chord with anyone well-versed in the Superman mythos. Fans of 1978's Superman: The Movie, no doubt, will recall this iconic scene of the Man of Steel (Christopher Reeve) coming to the rescue of Air Force One, after one of its engines is struck during a lightning storm:

The inspiration for this scene, however, dates even further back in Superman's cinematic history. In "Japoteurs" (1942), the tenth episode of Max Fleischer's classic Superman cartoon series (and yes, the film itself is every bit as ethnically insensitive as its title suggests), the Caped Wonder prevents an out-of-control bomber from decimating half of Metropolis:

That shot, of Superman catching the plane by its nose and lowering it to safety, would be copied almost beat-for-beat 64 years later, during Superman Returns (2006):

As it turns out, Supes's knack for jousting with jumbo jets wended its way onto the small screen as well. Part Three of "The Last Son Of Krypton" (1996) from Warners' acclaimed Superman: The Animated Series shows Big Blue up to his usual antics, as he reveals himself in his red-and-blue duds for the first time:

Later, in a special Batman crossover episode ("World's Finest," Part One, 1997), Superman is introduced rescuing Lois Lane on board Air Force One (again), which has been hijacked by a team of unsuspecting terrorists:

Then, in 2011, Lois finds herself in a similar situation during the finale episode of The CW's Smallville. (Ever the trouble-seeker, Lois was also present during the plane-rescuing sequences in "Japoteurs" and Superman Returns.) Here, Clark Kent (Tom Welling), finally accepting his superheroic destiny after anext interminable ten-season run, steers Air Force One in the right direction (again) before it's crashed by Apokolips:

And now, finally, this. Seems Kara is destined to follow in her famous cousin's footsteps after all:

Which naturally begs the question: What is it about these Kryptonian super-beings that inadvertently causes airplanes to fall from the sky? Are they crashing on purpose? Is it a case of the universe striking a balance - one body's defiance of gravity forcing another to plummet towards Earth? Or is it something deeper on a metaphorical level, a rite of passage each Superman (or Supergirl) must face to prove their individual worth?

It's an important part of the characters' iconography, I suppose, which might explain why 2013's rebooted Man Of Steel failed to click completely with audiences - it featured no such scene or sequence. Snyder's Superman spent so much of his movie feeling introspective (and causing so much 
inadvertent destruction of his own), he barely had the time for anything else.

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