In 1986 the DC Comics miniseries The Man of Steel retold Superman’s origin story for the new post-Crisis on Infinite Earths timeline. DC editorial policy dictated that Superman would be the sole survivor of Krypton, and that would be no Supergirl from Krypton in this universe. Gone were Krypto, the bottled city of Kandor, and Superman’s adventures as Superboy. Few of the elements that had made the Superman mythos so rich for four decades would be allowed in the new universe.
Yet only three years after Kara’s death DC Comics introduced a new character called Supergirl in the three part “Supergirl Saga” (Superman #21, Adventures of Superman #444, Superman #22, all 1988). Superman met a woman calling herself Supergirl who brought the news of a parallel Earth hidden away in a “pocket dimension” that was being threatened by evil Kryptonians and needed Superman’s help. On this Earth Superman had started his superhero career as Superboy, but had mysteriously disappeared 10 years earlier and left his world without a superhero. Lex Luthor and his wife, Lana Lang, fought bravely in the resistance against the Kryptonians, but Lana was killed and the world seemed doomed without a superhero. In honor of his wife and in memory of Superboy, Lex had created an artificial shapeshifting lifeform named “Supergirl” based on his wife’s form (her “molecular matrix”) and imprinted her with Lana’s memories.
The fledgling superheroine had travelled to Earth Prime to bring back Superman in hopes that, together, they might defeat the supervillains. But in the battle that followed her world was completely destroyed and “Supergirl” nearly died. Superman brought the gravely injured alien back to his Earth and placed her with the Kents to recover. Soon she would strike out on her own, but it would take some years for the new Supergirl to truly find herself.
Between the 3-issue origin story and the 1996 Supergirl series, this Supergirl – or “Matrix” as she called herself – had a special (Supergirl & Team Luthor), a four-issue Supergirl miniseries, and sporadic guest appearances in the Superman comics. She began a relationship with Lex Luthor II (Lex Luthor in disguise), believing him to be like the Luthor of her world. Eventually she discovered Luthor’s true nature and took off (in the 1994 miniseries). She drifted, a superhero without a purpose or home. The implanted memories of her home planet faded, and she found herself a superhero with no secret identity and few real ties to her adopted home. Matrix faced the existential crisis of a superhero without an identity – a creation of men, she struggled to find her purpose in this world. She would find that purpose in saving the life of a human girl named Linda Danvers.