The 1996 Supergirl series saw Matrix merge with a human girl named Linda Danvers. This gave Supergirl a human identity and a new set of family and friends, with references to the Silver Age Kara Zor-El to make her feel familiar to long-time readers. Supergirl/Linda also acquired new powers as an earth-born angel. Linda retired from being Supergirl at the end of her series in 2003, but not before encountering the Silver Age Kara Zor-El in the series’ final six-issue arc.
Before she met Supergirl, Linda was an ordinary human teenager living in the small town of Leesburg, while the superhero known as Supergirl was a shapeshifting artificial endowed with a unique set of superpowers.
A talented artist, Linda viewed Supergirl as a role model and frequently found herself sculpting the superheroine’s form. But an evil demon named Buzz had played upon Linda’s loss of faith in those around her by drawing her into his cult, in preparation for using her as a human sacrifice to an otherworldly creature known as Lord Chakat. Unbeknownst to Linda, Buzz’s plans for her went much deeper than that, and the ritual sacrifice was intended to draw in Supergirl. Supergirl managed to reach Linda before the sacrifice was completed, but not in time to save her life. With Supergirl filled with grief over her failure, and Linda feeling overwhelmed at how her life was ending before she could set right what had gone wrong, the two reached out to each other at the moment of death and Supergirl merged her protoplasmic form with that of Linda’s. Through a convergence of supernatural events, Linda Danvers and Supergirl were brought together in a merging of physical form and consciousness that brought new meaning to both their lives. Linda and Supergirl found what they had both been searching for within the other: a soul and a human identity for Supergirl and a sense of hope and purpose for Linda.
As Supergirl/Linda struggled to reconcile her two lives, two sets of memories, and two very different personalities, she found herself manifesting new powers. Supergirl’s decision to sacrifice herself for Linda had caused her to become an “Earth-born Angel”. The Girl of Steel found herself with wings of flame, an ability to teleport, and the power to “judge” evildoers as the Angel of Fire.
Eventually it would be Linda’s personality that came to dominate, but not before Supergirl learned (in Supergirl #49) that Kara had been Linda’s “guardian angel” since childhood. Kara’s spirit had been with her all along, waiting for her destiny to find her.
In issue #50 Supergirl fought alongside her fellow earth angels, two other joined beings, in the climactic battle to defeat the first vampire, the Carnivore. In defeating this powerful demonic being who had been her nemesis for fifty issues, Supergirl lost her Earth Angel aspect and attending angelic powers. Amazed that she had survived, but realizing that her “Supergirl” half had been separated from Linda Danvers, she found herself with reduced superpowers and thus began a quest to find the “missing” spirit of Supergirl/the Earth Angel. This ended her “Angel of Fire” phase. The Earth Angel-Supergirl was captured and imprisoned in the Garden of Eden by Lilith, the “mother of demons”. This left Linda-Supergirl with the problem of convincing everyone who had seen Supergirl “die” that she was, indeed, Supergirl, in spite of her new physical appearance and costume.
Linda continued to kick butt as Supergirl from issues #51-74, travelling with Buzz (former demon turned sidekick) and Mary Marvel and following the Chaos stream in search of the missing Supergirl/Earth Angel. Finally in issue #74, Linda confronted Lilith in a big showdown, including a heated battle between Linda-Supergirl and Earth Angel-Supergirl (who was being controlled by Lilith). The Angelic Supergirl broke from Lilith’s hold and destroyed Carnivore once and for all, Buzz killed Lilith, and Linda died briefly. Matrix/Supergirl in her earth angel form offered to merge with Linda once again to save her, but Linda heroically told her to instead save the life of Twilight, who had been forced to work for Lilith and had at the last moment sacrificed herself to help defeat Lilith. A wise move, as Twilight had the power to bring the dead back to life, and when she merged with Matrix she became the new Angel of Fire and healed Linda, restoring as much of Linda’s “own powers” as she could (basically her Supergirl powers at the start of the series). Linda was now Supergirl in her own right, the duty of Earth-born Angel having been passed on to Twilight along with the wings of fire and remaining essence of Matrix.
Following the end of the “Quest for Supergirl”, yet another Supergirl appeared in issue #75. This was the original Kara from Krypton, and she caused quite a bit of confusion with her claims that she was the true Supergirl and cousin to Superman. Since Kara died in the Crisis on Infinite Earths and all memory of her was wiped from the surviving inhabitants of Earth, her appearance was a great mystery to the post-Crisis Supergirl. Kara was indeed who she claimed—Supergirl, Kal-El’s cousin—detoured into the post-Crisis universe on her way to the pre-Crisis Earth. The Silver Age world Kara was destined for was vastly different from the modern world, as Linda Danvers discovered when she lived there for a time. No one swears, the villains are always easy to defeat, and everything’s very, very clean. A utopia for comic book characters, one in which Linda Danvers had a perfectly happy life in which she married Superman (she refused to be anyone’s “secret weapon”!) and had a daughter named Ariella.
Sadly she was forced to return to her rightful universe, and Kara to her predestined place in history in a Silver Age world, with no memory of her time spent on Linda’s modern Earth. Linda Danvers gave up the mantle of Supergirl and left Leesburg for parts unknown. In a farewell letter written to Clark, she bequeathed him her Supergirl mementos and hinted that she might adopt a new identity.
The “Many Happy Returns” arc was intended by writer Peter David to kick-start a new direction for the comic which would feature the three Supergirls: Kara Zor-El, Linda Danvers as Superwoman, and Power Girl (revealed by David in If Supergirl Had Continued). Who wouldn’t have loved that? However the series was cancelled due to the popularity of Kara Zor-El’s reintroduction, and David was forced to wrap up the story in issue 80, giving us a bittersweet ending to Linda’s and Kara’s story.
Following Supergirl Peter David moved onto a much darker series called Fallen Angel. The series stars a mysterious dark avenger named “Lee”, who is unusually strong and supernaturally-abled. After much reader speculation that Lee was the disillusioned Linda Danvers living on in that little-known corner of the comic book universe, Peter David revealed that Lee was not Danvers. However he introduced a new character named “Lin”, Lee’s predecessor, who is Linda Danvers in all but name (the series is now published by IDW, not DC Comics). See Wikipedia for further details on Fallen Angel’s Supergirl connection.
Linda Danvers made two brief appearances following her series. In Superman/Batman #24 (April 2006), Bizarro travelled through time and collected Cir-El, the Earth-1 Supergirl, Power Girl, Linda Danvers, and the post-Crisis Supergirl to assist in freeing Superman from the Source Wall at the edge of the universe.
In a back-up story running though the 8-issue Reign in Hell (July 2008-February 2009), Linda was shown living in Gotham City, where she was attacked by the mystical team called Shadowpact. Even though she was no longer Matrix or an Earth-born angel, she surprisingly manifested her flaming wings. She was then brought to Hell as a pawn in the battle between Lord Satanus and Blaze against Neron to gain the throne. The story portrays Linda as almost a completely different person, with natural blonde hair and Earth-born angel powers and personality, suggesting that the story resides outside of canon. (Linda Danvers appears only in issues #1, 6 and 7.)
From The Essential Superman Encyclopedia (Robert Greenberger and Martin Pasko, Del Rey (USA) and Titan Books (UK), 2010).
Following Supergirl’s unsettling experiences with Lex Luthor and her short stint with the Teen Titans, Matrix began to reflect on her existence and contemplate whether or not she even had a soul.
At much the same time, that universe’s Linda Danvers was beginning to have doubts of her own. The artistic teen was living on her own in the small town of Leesburg, Virginia. She found herself inspired by Supergirl and often sculpted the heroine. A demon known only as Buzz insinuated himself into Linda’s life and used her loss of faith as a wedge to turn her into his next victim. He led her away from her parents—police officer Fred Danvers and Sylvia Danvers—and friends, sending her spiraling down a dark path that resulted in her joining a demonic cult without realizing she would be his sacrifice to Lord Chakat. It was also intended to draw to him the real Supergirl and gain her power and soul.
The Maid of Steel arrived in time to save Linda’s soul, but the woman was seriously wounded. Mad with grief over failing and spiritually empty, Supergirl found her protoplasmic self merging with the dying teen, giving them both a second chance by merging into a new Linda Danvers (Supergirl [fourth series] #1, September 1996). It took some time for the new person to fully integrate the two personalities, each with her own experiences and memories. It also left her ready to become something more.
Linda resumed her artwork and tentatively reconnected with her parents and friends, unaware that Buzz was still scheming to gain her soul. She also encountered an odd neighborhood boy, Wally, who always carried a baseball bat and seemed wise beyond his years. Linda also could change her form into that of Supergirl, physically very different and with [some] of the Matrix version’s powers and abilities (Supergirl [fourth series] #2-9, October 1996-May 1997).
In the performance of her duties, she was astonished to find herself suddenly sprouting flaming wings. In time, she learned this new Linda Danvers was now an EARTH-BORN ANGEL known as the Angel of Fire. She was also surprised to learn that a Chaos Stream flowed beneath Leesburg, which made it a focal point for supernatural activity. She fought dark gods, super-villains, creatures like CHEMO, and even another Earth-born angel, BLITHE. Linda also watched her friend ANDREA JONES become the equine being Comet. Throughout it all, Wally, who claimed to be a manifestation of the Presence, counseled her with good humor.
Over time, she discovered two other earth-born angels, and they wound up banding together to fight Earth’s first vampire, a creature known as the CARNIVORE (Supergirl [fourth series] #48-49, September-October 2000). The titanic battle led to Carnivore’s defeat, but also cost Linda her role as an Earth-born angel. Supergirl and Linda Danvers became separate beings, and the heroine had more limited powers than before the merger.
The red-white-and-blue costumed Linda/Supergirl, now able to leap a mere one-eighth of a mile and perform similar skilled feats, went in search of the missing piece of herself. The trail took them to the Amazon, where Matrix had been imprisoned by Lilith, know as the “mother of demons,” and was trapped in the Garden of Eden. TWILIGHT was forced to capture Matrix/Supergirl so her twin sister would be freed by Lilith. She fought for freedom and Linda became Supergirl, in a new costume and a blond wig, ready to go into action. Linda was accompanied once more by Buzz, who was no longer a demon. Joining them for a time was Mary Marvel, the young, naïve heroine.
Lilith came to control the missing Earth-born angel and used her to attack Linda, leading to a showdown between the participants. (Supergirl [fourth series] #74, November 2002). When the fight ended, Lilith lost control of Supergirl, who then destroyed the Carnivore. The ageless mother was then slain by Buzz, in a redemptive act, and Linda actually died. Supergirl offered to merge with her once more, but Linda refused, telling her friend to save Twilight, another player, who had helped stop Lilith’s threat.
Once the two entities merged, the new life became a new Angel of Fire and Linda was healed, complete with super-abilities. The Twilight/Matrix entity would then live out her life as the new Earth-born angel.
Before Linda could settle back into a life that could even vaguely be called normal, a spacecraft crashed just outside Leesburg. Emerging from the ship was someone wearing the original Supergirl uniform from Earth-1. The young, bubbly Kara explained that she was from the reality prior to the Crisis, which was why Linda had no recollection of this person. Just as the rocket carrying Earth-1’s infant Kal-El had been diverted into another reality en route to Earth (Action Comics #370, December 1968), the spacecraft of a different dimension’s Kara Zor-El had been detoured into this one. The two became close, as one would expect, and Linda enjoyed training Kara. Her visit was brief and traumatic for both Lindas, but it was clear the girl had to return to fulfill her ordained destiny.
The Spectre arrived to explain that Kara needed to die. This had all happened as a result of a being known as the Fatalist, who played with reality as a way to tweak his master XENON, a being with an irrational hatred for the Maid of Might. Kara did not want to die, and she begged Linda for help. Her older friend agreed, then manipulated the situation so she took Kara’s place in the rocket, going to Earth-1 so she could be killed by the Anti-Monitor, leaving the untainted teen Kara on Earth. Unfortunately, Superman-1 saw through the ruse—but when she admitted her love for him, they wound up beginning a relationship that led to a romance, a wedding, and a baby girl, Ariella. The Spectre ordered Linda back to her own reality not only to restore the time line but also to save Kara from Xenon. Linda then saw to it that Kara went back to her realm to live out her life as it was ordained. The Spectre rewarded Linda by sparing Ariella’s life when reality was once more reordered. At much the same time, Sylvia Danvers gave birth to a late-in-life second child whom she named Wally. Linda chose at that point to retire from adventuring and leave Leesburg to find her own fate. She wrote a letter of explanation to Clark Kent, including with it her beloved skateboard (Supergirl [fourth series] #75-80, December 2002-May 2003).