In tonight’s Supergirl, Kara falls under the influence of an alien parasite that feeds off of her while causing her to undergo enticing hallucinations about the life she could have had.
If that sounds familiar to you, there’s a good reason. The episode, “For the Girl Who Has Everything,” is an adaptation of “For the Man Who Has Everything,” a classic Superman story from no less than the creators of WATCHMEN, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.
“One of my favorite comic books is ‘For the Man Who Has Everything’ by Alan Moore,” Executive Producer Andrew Kreisberg recently revealed. “So Episode 13 is actually ‘For the Girl Who Has Everything.’ We're doing an adaptation of that comic book, but with Kara. It's the Black Mercy. It's Kara wakes up and she's back on Krypton and has no idea how or why she got there.”
“For the Man Who Has Everything” was published in November, 1984 in SUPERMAN ANNUAL #11. In this single-issue tale set within the Fortress of Solitude, Superman falls under the influence of the Black Mercy—an intelligent plant/fungus hybrid that feeds off of its victim’s bio-waves while showing them their heart’s desire. While ensnared by the parasite, Superman experiences the life he never had the chance to have. In this life, Kal-El never became Superman. Instead, he got married and raised a family on Krypton, sharing typical family moments with his father, Jor-El, his aunt Alurra and his cousin Kara. In short, it asks the question, what might Superman’s life be without the “super”?
“It's one of the things I'm the most excited about having done, explained Kreisberg. “It seemed like such a pipe dream when we were having these early conversations, but now it's part of the show.”
The story contains all of Moore hallmarks. It’s dense and thought-provoking, and more than a little provocative. Superman’s hallucination includes elements of civil unrest, which Moore would go on to explore in much greater detail in V FOR VENDETTA, and at one point Superman escapes to Krypton’s isolated Kandor Crater to think and collect his thoughts, a sequence which calls to mind Doctor Manhattan’s escape to Mars in Watchmen.
It’s also different than Supergirl’s adaptation. Moore’s story features Batman, Robin and Wonder Woman, along with the villainous Mongul, who’s revealed to be behind Superman’s entrapment. In tonight’s episode, that distinction falls to Non. However, the most profound difference is probably one of tone. While Kara’s visions are happy ones, Superman’s get increasingly darker as the story goes on, eventually going so far to suggest that the destruction of Krypton might possibly have been for the best. (We did say it was provocative!) However, the themes of longing—of having the life that was denied to you—along with the flat-out creepiness of the Black Mercy are still very intact.
If you’d like to read “For the Man Who Has Everything” either before or after watching tonight’s episode—and you should, it’s one of the most beloved and important Superman stories ever written—there are plenty of places you can find it. The issue is available to read digitally, and it’s also included in several good anthologies, including SUPERMAN: A CELEBRATION OF 75 YEARS, DC UNIVERSE BY ALAN MOORE and SUPERMAN: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE MAN OF TOMORROW. (The latter two also include Moore’s equally iconic Superman story, “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow.”) The story was also adapted into an episode of the animated series Justice League Unlimited by comic writer J.M. DeMatteis.
Even with the changes, “For the Man Who Has Everything” lends itself so well to a Supergirl adaptation because the allure of Kryptonian life is just as strong within Kara as it is within Kal-El. After all, who doesn’t yearn for a more comfortable and familiar life? Who doesn’t imagine how things might have been if life had gone just a little different? While Supergirl’s become a hero to the people of National City, it’s come at the sacrifice of everything Kara Zor-El could have been—a woman just trying to raise a family and live a normal life. Longing for that isn’t a weakness. It’s what makes the Kryptonian Kara capable of relating to the people of Earth and wanting to do what’s right by them. It’s what makes her as human as the rest of us.
It’s the ability to overcome that lure that makes her super. The great thing about “For the Man Who Has Everything” and Supergirl’s adaptation of it is that it reminds that super doesn’t come without a cost.
Episode 13 of Supergirl, “For the Girl Who Has Everything,” airs tonight at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. CST) on CBS.