James Peaty was gracious enough to answer a couple of final questions I had now that his time on the title has wrapped up. I can't thank him enough for taking the time to expound a bit on 'Good Looking Corpse'.
Anj: Hard to believe that 'Good Looking Corpse' is already behind us. Looking back, anything you would have changed? Do you have a favorite moment of the arc?
James Peaty: Hmmm…tricky one. You always wish you could change things, but that’s usually just a line here or a moment you wish you’d dialed up or down differently. I suppose most of all I’d have liked to have had a bit more space. The cutting of monthly books down to 20 pages isn’t a killer – I’ve written plenty of the animated books over the years that are that length – but a bit more room for certain moments to breathe would have been helpful, I think.
As for my favourite moment of the arc…well, I’m going to pick two. First one would have to be the ‘Robin’s worst nightmare’ splash page. I think it’s a moment that’s very true to the character, says a hell of a lot with a little, but – on a more practical level – it’s also the moment where I felt completely in control of the book and was writing specifically for Bernard. So to see it come to life as well as it did was a huge thrill.
My other favourite moment(s) would have to be the scenes featuring Lois Lane, but especially that final scene on the roof in the last issue. I think that whole exchange between her and Kara is classic Superman stuff…but with a slight twist. Loved writing that.
Anj: I loved the Damien page as well.
The Lois/Kara dynamic fascinates me as almost every Supergirl writer has had the two interact in a meaningful way. I did think those scenes in this arc were excellent, showing how much that relationship has grown since the Superwoman storyline.
JP: As the two most important women in Superman’s life (sorry Ma Kent!) I think it’s important that they have a relationship/dynamic that’s slightly separate from the Man of Steel. It makes the characters seems more alive and gives the whole DCU greater weight. It’s things like that that sell the idea of the DCU as being a cohesive universe rather than shoe horning in obscure continuity references here, there and everywhere. That’s why I was keen to work in the little reference to Cat Grant losing her son in issue 63. If you don’t know what Lois is referring to you can still read it and it works within the conversation, but if you know your Superman history - and certainly Sterling’s last couple of issues - then it has a greater resonance, I think.
Anj: The reveal that Alex was a Dubbilex clone with some K-genes was a nice unexpected twist. Can you talk about that plot point? In the end, he seems complex with hate issues, mommy issues, and daddy issues. Was he tough to write?
JP: Well, from the moment I joined he was always going to be a Dubbilex clone, but I honestly can’t remember if the K-gene stuff was added by me or was already there. If it wasn’t me then it’s something I completely agreed with as just making him a clone of an old character would have been quite dull. I also think It means he has a lot more potential – in terms of his powers etc – that can be explored if people want to use the character in the future. One thing I really didn’t want to do with his character was ‘fix’ him as being just this thing. That’s not – in my opinion – how good characters or villains come about. Yes, there’s a strong starting point for him because of the Dubbilex stuff, but lets not make that the only thing that’s interesting about him. As for his character having issues…well, he’s a kid. It’s never mentioned outright, but he’s probably only about a year old! He has the arrogance and indifference that the gifted, yet inexperienced have a tendency to wear as a badge.
As for him being complex, I’m not sure about that. He dresses in purple armour and has horns on his head. He’s hardly subtle! But, joking apart, the whole ‘orphan’ thing tied into the themes of the arc about youth etc. I also thought – and not to be too glib about it – that in some respects he’s an abused child. He’s essentially been mistreated and raised in isolation since day one, so it’s not really a surprise that he turns out the way that he does. But was he tough to write? The whole arc was tough to write!
Anj: As I said in my review, he seems like a replicant from Blade Runner, craving a full human experience, creating a family and friends, but not being mature enough to handle those 'real life' relationships. In that way, much like Roy Batty, he is a sympathetic villain.
JP: Well, you always hope that’s the case. They key thing with Alex (and this relates to Batty as well) is that he doesn’t see himself as a villain. He’s just doing what he was built/grown to do, albeit in a slightly more…aggressive fashion! But then I think the same is true of heroes. Should they always be in the right? I’d say ‘no’, but then I think playing with the flaws and ambiguities of the characters is what makes writing fun.
Anj: I was glad to see the Lois/Devereux plotline played out in the last issues. Was the plan always going to be that Devereux was to be an unwitting agent for Alex?
JP: It was always my plan – as soon as I came onboard - that she’d be a key figure in the story, mainly, because it’d be pretty daft to introduce her in the first part and then dump her. Not only that, she was introduced as someone so significant that Alex actually took the trouble to kill her son. That’s a HUGE thing to bring into a story and one that you’re sort of duty bound to deal with once you do. It also has a certain amount of dramatic potential to it, so I guess I just homed in on that. I also felt that committing that crime defines Alex to some extent, so you want to explore that. Why would he did it? Well, there has to be a connection to Catherine.
I also liked the idea that - when you look at the story as a whole - Catherine is the real victim. She loses absolutely everything and gains nothing. On a more practical level, keeping Catherine around meant I could legitimately keep Lois Lane in the story. More Lois is always a good thing!
Anj: I liked seeing Supergirl leading the next generation of heroes, gaining some confidence. Were you happy how that plot turned out? Where do you think she stands in the DCU?
JP: Yeah, I was. I think we did it in the right way, which is to make it something that grows from the character. In a sense the whole arc is about how Supergirl perceives herself and how that’s out of kilter with how others see her. It’s not anything radical, but it’s consistent with what’s come before and it moves the character forward. Which was – essentially - the brief when I got the book. As for where do I think Supergirl sits within the DCU? I guess it depends. The perfect role for her - in my opinion - would be as either leader of the Teen Titans or as a sort of junior member of the JLA. In my mind she’s roughly analogous to where Kyle Rayner was back around the time of Grant Morrison’s run on JLA. She’s clearly at the pinnacle of that next generation of heroes - and certainly she’s potentially one of the most powerful heroes in the entire DCU - but she’s not quite experienced enough yet to sit at the top table comfortably full time and certainly not in a major leading role. Maybe someday that’ll change, but I don’t think so at the moment.
Anj: You know, the Rayner comparison from JLA is spot on. I can remember Kyle meeting Hourman and Hourman saying something like 'why do you perseverate over Hal Jordan; you are as good as him'. He always acted like he belonged at the kids' table ... but then, by the World War 3 arc, grew into the hero he is today. Morrison's JLA run was magical.
Bernard Chang really did some knockout art on the arc. Did you work closely with him on page layout and panel construction?
JP: No, we didn’t. I just wrote the scripts the way I felt they should be written and Bernard just drew them. There were a few occasions where Bernard would ask about changing a detail or a splitting a panel, but generally he draw what I wrote. There was very little back and forth.
That said, Bernard’s art fundamentally influenced the way I wrote the book from my second solo issue (issue 62) onwards. After seeing how good he was it just freed me up to write the book in a slightly more expansive and bolder way. I’m especially proud of the splashes and spreads we cooked up. The Robin one I mentioned before was terrific, the ones at the end of issues 62 and 63 are both pretty superb, but I have to say that I think the ‘Alex-having-the-plot-downloaded-into-his-brain’ double pager in issue 64 is pretty special. If only for the fact it’s such a bonkers piece of storytelling. But why not?!? I knew Bernard could do it and it made a dull exposition scene - and exposition is dull at the best of times - a hell of a lot livelier on the page. But I wouldn’t have had the nerve to do that if Bernard and I hadn’t established a pretty good rapport over the course of the previous issues.
Anj: Your time at the helm of the book is officially over. If you were still on the book, any idea where you would take Supergirl next?
JP: Hard to say, really. As I mentioned before, the whole relationship with Lois would be interesting to play with and I think that dynamic would be fun to explore. In terms of Kara’s adventures, I guess you’d just want to make sure she moves forward. I think her greatest strength as a character, actually, is that she’s very similar to Superman and yet she isn’t him. And what I mean by that is that you get to play with the iconography etc without being imprisoned by some of the other paraphernalia. You can be respectful of the legend, but not hidebound to it and that’s very freeing.
If anything, I think I’d like to put her in stories you wouldn’t expect and really try to mix up the tones and genres. Have her character be consistent, but place her in a milieu that’s a little stranger than your average DC title has become. Make it a sort of sideways glance at the DCU, if you will. How would she relate to characters like John Constantine or Etrigan or Animal Man? What about if you took her off-world for a while? Maybe that all sounds quite scattershot and bonkers and makes everyone hugely relieved that I’m off the book, but I just think if you get the gig and a blank sheet of paper you’ve got to go for it. We can all dream!
Anj: I wouldn't mind seeing Supergirl meet up with the more bizarre side of the DCU. Of course, I also once wrote a fan letter asking DC to have John Constantine guest star in Hawk and Dove.
JP: Now that sounds like a book I’d buy!
Anj: Thanks again for answering some more questions James. And thanks for writing such a strong, intelligent Supergirl! Look forward to whatever you do next!