Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Interview With Supergirl Writers

I have tried to remain optimistic in the face of the changes of the DCnU. In particular, I have really tried to remain optimistic when reading about the new Supergirl comic. There certainly have been some buzzwords in the early news that have made me concerned - no affection for humans, don't piss her off - but I have tried to roll with it.

Well, that optimism is harder to come by after reading a Newsarama interview with Supergirl co-writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson. Here is the link:

As always, it is well worth reading the entire thing. These are the folks guiding the ship. So it is important to read this thing to get a sense of their understanding of the character. I don't know if it is the way I think of Supergirl. But so much of what they say sounds similar to what was happening in the current Supergirl book, issues #1-19. I am sure that will please some people out there. But that was a tough book to like with a very unlikeable hero. I don't want to go back to that ... but I think I am. Now I promise I will come back to the topic of optimism in the end of this post. But here are some blurbs that really stuck out to me.

Nrama: So with Supergirl #1, you could pick this comic up and know nothing about the character at all, right?
Green: We're approaching this as if we're inventing a new character. Obviously, she'll have similarities to the character people already know, but she'll have some new things as well.
We're really focusing on her specific journey on our crazy planet, and letting it just be about that. She'll interact with other people in the DC Universe who are experiencing interesting things in the relaunch, other characters you'll recognize. But this is going to be Supergirl's book.

So, that sounds innocuous at first. But then I was wondering if these 'interactions with other people' means guest-stars ad nauseum like we saw early in the current volume of Supergirl. I thought part of the plan of DCnU was limited early crossovers so the characters could get their own feet under them.  And let me guess, since (as Newsarama describes her) "she feels like an alien, has just lost her parents, and will be isolated on this world" and "she doesn't even know if she likes humans well enough to want to help them" my guess is she will be fighting a lot of other heroes (as seen already in the solicit for Supergirl #2).

Nrama: How would you describe this Supergirl? Can you tell us about her as a person?
Johnson: She's a Kryptonian teenager who has had her entire world taken away. All her friends and family are gone, and she's suddenly on this planet called Earth, with backwards technology and people who don't behave as well as the people on her home planet.
It's like taking a teenage girl from today, who's locked into modern technology and social media and everything, and throwing her back into the Middle Ages.
And in Supergirl's case, she also suddenly has the power to rule the place. All of that would mess with anyone's head. It would mess with an adult's head, let alone a teenage girl who's finding her way in the world.
Also, she's an alien. Kryptonians are aliens. And I think that gets lost. In the past, they've been heroes and they look like us, or at least really good looking versions of us. But she notices the differences when she arrives. And that informs the way she reacts.

Well, that's fine to say. I would say that every person who has written the current book - from Loeb to Gates - explored the fact that she felt a bit alone on this world. Gates explored it a lot, from how isolated she felt at the beginning of his run to how devastated she was by loss in the BizarroGirl arc. But the best stories of Supergirl (since her first appearance in Action #252) show how she is at heart a good person, someone trying to do what's right, making mistakes and learning, on a journey. If you take away that core of goodness and hope, the character becomes aloof, bitter, angry, superior ... characteristics that don't jibe well with being a hero. I don't get that sense of hope and goodness anywhere here.

Green: There's also a bit of a mystery as to how she got here. Superman was supposed to be the last one from Krypton, and now she's here, and there has to be a story behind that.
But also, how does she feel about Earth? How does she find her place on Earth? What is her place on Earth? Especially when you are automatically associated with someone so world famous. How does she become her own person in Superman's shadow?
Johnson: There's also the idea that she's learning her powers in a way that Superman didn't because he grew up here. She is much more used to the Kryptonian world, since that's where she grew up. That extends to even speaking the language and understanding the way things work.
Green: She has quite a bit of struggle once she gets to this planet. Nothing here compares to the life she thought she wanted for herself, and now she has to find a new place for herself, one that really ends up being her destiny.

A mystery on how she got here? Again? Let me guess ... maybe Darkseid is involved. Maybe she isn't really Kara Zor-El. Maybe she is a villain's plot.

And I also wonder how deep this 'alien' feel is going to run. Is she going to misinterpret idioms? Look at a fork and wonder if it is a dinglehopper? If that happens, it'll get boring pretty quick.

Nrama: It sounds like this starts off at the very beginning of her journey toward being a hero, instead of being about an established hero named Supergirl.
Green: The first set of stories will be her getting to that place. She doesn't just land on our planet and immediately turn into a superhero. It's a learning process. It's right there in the name: Supergirl. She's not an adult yet. She has a ways to go.
Mike had a great line when we were first talking about this: "All teenagers are aliens in some way or another." We're just really heightening that metaphor.

So that's fine. I think part of the appeal of Supergirl is that she is becoming a hero. That she is still a girl, learning how to be a hero but striving to be a hero.

I worry about the 'all teenagers are aliens' theme. Not every teenager is crushed by angst all the time. Some are mature and responsible. Some are happy. Again, I keep going back to the BizarroGirl arc by Gates and Igle/Chang as such a wonderful story showcasing how you can be dealing with personal issues, feel alone and unloved, out of place, and still try to be a hero. I hope Green and Johnson remember that.

Nrama: Is she under pressure to be like Superman?
Green: Everyone just assumes she is like Superman, because she's from the same planet and has the same type of powers. They think she should ostensibly be like he is. But she's a different person, with a different personality. Like any teenager, she would struggle with anyone's assumptions about her, whether they assume she's good or evil or helpful or indifferent.
Johnson: That extends to her powers. Obviously her basic power set is the same as Superman's, but we also want to play with the idea that the yellow sun affects Kryptonian females differently from males. And in some ways, she may be more powerful than Superman. She has different abilities that she's trying to cope with.

Nice way to let us know that others will think that she is evil and indifferent. Will she do something to change people's opinion of her? Or will she stew in her own juices becoming resentful? And which book would you rather read. Wasn't the whole point of Gates/Igle run that people had come to dislike the Supergirl character for all that resentment, that she needed to be rehabilitated?

And different physiology for Kryptonian males and females? I guess we'll have to wait and see. If it is crystal powers, I will be upset.

Nrama: Just to clear something up, though, Michael mentioned the word "evil." Kara is still one of the good guys, right?
Green: She's obviously on a journey toward becoming Supergirl and everything that name implies. But when we meet her, she doesn't know what she is. She was just a Kryptonian girl, and she's thrust onto our planet and has to figure out what she's going to be. She didn't know anyone was going to ever ask her that question, so she has to ask that question of herself: What kind of person am I going to be now that I have these new strange abilities that make me special and different?

And this is the question that stuck out the most. And stuck out in a bad way. Even Newsarama picked up on the 'evil' word from the last question and ask Green outright about it. And his response is what I call a 'non-answer'. He could have said 'of course she's a good guy'. Instead we get this obfuscation. Guess what that means? It means she is going to be portrayed for some time as being 'maybe' evil. Sounds just like the Loeb and Kelly runs all over again.

Nrama: When you mention big action, will this book have villains and such for this new Supergirl character to fight?
Green: They will also be threats that challenge the type of person she wants to be. What makes a great rogues gallery is that they're not just physically as powerful as you, but they present some type of psychological question about what kind of person you want to be. So we want people who are up to his level.
Johnson: We'll also be bringing back a character who used to be on both sides of the hero/villain equation and hasn't been seen for awhile. This person was associated with the Justice League. But when we started talking about the character, it seemed like this character would be a great foil for Supergirl.

I have heard Maxima mentioned in places as  the foil character and that would make sense with the implied direction here. Their description of Supergirl sounds like the 90s Maxima. Maybe Supergirl will realize she doesn't want to be Maxima.

Nrama: Then to finish up, is there anything else you want to tell fans to kind of summarize what they should expect from this new Kara in Supergirl?
Green: It's the Kara you know, except we're telling the story of her arrival and how she got started on her journey toward becoming a hero. We think that's the most important part. This whole relaunch is about new beginnings.

At least we have this as the wrap-up answer. All along I have talked about how the undercurrent of Supergirl is her journey towards becoming a hero. And here Green says the words. So maybe the bottom line is Green and Johnson know that she is a hero. The question is when does she turn the corner? What if 18 issues in she is still bitter, resentful, and 'maybe evil'. I don't want that.

And so I end with optimism. It has always been tough to be a fan of Supergirl. I have lived through Supergirl being dead, being Matrix, being a pawn of everyone and Luthor's sex kitten. And out of that came PAD's Supergirl, a run I love. I have lived through her coming back and being angsty, provocative, angry, crystal powered, irrational, and trying to kill Superman. And out of that came Gates' run, a run I love.

So I have to give this a shot. And I have to go in with an open mind. I hope I am not let down.


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the interview and it sounds to me like they are trying to bring Supergirl back in the right direction. I liked Supergirl in issues 1-19... well, not so much in 19, the Palmiottoi ssue, but I liked her in the other issues. I found her unlikeable, boring, genderless and hormoneless, unintelligent, obediant, and without personality, depth, or spirit in issues 20-59. I am very glad for this change and wiping out what happened in those issues.

However, the hesitation on the word evil sort of bothered me. I doubt they plan on making her evil. Just giving her more depth and a more realistic and interesting personality... like Loeb and David. I really love that they are going to make Supergirl Supergirl again, instead of a less sexy, uninterested in the oppoite sex, less intelligent, less powerful version of Superman.

Heath Edwards said...

lol, i was about to ask whether you'd come upon this interview, just a few minutes before it popped up in my feed :). thanks again for your thoughts, anj...

while i do worry about some of what green and johnson have to say about supergirl, i was quite excited about the previous series' attempt at giving supergirl a journey from girl to supergirl. i don't think it was quite given the chance, with so many writers popping on and off. though i immensely enjoyed gates' run on the book, i do think it skipped over that part of the journey and gave us the supergirl who'd already made the decision to be a hero, despite her failures and upsets.
i would like to see kara's story from the beginning, and i hope this'll give us that.
i can see how that might make longtimers (i hope that doesn't sound derogative) uncomfortable...

Anj said...

while i do worry about some of what green and johnson have to say about supergirl, i was quite excited about the previous series' attempt at giving supergirl a journey from girl to supergirl. i don't think it was quite given the chance,

Thanks for the post.

I know I am an old-timer so it is not an insult; it's the truth.

And I love the hero's journey, all its steps. And I won't mind seeing what you are talking about. But I worry that she is going to be shown as an angry, bitter, pessimist.

You need to want to be a hero to start on that journey. None of what I have read in these things makes her sound like she wants to be.

Trust me, I am going in with an open mind. I hope the comic comes off better than the pre-comic publicity.

valerie21601 said...

While this article clears up a few things about what they are planning for Supergirl. I still have very mixed feelings about where they are going with her.

They seem to be only interested in the "new" fans and want to back burner almost totally the "old" fans. In their interview they say new fans will "love" Supergirl while the old fans will "like" her. It does not sound very encouraging at all to me.

Dave Mullen said...

If you take away that core of goodness and hope, the character becomes aloof, bitter, angry, superior ... characteristics that don't jibe well with being a hero.
Also known as the Marvel comics formula of recent years.

It's a strange interview alright, I think it was Jim Lee who admitted they are taking a view to make all of their characters more 'edgy' (i.e. angsty) and Supergirl is clearly the litmus test for it.
Really there's no point moaning about this shift as you either like it or you don't. If you don't like it walk away - I certainly will be. But it's this sort of atatement that irritates:
" It's the Kara you know, except we're telling the story of her arrival and how she got started on her journey toward becoming a hero"
That's saying this is still the Kara I've been reading about for the last few years but here's 'Year One'?
They really don't seem sure how to sell this september relaunch, is it a full-on ground zero reboot or just ammending their origins...?

It sounds as if they're simply hedging their bets in case the relaunch doesn't go down as well as hoped for.

Gene said...

This Supergirl sounds interesting as an Elseworlds or Ultimate Universe type character. But frankly I am not thrilled that this Kara will replace the Kara that Gates left us with.


Anonymous said...

"We're approaching this as if we're inventing a new character."

Translation: "We don't really wanna write Supergirl, we just wanna get on an S-Book this is the one that'll let us get away with the most crap...and if we get bored we'll have her take on The Teen Titans at least until Marvel buys our Wolverine Beyond pitch".

JOhn Feer

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of Supergirl #12, where Kara would rather party than help people until events force her to do the right thing. She meets the heroine who would later be known as Terra and after they have stopped a monster, Terra asks Kara if she is really Supergirl due to Kara's actions before the fight.

Jason said...

I think I truly understand for the first time how readers back in 1985-86 felt after DC's reboot following CRISIS. None of this is the DC that I know or recognize.

valerie21601 said...

DC is usually great on the set-up and too often fail on the follow up.

Anonymous said...

"We're approaching this as if we're inventing a new character. "
So go invent a new character already, if you don't wanna write Supergirl, then by all means pass on the project.
What six different writers said the same thing about Supergirl in the course of 2005 alone and the character was all but ruined as a consequence.
Just my reaction, frankly from what I"ve read this week neither Kal El or Kara seem like they will be either new or interesting when this process is finished.
Frankly though, I don't see how DC can keep up a line of 52 comics, I think the bulk of them will do okay for ten months on the strength of collector's stockpiling. After that the numbers will go down to more familiar and disquieting levels. Im not sure that "new edgy" stories are the solution to the sales problems that beset the comic book industry.
And what the hell does "edgy" mean anyway?? It is one of those badly mauled Orwellian cliches that means whatever the speaker wants it to mean at the expense of clarity.

John Feer

Anj said...

I hate 'edgy' as well.

I can only hope that the writers understand that Supergirl is not X-23 ... or Maxima ... or the Loeb/Kelly Supergirl.

Will this work? I guess it is time to read the stories.