Friday, October 14, 2011

Green And Johnson On CBR

I am a bit late in covering this but writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson did an interview on CBR about Supergirl and it is well worth reading. Here is the link:

As folks who come here regularly know, I was a bit put off by the original publicity around this book. Supergirl was described as being 'hell on wheels', someone with no 'affection for humanity', someone you shouldn't 'piss off'. And all of those things seemed to be moving away from the core of what the Supergirl character was all about. It didn't seem right and smacked of the earliest issues of the last volume, an erratic bunch of issues with a snarky, unheroic, and frankly unlikeable character.

And yet, each subsequent interview with the creators hasen't necessarily negated those prior comments, but seemed to put them into a context of growth. Those comments might be true at the beginning of this book but it sounds like there is an end. I have grown to be more optimistic about this book and interpretation of the character, especially given some of the nuances of the first issue.

This interview adds to the optimism. I have pulled some pieces from it and thrown in some comments, but the entire interview is worth reading. Here are the parts that grabbed me.

CBR News: You were the writing team for quite a while on "Superman/Batman." When the "Supergirl" title came up for grabs, how did you get involved -- did you actively seek it out? What attracted you to the title?

Michael Green: This was a rare and fun incoming call. Eddie Berganza reached out to us and said, Something big is going on here, can't quite talk about it, but do you have any time?" The answer to that question is always, "We'll make time!" He said, "What do you think about Supergirl?" As it happens she's a character Mike and I had thought about a lot and had a lot of ideas for and have pitched things about before that just weren't [pitched at] the right time. So when he said Supergirl, we were both like, "Hang on a sec!" and we were able to just [list] idea after idea of things we'd been dying to do with her anyway.
Mike Johnson: She popped up in our "Superman/Batman" book a couple of times -- we had a lot of fun doing an issue with Rafael Albuquerque on art where she teams up with Robin and they go into Arkham Asylum. Even at that one issue, she's just a really fun character to write. She's sort of got all the fun, cool stuff that Superman can do, but her personality is so different that she's just a blast to write.

So already in the first question, there is a couple of things that I loved. First off, these guys have been thinking about Supergirl already, have an interest in the character. I have always said when creators have a passion for the characters they are working on, the product is usually fantastic.

But moreover, they reference Superman/Batman #62 (reviewed here by me) an issue I love. That was a great Supergirl issue with spot-on characterization. She's a 'fun character' to write, with all the 'fun, cool stuff' of Superman. That doesn't sound like someone who thinks Supergirl is a sullen, angry, disaffected character.

CBR: Because you guys had the chance to write Kara before, when it came to reboot her for the New 52, did you go back to those "Superman/Batman" issues to figure out what you wanted to keep, or were you inventing a whole new Supergirl so it didn't matter what came before?
Green: We think she's still ultimately very much the same girl, but what we get a chance to do is tell the story of how she got to be that familiar Kara -- we get to tell her beginnings on Earth. As it turns out, that's a really underexploited story with tons of potential for exploring what it's like for a girl like her to land on Earth and experience it for the first time.
Johnson: I think the core character is there, whether you are reading Sterling Gates' run on the character or seeing her now, in this new light. The core qualities of her being heroic, but also being very relatable in terms of how she handles her powers and her experiences in this crazy alien world she wakes up in, those, of course, don't change. As Michael said, we're getting this great opportunity to go back to this earliest part of her experience and tell it in a new way.

And even more good news. They think that 'ultimately she is very much the same girl' as all the other Supergirls that have come before her. There is an understanding that one of her 'core qualities' is 'being heroic'. And that is crucial for me. Supergirl has always (I guess I should say usually) been heroic, trying to do what's right. Heck, they even reference Sterling Gates' run as being indicative of her core qualities and I think that means they 'get' who she is.

The big question behind this response is how long is 'ultimately'? I felt that in Sterling Gates' run that she was really on the hero's journey. And I think she made a huge step in that journey in the BizarroGirl arc. That was 2 years into his run.

I don't need Green and Johnson to move Supergirl through the journey quickly. But I need progress. If I get 2 years of pissed off, alienated Kara ... well that's just too long.

CBR:Talking about the first arc, you've set up the mystery of how Kara gets to Earth, you have her crash-landing and getting the worst reception possible for a confused teenaged girl in the first issue! Where do you go from here?
Johnson: It's a big planet; it's a big galaxy, a big universe! Issue two, I think you can see from the cover, is showing her introduction to her cousin and the idea of whatever he has to tell her, it's not that she's automatically going to take him at face value. If you woke up somewhere bizarre and someone walked up to you and said, "Earth is destroyed," you're not going to say, "Oh, really?" and start crying. You're going to want answers for yourself. On the flip side, he's not necessarily going to believe that she is who she says she is. That's really the foundation for issue two. Getting into three and four, we dive into answers about the pod she arrived in and the nature of it and who sent those big killer robots to retrieve the pod in issue one, so there's a lot more answers there. Beyond that, when we start getting into five and six, we start to get more information about the circumstances surrounding her past, why she was sent and what the circumstances were for her arrival.
Green: Sort of in the overview way, the first bunch of issues and the story will be, for us, Kara going through the questions of, where the Hell am I, how did I get here and ultimately, what is my place here now that I am here? Those aren't easy questions to answer, and they're not questions that have definitive answers. Her role on Earth isn't obvious and it's going to be evolving.
Green: We really want to see her become a hero on Earth, rather than just be one. It's a long journey.

So again, part of the draw of Supergirl is the fact that she is becoming a hero, she is learning. So it makes sense that those earliest steps will be more difficult. But they want to see her become a hero just like I do.

CBR:Just looking at the solicits, it doesn't seem like it is a foregone conclusion she'll even be a hero.
Green: Exactly! That's why the point of view of that girl is really important. We wanted to just imagine what would it be like to be someone who had a life and family and world you expected that you could rely on, to literally wake up in a new environment and have insane capabilities. You wouldn't jump to, "I guess I'm a superhero on this new planet!" You would start with, "What is this new planet? What are these creatures? They have a language, I should probably learn that. How do you find food around here? There's a thing called money?" It's a little bit of a fish out of water story, just learning what this new place is. Only once she develops a relationship with the place and the people in it does she realize that she has something here of value that's worth giving of herself to protect.
One thing you've really been emphasizing is that she's not a human girl, she's an alien trapped on a world that's not her own. How are Kryptonians different from humans? Is it huge fundamental differences or more of a culture clash?

I had to chuckle here because it reminded me of Cosmic Adventures #1. In that comic, Landry Walker covered her confusion over Earth culture (and the concept of money) in the span of 2 pages.

But also a bit of pessimism here. When the interviewer has to ask 'are you going to make her a hero?' it makes me nervous.

CBR: So you aren't really setting up a traditional superhero story. Much of it is Kara acclimating to life on Earth.
Green: It'll be there, too. We still have plenty of things for her to be dealing with -- we just wanted to make sure, while she was dealing with more traditional superhero problems, there was a set of character and circumstances and point of view to follow. It wasn't just a girl in a costume punching, but our girl in a costume punching.

So there will be super-heroics in this book. But it sounds like characterization is as important as action. And I need both.

CBR:Going along with that, how do you set up a rogues gallery for a character who doesn't even know if she wants to be on Earth? Is it hitting those ideas of exploitation?
Johnson: That is a great question. It's sort of an interesting challenge for this book, when we're not dealing with someone who set themselves up as a superhero and then the super villains will follow in time. Our super villains are really coming out of her story. Again, the villain in issue three and four is a new villain we're really excited about, a new arch-villain for Supergirl that, again, in terms of tying it to the story, it's the villain behind what happens in issue one. In fact, you hear his voice on the first page of the first issue. Then, the villain for five and six, we're going to be reintroducing an old character from the DCU, but the way that she comes to interact with Supergirl very much comes out of what Kara is doing and wants to do and needs to do at that moment.
Green: The way they meet is pretty far out. Not in a '60s sense, but in a literal sense!
Johnson: There's a teaser! [Laughs] Then, after that, we've already teased that we're bringing back Silver Banshee, but we're bringing her back in a very cool way, retaining the coolest aspects of the character and then going even farther with what she looks like and especially what she can do.

Okay, I am calling it right here. Blackstarr is going to be the villain in issues 5 and 6. It has to be. And I am glad that Silver Banshee is coming back as a Supergirl rogue. She 'feels' like a Supergirl villain so I am glad that is a returning part of the Gates' run.

So we have creators talking about a fun, heroic Supergirl who is going through a journey that is difficult at it's outset. Doesn't that just sound better than a pissed off, Hell on wheels, isolated, alien who has no affection for humanity?

The bottom line is that these interviews make me think Green, Johnson, and Asrar (in his interviews) all know who Supergirl is. It is just a matter of getting her there. I hope I get to meet these guys at some point so I can pick their brains a bit more in depth about the character of Supergirl.


Martin Gray said...

Wonderful entry, Anj. I feel all kinds of hopeful.

Now, why so sure it's Blackstar?

(Did you see the rubbish biker baddies in Static Shock #1? They rather reminded me of The Gang. ?

Anonymous said...

I second Blackstar or even Black Flame or Lesla Larr, here. -ealperin

Jason said...

These interviews are making me more optimistic. I want to see the secret identity something that is kept. We got to see very little of Linda Lang prior to the relaunch. So here's hoping this Kara also adopts a secret identity. I'd really like it to be Linda Lee but I could live with Linda Lang again.

Martin Gray said...

Aha, just seen the solicit for #5 ... we were all wrong! Look at the cover and see if you can guess who that is (now) before getting to the solicit:

Anonymous said...