Monday, April 9, 2012

Interview With Paul Kupperberg

Paul Kupperberg was the writer on the entire 23 issues of The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl, as well as her last stories in Superman Family. Kupperberg's Supergirl was always confident and strong and those stories are loved by fans of Kara. Elements of those stories still resonate to this day with Reactron and Blackstarr still around.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Kupperberg about his time on Daring as well as other Supergirl stories he was involved in. As a long time Supergirl fan, it was an absolute thrill to ask him some questions that have been on my mind for a while! 

A hat tip to blog friend John Feer, who recently wondered what Kupperberg's plans with Dick Malverne were. It was that question that spurred me to seek out Mr. Kupperberg. And, of course, many many thanks again to Mr. Kupperberg for taking the time to chat with me about Supergirl. Off we go ...

Anj: Were you a fan of Supergirl before you were named writer for Daring New Adventures? What do you think of her as a character; what are the key aspects or appeal of her?

Paull Kupperberg: I was a Supergirl fan long before I ever thought of working in comics. She was one of earliest comic book crushes, after Wonder Woman, which when I started reading was deep in the throes of its really ridiculous “fairy tale” run under Bob Kanigher, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito...I guess it was Bob’s idea of writing a “girls comic,” with genies and dragons and the introduction of Wonder Girl and Wonder Tot. Anyway, I was five or six years old when I discovered Wonder Woman in the early 1960s, and a couple of years later I started following the Supergirl back-up in Action Comics. 

I’m not sure exactly what it was that I liked about Supergirl. I loved all things Superman, but if I had to choose between Supergirl and Superboy, I’d have gone with Supergirl every time. It never bothered me that she was a girl, and there was something way more real to me about her than Superboy. Maybe it was that subtle undercurrent of sadness about the know, with Linda being an orphan, kind of sacrificing her childhood happiness to serve as Superman’s “secret weapon.”

Anj: What was it like to work with industry legend Carmine Infantino on the book? Was he involved in the creative process with you?

PK: Carmine is a legend and I grew up loving his work on The Flash, Adam Strange, and Batman, and any time he drew one of my scripts it was a thrill. But we didn’t exactly work together, at least not in a side-by-side collaborative sense. We really did things like a factory, everybody creating their individual part and sending it down the conveyor belt to the next guy so he could do his. I plotted Supergirl with my editor, Julie Schwartz, and wrote it as a full script that he sent it along to Carmine. Usually the next time I saw the story was when it was in print, and I almost never had any contact with Carmine himself. After he was fired from DC in the mid-70s, he never came up to the offices again, so he didn’t have any input into the storyline. I doubt he would have been interested in being part of the process even if he’d been offered the chance.

Anj: There are so many things about Daring that I am interested in learning about, many of them dealing with your characterization of Supergirl. I think your Supergirl was the most confident version of the character to date. Was that change in her character part of your pitch for the title?

PK: Absolutely. By the time I started writing her in Superman Family, she had been around quite a while and would have known, as far as I was concerned, what she was doing by then. Besides, she’s SUPERgirl, with all the powers and abilities of Superman. What the hell did she have to be insecure about? I don’t think I could have written her as anything but as strong and confident. Nothing else made any sense to me.

Anj: That confidence was seen even before the title was released, in the preview story in Superman #376 where Supergirl literally steps out of Superman’s shadow and shows she is her own person. Did you feel you needed to break her away from Kal a bit, not having her look over her shoulders as she had in the past?

PK: Definitely. Kara had been standing in Superman’s shadows for about 25 years by the time I started writing her. It was past time she found her own path and started following it, even aside from the fact that any character who can move planets really wouldn’t have too many confidence issues.

Anj: You also sort of de-aged Kara, making her grad student age after years as a news reporter, guidance counselor, and soap opera actress. Can you talk about that decision?

PK: “Sort of de-aged” her is right. We never specified her age or denied any of her previous jobs, just sent her back to graduate school, which anybody can attend at any age, and never mentioned any of the earlier continuities after that. We could still get away with casual reboots like that in those days.

Anj: The Daring run coincided with the release of the Supergirl movie and the unveiling of the headband costume. Was there a buzz around DC at that time about how the character might be breaking out a bit? Did the movie’s release effect any of the comic storylines in any way?

PK: There was some hope for Supergirl breaking out, but no real expectations, especially after we saw the movie, which was pretty bad. But aside from the costume changes, we mostly ignored the movie...I think everyone was just happy the film didn’t damage Supergirl’s reputation as much as it did Helen Slater’s.

Anj:  The last issue of the title ends with the return of Dick Malverne and a romantic kiss. Do you remember what your plans were for that storyline?

PK: Not really, although Linda was definitely going to reject Dick. At the time I wrote Supergirl #23, we thought the character was going to continue in a new title, DC Double Comics, which she was going to share with a revamp of Superboy. I wrote the first issue (which got as far as being penciled by Eduardo Barreto, and lettered), which has a scene between Linda and Dick; he confesses his lifelong love for her, but she doesn’t want any part of it. After that, Linda took off for what was planned as a six month space adventure on New Krypton, but I don’t remember what we had planned for Dick.

Anj: You also wrote DC Comics Presents #86, the last Supergirl story before her death in Crisis on Infinite Earths. What was it like writing that script, knowing it was Supergirl’s last?

PK: After about three years working on the character, I was glad to have a chance to say good-bye to Supergirl, but I wasn’t happy with the decision to retcon her (and Superboy) out of the continuity.

Anj: You also wrote a bunch of my favorite books growing up including the Doom Patrol Showcase issues and series and Arion Lord of Atlantis. These books featured strong women like Celsius and Lady Chian. Do you think you have an affinity for writing female protagonists?

PK: I guess so. I’m by nature and politics a feminist, and I’ve known plenty of strong women in my life. It never made sense to me that someone’s sex would limit them in what they’re capable of doing. It used to bug the hell out of me when Wonder Woman was treated like a second class citizen and when I took over as editor of the title, the first thing I did was institute what I called the Superman-Batman Rule. That says that if you wouldn’t put the top male superheroes in a situation, you can’t do it to Diana either.

Anj:  I can’t thank you enough for this interview. Where can fans of yours find your work now?

PK: I currently write Life With Archie: The Married Life for Archie Comics, which was just nominated for a 2011 Eisner Award in the category of Best Publication for Young Adults, and I’m working on getting some new creator-owned properties off the ground. Anyone who wants to find out what else I’m up to can check out or friend me on Facebook.

Anj: Thanks again!


Gene said...

Great interview Anj!
If Paul Kupperberg's Superman-Batman Rule was enforced today then Jim Lee and 80% of comic book artists today would have to find a new career.

Anonymous said...

And thanks to Mister K for rendering up a very interesting interview indeed.

I'm like him, a choice between SuperBOY and SuperGIRL Kara Zor El wins every single time.
My other big take away is the intangible boost a character gets from the right mass media tie in.
Supergirl (1984) tanks at the Box Office and plans to kill her off, retcon her out of existence and expel her readers from the DC fanbase....accelerate.
But drop Supergirl down into the Superman Animated Series use her wisely, and within a year plans are afoot to raise Kousin Kara from the dead and put her back on the Road to Glory.
Its an intangible thing but real.
Anyhow, I now "get" where Paul K was coming from on TDNAOS...many thanks to him.


mhr said...

Congratulations, very nice interview and feedback from a series that is still my favorite.

I have Mr. Kupperberg as a contact in FB and did asked him a couple of times about his Supergirl run, unfortunately he only replied that it was too long ago and didn't remembered, when he wrote back..

I guess I need a blog like yours for those questions LOL

Thank you for the interview. :)

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments!

Daring New does stand the test of time with its characterization of Supergirl. So kudos to Mr. Kupperberg again.

I agree that the S/B rule makes perfect sense for Wonder Woman.

And it is funny how the movie's poor outcome predicted/dictated Supergirl's death. Luckily we are in a time when Supergirl seems to be a media darling! It's about time!

Martin Gray said...

Wonderful piece Anj, poor old Dick. How I wish Paul were still writing or editing at DC.