Monday, September 24, 2012

Newsarama Interview

 Mike Johnson was recently interviewed over on Newsarama, discussing the revelations Supergirl #0 and leaking some hints about the upcoming year. It is definitely worth reading the interview in its entirety

As usual, there are some parts of the interview that struck me and are worth elaborating on. In particular, what I found interesting was the underlying current of differentiating Supergirl from Superman.

On to the interview.

Nrama:  Let's talk about the origin for Kara that you guys created for Supergirl #0. The way she was rocketed from Krypton was obviously a really emotional scene, but it was very different from the way Kal-El was sent off to Earth. Was that part of your thinking, that things were much different for Kara than her cousin? 
Johnson: Yeah, we wanted to take advantage of the fact that, with Supergirl and her family, you have the freedom to do things that you don't have with Superman's story, because Superman's story is so iconic. Superman's Krypton story ends, traditionally, with his mom and dad holding each other, comforting each other as they send their baby away.
In the same way that, with Supergirl as a character, you can sort of turn traditional "Super" mythos things on their head, we wanted to do that with her origin story here and show that instead of her parents comforting each other, watching their daughter being sent off, the family was really — even though it's a loving family — the family was really in a bad place when Kara left. And it was due to the fact that Zor-El wasn't tell his wife about what he was planning.
I hope it came across in the issue that he's not being evil in any sense. He's just thinking, if I'm going to be able to save my daughter, and even Argo, I can't tell them because they'll try to stop me.

 I have to say it this does have a very different feel than Superman's origin. The lasting image of Jor-El and Alura is the two of them hugging each other as Kal's rocket takes off. Here we have Alura collapsed on the ground, Zor-El nursing a blast from a stun gun by his wife. Not exactly a loving farewell.

Zor-El never came across as evil in the issue but more desperate. It shows how different he is from Jor-El. Zor didn't share the info of the planet exploding with his wife, he didn't share what he was doing with Kara. But it felt more like he was trying to spare her heartache than being deceitful. Still, shouldn't he share that info with her?

He also is different than Jor-El in that he saved a city full of people even if it was with outlawed experiments. Philosophically, it would be good to debate whose approach to the disaster was better.

Nrama: Yeah, that came across in the issue. And yet, we saw that he had experimented upon her. Is that a thread that may be picked up later?

Johnson: Yeah, definitely. We wanted to answer questions in the #0 issue. We really wanted it to feel like a complete story. But we also didn't want to tie everything up with a nice bow. We still wanted to leave some mystery, particularly about Argo City and the Worldkillers, which are more an extension of the events of the #0 issue and less the meat of the issue itself.

But at the same time, probably the largest mystery remaining is exactly what happened to Argo between the end of the #0 issue and when Kara found it in issue #5, where it's basically a dead city and to all appearances, her parents are dead as well.

So while it doesn't necessarily directly effect Kara's origins, there is plenty more that happened with Argo that I want to know. What happened to the city? How did it end up around that blue sun? How did the World Killers get released?

But as much as I want to read about that, I want to read more about Zor-El and Alura. Does she forgive him for all he did? Do they become estranged? Does she release the World Killers because she is so upset at what Zor was doing? Does the ground become Kryptonite like in the Silver Age?

And what happened in the initial aftermath of the planet's destruction. What was that conversation between Zor and Alura like? It begs for a back-up story in an Annual or something.

Nrama: With Zor-El doing those experiments, do those explain some of Kara's unique powers? 

Johnson: That a very good question that I can't totally answer without spoiling. But yeah, as we see in #0, he definitely had a plan to maximize the power of the yellow sun for Kara. But Kara, in her pod circling the sun, was just getting blasted for years with solar power.

Now we know that there was definitely some manipulation by Zor-El.  But the plan was to 'maximize' her power, not add powers. So maybe her 'solar flare' power is simply that she has absorbed so much energy she can't contain it, not that she necessarily has flame powers.

Nrama: You guys have gotten to the one-year point with Supergirl, and so much of what we've seen is her feeling like an alien and alone. Is that still the theme going forward into the second year? Or are things changing as she meets people who can become her supporting cast?

Johnson: We definitely want to maintain the idea that she does not feel like she truly belongs on planet Earth. You know, just because she learned what happened to Krypton doesn't mean she's immediately going to feel like this is her home. She's still adjusting. She's still absorbing what happened.

But we also don't want to keep hitting the same point of feeling completely alone and alienated. That's one of the reasons we brought in Siobhan, the Silver Banshee character, and her brother in issues #8 through #10. And we're going to be seeing Siobhan in issue #13 and beyond.

One of my biggest gripes about the title is Supergirl's inability to talk to people. It might be why the last two issues have been two of my favorites. In one, she is talking to Superman. In the other, while a flashback, we get to see Kara interact with other characters. It has lead to some difficulty in stories and it just slams home that 'isolation' aspect of the story.

So I was glad to hear Johnson say that they don't want to keep hitting that one thread over and over. I am still hoping that her 'Fortress of Solitude' can download English into her brain. 

Nrama: The other big question still remaining is her relationship with Kal, and that scene in issue #12 felt very realistic and emotional, as you showed them adjusting to each other. What are your thoughts behind the way that relationship has evolved so far, and where will it go in the second year?
Johnson: Up until now, Kara hasn't even known the truth about Krypton, so she hasn't been inclined to believe that this big, strapping superhero is the little baby she used to hold in her arms. 
In issue #13, she's going to learn more of the truth around what happened to Krypton, and that's going to start to soften her stance toward Kal. And she's going to begin to come around to accept the fact that this really is her baby cousin. Of course, accepting the fact that he's her cousin doesn't mean she's going suddenly want to hang out with him all the time. It's still such a mind-blowing and emotional thing to have to digest that we're still going to be playing that out. 
We don't want Kara and Kal to be at odds forever, but at the same time, we don't want to rush into the sort of familiar status quo, where they're these loving cousins that hang out all the time and have no issues between them. 

Well, I suppose this promises slow progress between the two characters .. and that's better than no progress. And nice to hear that won't be 'at odds forever'. These two should be close, should appreciate that the other exists, should want to be together as a family. 

And I agree, that conversation between the two in Supergirl #12 did feel emotional. That was one of my favorite scenes in this run so far.
Nrama: Is that when you become a solo writer as well, or does that start in issue #13?

Johnson: Issue #13 will be my first issue as the solo writer, and Sami Basri is coming in as the guest artist while Mahmud starts work on the crossover. But Sami's done an amazing job on issue #13, and he's really been able to capture Kara's character the way that Mahmud has established it, but at the same time bringing his own cool look to it. I'm thrilled to be able to work with Sami on my first solo issue.

Michael felt that making issue #0 our last co-writing issue felt like a good point for him to step aside for now. So we sort of book-ended it with issue #1 and issue #0.

So starting next month Mike Johnson is writing the book alone. I wonder just how far in advance Johnson and Green had plotted. Will Green get a co-plotter credit?

Congratulations to Mike Johnson for flying solo on the book.

Nrama: Getting back to this battle with Simon, it feels like he's gearing up to be her arch-nemesis. What were your thoughts behind the creation of Simon Tycho as a Supergirl villain, and was it influenced by Superman having his Lex Luthor?

Johnson: And most importantly, his objective is completely different from Luthor's. Whereas Lex detests Superman for being an alien, and Lex feels like he has humanity's best interest at heart, Tycho actually couldn't care less about humanity. He loves all things alien. That was really his job. His company was about retrieving things that fell from space and studying them and profiting from them. And Kara is just another thing for him to study and take advantage of. But Tycho essentially loves everything alien.

So we already had that Jor-El/Lara's goodbye was the opposite of Zor-El/Alura's. We know that Reign is the opposite of Supergirl in terms of a similar background with a very different resulting person.

Now we hear that Supergirl's arch-villain Simon Tycho is the opposite of Superman's arch-villain Lex Luthor. It does make Tycho feel fresh. That is an interesting background and an interesting way for him to view Supergirl.

I just hope that this 'opposite' of Superman idea doesn't spread to Supergirl's heroism. My hope is that these differences are to make Supergirl feel like a stand-alone character and not just a female Superman. She has her own background. That said, I want the ideals and actions of Supergirl to be more like Superman's than less. How impressive will it be is Supergirl becomes a hero in the face of her more difficult origin.

Nrama: We've heard a bit about H'el and the threat he represents, but what is Supergirl's role in the story?

Johnson: The really interesting thing about H'el is that he has a tie to every member of the trio. For Supergirl, essentially, He'l represents an alternative for Kara to living on Earth and becoming assimilated the way that Kal has. Up until this point for Kara, it's looked like a simple matter of, well, if Krypton is gone, I guess I'll start here. And H'el offers a really compelling alternative.

So my hope will be that Supergirl will realize that H'El's promises are empty, that Krypton is dead. Transforming Earth into Krypton, enforcing Kryptonian culture on the planet won't bring back her home planet, just an imitation.

Nrama: I'm sure you've planned what you're hoping to do with Supergirl in 2013. You talked a little bit about her supporting cast, and you've implied that we might see more interaction with Superman, but can you say more about what's coming for Kara in 2013?

Johnson: We're seeing the second act of the Tycho story in issues #12 and #13. But after the Super-crossover, we're going to see the second act of the Worldkillers and really, finally answer the question of how Kara's father's experiments on her were tied to his experiments on the Worldkillers, and what that means for Kara and for her powers and for her evolution, not just as a character but literally, her biological evolution. That's a tease I can give you there. And evolution, with the Worldkillers, is key as well, because we knew that they grew from embryos to what we saw in issues #5, #6 and #7, but there's nothing to say that they won't stop evolving.

And we definitely have big plans for [the Banshee] story to continue and see how Kara's relationship with Sibhan's brother will evolve. He represents the first hint of a love interest that we have for her.

One of the big complaints I read in other places about this title is that the overall story is moving too slowly.  So it is good to read that answers will continue to be revealed over the year. I had to remind myself that Peter David's Supergirl took a long time before his overall vision of an Earth Angel of Justice was revealed. So maybe I need more patience? As long as the there is an ending planned and each chapter is a good read with a mix of characterization and action, I suppose I should be happy and roll with it.

Still, it sounds like there is a lot of interesting stuff on the horizon. It also sounds like Johnson will be softening the 'isolation' aspect of the book, slowly bringing a Superman relationship into Kara's world, and keeping her a hero.


Gene said...

"Tycho actually couldn't care less about humanity. He loves all things alien. That was really his job. His company was about retrieving things that fell from space and studying them and profiting from them. And Kara is just another thing for him to study and take advantage of. But Tycho essentially loves everything alien."

After reading this I cannot help but think that Tycho may be infatuated with Kara. He is used to getting everything he wants and all of a sudden a pretty girl falls from space? They will become deadly enemies once Kara spurns him. It would be an interesting retelling of the Luthor/Matrix Supergirl relationship from the early 90's.

valerie21601 said...

I came away from reading this interview, Johnson plans to keep Kara emotionally distant, at arms length to the readers like the first year was.

To me it sounds like Siobhan and her brother are going to be Kara's only supporting cast for a long while.

And play the is she or isn't she going to be evil route during the H'El story lines. Something I really don't to see again in a Supergirl series.

I worry Johnson will go the Matrix route or a heavily partial version of it.

It's just a matter of wait and see.

Martin Gray said...

I'm also glad that things aren't going to be dragged out forever, but they're still being dragged out. I'm ready for Kara to have something approaching a status quo, and definitely don't see any mileage in the 'will she, won't she' road to H'el (her super-intuition should tell her the guy's no good).

To me, classic Kara is the Supergirl next door, more down to Earth than even her cousin, despite her levels of Awesome. I'd love her to develop Zatanna's old super-sunny characterisation - it's not like Zee is using it these days.

Anj said...

To me, classic Kara is the Supergirl next door, more down to Earth than even her cousin, despite her levels of Awesome.

Thanks for the comments.


I also hope things move a bit quicker. I wonder if H'El spurs things along. She realizes that she can't go home again and has to embrace Earth.

Gene said...

"Tycho actually couldn't care less about humanity. He loves all things alien. That was really his job. His company was about retrieving things that fell from space and studying them and profiting from them. And Kara is just another thing for him to study and take advantage of. But Tycho essentially loves everything alien."

After reading that I get the impression that Tycho has a physical crush for Kara, which she will spurn and will thus make them deadly enemies. It would be an interesting retelling of the Luthor/Matrix Supergirl relationship from the early 90's.

Anj said...

Great thought Gene.

In that case he would really be the anti-Luthor, loving his 'enemy'.