Thursday, December 26, 2013

Soule On Red Lantern Supergirl

One of the things that has bugged me over the two-plus years of the DCnU has been the appearance of a haphazard approach to the universe, decisions being made, overturned, tweaked, and then redone at the last minute. We have heard creators say that an approach to character was pitched, approved, promoted, and then changed at the last minute. Some creators have gone so far as to declaring they won't work for DC anymore!

Unfortunately, it seems as though that hasn't changed. Last week, Charles Soule and Robert Venditti talked about Red and Green Lanterns over on CBR. The interview is worth reading, especially if you are a fan of the Lantern books as it discusses them in depth. But there were two questions about Supergirl's involvement in the Red Lantern book that caught my attention. 

CBR: Talking about the new Red Lantern, CBR spoke with Tony Bedard recently about how Supergirl is going to be a Red Lantern and join the Lantern corner of the DC Universe. Was this idea something you two and Tony had come up with together? Why include Kara in the Lantern universe at all?

Soule: I was at the Superman group summit, I think right before New York Comic Con, just a couple of months ago. We were talking about the Superman group -- it's always fun when working with these characters to shake things up. To do things people wouldn't expect, but do them in a way that makes sense -- that when you think about it, you go, "Oh, I want to see how this works out." A good example of that was having Guy Gardner join the Red Lanterns in the first place. He's the Lantern who it makes sense to have on that team. Of the Superman group, Kara has some rage issues. The way that she's been depicted in the New 52 so far is that there's a lot she's resentful about: Her cousin is Superman, the fact that she basically woke up and realized her planet was destroyed. There's a lot of stuff she's been working through, and the idea of bringing her to the Red Lanterns is to explore and develop that and see what we can do to help her with this -- I call it a therapy session. A very strange therapy session! [Venditti laughs] When she leaves the Red Lanterns, I think the idea is that they really developed her in an interesting way, and not the way you would expect. I really like the way it's developing. Tony is doing a lot of cool stuff, I like writing Supergirl -- she's a really fun character, and I think people will be pleased.

So this is bothersome to me. And here is why.

It was in September that Tony Bedard and Yildiray Cinar were announced as the new creative team on Supergirl. Bedard was doing  interviews about  how he wanted to make Supergirl more likable, less moody. And even curmudgeons like me were feeling a glimmer of hope. I assume that Bedard went to DC, told the powers that be what he wanted to do with Kara, and got the green light.

Now a month later (NYCC was in early October), Soule pitches Kara as a Red Lantern and gets a thumbs up. He doesn't sound like he wants her to be likable. He says she has 'rage issues'. And that she has a lot to be 'resentful about'. And suddenly we jump the tracks. We aren't on Bedard's rehabilitation road anymore. We are on a path to someplace even darker. Now maybe Bedard jumped on board thinking it would help him tell the story he wants ... but it does sound different from what he talked about in regards to the character.

And I can't stand how Robert Venditti laughs when Soule talks about taking Kara darker into a 'strange therapy session'. It reminded me of this interview when Bobbi Chase laughed about how dark Michael Alan Nelson was making the book. From that interview in February 2013:

Harras: I think Supergirl in the New 52 is a very interesting character; she's certainly not the character as she's been portrayed before, and that's really what we want to explore. What is it like to be a sixteen-year-old girl who wakes up one day to find her planet is gone, her world is changed and she's not very happy about it and she feels very isolated?
Chase: It's a little dark! [Laughs]

As if making Supergirl a dark book is something humorous to them when most hard core Supergirl fans think it is a bad decision. That an isolated unhappy Supergirl is a joke.

Imagine if the conversation was this:

Editor 1: I think Batman is an interesting character. We are going to portray him very differently. We want to explore a new take on him so from now on, he will be a happy-go-lucky guy, joking his way through his adventures, and peacefully dealing with his villains.
Editor 2: It's a little light-hearted! [laughs]
Writer 1: It'll be a funny group hug!
Writer 2: [laughs]

First off, creators, stop laughing about making the book dark and then darker! It is condescending to fans who love the character and don't agree with that take. It is as if you are laughing at us.
Second, that fake conversation just makes no sense right? You can't expect people to easily accept a dramatically different look at a character that goes against what the fanbase wants.

And to know this all happened so suddenly, despite prior recent decisions to let Bedard do his book, reinforces the idea that DC simply doesn't know what it is doing.

CBR: Will Kara be part of the "Red Lantern" supporting cast, or will she be a character who pops in every now and then from Tony's book?
Soule: No, she's a Red Lantern. Red Lanterns are not the kind of people you want to shuffle around, they're dangerous, and you have to keep an eye on them -- and Guy Gardner feels fairly responsible for her. He's not the reason she's a Red Lantern, but at the same time, she's someone that he wants to keep an eye on, so she's there, she's part of the cast, for sure.

Sounds like she will be active in the Red Lantern book so Supergirl fans who will remain following this arc will need to add this book. But I worry that Guy 'keeping an eye on her' makes me wonder if she will be a loose cannon even on that crew, the worst lunatic in the asylum.

I really think this direction is utterly wrong.

Happy holidays ... New 52 style.


mathematicscore said...

Just to play devil's advocate, don't we have Batman '66? Obviously that is an exception rather than the rule, but I'm guardedly hopeful that something good could come out of an atypical approach.

Martin Gray said...

The maths do tell the story, don't they? Remember how Tony Bedard was all over the place, excited ... then, nothing from him. Presumably his enthusiasm waned as the stories he hoped to publicise, vanished. I wouldn't mind so much were Supergirl out of print, and getting a spotlight in Red Lanterns to make her ready for prime time once more, but she has a series, she had a new writer with ideas, and yet she gets drafted to spice up someone else's storyline, derailing her own book entirely. It's disrespctful to Supergirl the character, her creators and her readers.

Anonymous said...

How long before Bedard jumps ship? Or will the book be cancelled with his run (through no fault of his own, of course)? I just dropped this book from my pull list after following SG since the Peter David years; it's pretty sad.

Count Drunkula said...

Imagine the waves and press that would have generated if Tony Bedard quit the book when the editors gave the Red Lantern thing the green light. It would have been like when Andy Diggle signed on to write Action Comics for six minutes before jumping off.

elknight20 said...

I just have a bad feeling on how this will play out.

I've said this before, & I'll say it again, "Supergirl is better off as a Blue or Indigo Lantern, not a Red one."

This just feels like a slap in the face to the pre-boot SG, & us, the fans...

I'll just stick to reading Batwoman, Batgirl, & The Movement, for now.

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments.

Math - you are right. There is Batman 66. If there were several Supergirl book with different takes it might be easier to take. Maybe Cosmic Ninth Grade?

Mart - you hit the nail on the head, the timing was off. And since this announcement, little from Bedard has been heard.

ealperin & anon - I hope this doesn't sink the book.

As I have said all along, if this is the beginning of a redemption story, and is told well, I will be okay. But given the book is 2+ years along, it can't be too long.

And I still think it makes no sense.

Count - I can only imagine the uproar if Bedard did that. In fact the fact he hasn't quit is one thing I am clinging to for hope.

Anonymous said...

In the last two weeks I've seen 4 tweets from Mahmud Asrar about Supergirl, pointing to commission work. In that time I've seen one tweet about Supergirl from Tony Bedard:

Tony Bedard (@TonyBedard)
12/13/13, 8:32 AM
@CharlesSoule @dranj70 what if Kara makes an RL friend? The kind who'd hold her hair when she pukes napalm blood? #possibilities

Yeah, funny. Remember @mikecomix? Mike Johnson was filled with enthusiasm about Supergirl. So was Mahmud Asrar. It was nice to have creators that seemed to care and it showed in their communications.

AndNowInStereo said...

Yes, I saw that tweet anon. I felt like TB was taking the piss when he said that to Anj, and I wasn't impressed. There's something to be said for creators keeping fans at something of a distance but mocking them is going too far.

Do recall though, that the second Bedard interview that Anj covered here took place after this storyline was announced, yet a lot of his apparent intentions were the same - focusing on making her less mopey, stand more on her own and less in the shadow of Superman, and getting her out of the angry place she'd been in to a more positive outlook. So... either it's a boilerplate set of responses he just reused, or he means it and he's going to do it anyway, Red Lantern arc or no. We just don't know how.

I don't know what to think now. Soule's interview is probably the last we're going to hear about this before we actually see the books. I am going to be glad to actually read GL/RL 28 and SG 28 because at least the months of fretting over storylines unseen will be over and I can decide if I'm in or out for this. To re-iterate my position for the final time: I like this version of Supergirl so I want to stick with her, and I like Red Lanterns as well as it currently stands after 5 issues under Soule and Vitti, in which none of the main cast are rabid, rampaging monsters so I can't see Supergirl being one either. If the storytelling is mature and avoids the schlock territory that Nelson fell into, then great. Otherwise, well, I've always got Captain Marvel.

Life's too short for having this discussion over and over again. I need these damn books in my hands. Like, right now.

elknight20 said...

Agreed, Anj. Agreed, wholeheartedly.

Dave Mullen said...

If it's a redemption arc why have it in the pages of the Red Lanterns? It seems more likely her inclusion into the book is a sales/publicity gimmick than an actual character arc, and then there is the wquestion as to whether Supergirl is going to be at all lucid as a Red Lantern or a beserker? Being taken by a Red ring is nothing short of damnation, there is no way back to humanity barring a miracle, so while sales on Red Lanterns are slipping and this is a nice publicity grab it does seen likely readers of Supergirl's main worry is that this tie-in further damages Supergirl's sales. Quite possible given the eyepoppingly awful costume she's to wear and that Red Lanterns is an acquired taste....

Regardless of that though I have no faith that this story will end up with a Supergirl refreshed and exorcised of her negative emotional baggage. A self-confident and positive Supergirl is clearly not what DC editorial want, even though the books sales are fading by the issue almost.

Polaris said...

I will be the only one but i am looking forward to this Red Lantern arc, I need to read it before anything. Until then i will stay neutral. Tony Bedard is a very good writter, I really enjoyed the last issue despite the short that it was

But Anj is right about the little laugh, is not apropiate to laugh about something that bothered very bad many SG hardcore fans.

Anonymous said...

It's almost like a bad joke the writers are going to play on the long-suffering SG fans. Quote:A very strange therapy session! [Venditti laughs]....
That makes me feel like I'm the butt of an inside joke. I don't like being the butt of any joke, so I'm unlikely to read any of the RL stories.
-- DW

Anj said...

Thanks for the continued discussion.

I agree that I have talked about this topic a bunch and it might be time to drop it and wait for the books. But I think I have one more related post coming up so bear with me.

Martin Gray said...

Oh, keep talking, Kara needs a defender.

AndNowInStereo said...

I'm not insinuating that you should stop talking about if you're got more to say. I certainly wouldn't want you to! But I personally am all worn out of speculating now, so I'm going to keep quiet myself unless we get something more concrete to go on.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I really feel sorry for you. First off, if comic companies did what the fans wanted, they would be out of business. Because fans are morons. Secondly, that you ascribe malicious intent to two people having a talk about comics and laughing is so far off the rails paranoid that it boggles the mind. I can imagine you walking around a convention, spotting people talking about comics and laughing and thinking "I just KNOW they're saying something bad about Supergirl" lol. But then paranoia and conspiracy theories about comic book characters seem to be abundant(they hate Stephanie Brown!!!)I submit to you that if you find that reading comics make you so angry that you jump to the conclusion that people laughing while in conversation about comics automatically means creators are being "mean" or "condescending" to fans or your favorite character, then you really need to examine what the hell it is you're really angry about and get some help. Because it's not comics you're mad at.

iopy said...

To anon above, comic creators deserve distrust. They encourage it by trolling the fan base with comments of this sort. These aren't off-hand comments, made between two people and casually overheard. They are said with forethought, in public forums and interviews, with the knowledge that the readership is listening. If they didn't want fans reacting they wouldn't comment publicly.

This is an industry where Justin Gray will say that what should happen to 15 year old Mary Marvel is to "get in her a closet alone with Jimmy Olsen and a bottle of tequila" in reference to the fact she was a virgin. Yes, a 15 year old girl. Where Scott Lobdell can talk about what all teenage girls are like because his cousin was difficult for him to deal with and not give a second thought to how that comment would be viewed if he was talking about any other group ("They're all that way because I met one who was.") Where he can go onto a panel at a comic con and verbally harass a woman on the panel with phrases and statements so vile I can't repeat them here yet still continue to work for DC, and where DC basically ignores the whole thing. There's a lot of this stuff out there, and it's pretty disgusting.

If fans are mistrusting, there's good reason. When it comes to women, and the treatment of their female characters, there's a dark heart of yuck in some places at DC. So go ahead and assume it's the fan's fault, you're just one of the enables who help to make it possible.

Anj said...

Well, Anon, I will admit that this turn in the character has got me a bit defensive and raw. And maybe my language has been a bit strong here.

I am just defending my favorite character.

Hearing creators laugh about a direction for a character that many fans bemoan, a direction that has already failed three times, seems a little condescending to me.

Your post is interesting though. You might say that your post was as over the top as mine, labeling all fans as idiots and me as paranoid and mentally ill. One might ask what you are angry about, because it has to be more than just little old me.

Anj said...

Thanks iopy.

Great post.

elknight20 said...

Seconded, Anj.

Green said...

Well let's see where this is going. I would like a "real" journey for her, not a red lantern ring. Something easier to relate. Like Stephanie Brown was for me, and Kate Bishop is for me now.It's really great when teenagers are written like real teenagers.

It's really not cool see a writer laughing at a development of the character.

Jay said...

Funny thing is that I like Soule's stuff better than Bedard's. Swamp Thing, awesome. SM/WW, very good. So 9 times out of ten, upon hearing that a Soule pitch won out over a Bedard pitch would mean that I'd be a pretty happy camper. This just so happens to be that 1 in ten shot. I'm hoping there can be some substances here but the combo of being tired of the multi-lantern concept (outside of additions like LarFleeze and Saint Walker), and believing the timing of this is just all wrong on multiple levels, I'm rather pessimistic.

But I hold out some hope. The first issue Wolfman's Superboy actually surprised me to the point of making me believe that direction has lots of interesting potential, so maybe I can be surprised again.

Anonymous said...

"Dear diary: my psychiatrist wants to try something new this year. He says it's an innovative and unorthodox therapy technique - I'm gonna enroll in an organisation for intergalactic murdering psychopaths, working through my anger management problems so that once the year is over and I've helped to cause multiple atrocities and earned my place as a symbol of hate and horror, I'll feel much better and return to my friends as a fully rehabilitated superhero.

I'm skeptical, but my track record with father figures has been great so far, so I'm probably just worrying about nothing. It's not like existing female members of the organisation have been reduced to dark, slutty parodies of their former selves or anything. No, I'm sure this will all turn out just fine without me coming across as an impotent victim or twisted, broken fetish freak. I'm sure when I look back in a year's time I'll realise this was an important first step towards getting that statue of myself erected in Metropollis and earning the trust and respect of the Justice League, the Amazons and the people of Earth."

(the above excerpt was recovered from a book extracted from the throat of guy Gardner's cold, blue corpse).