Saturday, November 6, 2010

Optimism: Nick Spencer On CBR!

I was giving off some negative energy when it comes to Supergirl here recently, wondering if (despite a lot of evidence to the contrary) I should be pessimistic about where the character is going.

Well, I have decided to sweep away the cobwebs of despair and pessimism. And, as if heading some karmic call, to help affirm some optimism, Comic Book Resources posted an interview with Nick Spencer specifically about his turn as writer on Supergirl. After reading this, I think things are going to be all right in the book. As always the entire interview is well worth reading. Here is the link:

But I have picked some key blurbs to discuss here. In many ways it reminded me of my reaction when Sterling Gates was first named writer. I didn't know him from a hole in the wall but in the interviews he did about Supergirl, it made me think he was the right man for the job. Back then, he had to talk about a supporting cast, adding Linda Lang, and building up a rogue's gallery.

Here Spencer is picking up a much more stable character; Gates and Igle have left him a more mature and stronger Kara to write about. So what did Spencer have to say?
If you're not already buying a comic book by Nick Spencer, you may soon be.

CBR News: The "Supergirl" announcement for you and Bernard came out at New York Comic Con, and it took a few folks by surprise given all the work you've already got cooking. How did this one come about? Did Matt Idelson and Will Moss approach you after "T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents" was underway?

Nick Spencer: Work was already underway on "Jimmy Olsen" and "T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents" when Matt and Will approached me about taking over the book with Bernard. As for the why of it, I have written a good number of female protagonists in my Image work, and that probably had a hand in it. Supergirl is obviously a younger character, and with "Morning Glories" and "Forgetless" I've written a lot of those. I think that they saw this as a pretty logical fit, and I felt the same way.

I keep trying to read Morning Glories but my comic store keeps selling out. But it has a lot of buzz going for it right now. But you can get the sense from Jimmy Olsen that Spencer has an ear for younger characters. So I do think he is coming on board with the right background for Supergirl.

One thing we hear a lot online is people harping on DC and Marvel about how their female characters are represented in the market, and Supergirl herself has a real cultural cachet outside of comics that makes her someone who's watched after in a very personal way by readers. Do those things come to bear at all for you as you're writing this series, or do you try to set aside thinking about that sort of thing?

It's certainly something that I do keep in mind. How many people just dressed up as Supergirl for Halloween last week? She's a character that has an enormous amount of cultural cachet and pop relevance, and for me, I get very excited when I get the opportunity to work on a character like that – a character that people who don't read comics and who don't know much about modern continuity still know the name and still know the costume. So, I do keep that in mind. I like to write for a broader audience. I like to write with the hope that someone could come in off the street and pick up a book like this and be able to get into it from the start.

With Supergirl, I always worry that people come into the character thinking she is second rate, or a stand-in for Superman, or just another 'bad girl there for fan service'. So I really like that Spencer recognizes the cultural cachet she has. While he doesn't come right out and say it, I hope that means he also has an understanding of the character's history. She has significant cachet there as well. Still, it isn't as if he is coming off like Supergirl is a blank slate; he recognizes that she is established. I also like that CBR knows that we fans are out here, watching after her in a 'personal way'.

And I also hope that new readers will pick up the book and enjoy it.

On the flipside, within the comic shops this book has been very well received under Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle, and those guys worked really hard to build up the supporting cast. How do you view your job in terms of following up on that run?

Well, I love that run. Sterling and Jamal did a really incredible job with the character, like you said, building up her supporting cast and giving her her own life. The character had been sort of wandering around. Once Jeph Loeb left, I think it took a while for everybody to figure out what she should be and what her role in the DCU should be. Sterling and Jamal did an amazing job of growing her up a bit and giving her a renewed sense of identity and tapping into what made the character so great and so memorable in the first place. When I sat down to figure out what to do with the book was, "Well, the first thing they did was sort of pull Kara back a bit to build her world out and flesh her out as a person, so what I'd like to do is push her back into the broader DCU now that all these changes with her character have taken place." Particularly, I want to play with her role within the younger set of heroes within the DCU. Kara's had involvement with teams like the Teen Titans and the Legion, and certainly with the Justice League now. But what I wanted to do was tell a story about Kara figuring out her role in relation to those other heroes and what her place is.

Hooray! This sounds just about right. First off, Spencer loves the Gates/Igle run and recognizes that he doesn't need a brand new direction but instead can build off of the last 2+ years of stories. So that is just fantastic. But I also think (and this is without knowing what happens in the Toyman story), that Gates and Igle have also left Supergirl in a more secure and more confidant place than she was when they took over. I always say that part of the joy of Supergirl stories is that she is becoming a hero. Gates and Igle had her realizing that she is a hero, that she wants to be a hero, and that she has to deal with her mistakes. That step of the journey is sort behind her now. After dealing with Bizarro Girl, she feels like she knows who she is.

So now the next logical step is to see where she fits in, who she is in the DCU and with the other legacy heroes. At first I thought a bunch of guest stars might not be right. But is Supergirl is going to become the Superman, the role model, for the next generation of heroes ... well I am all for that. More than any other part, this portion of the interview let me exhale.

Obviously, Kara wears the most important, best known and most respected symbol in all of the DCU. But at the same time, she's a very different person than Clark is. This first story is very much about her figuring out if her past in relation to those other heroes is going to be similar to what Clark's was.

I really hope she is portrayed as a hero and a leader. But I also like that Spencer acknowledges that Supergirl is not just a female Superman.

Part of the fun of the shared universe is not just the big events and stories, it's also playing these different characters off each other. Do you have anyone on tap to either play a foil for Kara or be a friend to her within the young hero community?

You'll see that slowly build over the first few months of the story. What I'd say is that Kara is going to be interacting with some heroes for the first time, others she'll be dealing with for the first time since she's gone through so many changes in her life, and I think there are some strong relationships like her relationship with Stephanie or her recent encounter with Damian. In issue #61, we'll be expanding on those and diving back into those friendships. In #62, we'll see even more characters get added into the mix. Like I said, some are new, some are old friends, and some are people she hasn't seen in a good while.

So I think this is going to be part of the fun of this arc. It has been a bit muddled but since coming back in 2004, Kara has been on the Teen Titans, had adventures with the Outsiders, been in the Legion, and has had adventures with a couple of Robins and Batgirl. She has established relationships with almost all these people. So to see a big adventure where those histories are built upon should be fun. But knowing that Spencer is aware of those stories let's me know he has a grasp of the character.

I love the Supergirl/Batgirl stories. I love the Supergirl/Damien stuff. And I really liked the Supergirl/Tim Drake Robin issue from Superman/Batman as well. So I am eager to see them together again.

Of course, the other part to any superhero book is the villain side and the action side. Supergirl, for a long time, has been a heroine who is pitted against D-level Superman foes because there's no room for them in the Man of Steel's book. How do you view that challenge?

We'll actually be playing with this a lot in the first issue, #60. Kara is keenly aware with the fact that most of the villains she seems to come up against are either younger versions of Superman villains or female versions of Superman villains. This is no small annoyance to her. [Laughs] We're going to have some fun with that particular Supergirl trope and maybe take it in a slightly different direction over the next few issues.

I do think there is some humor to be mined there. It sounds like Spencer is going to pick up right where Gates left off with a rededicated and confidant Supergirl going out and being a hero. She probably feels like maybe she has finally 'arrived' so to speak and deserves better than Superman D-listers.

I'll say it again. I loved the Gates stuff and for me the last half year of issues have been incredibly strong stories. In some ways I was worried that all that stuff would be swept away. Instead it sounds like they will be the foundation for the future. And it sounds like Nick Spencer has some great stories to tell, while understanding where Supergirl has been.

I am optimistic! Can't wait to read Supergirl #60.


Anonymous said...

I hope your as concerned with the large amounts of shirtless young men presented a "fan service" for females. All of those dime-a-dozen bad boy loner types who can never keep their shirts on and look like they spend their lives in sit up land living off of protein shakes alone. Superboy and Damien are following this pattern as well. If you guys complained about that as much as you did about Supergirl whenever someone draws her in a way that is supposed to be attractive to young males, I at least could not fault you for character/gender specific hypocrisies.

I like that Spencer liked Loeb and faulted writers after him (Puckett and Bedard were certainly terrible). I also liked the step her back comment. Some good critics lately have faulted Gates/Igle both for making her into "Superman in a skirt" as well as the conservative approach to the character's sex appeal. Hopefully they take a lesson from David/Frank and Loeb/Churchill-- the two best Supergirl's I have read.

Benwahbob said...

Larry Gardner strikes again:

"Some good critics lately have faulted Gates/Igle both for making her into "Superman in a skirt" as well as the conservative approach to the character's sex appeal. "

Only in your tiny little mind. The rest of the world recognizes the great work Gates/Igle have done, including all of the mainstream press they got during their run.
Now Anj, you might ask "How can you tell who wrote this if he's anonymous.
Because it's all he ever writes. the same thig over over again On Newsarama and the DC board and the Outhouse.

mathematicscore said...

Larry Gardner, eh?

This is indeed good news. It's too bad sales weren't a little better, because it feels like Gates had another year or so in him, but it looks like this change up, whatever it's reasons, will bring in new readers with out overturning the gameboard. That is more what I'm looking for.

I've not read the David/Frank run; What was it like? Aside from "Sex appeal."

Gene said...

I think Nick Spencer is going to work out just fine.

I hope we see Kara touch base again with Cassie and Power Girl again. Although they have worked together in the recent JLA/JSA crossover, we never really see them patch things up between them since the Candor storyline.

Anonymous said...

The David/Frank run had complex story lines, characters with motivations, and actions that had both short and long term consequences. I wasn't a fan of the Matrix Supergirl, but David managed to make me care about his version and be unhappy when the comic was eventually canceled because he had shown that he had a plan and knew how to execute it. Writers that can do that always have a "get out of jail free" card with me because I'll assume that there's something coming I'm not expecting, and the random odd out-of-place event is actually a planned thing that's going to pay a story dividend eventually rather than just being careless writing.

It was good stuff - recommended.

Anonymous said...

This was a good read, and makes me feel much better about the direction of the comic and the character in general. As I mentioned in another thread it looks like he "get it", understands the character and the concerns of the readers, and intends to concentrate on some of the things that differentiate Supergirl from Superman as well as her relationship with the rest of the DCU. When I first heard "lots of guest stars" my mind flashed onto senseless punchouts like Supergirl #1, 2, 3, 4, etc., where Supergirl and then Darkcliche spend all their time beating the tar out of established characters before the reader even has the opportunity to build up a reason to root for Kara. About the only thing I disagreed with at all was that he mentions Loeb positively, whereas I thought Loeb was mostly responsible for getting the book off on the wrong foot (including pervy Zor-El leering at his nude teenage daughter, sheesh.)

As I said, I'm now actually optimistic! I'm actually looking forward to seeing what he's going to do. Yay for bringing in the Teen Titans and Legion again (but please let Supergirl have at least 2 panels with the Titans before someone punches someone else.) And double yay for maybe seeing Kara and Stephanie together again, I *loved* Batgirl #14!! Goofy, fun, and some really good character moments.

Go for it Mr. Spencer, just a few words from you have improved my outlook dramatically.

valerie21601 said...

Well I am more cautiously hopefully after reading the full Nick Spencer review, Anj.

As for getting a copy of Morning Glories have you asked your comic book shop if they reserve pre-paid copies for their customers? My one tiny local shop does this for their regular customers. Most comic shops do, as reserved copies are guaranteed sales or as sold for them.

Saranga said...

It all sounds good. Bernard Chang was very reassuring when I chatted to him last week and I think you'll be pleased with what he said Anj - and I will get the post typed up soon, i promise!

Anj said...

I do think that the interview helped me realize that Nick Spencer has an understanding of the character. That is so key when it comes to Supergirl, understanding that she isn't simply a clone of other characters but one with her own history and sensibilities.

As for Anonymous, or Larry Gardner, or Nomah (whose comments are suspiciously similar) ... I just really don't understand the argument at all. I certainly don't know of anyone who said Gates/Igle made Supergirl 'Superman in a skirt'. And I don't think that her sex appeal (either for or against) has been a rallying cry here.

I don't want to get baited into a long discussion with him (in any versions). That's his opinion. I will never agree with him; he will never agree with me.

Hopefully though, reading the discourse we have here, he'll realize there is more to Supergirl than making her sexy.

Anj said...

As for the Peter David run, it is a very unique look at a super-character ... a mix of super-heroics, philosophy, and religion. It certainly wasn't for everyone ... but I loved it. Loved it.

In particular, I would recommend 1-50.

Anonymous said...

Re: the Peter David run

And don't forget 76-80 for those of us that still love the silver age Supergirl.

Saranga said...

have now written up my bernard chang experience: