Friday, March 1, 2013

More Optimism From Michael Alan Nelson

The publicity rounds for Michael Alan Nelson as the new Supergirl writer continues over at Newsarama. This is another interview, much like the one on ComicVine, where he talks about his thoughts on Kara but also Power Girl. Like always, it is worth reading the entire interview. Here is the link:

And, as with the first interview, there are some blurbs here that make me optimistic about the direction of the book. The book definitely sounds like it will continue to be a bit dark but with the sun peeking up on the horizon. As always, the proof will be in the book itself. But, at the very least, Nelson seems to be saying a lot of the right things. Here are some of the things that stuck out for me.

First, some of the introduction:

DC readers didn't get much of a chance to check out Nelson's writing on his last DC book, with his run on The Ravagers cut short by the publisher.
 Before writing Ravagers, Nelson was best known for his work on indie series like Fall of Cthulhu and 28 Days Later. He brought some of that horror sensibility to Ravagers.

When Nelson was announced, I bought Ravagers #8 and #9 to get a sense of his style. Having read Superboy and Legion Lost, I felt I knew enough about the Ravagers team, especially Rose, to jump right in. I will say that despite having no love for Harvest or Psyblade, I thought the issues were decent as the Ravagers deal with a plague having been descended on a small mountain village. One thing that worked for me here was that, despite being on a team of super-villains, Rose tries to do the right thing, quarantining the villagers and hoping to save people. Now her reasons are mostly her falling in line with Harvest's wishes. But there were easier options to do that (like killing everyone) that she rejects. So dark ... but hopeful.

We know that Nelson's first story arc includes the long awaited Supergirl/Power Girl cross over (together again for the first time!). So the first few questions revolve around Power Girl. One thing that stuck out was that Nelson says that Power Girl's appearance was not coordinated with Worlds' Finest. So hopefully no continuity gaffes will ensue.

Nrama: Then before we talk about Kara, what's it like writing Power Girl?
Nelson: I think there's a joy to Power Girl that Supergirl doesn't have just yet. Not that she's bouncing off the walls giggling all the time, but that she sees the world through that filter where Supergirl is still dealing with the fallout of some personally traumatic events. And that's been the key to finding the difference in their voices. I see Power Girl as more of a "glass half-full" to Supergirl's "wait, I have a glass?" It's been a fun but interesting challenge.   

It is so interesting to read this. In past incarnations, I would think the 'glass' references were reversed, with Supergirl being more optimistic and Power Girl being a bit more serious and grim (the Palmiotti/Conner series notwithstanding). So I think this role reversal is one of the more interesting wrinkles in the New 52. In fact, I wonder if that switch irritates both the SG and the PG fans who followed the older incarnations.

And, you could easily explain why Power Girl has as much a reason for being sad and isolated. We don't know her 'pre-Earth' history but from what we have seen, she was beloved on her Earth, she loved her Earth, her de facto parents Superman and Lois are killed before her eyes. And now she has been banished to an odd Earth where another version of her is running around.  Can't you imagine the tag line that Power Girl is upset so 'don't piss her off'? Of course, Worlds' Finest is written by classic Supergirl fan Paul Levitz so no surprise she has some of the inclinations of prior Karas.

Nrama: Let's back up and talk about your overall plans for the Supergirl title and what we'll see from Kara. So far, we've seen a sort of "alien teen/coming of age" approach to Kara. Will we see more of those stories, or is your hope to give the book a bit of a new direction?

Nelson: The alien teen/coming of age aspect is a really big part of who she is. Growing up as a normal teen is difficult enough. It's a chaotic, painful, beautiful disaster that we all have to learn to navigate. Having to navigate that terrain on an alien planet in an alien culture all while having super powers just adds to the chaos.
But that said, I really want to add some adventure to her life, both personally and "professionally."
Supergirl is a rich and incredibly complex character. I want to explore how those complexities affect her attempts to adapt to living on Earth, how she forms relationships, how she reacts when those relationships fall apart — all while dealing with problems that only an alien teen with god-like powers would have to deal with. I said that I think there's a joy to Power Girl that Supergirl hasn't found yet. The key word in that sentence is 'yet.' It's my hope to tell a story that shows her journey toward finding that joy and sharing all the devastating lows and breathtaking highs along the way.   

So I don't know if 'alien teen coming of age' works for me because it sounds more like the doldrums of the earliest Smallville seasons. I prefer the 'young hero's journey' and I suppose being a teen thrust into an alien world can only make things that much more difficult.

But one of the things that Nelson said here and in the prior interview is that he considers Supergirl a 'rich and incredibly complex character'. I would love to hear whether or not that appreciation comes from some sort of history with the character. Has he read some older adventures? Has he always liked the character?

I also like that he again says that joy is something Supergirl hasn't experienced 'yet' as if promising brighter days in the future. 

Nrama: Will we see some of her life outside the Supergirl costume?
Nelson: Quite a bit, actually. The truth is, she's a lonely girl who can't really relate to other people. The fun is going to come from watching her try to overcome that issue. We're going to see her strengthen her personal relationships, develop a few new ones, and then see those relationships tested in some interesting ways.
Relationships are a minefield for teenagers, whether they're platonic, romantic, or those confusing ones that fall somewhere in between. Add in the added dimension of "things want to kill you on a daily basis" and things can get...complicated.   

I don't know if she 'can't relate' to other people because she must have on Krypton and she has here with Siobhan. So maybe it is more that she is having a hard time coming out of her shell on a new planet. At least Nelson talks about trying to create relationships as opposed to becoming more isolated.
Nrama: How much will Supergirl be involved in what's happening with Superman over the summer and further into 2013?
Nelson: She will definitely be involved for a while. But when we get to my first few issues, I'm going to focus on Supergirl and really hone in on her as a character before she gets drawn into larger events affecting the DCU. She's got some pretty big things to deal with on her own. Other DCU characters may have appearances, but it's going to be pretty Kara-centric.
Nrama: So does that mean she'll be involved in events involving the rest of the DCU?
Nelson: I'm sure she'll have some involvement, perhaps more and more as the series continues. But as she does become involved in the rest of the DCU, I see her as a strong lead-character more so than a supporting cast member. And that could have some interesting consequences with her relationships (or lack thereof) with other members of the DCU.

So Nelson thinks she is strong enough to be a lead character and he wants her book to be her book and not be tied down to happenings around the DCU. We need to get past this 'I just got to Earth ... what is happening' portion of the title. We need to learn about this Supergirl and have her become more invested in Earth.

Not that I am happy to see Mike Johnson leave this book, I will say that Nelson is saying some great things here and it makes me optimistic. Again, all these answers are a far from the 'pissed off' angry young girl who hates humanity stuff we heard about the character before.


valerie21601 said...

Nelson saying he didn't coordinate with Paul Levitz on Power Girl has me worried.

I hope I am worried over nothing.

Jay said...

I don't think Levitz is doing a particularly good job with Karen at all anyway, so selfishly I can't say I'm too disturbed over this. For continuity's sake though yeah he should at least make sure nothing directly contradicts. In terms of characterization though I can't see Nelson doing anything but helping this incarnation of the character.

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments.

Val, I agree a phone call/email with Levitz seems fair. I hope Nelson has at least read the Worlds' Finest issues.

And Jay, there are parts of this current Power Girl that seem more like classic Supergirl than the more established personality of PG. I will be interested in seeing what someone other than Levitz does with her.