Tuesday, May 28, 2013

New Interview With Michael Alan Nelson

My thanks to blog friend Valerie who pointed me to a new interview with Michael Alan Nelson over on Cosmic Book News. There is some great stuff in this interview and (as always) I recommend reading it in its entirety here: http://comics.cosmicbooknews.com/content/exclusive-interview-michael-alan-nelson-builds-new-world-girl-steel-supergirl

I picked a couple of questions to post here and put some of my comments afterwards.

CBN: This girl coming of age storyline reminds me of when Supergirl was first created and kept a secret from the public by Superman until she was formally introduced in a Grand Parade. Is there any material from those early stories that you're looking to get for the New 52 Supergirl?

Michael Alan Nelson: Most definitely not, no. I really want to come up with as much new material as possible. There will always be a core set of concepts with primary characters, their origins, their place in the universe, etc. But the great thing about the New 52 is that it's really conducive to new stories, new ideas, new characters and situations. And though it's nice to be able to mine older stories for ideas and inspiration, I really want to find something new. Supergirl is such a rich character and with so much to her story yet to be told.   

So I am of two minds about this answer.

Of course, no one wants to see retreads or retellings of older stories. Certainly there is no place for the style of the earliest Action Comics stories in this 21st century world. So I doesn't necessarily bother me too much that Nelson wants 'fresh' stories.

That said, I hope Nelson will read some of those stories, and the Superman Family stories, and Daring New Adventures, and Matrix stories including Peter David's version and Sterling Gates stories. I don't want him to read that stuff so he can copy arcs. But I hope that he will read them to have a historical feeling of who the character is.

It would be 'fresh' for Supergirl to be a Deadpool-like character. But that isn't Supergirl. The fact he calls Supergirl a rich character makes me think he understands her history. I just don't want his fresh take to be contrary to all that has come before.

CBN: Were you a fan of the character before taking over the book with issue #20? What is it about Kara that makes you want to tell her story?

Michael Alan Nelson: I love the underdog aspect to her character. She always seems to be defined by her relationship with her cousin, Superman. And I want to explore how she comes into her own, learns to define herself on her own terms. Plus I find her situation simply fascinating. She's lost everything and desperately wants to find a place to call home, to have a family, to have relationships. But all these epic-level hardships keep getting in the way of that. I think it will be fun to see how she's able to create a life for herself while dealing with all of these situations. If she can at all. I see Kara twenty years from now, living a well-rounded, healthy life with a great circle of friends and family all while dealing with problems only a person with her strength and intellect can. But right now she's not even remotely close to being that person. How does she get there? What happens along the way? And that's what I want to explore. I want to see Kara's failures and successes she experiences along her journey into womanhood.   

Part of what I love about Supergirl is the life journey she is on. She has the powers of Superman but she isn't Superman. Not yet. Those growing experiences, those successes and failures, those are what drive Kara.

The question is what foundation that this journey is built on. Classically, I would say it was joy and a sense of duty that drove Kara. She wanted to be as great a hero as her cousin. More recent incarnations have had her seem less happy-go-lucky and more determined to overcome some of the difficulties and sadness in her life. But always with that drive to do what's right.

It seems as if this new 52 Supergirl is really built on tragedy. Throughout Mike Johnson's run there was still that feeling that this Kara knew right from wrong (I am purposefully forgetting H'El on Earth) and was trying to help. I get the sense Nelson has that same sort of understanding that Kara wants to be a hero. The fact that he pictures her in the future as leading a healthy life is a good start.

CBN: Supergirl is in desperate need of her own rogues gallery. What new big-bads might we expect to challenge Kara during your run on the book, Mike?

Michael Alan Nelson: Oh, dear. That is a good question. I'm really looking forward to helping develop villains specific to Supergirl and I think “Sanctuary”is a step in that direction. And it's already been solicited so it's safe to mention “Cyborg Superman.” I know many readers are thinking that he isn't Supergirl's villain. And they may be right. And they may be wrong. We'll just have to wait and see. But in addition to all of that, we're definitely working to build her rogues gallery. It's going to take some time, but we're getting there. 

Does Kara have a Rogue's Gallery? It seems with every re-thinking of the character, the creative teams want set her up against her own villains. I think 'desperate' is a strong word for the interviewer to use. I think Sterling Gates set her up against the Silver Banshee, Superwoman, Satan Girl, and Bizarro Girl. I think Mike Johnson set up Reign and Silver Banshee as specific Supergirl villains.

I hope Nelson builds on that. And I hope he will think of using some more classic Supergirl villains to bring back. I like the idea of Cyborg Superman being a Kara rogue.

CBN: Mike, you have been known for your writing of indie horror titles. Will any of that horror genre slip into the Girl of Steel's magazine?

Michael Alan Nelson: Yes. Though I'm really focused on bringing a sense of fun and adventure to the title, there are some dark things coming up for Kara. Those who are familiar with my work know that I am always particularly cruel to my protagonists. But the reason I do that is because I believe that when a character is plunged into darkness, it makes their rise into the light that much sweeter. The trick is finding the right balance between fun, humor, and just enough darkness to keep the reader on her toes. I admit that I sometimes lean a little too much one way or the other, but if I do my job well, it will all even out in a way that makes the stories compelling.  

I love this answer.

This answer reminded me of Peter David's run on his Supergirl title - never a bad thing. This wasn't Kara Zor-El. This was an Earth Angel, a merging of human and Matrix. And yet, that run, and in particular the first 50 issues, show a near-perfect understanding of who Supergirl is, her desire to do what's right, to be a hero. Her need to overcome tragedy and personal mistakes. And there was a fair amount of horror in that book. The main villain was the firstborn vampire who brought Hell to Earth. And yet, part of what David wanted to do was bring Supergirl as close to a breaking point as possible. The culmination of that first mega-arc has Supergirl sink low but then redeem herself. The bigger the sin, the bigger the redemption. 
But always in that deeper darker story was the typical PAD wit and adventure. And he also did a great job of acknowledging prior Supergirls without copying.

Now certainly this answer is skewed because I have read Nelson's Supergirl #20 which was wonderful. The fact that Nelson keeps saying he wants Supergirl to be happy, that he wants her to battle through the problems life brings to her makes sense to me. I suppose we will need to see just how he balances horror and fun. But I am willing to give him some leeway.

Thanks again to Valerie!


Martin Gray said...

Thank you Valerie and Anj, I wouldn't have seen this otherwise. After the first issue, colour me optimistic.

I wish the interviewer had asked about a privatye life and a supporting cast ... I miss Linda Danvers (and Lang would do, if needs must, but as Lana's not around, that's unlikely).

Supertorresmo said...

I would like to know about the resolution of pending treads, like the World-killers. Wasn't Supergirl sent hurling around the sun for 5 years so she would be powerful to fight them? Won't they be coming back to this?

Yota said...

Thanks for the good read!

I agree with Martin Gray; one of my favourite parts of reading comics is seeing how they try to live civilian lives, the interplay between heroes and family or friends, that sort of thing. It's what I liked best about PAD's run, and I had hoped we would get there with Gates & Igle...

But speaking of PAD, and of Jamal Igle, I wanted to share this:


Jamal Igle created this in support of Peter David, who had a stroke some months ago, but it's a lovely piece, and so bittersweet for us Linda Danvers/Supergirl fans... :)

valerie21601 said...

I noticed how Nelson avoided the question about IF he was a Supergirl fan before taking over the Supergirl series. I can't help but wonder why he didn't answer it.

ealperin said...

The Peter David/Horror genre mention just perked my interest!

Looking forwards to this! :D


ealperin said...

I saw Jamal's Linda Danvers/Ariella piece, on his Tumblr, when he posted it up there! Brought back some warm memories & I let him know that. He's such a great guy to chat with! Met him at NYCC, last year! He KNEW me BY NAME & called to me as I walked near his table!

Met Peter & Robin Riggs & his wife there, too!

Such a great group to chat with! :)