Saturday, March 22, 2014

Jeff Lemire Describes Supergirl As A 'Bull-headed Loner'; Stargirl Remains Perfect

Every time I think I am feeling some optimism about the DCnU, the New 52, and Supergirl in general, DC pulls the rug out from under me. And now it seems that something I was feeling very optimistic about might end up being something much worse than anticipated ... and from an unlikely source.

Jeff Lemire is a writer whose work I have really loved. I enjoyed his Superboy. I love Animal Man. And I love Green Arrow - high praise from someone who doesn't like Ollie.  So when Lemire was named as the writer for Justice League United, I knew I would be buying. When Supergirl was named as a member ... and in her super costume no less ... I was thrilled. Surely I could trust him to be on board with (hopefully) Tony Bedard in making Supergirl heroic, likable, and optimistic.

Well, Lemire was interviewed over on CBR about JLU on Comic Book Resources here. And almost any optimism I felt for Supergirl's treatment in the book was diminished and greatly. As always, you should read the interview in its entirety to read about his approach to the book in general. But here are the Supergirl specific questions.

CBR: While a pleasant surprise, the inclusion of Green Arrow and Animal Man were not unexpected as you've enjoyed previous success with both characters, but there are others that leaped out at me. Can you talk about the role of Supergirl on the team? She was not a character I was expecting.

JL: I don't really have much history with that character. I hadn't written her before but I always really like her. It's one of those weird things where I don't really know why I like that character so much. I guess when I was a kid, her connection to the Legion of Super-Heroes was pretty cool. I just always liked that character.
And she represents an interesting take on the Superman mythology for me. She is younger and bit more bullheaded than Superman. That's a fun dynamic to add to the team. And of course, just from a pure power level, she's great to have because she is the muscle of the team.

Lemire doesn't have much history with the character but says he likes her, especially her Legion time. So that seems good so far right?

She's younger and more 'bullheaded' than Superman. I would have liked 'brash' or 'strong-willed' more than bullheaded which has a bit more of a negative connotation. It makes her seem stubborn or immutable. 

Hey, as I always say, I like reading a young Supergirl who isn't perfect. I don't want to read her as a just like Superman. I like seeing a Supergirl who tries to do what's right, occasionally fails, but picks herself up and learns. I want her to be passionate. I want her to be optimistic, seeing the best in everyone.  I want her to be fierce in her pursuit of justice. And maybe that is all somehow stuffed into 'bullheaded' .... but I don't think so.

Because then we got this next question:
CBR: And what about Stargirl, again, a character that I wouldn't have pegged for this team based purely on her relatively shorter history within the DCU?

JL:I didn't plan on the bulk of my female characters being teenagers. It just kind of happened but it also created this interesting dynamic between the three of them: Supergirl, Stargirl and the new character that I don't want to talk about too much yet. They are three very different personalities.
And Stargirl and Supergirl, specifically, are almost complete opposites. Stargirl is this optimistic, positive, almost embodiment of youth across the DC Universe and Supergirl is this alienated, headstrong loner. Putting those two together, you get immediate friction and that's really interesting for me.

So now we go from bullheaded to an alienated, headstrong loner. 

Well so much for me hoping she'd be optimistic, fiercely pursuing justice. 

What's worse is that she is the 'opposite' of Stargirl. And what is Stargirl? Optimistic, positive, and the embodiment of youth across the DCU.

So that makes Supergirl pessimistic and negative.

I am so sick of this representation of Supergirl. And yet DC just can't seem to get away from it, trying to shove it down the throats of comic fans. 

Does anyone in DC remember this Supergirl? "A hero through and through", not carrying a moment about herself or her safety. Someone who says 'we fight to live as long as we can, the only way to live and to be able to live with yourself.'

Don't tell me that is the an antiquated notion of Supergirl from 3 decades ago. Because the Peter David Supergirl, while young and brash, had the same optimism, the same need to do what was right. And ignoring the Loeb/Kelly abominable years, we had 3 years of that heroic Supergirl under Sterling Gates, James Peaty, and Kelly Sue DeConnick. We saw her that way when Mark Waid in the Legion. We saw it with Landry Walker's Cosmic Adventures Kara. 

Why does Supergirl now have to be the pessimistic, negative, alienated loner??

Why does all her history have to be flushed away?

And why does she have to be the dark foil to the bright, optimistic, perfect Stargirl? Why does there need to be friction between the two? Why can't they be friends?

Why can't Stargirl be the moody loner and Supergirl be the optimistic positive young hero?

And why does no one seem to complain about Stargirl as a teenage girl not being dark and moody and broody?

More on that later.

Lemire continues:

And Stargirl also creates a link to the Justice League of America, the last incarnation. I thought that it was good to have a couple of members cross over. She has a really great relationship with Martian Manhunter, as well, which Matt Kindt fleshed out in "Justice League of America" these past few months.
She wasn't on my initial roster and then I started reading Matt's stuff and I really liked what he was going for with Manhunter and Stargirl bonding. I felt there was some really rich ground that I could keep exploring with those two as their relationship keeps getting closer and closer. Manhunter almost becomes like a surrogate father to her in a weird way over the course of my arc, as well. That's something I found really endearing and was a lot of fun to write.

Stargirl also looks to the Martian Manhunter as a father and forms a nice relationship with him. Wouldn't he be a good mentor for Supergirl too? A lone survivor who remembers his alien culture and feels alone on Earth???

But Supergirl can't have those positive influences either it seems.

I will say, on Twitter, Lemire said Supergirl and Stargirl will have more than friction and Kara won't just be a brooding loner and her fans should have faith. We'll see.

When I have complained about Supergirl not being more positive and optimistic I have been told by other fans and even creators that it isn't realistic. That all teenage girls are overly emotional, angsty, 'Hell on Wheels', 'more likelu to fight their friends than their enemies'.  Funny how those same people don't complain about Stargirl

Of course, I think the reason that Stargirl is untouchable as a positive young hero is because she has an incredibly powerful advocate. Remember, she was created by Geoff Johns in his first writing gig ... just 15 years ago. Stargirl to him is what Supergirl is to me. If Johns was a Supergirl fan maybe Kara wouldn't be sullied like she is.

Would Johns allow Lobdell to write her as a jaded pessimistic loner? Would Johns kill off Stargirl like he has with other heroes in Infinite Crisis or Forever Evil? Would he let her be a vapid sex kitten working with Red Hood like Starfire is in the New 52? Would he let her become an art thief like Wonder Girl is now? Would he let her rob banks and become an anti-hero like Superboy?


Because it makes no sense for Stargirl to be any of those things.

Well, I and others might also say ...

It makes no sense for Supergirl to be a bullheaded loner or a pessimistic, negative, angst-ridden alien or for her to be a rage-filled Red Lantern either.

I have said it before. I will say it again:

Supergirl fans don't want to see her dark. 

And fans of dark characters don't want to read Supergirl

That's why these takes always fail ... ALWAYS. 

I can only hope that Jeff Lemire and Tony Bedard realize this and right the ship.


Gear said...

I was surprised how quickly my enthusiasm for the JLU book was washed away by the "bull-headed" "alienated" "headstrong" "loner" comments, and by the apparent decision to job Supergirl out as cynical and bullheaded in order to provide contrast for the "optimistic and positive" Stargirl. And she's there to provide "friction". I was hoping the entire Red Daughter arc was going to burn away this need to make Supergirl unlikeable, apparently not.

I guess JLU is off my pull list for now. I'll keep my eyes open to see what happens, or if there are any changes in direction, but I've spent too much money already on Supergirl-as-Villain. I like Supergirl, but I'm not getting to read Supergirl anymore. I get to read Lesla Lar in a Supergirl costume.

On the other hand Captain Marvel was a great book, I guess I can always depend on DeConnick to provide a female lead I want to read. I never thought I'd say it, but Make Mine Marvel.

Please DC, stop pushing me away.

Kent G. Hare said...

Another reason Stargirl is untouchable is that she was created and named by Johns as an homage to his deceased sister.

Jess said...

Sigh. This makes me nuts because an "optimistic, positive, almost embodiment of youth across the DC Universe" is EXACTLY how I would describe Supergirl. And honestly, as someone who really likes Courtney, playing her that way isn't really in character for who she was in the post-Crisis universe - she was kind of snarky and petulant and feisty. This isn't doing either of their characters any favors.

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments.

I feel maybe this was a little too rant-y. But I am sick of this portrayal of Supergirl.

Diabolu Frank said...

Since Gypsy, and even before a retcon gave him one, the Martian Manhunter has had a tendency to adopt surrogate teenage daughters to replace the one he lost. However, they're usually of the troubled/sarcastic/orphaned sort. I thought I remembered SSK as having a tension with her stepfather that played out through Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E.? Wouldn't it make more sense for Stargirl to be the flippant, pessimistic one? Also, she has a mother and stepfather, so what would she need J'Onn for? It seems to me that Courtney has gone from a tribute to Geoff Johns' sister into an idealization of her with time and distance from the real person. If DC must play out their grim n' gritty Supergirl fantasy, that archetype is much more in line with Manhunter's adopted daughters than Stargirl. Pair them off, instead.

Jay said...

Bullheaded, yes. That seems to be a staple of the El family. Jor, Zor, and Kal are all bullheaded. And so's the two ladies who married in: Lara and Alura. So that's very much an apt characterization in my view. All those other things though, not so much. She should have more things in common with Stargirl, not be total opposites.

Martin Gray said...

Great piece Anj, not too ranty at all. I really don't want to read the Supergirl Jeff Lemire posits. Good on Gear for pulling out before it starts; myself, I'm curious enough to have a look. Who know, maybe our Twitter discussion with him and other Supergirl fans yesterday will temper things somewhat.

Anj said...

Thanks for continued discussion. It seems like I have had a post like this every couple of months since the New 52.

Frank, thanks for the J'Onn perspective. Interesting that they have given him the snarky characters as proteges. I suppose in that vein, this new Supergirl makes even more sense.

Jay, good point on the more stubborn personas of the current Els. Certainly Zor seems to be a bit unyielding.

And Mart, I can only voice my concerns and hope. I fear my outlook is considered old fashioned or on the fringe.

Still, I love Lemire's work. I'll try to have some faith that things will turn around.

Anonymous said...

Bull-headed loner seemed more a character trait of Power Girl than Supergirl to me. And I remember there were scenes of Kara talking to Courtney back when Kara was re-introduced back in 2004. (Ah, but that was pre-New 52, silly me.) Now it's fashionable to throw dirt at her character (sigh).

Anonymous said...

One shouldn't take so much stock in interviews but in the final product regardless of positive or negative connotations. Even if Supergirl isn't portrayed to the liking of most, Lemire has been one of the best writers in the New 52 and has written two of its best series. And his other JLU plans sound brilliant. So I still trust that Lemire knows what he's doing with all the characters, including Supergirl

Martin Gray said...

Well, those are first-person comments from Jeff Lemire - no one could blame us for reacting to DC's publicity, getting a reaction is what it's all about. If it's not the reaction they prefer, tough.

And while I loved Lemire's Superboy, and liked Frankenstein, he's not an automatic buy - Animal Man, for instance, was dropped twice by me for rambling Rot/Red storylines. And Green Arrow is too much like the telly show for me.

Anj said...

I'm with Mart.

These were his words, and not vague. Stargirl is bright and optimistic. Supergirl is the opposite.

Not much leeway.

I do like Lemire's work a lot. I am especially surprised how much I like his GA (a character I don't usually like). But this was worrisome to me.

And I wonder how many fans out there said 'perfect' when they read that Supergirl will be a bullheaded loner whose relationship with Stargirl has friction. Are there people who want that>?

Anonymous said...

Obviously Lemire's words don't help how he intends to write Supergirl. But there could be so much more underneath the surface that Lemire can't say just yet. So to criticise Lemire for the bare bones seems silly. Once the series comes out, if Supergirl is portrayed badly, then it's fair to criticise it. And your criticisms are fair, they're just too early.

But who knows, we may get another good portrayal of a female character like Azzarello's Wonder Woman.

Anj said...

You're exactly right. And I'm not giving up on the title. And maybe it will all turn out okay.

But if I'm not going to stick my head in the sand either, hoping quietly that all will be well. I'll voice my concerns now.

If they turn out to be false or premature, I'll note it ... don't worry.

Anonymous said...

I was actually disappointed by the final big reveal. From what the villain said before being shown, they sounded just like Cyborg Superman. It would have been nice for a rematch while Kara is wearing the red ring.

Give it a few months and the writers of JLU and Supergirl will inevitably be replaced by people who want to wipe the slate(s) and put their own stamp on the titles, derailing all the careful plans.

Eventually someone will be put on to the books whose understanding of Supergirl is from her classic heroine days and everything will return to normal :)

Maybe they'll even write off the Red Lantern issues as Kryptonite poisoning, ha ha.

Mike said...

I think there's an effort going on to make the three main characters from the Superman family distinct from each other, since the sales for the lot of them are pretty weak.

My feelings on what Lemire is saying in the interview is that this is the starting point for the character(s). The red lantern story line could very much leave her feeling more alone and disconnected than ever, and her story becomes about the journey away from that. It leaves a lot of room for character growth, likely in the direction that you're all looking for.

With Geoff Johns taking over Superman, I can imagine a lot more attention being given to the whole family of books.

I am hopeful.

Anonymous said...

Kara Zor El, isn't Bullheaded ((which BTW implies stupidity IMHO) she is "impetuous"...driven by her enthusiasm for the job. "Superman IS the Job, Kara Loves the Job" that is the difference between them...ot it would be if the inmates weren't in charge of the asylum at DC Comics.

John Feer