Thursday, October 9, 2014

Supporting Cast

It is hard for me to believe that I have now lived through 4 different incarnations of Supergirl in comics.

Whenever a new creator or a new direction is about to happen, the writers and artists usually say the same thing in regards to Supergirl and her book. One, she needs a rogues' gallery. And two, she needs a supporting cast.

I always chuckle a bit when I read it because if everyone seems to know that those elements are part of a great book, why have so few been able to achieve it with Supergirl?

I suppose those that decide to portray her as a bitter, disaffected, angry loner might have a hard time with writing characters that want to hang around Kara.

It seemed like Tony Bedard was working his way towards a supporting cast. And it looks like a school setting will immediately provide K. Perkins and Mike Johnson with supporting characters. And I am hoping that Greg Berlanti and Ali Adler will give Supergirl some interesting characters around her on the show in 2015.

With all this in mind, I thought I would take a look at one of my favorite Supergirl supporting casts, the citizens of Leesburg in Peter David's run.

It all started at home with Fred and Sylvia Danvers.

These were great three-dimensional characters who struggled initially with the Supergirl/Linda fusion but then became 100% supportive.

Sylvia was an extremely devout woman who relied on her faith for guidance. With the religious overtones of the book, she was an interesting sounding board at times. She slips into alcoholism when she learns of the merging of Linda and Matrix but then literally 'sees the light' and stands by her daughter.

Fred started out as a no-nonsense dad struggling with Linda's rebellious ways. Early on he seemed to be a vicious man with a quick temper. But then we see him soften, struggle with his wife's dependency, but then become a rock of the family.

Linda also has friends in town.

Dick Malverne is her boyfriend dealing with health problem that he is hiding from everyone else. Despite coming from tremendous wealth, he is an everyman with an 'aw shucks' quality to him.

Mattie Harcourt is Linda's best friend, a young physician in training, and dealing with some fallout from her brother's death during the Final Night. She remains a good friend to Linda, helping her through issues.

And Cutter Sharp is a reporter for the local newspaper with a sharp tongue. He was investigating Linda's disappearance when it happened and ends up as Supergirl's agent. He often provided the humor of the book and at times seemed to give a 'big picture' speech about the problems people were facing.

And then there was Comet, super-speed cold-powered half-horse mystery man who turns out to be the other identity of Ande Parks, Cutter's ex-wife, lesbian feminist. Ande has a very deep backstory dealing with isolation from her parents because of her orientation and struggling to walk the line between good and evil.

They all had histories, distinct personalities, and seemed so well-rounded for a cast. And I haven't even mentioned Wally and Twilight and the Carnivarean!

This series was so solid.

For those interested, these Who's Who pages are from the Team Superman Secret Files book from 1998. I have divulged more of their histories than what is presented on those pages.


Bartiemus said...

At least Kara is finally becoming connected with the wider DCU. She has been of on her own for two and half years so I'll take it.
I really like the friendship she built up with Guy Gardner who of all people showed her what it meant to stand up and be a hero while fitting in with a team for the first time.

Now she is on Justice League United I want to see her interact with the girls away from the rest of the team there all the same age except for Alana they can help give her a sense of a normal life on Earth.

As for her own book what ever happend to Tom? He just seemed to disappear the men in her life don't last very long

Thomas Hayes said...

It's easy for creators to say she needs more supporting cast members. It should also be easy for them to create more, but they seem to be reluctant to do so and if they do, they disappear. In the current volume, Johnson & Green only created 2 support characters, Siobhan and Tom, although they did create some more villains in Tycho and the Worldkillers. Tom got written out only a handful of issues after he first appeared and Tycho is presumaed dead? Nelson created no supporting characters. Bedard created Michael, with only two issues left to go of his run - clearly he wanted to do something with Siobhan's roomates and friends but RDoK made that difficult to achieve and he's off the book before he can do anything with them, we might never see them again. He did flesh out Shay Veritas far more than Lobdell had, but she's now in the Phantom Zone! There's no point in setting characters up if they're just going to be dropped. And the location problem is an issue here too, because if Supergirl herself is always moving around as she has done a lot in this volume it basically becomes a 'road movie' narrative and having a permanent recurring cast is very difficult.

We can even look back to the previous volume because it had the same issue. Loeb created no support characters because he stuffed his run with cameos from established DC characters. Kelly's run was not as cameo-heavy but Captain Boomerang is the only thing close to a recurring character in that run from what I've read of it. Puckett created no support characters. Gates didn't go far beyond Inspector Henderson in terms of 'new' characters - although he did of course repurpose Lana Lang, and lots of shared characters were added to the Superman books by New Krypton. Spencer/Peaty's arc used mostly existing DC characters. So the sole Supergirl Vol. 5 writer to create a new setting and new set of characters solely to tell a Supergirl story was Kelly Sue DeConnick in her 3 issues! I hope Vol. 6 does not go the same way. It's easy to see why Peter David's run has the strongest support cast, it's the only run that's been allowed to actually have one! Not to mention with a single central location where Linda's narrative mostly plays out.

ealperin said...

I miss this supporting cast. I hope to see them, again, in some form. (Hopefully, on the SG tv show!) ^___^

Anonymous said...

"It's easy to see why Peter David's run has the strongest support cast, it's the only run that's been allowed to actually have one! Not to mention with a single central location where Linda's narrative mostly plays out."

Supergirl hasn't gotten a steady supporting cast since 1971 when she moved from Midvale. Every time a new creative comes along, they ditch the former supporting cast in favor of their own creations.

There're many characters who have no a good supporting cast due to this. Superman and Batman are the lucky ones, and even so there're creatives (like John Byrne) who would love ditching secondary characters who they dislike like Lois Lane or Barbara Gordon.

"I miss this supporting cast. I hope to see them, again, in some form. (Hopefully, on the SG tv show!)"

Sadly, the show has wasted years treating Kara as a female Superman with no lore of her own. The show has introduced Jimmy Olsen, Lucy Lane, Maggie Sawyer, the Toyman's son... at the same time, the Danvers were renamed for no reason, Dick Malverne was turned into a bad guy who made his only appearance in the second season, Streaky and Thara Ak-Var didn't make an appearance until the third season...