Very few heroes in the DC Universe know the tragic and heartbreaking experience of seeing your entire home planet explode and your people die right before your eyes. Only one knows the emotional devastation of witnessing that event twice – the last Daughter of New Krypton, Supergirl. Now the Girl of Steel finds herself alone and flying solo in more ways than one when her eponymous series finally breaks off on its own starting with yesterday’s release of “Supergirl”#53 from DC Comics.
For the past few years, the “Supergirl” series played a major role in the events of the New Krypton storyline, acting as a through line between all the Superman-family titles of the DCU. The massive, line-wide event followed the impact caused by the 100,000 Kryptonians rescued from Brainiac’s ship forming their own planet on the other side of the Sun. Although Superman left Earth to live on New Krypton to help maintain relations between the two planets, things quickly spiraled out of control through the machinations of General Sam Lane – ultimately leading to the destruction of New Krypton and a war of the worlds. The “War of the Supermen” caused immeasurable damage on Earth, but also the near extermination of the entire Kryptonian race. Although it is said that everyone loses in war, no one lost more than Supergirl, whose mother and best friend both sacrificed their lives in the battle.
With the two year-long event over, the Super-titles finally venture off on their own. “Supergirl” especially heads into new territory as writer Sterling Gates took over the book and almost immediately became involved in the events of New Krypton. As the writer prepares to take off flying with #53, he spoke with CBR News about the character and title’s status post-New Krypton, creating a rogues gallery with long-time artistic collaborator Jamal Igle and what the idea of legacy means to both Supergirl and the writer himself.
CBR News: Sterling, to start things off, issue #53 sees “Supergirl” heading off on its own following the massive New Krypton storyline. What’s it like taking the book on its own path?
Sterling Gates: It’s different. It feels very different. Virtually every story we’ve done in “Supergirl” the last few years has been within the context of New Krypton. By being tied-in with New Krypton, there was always stuff for us to deal with and that we could talk about and do. Now, it’s us on our own. It’s a little daunting, but Jamal and I will try to rise to the challenge of telling some really great Supergirl stories.
What can you tell us about Supergirl herself heading out of New Krypton and “War of the Supermen?” Where is she emotionally?
It’s a pretty dark time for Supergirl. New Krypton was devastating for her. She’s lost her mother, her best friend. Her own people. I feel like we can’t walk away from all of that without addressing it in a big way, or else it would feel false. To that end, we’re going to be examining Kara’s emotional state across the next two big stories – where she is and why she is how she is and what happens next for her. By the time November’s issue hits, there will be a new and definitive post-New Krypton status quo for both Supergirl and Linda Lang.
You mention Linda Lang, and when you first started on the title, you said you wanted to give Supergirl her own civilian identity and personal life outside of being a super hero. I personally loved that part of the book and it sounds like you’ll be going back to that now.
Yeah, I want to get back into it. There’s a line in “Supergirl Annual” #1 where the Science Police are questioning Linda Lang and they ask her what she does with her life. She doesn’t have an answer. Her narration caption that panel says, “Wow. I really, really need to work on this secret identity thing.” And it’s true, she does. [Laughs] The secret identity stuff got shuffled around a bit, but we’re going to really dig in and develop it. You’ll see it start in “Supergirl” issue #53, but you’ll really see it rear up in a big way in November. I can’t say much about where we’re going with it, though. Not yet, at least.
Are we still going to see Superman in the title, not in the crossover way, but how it was when the book originally started, with him as a guardian and mentor figure?
Not as much as you would think. Going forward, Kara’s emotional support structure will come from her relationship with Lana Lang. That’s a relationship I don’t want to lose, because I think it’s important for Kara to have this big sister/little sister relationship that she can rely on and lean on. I also think it’s important to keep Superman sort of in the background, because it helps us establish “Supergirl” as Supergirl’s book. If Superman’s always popping up and helping her deal with all this emotional or physical stuff, then you run the risk of it starting to feel like “Superman, with special guest star, Supergirl.” If Superman guest stars in an issue of “Supergirl,” I want it to be for a really important reason.
It’s funny, someone asked me if Supergirl can only work if Superman’s in the picture. Well, I’m writing her in Supergirl, and James Robinson is writing her in Justice League, and we both agree that that is not the case. Supergirl works just fine on her own.
She’s more than just a female Superman. She’s her own character.
I think that’s an important distinction. There are a lot of people that look at her and say that she’s a female Superman, but she’s so different emotionally and physically. Yes, they have the same power set, but their personalities are vastly different. Their lives are different. Coming out of the “War of the Supermen,” Kara’s in a much darker place than Superman. She responds to the tragedy of New Krypton differently than the Clark does. I think what happens next will help solidify in people’s minds how different they are. And yeah, it kind of frustrates me when people can’t see past that “S” on their chests. That symbol connects them as family. It doesn’t make them the same character.
You said that Lana will be playing a bigger role, which makes sense because without her mother and best friend, Lana has to step into that role to help support Supergirl emotionally.
When I first started on this book, I described their relationship as Lorelai and Rory from “Gilmore Girls.” That’s still how I look at them. I think people were worried after the events of “Supergirl” #50 that Lana was going to disappear and that their relationship was over, but that’s not the case. They had an argument and they had a falling out, but that’s what made that scene interesting to me [and] made me wonder what happens next between those two. I love that relationship and I think it’s extremely important to Kara and for the book. For all intents and purposes, Lana acts as a friend and as a non-biased sounding board for Supergirl in a different way than, say, Superman or Lois would. Lana doesn’t judge Kara the way her direct family would, if that makes sense.
Definitely. Friends and family can look at you very differently when it comes to certain aspects of your life.
At the same time, I think Lana needs that relationship just as much as Supergirl does. Lana has gone through a lot of bad stuff and so she draws strength from that relationship – different from the way Supergirl does. At the end of the day, it’s two women – roommates and friends – helping each other learn and grow and change. That’s a relationship I don’t see a lot of the time in comics, so I really want to continue to foster that and build it up.
Now, I have to hit on the villains coming up. The immediate one is Bizarro Supergirl. When you first started this book, you mentioned wanting to make a Supergirl Rogues Gallery and I feel this goes back to that.
Yeah. BizarroGirl, as we’re calling her, comes to Metropolis in a pretty big way, as we continue to build Supergirl’s Rogues Gallery. I believe that’s an important aspect in writing super hero comics, constantly adding to the mythos in some way. We’re going to introduce an all-new cosmic villain to the DCU during the BizarroGirl story too, and we’re going to dust off an older villain for the “Supergirl Annual” this fall. We’ve got an all-new villain for the story after that. I can’t tell you about the story after that. [Laughs] But yes, when I started on this book, I decided that we should either try to do new spins on old villains or completely new villains. Or a mixture of both.
Bizarro has been a character many writers approach differently – from scary to goofy to bazonkers crazy. How will you be approaching BizarroGirl?
She’s dangerous. She’s scary. She’s unpredictable. She’s wildly emotional. She doesn’t know her own strength. She’s definitely not a joke. Going in, I thought that if we’re doing a strange doppelganger version of Supergirl, she should be as scary as hell, and incredibly dangerous. Jamal and I set out to make this arc as spooky as possible, with some really dark stuff in it. But there’s some comedy in there, too. That’s kind of the cool thing about Bizarros – they have such a range. They can be funny or scary or funny while they’re being scary. For this arc, given how dark things are for Supergirl, I wanted to play up the darker aspect of the Bizarros. Then, when we hit the annual in the fall, the book gets more light-hearted and fun. Again, I felt that coming out of “New Krypton” and the “War of the Supermen,” I couldn’t immediately do a bright, shiny, happy story. I had to earn it.
I really like the design of this character. What went into designing this new BizarroGirl with Jamal?
Jamal Igle is, hands down, one of the best pencillers in this business. And if you disagree, we’re going to have some words! [Laughs] I love him and his work, and once we knew we were doing BizarroGirl, he started kicking out designs. Bizarro-Supergirl is an old concept from the ’50s that we’re completely updating. If Supergirl is a bright and shiny character at the end of the day, BizarroGirl is dark and scary. She’s a twisted reflection of Supergirl, and she says a lot of things that are on Supergirl’s mind. Really dark things. I wanted to give her the dress from the ’50s, too, both as an homage to that character and to make her different from Supergirl. Jamal designed this ripped and shredded dress, and he gave her this matted down, greasy looking hair. He really made her a monster, you know? Knocked it right out of monster park. [Laughs]
I’m sure you can’t say too much, but what other villains do you have plans for coming up?
We’ve got really big plans long term for Superwoman and I think people will be surprised where we take her next. I know the fight in “War of the Supermen” #4 was almost entirely off panel, but you get a little glimpse of it in #53. Superwoman will continue to be a part of Supergirl’s life, though. As for other villains, it’s like I said before. I can’t say too much!
Speaking of the crossover, there were a lot of hints of a relationship between Brainiac 5 and Supergirl throughout that. Any plans for Supergirl’s love life in the future-both in the figurative and literal sense?
One word answer? Yes. And that’s all you’re getting from me. [Laughs]
[Laughs] Fair enough. Moving on, I definitely wanted to hit on new cover artist Amy Reeder, who takes over with #55. I loved Josh Middleton on the book, but Amy’s cover are simply stunning.
Amy Reeder is a brilliant artist, and I think her covers are beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. I think her designs and compositions are different than Josh Middleton’s, but keep in the tone of Josh’s work. I would kill to do a story with her at some point as well, because I think her interior work is just as good as her cover design. Josh is also a great artist. He gave our book’s covers such a unique feel and presented images that really helped us stand out from the other books on the racks. I can’t thank him enough for the work he did and I wish him well on his next projects. I really enjoyed working with him. We’ve really been blessed with really great cover artists on “Supergirl” since Jamal and I took over, haven’t we? Josh Middleton, Alex Ross, Renato Guedes, Chris Sprouse, Jamal Igle, Shane Davis, Mike Turner. Some top-notch talent, and I am very happy to now add the wonderful Amy Reeder to that list.
As we close out, I wanted to take a look at the idea of legacy as it relates to the DCU. The concept of legacy characters plays a major role in these comics, but what does being a legacy character mean for Supergirl?
I don’t know that Supergirl thinks of herself as a legacy character. Not in the same way as, say, Stargirl would. I don’t think the legacy aspect of the DCU plays into her mind like it does for other characters, like the JSofAers. From our standpoint, she’s her own unique legacy story – a girl who’s trying to live up to the expectations of the world and those of her family. It’s hard for her, and she’s got a lot to learn.
To finish up, we’re going a little meta here. You are also a legacy writer in a way. What’s it like for you to follow in the footsteps of guys like James Robinson who brought in Geoff Johns who then brought in you?
I owe my career to Geoff Johns and that’s the truth of the matter. I can’t thank Geoff enough for helping to start my career and teaching me everything I know about comic writing. I also have now had the good fortune of co-writing stories with three of my favorite writers: James Robinson, Greg Rucka and Geoff Johns. Writing with those guys was literally a dream come true. When I was in college, they were my favorite writers. Being able to work with them across New Krypton was a fantastic and immensely valuable experience, and I’m extremely, extremely proud of all of the material we put out into the world.
“Supergirl” #53 by Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle is available now from DC Comics