When DC Comics asked writers Mike Johnson and Michael Green and artist Mahmud Asrar to work on the New 52 version of “Supergirl”, the trio knew they wanted to bring a sense of reality to the character of Kara Zor-El. From the outset the creative team revamped her origin, crash-landing Kara on Earth in “Supergirl” #1, following the Maid of Might as she struggled with a new language, a new planet, and a new host of villains.
As Kara heads toward an uncertain future and a showdown with the villainous and mysterious World Killers, Green and Johnson spoke with CBR News about the ongoing series, working with veteran artist George Perez on “Supergirl” #8, and what fans should expect next from the Kryptonian heroine.
CBR News: You guys are finishing your first arc, you’ve just introduced Reign, and you’re teasing the World Killers. Up to this point, Supergirl has been pretty reactive to the environment and the confusion she’s been thrown into; do you see these next issues as a turning point for her becoming more proactive?
Michael Green: Absolutely. We try to play it as straight is we could emotionally, so in the beginning it’s, “Where am I?” just this instantaneous reaction to this new environment. But once she’s had that moment to breathe she’s going to have to start making some really critical choices about how to live in the new environment, what kind of person does she want to be here, and we’re really excited to be getting into that.
Mike Johnson: Yeah, I think you’re exactly right in the sense that she’s been reacting. As Michael said, we’re playing it emotionally very truthfully. You would have these reactions first, and I think that really hit it’s high point in issue #5 where Mahmud [Asrar] drew this amazing page and we just took the words off it because it you don’t need words, where she lets out all her grief. I think once you look back on the series in its first year you’ll see that scene and maybe even that image as a real turning point where she just lets it all out. After that she really has to start rebuilding her life, and you’re going to see this in #6 particularly where she makes a key decision that ultimately leads into our big showdown in #7 with the World Killers.
Green: That was just our real turning point moment of recognition of who she is and it’s time to grow up. But as Mike said before Mahmud really hit it — and to extend the pun “hit” is probably the right word for her reactions early on, which turned out to be one of those fun accidents of discovery. We really liked this idea of her as a spitfire who makes a lot of mistakes in her initial reactions and is in a frightening environment and graced with a lot of new powers. A lot of time[s] her first reaction is physical! That won’t always be the case; she’s going to meet some people she doesn’t punch on first sight! [Laughs]
Johnson: And there won’t be as much crying! I think it’s natural there would be a lot of crying given what she’s been through — I would still be crying, even now. I would just be crying through the first seven issues! But we’re going to see her find her resolve and determination to basically face what’s happened to her and make the best of a terrible situation.
Like you said, Mahmud Asrar is continuing to deliver some spectacular art and layouts —
Green: Isn’t it crazy? It’s just ridiculous, it’s like we got handed our own private rock star to hang out with. It’s intimidating and just glorious. We get emails from him with new pages — first of all they’re incessant, he’s fast too, so everyday there’s more stuff to enjoy. It’s a pleasure but it’s also daunting because we need to make sure the next pages we give him to draw are worthy of that level of gift!
Johnson: We’re running out of ways to tell him he’s awesome. I think our next email response should be, “This page is terrible,” just to change it up! [Laughter] We’re running out of superlatives!
Speaking of comic book rock stars, in “Supergirl” #8 you have George Perez coming on to do fill-in art.
Green: We get to slum it with the fill-in artist for a little while there. [Laughter] Yeah, that’s just more fun than we’re supposed to have at work.
So whose palms have you been greasing to get both Asrar and Perez on “Supergirl?”
Johnson: Wil Moss! All credit to [editor] Wil Moss, the magician behind the scenes that keeps us going. Mahmud has a new baby and we wanted to give him some time off so we needed a fill-in artist for #8 but we wanted it to be special. We wanted the fact that Mahmud has done such amazing art to get someone who would not only keep that level up but get some fan attention as well. We said, “What about somebody like George Perez,” and Wil said, “Let me see if George can do it!” So all credit to Wil for that happening. George really, really embraced the story, and it’s an important story because it’s where we introduce the new Silver Banshee who is going to play a role in Kara’s life that she hasn’t played before, much more than just a villain.
Green: We should say, getting a chance to work with Mahmud was one of the reasons we were excited to take on “Supergirl.” When we were first talking to Wil and [DCU Executive Editor] Eddie Berganza about this we didn’t know about the New 52 at the time. He said, “Look, we’re doing something really big, we’re doing something with Supergirl, take a look at this,” and he sent us — which sketch was it?
Johnson: It was the cover to #1.
Green: And we just looked at that and said, “Oh. We get that girl! Yes please!” Plus we got to work with a guy of that caliber, so we’ve been spoiled.
You mentioned in “Supergirl” #8 fans are going to see a new Silver Banshee. How did you approach reinventing Silver Banshee for the New 52 and the new “Supergirl?”
Johnson: We knew that we wanted to give Kara a real supporting cast on Earth and now was the right time to do that, after she’s sort of been through the gauntlet of discovering what’s happened to her and dealing with it. We also knew we wanted to flesh out her rogues gallery in an interesting way, not just with new villains like Reign but taking a different look, kind of in the spirit of the New 52, and introducing Silver Banshee — or Siobhan as we actually call her more often, because we meet her first in her human form — that kind of killed two birds with one stone. It was a chance to reinvent a villain in a cool way while also fleshing out Kara’s life and supporting cast on Earth. We wanted to go differently with it; we didn’t want it just to be the familiar Banshee that you’ve seen before. There’s such potential with the character that we wanted to explore and you’re going to see that Siobhan actually has more in common with Kara than you might think at first.
Green: We spent a lot of time talking about, now that Kara’s going to be learning about our world, whose lens do we want her to see the world through? What kind of people, both friends and enemies, are going to teach her about this place she landed on, what are these human beings like? Do I like them or not? Is this a place where I’m making the best of it, or can I actually find joy?
Johnson: In a lot of ways we actually talk about this being Kara graduating with all the same stresses and fears and opportunities as when you first go off to college or a new high school. You’re looking for those first connections, those first friends that you make. Siobhan is going to be one of those for Kara.
Green: Yeah, the first week of freshman year where you make the friends that you cling to because you need someone to help you find the library. Some of those friends become lifelong and some of those you end up letting go of under duress. I think that was my freshman year!
Johnson: And fighting huge epic battles!
Green: And just to clarify, Mike and I met senior year of college, when you are choosing your friends! [Laughter]
It’s interesting you say Banshee is similar to Kara, as Reign also seems to have parts in common with Supergirl, almost the person Kara could become if she was angrier and less compassionate. Will all the World Killers reflect different aspects of Kara?
Green: It’s more, in this new situation of being on Earth and her home being destroyed, she’s got choices to make about what kind of person she’s going to be given the fact that life handed her a shit salad. Especially when you’re given such incredible power it makes the choice entirely your own. You can’t tell her what to do or not do. In a way we wanted her to meet a version of herself that was so corrupted that she could look at that and say, “Do I want to go that far?” She has every reason to be very, very angry and to take it out on the world if not the known universe. We want her to confront that, so she ended up making a choice to be the better version of herself, which is a much more difficult thing to do.
Johnson: And the best rogues galleries come out of your main character; they come out of the hero, they’re a reflection in some way. The other thing Reign and the World Killers mean to us is they’re elements of a much larger mystery that we’re playing out over the course of our first year, into the second.
Green: Dun dun dun!
Johnson: Which is, exactly what the circumstances were to Kara arriving on Earth. As we saw in issue #5, it was her father’s plan to put her in a pod. It was not necessarily her father’s plan to send that pod away from Argo City, not to mention the fact that we saw her father was shot — I don’t know if I should say dead or killed. We just know that he was shot.
Green: The laser beam did shoot through his chest, exploding it. So there’s a fair assumption there!
Johnson: Take that for what you will!
Is this mystery of how Kara got here and her father tied in at all to the “Superman”/”Superboy”/”Supergirl” crossover this summer?
Johnson: That’s going to be more of its own story, but it definitely will tie in emotionally in terms of where she’s at in relation to the others. Her relationship with Superman didn’t get off on the best foot; her relationship with Superboy is complicated.
Green: She’s going to come out of that with a better sense of her current family.
Johnson: Her relationships will be changed by this crossover, though the crossover itself is not connected to the mystery we’re talking about in “Supergirl.”
Green: As far as the over arcing mystery in the “Supergirl” book, we have a lot going on. We see it as an ambitious four-year plan, hoping we get to stay on the book for the whole four years to tell it. We’re not going to draw it out; we have enough meat to keep it interesting that long.
Johnson: It doesn’t mean the mystery will be revealed four years from now.
Green: Each mystery opens up a new circle of mysteries. We’re excited to explore it and find out all we can about our girl, past, present and future. Mysterious! [Laughter]
It is! Along those lines, what are you most excited for fans to see?
Johnson: I can’t wait for fans to see issue #7. Issue #6, which is out this month, gives you some more answers and then sets the stage for issue #7 which is the epic battle with the World Killers and these are the pages that we’re seeing from Mahmud right now that are just amazing. Battles are boring unless there is emotion underneath it, and there’s a ton of emotion in this battle for Kara, so I’m really excited for fans to see that.
Green: I agree, the most special moments upcoming are the moments where the emotions of the characters feel real instead of just being another version of Supergirl who goes through trials and has whatever obscure back stories — that she feels like a real person. I think due to our gifted artists we have a lot of those moments.
Anything you can hint at for what’s coming up with Kara with the World Killers and beyond?
Green: Yeah, yeah we can! [Laughs]
Johnson: The return of Torso Man, as I’ve seen him referred to. That’s all I’ll say: the return of Torso Man.
Green: We’re looking forward to finding out kryptonite is not the only thing that can weaken Supergirl. Can I say the word?
Johnson: The M word? Yes!
Green: We’re looking forward to letting her find out that magic is something that can really hand her ass to her. [Laughs]
Johnson: And we haven’t seen the last of Krypton by a long shot.
Johnson: It’s been encouraging to see people embrace a new conception of the character and even old time fans of Supergirl who feel we are staying true to the core of who she is.
Green: It’s very easy and fun to be cynical online but people have a lot of warmth and nostalgia for Supergirl. “You’re playing with our girl,” is the attitude a lot of them take and I feel like we got their trust and we’re hoping to honor it.
Johnson: And we take it seriously, very much so.
Green: Otherwise we’ll post nasty things about ourselves!
Johnson: We’ve been called “a black hole of fail,” so it’s all up from here!
Green: But to be fair, I called you that.
Johnson: Back in senior year! [Laughter]
“Supergirl” #6 hits stores February 15.