Since the launch of the New 52, she’s fought World Killers, Superman and the Black Banshee, but with the release of #0 issue of DC Comics’ “Supergirl” monthly comic book series, Kara Zor-El will be battling a different kind of foe — her past.
Written by Michael Green and Mike Johnson with art by Mahmud Asrar, the relaunched “Supergirl” crash-landed Kara on Earth with no grasp of the culture and no clue how she got there. Reintroducing old foes like the Silver Banshee — now one of Kara’s friends and allies — and new ones like the villainous Tycho, heading into the #0 issue and beyond Kara will start learning a lot more about the events that lead her to our planet, including hints to the fate of Argo City and her father’s shooting.
Taking a break from penning the Maid of Might’s ongoing adventures, Green and Johnson spoke with CBR about their comic, the challenges facing Kara in the #0 issue and the role her supporting cast will have after her origin story plays out.
CBR News: Now, you guys were saying when we first got on the phone that you’ve been working on some great stuff for “Supergirl” — so what are you working on? The #0 issue? What comes after?
Michael Green: Yes! [Laughs]
Mike Johnson: Both. We’ve been working on the #0 issue most intensely right now, which is sort of our big revelations issue where we fill in the blanks of her memory that she had when she first stepped out of her pod in issue #1. Both for her and for the readers, this #0 issue is about filling in the gaps.
Green: It’s very much how it happened and some things she didn’t know, we didn’t know, that will ignite some new story after as well.
Johnson: We really want to use the #0 issue, like all the #0 issues, as a jumping on point for new readers. So we’re specifically planning to have stories that spin out of that so we don’t lose any moment.
Green: Besides a jumping on point for new readers, it’s also a major reward for people who have been with us since the beginning.
The #0 issues are also functioning like origin stories for a lot of characters. Is this #0 issue going to neatly tie up and answer every question about Kara getting to Earth and Zor-El’s shooting?
Green: No, no! We’re genetically modified to ask a question whenever one is answered so that we can keep a constant supply of interesting story. So we’re going to wrap up some stuff and introduce some stuff.
Johnson: As Michael said, we want it to be a reward, so we do want to provide answers but we don’t want to wrap everything up with it. We want to push the story in a new way that has its own questions. For the most part, the #0 issue is about focusing on her origin in a way we’ve never really seen before in any of her incarnations. Everybody knows the Kal-El story, everybody knows what went down and how Jor-El was dealing with things and his plan; we actually saw it happen in “Action Comics,” and now we get our chance to know a little more about the wider view of life on Krypton and how things went down in Argo City and that side of the El family.
Green: So far in our book, we’ve had a really good time focusing on how she dealt with getting here. We finally really get to go into what were the circumstances that put her here. Issue #0 is a lot of what happened right before issue #1.
How do we get into the origin issue? Will Superman’s appearance or any of the things in issue #12 factor going into the #0?
Johnson: That’s really before and after the #0 issue. In issue #11 we saw her on her first date on Earth and saw her out of the costume and interacting with life in New York in a way we haven’t seen before. Her experience with that actually prompts her next meeting with Kal-El, which is the beginning of issue #12. The #0 issue follows right on the heels of that, and then we come out of #0 continuing that moment.
Turning to what’s been going on in the book prior to September, what role do you see Tom and Siobhan playing in Kara’s life? Are they solidly her supporting cast?
Johnson: We want the Smythe pair to be reoccurring characters, but we don’t want it to be an episode of “Friends.” We’ve said before it’s not going to be “Friends” or “Grey’s Anatomy” —
Green: It’s going to be none of these incredibly successful shows! [Laughter]
Johnson: It’s not reoccurring as in you’re going to see them every episode; it’s reoccurring in the sense it’s constantly going to be part of life on Earth. We definitely want to keep them reappearing in the book, not in the “Friends” kind of way where they’re at the door — which is always unlocked in the “Friends” world, which is weird! They’re not going to be walking into each other’s apartments and hanging out, and they’re not going to be showing up in every issue. She’s still going to be going far and wide, Earth and beyond. What they represent in terms of a supporting cast are her guiding lights on Earth, two people she can feel safe around, because she really doesn’t have anyone — definitely no one from her past anymore.
Readers might think, “Well what about Kal?” The relationship with Kal is not going to be in a good place for a while. She’s still coming to grips with the fact this guy claims to be the cousin she knew as a baby. He’s very much an Earthling to her. He can’t relate to what she’s going through. The complexity of him trying to help her and wanting to be this combination brother / parent put stresses on her that she doesn’t have dealing with her friends, with the Smythes. They’re definitely going to be important characters. We’re also going to have a huge, dangling Irish thread with their story where we saw that they thought they took care of the Banshee curse, but that’s definitely something we’re going to be revisiting in the year to come.
Green: Well said!
Along those lines, what was Tom trying to do in getting absorbed by his dad back in the Black Banshee issues?
Johnson: It’s something we don’t want to give away; we wanted to save some elements of the Banshee story and the mythology for the next chapter in it, so more of the rules of the Banshee will be revealed as they go. But there’s definitely a reason why Tom was able to give himself over and then why his plan didn’t work and Black Banshee was able to come after Siobhan.
In those issues you not only had a brand new Silver Banshee but you also had veteran artist George Perez working on the art. Did George Perez do that amazing Banshee redesign, or was he working from one of Mahmud Asrar’s designs?
Johnson: That was all Mahmud!
Green: George did his version; we had a couple of emails going back and forth there —
Johnson: But that’s all credit to Mahmud.
Just within these eleven issues, it seems Mahmud’s style is still evolving — those Banshee covers are a lot more graphic and poster-like than we’ve seen from him before.
Green: He’s definitely letting it change over time, it’s been eleven, twelve issues now and I think he just wanted to try different things, and the editors were interested in letting it change and using different parts of the buffalo of his talent. A very large buffalo, his talent!
Johnson: It is! We pretty much give him what we’re thinking and get out of the way.
Green: Sometimes it goes both ways where we say to him, “What are you interested in drawing more of?” Then we’ll work to that, because when a guy with that much facility tells you, “I’d like to see what it would look like in a city,” you put it in a city! When he’s in the mood to draw something, it comes out beautifully, and when he’s not in the mood to draw something — it comes out beautifully.
We saw some of his most detailed and emotional panels, I think, with Kara and the sunstone in the World Killers arc. Are there any pages coming up that hit you guys as emotionally as those images?
Johnson: There’s actually something coming up at the end of issue #12 that is hugely visual and hugely important to Kara’s status quo going forward. All we can tell you is it’s a thing and it’s partly Kryptonian in origin. It’s very large and it shows up at the end of issue #12. We can’t say anymore without spoiling it, but it’s very cool and it’s going to be very important to her life going forward. But it’s not an invisible airplane!
Her origin is she’s actually Wonder Woman!
Johnson: That would sell some copies!
Green: At some point, she will wear a Green Lantern ring, we’re sure of that. It may be after we get fired from the book —
Johnson: She’ll be the prettiest Guardian of Oa ever! [Laughter]
In the last few issues, Black Banshee has “unlocked” more of Supergirl’s powers. So far, coming to grips with her abilities has been a very frightening and confusing process for Kara. Will she ever get to enjoy being super-powered?
Green: There’s definitely some joy coming, and if you look, it’s been encrypted into the artwork Mahmud is drawing. She’s gone from being surprised by it and not knowing how to stand, to — in some of the newer images, you’re going to see she’s really fluid and almost balletic with her abilities. She looks much more like an Olympian who’s in charge of her body and is in charge of her abilities. There’s a confidence that comes with it that’s very fun, and sometimes it’s nonverbal. If you look at her first images of flying or standing and punching or heat vision, now when she does these things, they’re becoming second nature. Now she sometimes floats when she talks, just because it’s something she does. That’s not something that would have been a natural thing. She’s starting to rely on them like a second sense.
Johnson: It’s a really good question, and I think we are going to see her have more fun. Partly because we don’t want the book to be a downer, dealing with heavy tragedy every issue, but also because if you we’re in her shoes she’s been through a lot and its been a shock to have these powers — but at the same time, powers are inherently fun! We’ve seen her in general being more proactive, and that extends to her powers. Rather than feeling like she’s cursed by them, she’s going to use them to her benefit and the benefit of the people she wants to help. I’d say to the benefit of planet Earth, but it’s not a given that she wants to save the world. She’s going to want to save the people she knows and that she cares about. That’s a larger theme going forwards. She’s been very reactive so far, she’s had to be with the things she’s experienced, and after the #0 issue, we’re going to see her become increasingly proactive in her adventures and how she deals with things.
I know by this point, if I was Kara, I’d start getting angry about how I’m being treated by the police and the various Earthlings she’s run into. Are we going to see her taking a stand after issue #0?
Green: Oh, yeah.
Johnson: I think she’s not necessarily angry, but we’ve established her as someone who is not a shrinking violet, someone who has her own opinion and her own feel of how she thinks things should go, and you’re going to see that in the #0 issue. That’s what we’re going with — it’s not that she’s angry, but she’s not going to let anybody dictate what happens to her except herself. And now she’s got the power to make sure that happens.
Green: That includes going forward on Earth. She really does start navigating our culture on her terms.
Simply because she is attracting so much attention, it seems like Superman would have to get involved as people are now comparing this city-wrecking force to him. What is his motivation when it comes to Kara and seeing Kara?
Johnson: We can say the decision to see him is actually hers and not his. We don’t want to have a reoccurring situation where he’s always showing up and yelling at her for getting in trouble. That’s something we want to avoid, going forward. His appearance in #12 is motivated by her and not him.
To end, what should fans pay attention to or be most excited about going into the #0 issue?
Green: I’m excited for them to finally see the mystery of how she got here. It’s something we talked about on the initial pitch of, “Can we please have this book for a while,” and it’s something we’ve been building towards. We feel it’s a really fulfilling story. The other thing is to see the art Mahmud is drawing; it’s pretty awesome, really strong stuff. It remains so evocative, there’s so much writing we don’t have to do because he’s a tremendous actor on the page.
Johnson: Hear, hear!
“Supergirl” issue #12 hits stores August 15; issue #0 is out September 19.