Sterling Gates enjoyed a memorable run writing Kara Zor-El for DC Comics from 2008 to 2011, and next week the fan-favorite writer returns to the Last Daughter of Krypton — but not quite the same version of the character he wrote previously — with “Adventures of Supergirl.” The 13-chapter digital first series takes place in the same universe as CBS’ “Supergirl” television series starring Melissa Benoist. Gates will be joined on the bi-weekly series by an all-star roster of artists including Bengal, Jonboy Meyers, Emanuela Lupacchino, Emma Vieceli and cover artist Cat Staggs.
A fan of Superman’s cousin since 1984’s “Supergirl” movie, Gates shared details about the new series with CBR News ahead of its January 25 debut, including the influence of the critically-acclaimed “Batman: Hush” storyline by superstars Jeph Loeb & Jim Lee and the highly imaginative work of iconic Japanese animator and filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki. The writer also teased the roles the show’s supporting characters like Kara’s adoptive sister Alex Danvers will play and revealed his thoughts on some of the featured villains, name dropping Rampage, Vril Dox and Psi in the process.
CBR News: Did you watch or re-watch episodes of “Supergirl” to get a handle on Melissa Benoist’s voice as Kara for the comic?
Sterling Gates: Yes. Again, we’re based in their world. This is our take on the TV version of Supergirl. If you read my run on “Supergirl” back in 2008 to 2011 and you are now reading this series, it will be a fairly similar voice. It’s very positive voice in a dark and cynical world. That will feel very familiar to you. But again, it’s very rooted in the show. I’m working really closely with the producers to make sure that the comic lines up with how they perceive Supergirl to be on the show. And they have been awesome to work with. I have seen all of the episodes and I have all of the scripts. They’ve really opened up and given me access to anything that I might need to help us produce this book. It will feel like the show. That’s always been the goal. It’s an extension of the show. And will also feel like an extension of the run that I wrote almost a decade ago.
In terms of a supporting cast, are we going to see Alex, James Olsen, Winn Schott, Hank Henshaw and Cat Grant from the TV series?
Yes, you will see all of your favorite characters from the show in this book in varying degrees. First and foremost, it’s a story about Supergirl and her adoptive sister, Alex. And then we shift gears and Winn comes into the picture. Winn and James play roles. Hank plays a role too, but again, it’s varying degrees. Different cast members come in and out of the story. We explore a lot of different pieces in Supergirl’s life. Those relationships help to illustrate what her life is on the show, in the context of the show. It was important to make sure that those characters were present in this story.
And it’s really fun to put Winn in danger. [Laughs] And see how Supergirl gets him out of it. And it fun to put James in danger and see how Supergirl reacts. And it’s fun to have Alex leading a team of D.E.O. (Department of Extra-Normal Operations) agents, running through the sewers and fighting monsters. That’s all fun and I want to make sure that those characters are served but first and foremost, it’s about Supergirl. It’s a Supergirl story.
Yes, but as you teased, it’s about Supergirl and her adoptive sister, Alex. I’m really enjoying Chyler Leigh’s portrayal on the TV show. Alex is another really strong female character. What can you share about her role in the story?
You are going to learn some pretty cool secrets that Alex has been keeping over the course of the story — things that happened to her early on in her days at the D.E.O. Alex, as a character, is a little more world-weary than Kara. She is less likely to put the positive spin on the world that Supergirl might. If Supergirl sees the light in the people, Alex worries about the dark. It’s fun placing these two in a scene and seeing how they reacting differently to new threats.
I love David Harewood on the show as Hank Henshaw, but I love Martian Manhunter even more. Are we going to get any J’onn J’onzz in this series?
[Laughs] Hank Henshaw will be used. That’s all I am allowed to say.
When the series was announced, it was teased that we will see classic DCU villains in the series like Rampage, Psi and Vril Dox. Are these done-in-one, villain of the week-style chapters or is there an overarching story with one major threat?
I am aware of their work. [Laughs]
Right! I looked at that and saw how they structured that story and used it as a basis. In “Batman: Hush,” there is one overarching villain to the story but there are a lot of little stories using some iconic Batman villains. What I wanted to do in this story was have an overarching villain, who I can’t tell you anything about because I have been instructed not to tell you anything about him or her or them, but we have other villains coming in and out of the story as we go across the 13 chapters and first up is Rampage. It opens with Supergirl and Rampage fighting in the middle of a National City Sharks football game. And it turns into this crazy, smash-y romp. There is always the question of who would win: Superman or the Hulk? I wanted to do, who would win: Supergirl or Rampage?
We then transition into a Vril Dox story unlike any other Vril Dox story that you have probably ever read. It’s a different take on Vril Dox. If you read “L.E.G.I.O.N.” or “R.E.B.E.L.S.” or any other classic Vril Dox stories, it’s our version of that character.
And Psi is the next story after Vril Dox. We’re doing a story that I have never read before so I thought it would be really cool to do a new spin on that classic Paul Kupperberg/Carmine Infantino character. We’re using some of the classics and we’re also introducing someone new by the end of this whole thing. That’s kind of the back half of this series.
And you have different artists working on each arc, right?
Yes. And each artist brings a different tone to the series. Bengal is our first artist and the first three chapters is like Supergirl by way of [Hayao] Miyazaki. If you smashed a Studio Ghibli film together with the “Supergirl” show, that’s the tone that we’re trying to capture in those first few chapters. And Jonboy Meyers, brings a much more whimsical tone. Emanuela Lupacchino brings a very different tone too. It feels more like a cool Supergirl story. I always want to write specifically to each artist.
My 10-year old daughter watches the TV series, sometimes with her eyes covered. It’s not solicited as an all-ages book but is something that she could read?
If someone can watch the show, they can read this book. I’ve always wanted to write Supergirl as an all-ages friendly character. I hesitate to say “all-ages” because sometimes that comes with a weird stigma, but if you can watch the show you can read this book.
We noted your first run with Supergirl started back in 2008 and that, incredibly, was eight years ago. I remember talking to you back then and it feels like yesterday. We’re old guys now.
I know, right?
I don’t know if you remember but eight years ago you admitted to me that your love for Kara Zor-El started with a crush on Helen Slater from the 1984 “Supergirl” movie.
Yes. That happened. [Laughs] The first Supergirl story I ever read in comics was the Joey Cavalieri-written was “Supergirl Movie Special” #1, which was the official adaptation of the movie. And it had an awesome Jose Luis GarcÃa-LÃ³pez cover. And then I saw the movie when I was four or five. And since then, she has been one of my favorite characters.
You also mentioned the impact that “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” specifically Supergirl’s role in the series, had on your life as young reader of comics.
It’s still a very moving story to read. She goes toe-to-toe with the Anti-Monitor and beats the hell out of him and the only reason she loses that fight is because she is trying to save other people while fighting him. And that distraction is what ultimately kills her. It’s an awesome issue. I think it’s also one of the saddest issues that DC Comics has ever published because it ends with Superman given this hand-written eulogy to his cousin, who died saving him. It’s a brilliant piece of writing even today.
Is it different writing Kara this time around from the last time?
It’s been very surreal. It’s like meeting up with one of your best friends that you haven’t seen in 10 years. You sort of pick up where you left off. It’s been really fun so far. Obvious, this is the show’s continuity and the show’s world is a very different take from Supergirl’s world in the comics. There are adjustments.
One of the things that I really hit on a lot between 2008 and 2011 was: “I am Supergirl. This is my life.” That was a line that I put in a lot of issues. In one of the early chapters in the new series, she says that line and I got chills writing it. It feels similar but different if that makes sense. And we’re doing some really fun stuff in this book and we are using some really cool DC Comics villains. We’re not doing new takes necessarily but different spins on some classic villains. And it’s fun to see how this version of Supergirl reacts to them. Is it the same as she reacted in the DCU? And is it the same as when I was writing her the first time? Or is it something different? It’s exciting to see where it goes.â€¨
“Adventures of Supergirl” debuts Jan. 25 from DC Comics.