DC Comics’ Supergirl has had a lot on her plate recently. The second survivor of the destruction of Krypton, since waking up on Earth Kara’s had to deal with a new planet, new powers and new potential allies and enemies — not to mention a new her in the form of Earth 2’s Power Girl.
But in the hands of “Supergirl” writer Michael Alan Nelson and permanent series artist Mahmud Asrar, she faces a new threat in the form of Sanctuary, her smart-home/lair turned murderous robot, and one older DC foe: Lex Luthor.
Kicking off his run with issue #20 Nelson spoke with CBR about his first “Supergirl” arc, including the decision to set Kara’s house against her and why readers will be seeing a much more science and math-savvy Supergirl in coming issues.
CBR News: Michael, in your debut issue Supergirl seems like she’s resigned to having the world’s worst luck. Is this “bad luck” something that’s going to define the tone of her adventures on Earth and your initial story arc?
Michael Alan Nelson: I don’t see it so much as being a defining tone as I do a new lens she uses to view the world. She hasn’t really had the best luck a person could have, but I think she’s moving from a place of being angry about that bad luck to a more accepting place of understanding. Bad things happen. That’s life. She’s starting to understand that no matter how frustrating things are, she’s going to have to deal with it. That’s where some of the fun can come in — she’s starting to learn from all these experiences which influence how she makes choices. Even if the choices she makes aren’t necessarily the best ones.
The issue essentially makes Kara homeless — how much will her looking for a place to literally belong be a part of your run?
It’s a very big influence. Looking for a place to belong is at the core of who Supergirl is, and though she has some searching yet to do, she’ll eventually find a place to settle down and try creating a home. None of this is going to happen overnight. Finding a place to call home is one thing. Finding a place that will let you in is another.
We basically saw Supergirl’s house call her dumb, try to kill her and then rise from the “dead” to track her down. Why does Sanctuary hate Kara so much?
I don’t believe Sanctuary hates “Not-Kara” at all. Sanctuary may see her as an unacceptable anomaly that must be eliminated, but that isn’t because of any animosity. It isn’t personal. For Sanctuary, it’s just an obvious error that can be easily corrected by her death — that’s the key. To Sanctuary, it’s obvious and easily fixed, but since it doesn’t seem to put much value on life and death, Kara’s resistance is confusing. If someone tells you your shoelace is untied, why in the world wouldn’t you tie it? Why would you fight to keep it untied? It doesn’t make sense. For Sanctuary, having two Karas is akin to having one shoelace untied — a problem that’s easily solved. So she wonders to herself why is she the only one who see this?
It was touched on during the “H’el” storyline, but Sanctuary’s actions really reinforced the Kryptonian attitude towards clones. Is Kara learning to ditch some of her more rigid Kryptonian mores in order to survive Earth?
I wouldn’t say ditch just yet, but she’s definitely starting to at least question the infallibility of Kryptonian culture. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and her longing for home colors her memory of Krypton in a way that makes it better than what it really was. Sanctuary’s insistence that two Karas cannot be allowed to exist is a reinforcement of the occasional harshness of life on Krypton. No place is perfect and Kara is slowly coming to that realization. It takes time and she’ll stumble along the way just as we all do, but she’s taking her first steps toward accepting Earth as home. That’s why the Earth’s sunrise reminded her of a Kryptonian sunset. Her life on Krypton is over, but her life on Earth is just beginning. Yes, it’s a pretty heavy-handed metaphor but I think it speaks to where she’s at in her life right now.
In this first issue Supergirl had a lot of fun rolling her eyes at Power Girl’s “new” outfit. How is Supergirl-Kara different than Power Girl-Kara, besides taste in clothes?
It goes back to the idea of belonging, of having a sense of place in the universe. The biggest difference between the two is Power Girl has that and Supergirl doesn’t. Power Girl knows what it’s like to be accepted, to have a friend, to be respected. Supergirl knows what it’s like to be hunted, used and deceived. Since Power Girl is older, she also has a wisdom that Supergirl just doesn’t have yet. That’s the fun of writing her character — we get to see her obtain that wisdom through her stories.
Lex Luthor’s training his sights on Supergirl in issue #21. As “Supergirl’s” writer, how much do you want to draw on existing Superman bad guys like Luthor versus creating new or reusing old Supergirl-specific villains?
I definitely want to see Supergirl deal with villains that are specific to her, whether they’re new villains or ones we’ve seen before. On a meta level, we all know Supergirl is part of the Superman family, not the other way around. I really want her to be strong character in her own right and not defined by her relationship with Superman. In her world, she sees Superman as part of her family. She isn’t Kal-El’s cousin, he’s hers. Put like that, it may sound like merely semantics, but it really is the way she sees herself. It’s the way we all see ourselves. I want her villains to be just that: her villains. I certainly don’t mind borrowing other baddies from throughout the DCU, but Supergirl is enough of a heavyweight that she can attract villains that are specific to her. By doing so, it helps solidify her as a premier character in her own right rather than just part of Superman’s “supporting” cast.
Are we going to see more of Kara using her Kryptonian science and math know-how, or is Sanctuary right in that she’s way more comfortable using her fists? Also, is that freezing equation Kara tosses off in your first issue a real mathematical formula?
Supergirl is a bright young woman. She was well educated and surrounded by intelligent adults on a scientifically advanced planet. Kara is no slouch. It’s fun to see her reach the limits of what her powers can achieve and start to tap into her other resources. Don’t get me wrong, there’s action and fighting, but Supergirl has a sharp mind and is starting to realize her intellect may be her greatest power of all.
And yes, the formula is definitely real. Big kudos to Rob Leigh for being able to get it on the page — and for the great lettering on the whole damn book for that matter.
Artist Mahmud Asrar is continuing to do the art and covers for “Supergirl.” What is it like working with this international artist for the first time? As someone who’s been with “Supergirl” since the relaunch, did he have any advice for jumping into Kara’s world?
I love Mahmud. He’s not just wickedly talented but also an incredibly sweet guy. It was an absolute joy working with him. He’s one of those artists that takes a script and makes it ten times better than you ever hoped it could be. I mean, Supergirl’s expression when she says, “Of course I am.” C’mon! It’s just brilliant.
We also need to recognize the fantastic job Dave McCaig did coloring this issue. Everything from Sanctuary’s interior to the sunset was remarkable. This is really the best part about writing comics — I get to see the true artists bring these stories to life.
There are already teases in the solicits for a massive Supergirl story coming this fall. After an event like “H’el” are you looking to do something that incorporates the whole Super family? Or is your focus much more on Kara?
My focus is always on Kara. That being said, there are big things happening in the DCU that are going to shape her existence and her relationships in ways she won’t realize for some time.
“Supergirl” #21 goes on sale June 19