Doctor Doom, Thanos, Wolverine and Deadpool are some of the most dangerous characters in the Marvel Universe, but there’s one hero that’s beaten them all — and it’s not Thor, Hulk or any of the usual suspects. No, Doreen Green has taken on and defeated the biggest and baddest the Marvel U has to offer, and in the all-new, ongoing “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl,” writer Ryan North and artist Erica Henderson will show the world just what it means to mess with the enthusiastic young hero — when she’s not attending classes, that is.
The series kicks off in January and finds Doreen and her trusted squirrel sidekick Tippy-Toe headed to college. North opened up to CBR News about who the dynamic duo will meet there, his take on Squirrel Girl‘s happy and highly capable brand of heroics, and the fun references the all-ages series will make to past Marvel Continuity.
CBR News: You’re moving from your serial in the “Original Sins” mini to your first Marvel ongoing with “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.” What made chronicling the monthly adventures of Doreen Green a compelling assignment? As a happy go lucky heroic adventurer finding her way in a strange world with the assistance of an animal friend, she appears to have a lot in common with Finn, whose adventures you write in the “Adventure Time” comics.
Ryan North: I was actually trying to take on fewer projects recently, but when Wil Moss (my editor on the book) emailed me asking if I had interest to write about Squirrel Girl, I couldn’t say no. She’s such a fun character, and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted two things: For, against all odds, there to be a monthly Squirrel Girl book, and for me to be the guy writing it. It’s the thing with ideas — the more you think about them, the more you realize all the cool things you could do, and the more you get into the idea.
And sure, there’s some similarities between Finn and Squirrel Girl! I mean, they’re both awesome people with animal friends. But there’s a huge amount of difference in who these characters are, and I don’t think anybody’s surprised if I say that there’s a lot of distance between the Marvel Universe and the Land of Ooo. They’re both great, in different ways!
What kind of role will Tippy-Toe have in the book?
Tippy-Toe is her best friend, who is also a squirrel. We actually had a long back and forth on what Tippy’s role should be! In Doreen’s previous appearances, her squirrel friends couldn’t talk, but they’d break the fourth wall all the time to address the reader directly. I wanted to get away from that — I thought breaking the fourth wall too much would undercut the drama — and instead suggested that we have Tippy-Toe “talk” to Doreen.
She still speaks in squirrel language, and only Doreen can understand it, but it allows us to show them having a conversation, and does a lot to make Tippy-Toe her own character. I was worried if we could only show Doreen’s half of the conversation we’d end up with a lot of, “What’s that, Tippy? Joey fell down the well?” conversations, which are cute for a bit, but I wouldn’t want to build a book around them!
In addition to being one of, if not the happiest hero in the Marvel U, Squirrel Girl has also proven herself to be one of the most capable. She’s beaten Wolverine, Doctor Doom and even Thanos. Is this an aspect of the character you’re interested in having fun with? What’s your sense of Doreen’s fighting and heroic skills?
Oh, I love that aspect. Love it. She beat Doctor Doom in her first appearance, and because she was such an obscure character, it was one of the few times Doom was beaten that wasn’t ret-conned to be a Doombot or a hologram or anything. Decades later, people noticed and were like, “Hey, this woman beat Doctor Doom like it wasn’t even a big deal,” so when she started making appearances again, her whole deal was that she leverages these squirrel powers to achieve really remarkable things. I don’t see Doreen as being the #1 greatest fighter ever in time, but she’s clever. Squirrely, if you will.
What kind of role will the character’s past connections to groups like the new Avengers, Great Lake Avengers and the Cage family play in this series? I understand you want to keep things new reader friendly, but you also will be having some fun with continuity for those who are aware of it?
Yep! That’s part of the idea, to have this really accessible version of the Marvel Universe. I was actually inspired a lot by the LEGO Marvel video games, which you can go into completely cold, but if you have some idea of these characters and their history, there’s a lot there for you to enjoy. The Marvel Universe has so much history in it, it’d be crazy not to exploit that when you can! The trick is to do it in such a way that if someone’s new, they don’t feel like they’re missing something. I always feel like captions that read “Check out issue #224 for this character’s origin!!” are a bit of a cop-out, especially when I was a kid and couldn’t afford issue #224, even if I could find it.
As I’m answering these questions, I’m kinda getting the sense I’m writing the comics I want to read. Nothing wrong with that, I think!
No, not at all. That usually leads to great stories. What’s Doreen’s sort of status quo when “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” begins? What’s she up to in her personal and heroic lives?
Doreen is in this interesting place. She’s defeated Doctor Doom, Thanos, tons of the really heavy-hitters, but really — who knows about that? Some superheroes, and that’s about it. Her victories have usually been unseen, off-panel, and it’s not like you’ve got JJJ screaming about this Squirrel menace in NYC, right? To the general public, if they know about her at all, she’s just a lady who dresses up like a rodent and fights crime in Central Park. And that’s great — she loves fighting crime! — but she’s also not sure she’s living up to her full potential.
So she decides to make some changes in her life and go to college. Because, of course, that’s what you do!
What kind of trouble does Squirrel Girl run afoul of in your initial arc?
There’s the life changes of moving into a dorm when your best friend is a squirrel, but there’s also some villains that show up and threaten her pretty directly. It’s that classic “girl meets squirrel, girl and squirrel go to school and defeat supervillains” story, I guess!
What can you tell us about the supporting cast? Who are some of the characters Doreen will interact with on a regular basis?
Besides Tippy-Toe, there’ll be other students at college that she makes friends with. Her roommate, Nancy, is the one we see the most of in the first issue, but there’ll be a lot more to come, and a lot of them will have some powers of their own. It’s interesting that these kids would all be gathered at the same school. Who’s responsible for that, I wonder?
Artist Erica Henderson is bringing Doreen’s collegiate adventures to life. She’s done work on books like “Quantum & Woody” and “Adventure Time: Marceline & the Scream Queens,” so she should already be great at some of the important elements of this book, like humor and adventure.
Erica is great! We actually started emailing back and forth before either of us officially had the job, saying things like, “Can you believe it?” “I cannot believe this, can you believe it??”
On the “Adventure Time” books, Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb and I ended up with this workflow that was really collaborative, where they’d feel confident moving panels around, suggesting lines, villains, even story lines. And I loved it, because it always improved the book and made it more fun than it would’ve otherwise been to read. So one of my first emails to Erica was me saying, “Okay, I know I’m the writer on this, but man, if you have any ideas, let me know. Nothing I write should be locked in stone!” I saw her first thumbnails just this morning, actually, and the book is going to be awesome and also the cutest. Erica draws the hunkiest guys.
Ultimately, what kind of book do you want the “Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” to be? From what you’ve said, it sounds like this is will be a fun book with something to offer all ages.
My ideal Squirrel Girl book is fun, funny and features a squirrel girl beating up bad dudes. I hope I can deliver on that and more! My core idea for the book, and I believe I used this exact all-caps quote when first describing my idea to Wil, is “AWESOME ALL-AGES ADVENTURE!” I think there’s a big difference between “all ages” and “for children!” For me, “all ages” is just that: Adults can enjoy it, so can kids. It’s not dumbed down. It’s awesomed up.
My Grand Secret to writing all-ages comics is pretty simple: Nobody swears and everyone keeps their clothes on. So in “Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” you can expect awesome, an yet fully-clothed, adventure.
Also, lots of squirrels.