the upcoming cartoon network animated series dc super hero girls, like its web series predecessor, will take place in high school. though our heroes -– wonder woman, batgirl, supergirl, green lantern, bumblebee, zatanna -– have cool powers, they have more in common with the audience than we may think. in the same way, the villains of the show are also recognizable kinds of kids you’d run into (or run away from) in high school.
on hand at san diego's comic-con international to discuss the decisions to place the show in high school and how we can all relate to that experience were the show’s executive producer lauren faust, director jenn kluska, and voice actors grey griffin and nicole sullivan.
cbr: what is it about the high school setting that allows for more freedom in telling these stories?
nicole sullivan: if you can remember back to high school, literally every day was an adventure both good and bad. there was always something going on, and that’s just a regular person at a regular school. every day was drama, so that’s what’s such a great environment for these girls. their drama is there’s a large woman crushing the city and tearing buildings up. it’s a different kind of drama, but it’s the same stuff girls go through every day in fighting with their friends, fighting with their frenemies and all that kind of stuff.
you have this plethora of characters you can choose from. do you start with the story first and then insert the characters, or do you start with the characters?
lauren faust: we start with the characters first. we have our heroes and their powers and stuff, but we also have their personalities, their problems. each character in the first season is going to be presented with a problem: something that they want. and over the course of the series, their want is going to turn into something they discovered that they needed instead. we’re taking their personalities and their wants and trying to find the conflict based on who they are.
we have an episode where we paired supergirl vs. catwoman, not because their powers work so great together, but because their personalities conflicted with each other so well. that made a better episode for us. catwoman can’t fight supergirl, obviously. but, when you put the two of them together, you get a brains vs. brawn sort of story. even though supergirl could pummel catwoman, what happens when catwoman is too smart for supergirl to catch?
jenn kluska: in the end, we settled on what we did because they all represent something very thematic. each of the girls are a teen archetype. we have wonder woman who as a hero, she’s the leader. she is, of all our girls, the one who’s been doing it longest. she came to the world of man to be a hero: that was her quest, her goal. she’s now brought these other girls around her as a teen, so she’s a leader. the teen mirror to that would be the valedictorian, the sports star, the captain of the team… when we picked the girls, our actual cast of heroes, we were looking for teen mirrors… we wanted all the characters to be very distinct.
going off of that question, there are six villains that are kind of the counterpoints to the dc super hero girls. who makes up that roster?
kluska: the villains are basically led by catwoman. she’s the brains behind the situation. she won’t sully herself with actual physical fighting but she’s got these other girls to do it for her. we’ve got giganta—she’s the muscle. livewire, she’s the gossip; she’s the youtuber. she’s spiky, she’s hard, so she’s the electric villain. thematically, it works. we also have poison ivy. she’s the waif, the recluse. as a teen, we always say that she’s kind of like the-breakfast-club-ally-sheedy hair-in-the face, possibly-talking-to-a-potted-plant, sort of character.
we also have star sapphire. she’s our green lantern villain. her backstory is that she was the girlfriend of hal jordan, so we’re playing her basically as the crazy ex-girlfriend. she’s super fun. all of her powers are pretty much built around love and loving, but she will kill you with it. finally, we have harley quinn who is just the maniac. she’s completely unpredictable. you never quite know what she’s going to do, and she’s definitely the wild card literally and figuratively...
we really tried hard to find the best balance that would let us tell the most interesting stories because a lot of story and comedy comes from conflict. you want to put these personalities together and these powers together in a way that’s going to create the most interesting themes and the most fun visuals. you want to have a fight that based on character and emotion… but also you just want to see a cool fight. so, you want to put these powers together in a way that’s visually awesome as well.
what was the thought process of changing wonder girl to wonder woman?
faust: there wasn’t really a thought process – i was told i had to do that [laughs]. it was mostly because… dc super hero girls was an existing brand with existing characters and existing doll line. wonder woman was already a big part of this brand, and they really wanted to keep it wonder woman instead of wonder girl.
so, we have some things in the show that you’ll see in the pilot that kind of explain why even though she’s still young, she refers to herself as a woman. it was like an amazonian rite of passage. even though she’s still young, she went through the tournament of athena and aphrodite and won. therefore, she has earned the right to be called a woman even though she isn’t.
as the voice of wonder woman, how do you feel about that?
grey griffin: i love the themyscira stuff. it’s so fun to see where she grew up, her family and why she is the way she is. i’m glad that they’re incorporating some of that more this time. i’m glad also that they’re not focusing so much on school in this one. it’s a lot more about their adventure. they are in high school, and the other one was very school-oriented… with the principal and all that. this one is more about their lives, their double life. they are high-schoolers, but they focus a lot more on their hero antics, which i love.
nicole, you’ve done a lot of voice acting playing a lot of great characters. what makes supergirl an especially great character for you?
sullivan: what i love about supergirl is this world they live in where they have these dual lives. they’re each other’s friends. they’re the only ones who know each other’s real names and status. what it shows to me is in high school, you’re trying to be one person, but you’re this other person with your friends. supergirl is… sort of the same.
she just can’t hide who she is. she tries to play the good girl, but it’s not a part she’s very good at. she’s got a chip on her shoulder. she goes through life swinging and super pissed that her cousin is more famous than she is. she’s like, “i do the same stuff he does, how come he’s famous?” so, she’s trying to prove herself, and it’s really fun. she’s really sarcastic with her friends, and she loves them to death, but she’ll take them down in a second if they’re being weird.
the first dc super hero girls short premieres before teen titans go! to the movies in theaters july 27th.