As Marvel Studios and Warner Bros. prepare to release “Captain Marvel” and “Wonder Woman” solo movies, respectively, in an effort to lay claim to the biggest female superhero-starring movie all of time, it’s easy to forget the original. And no, we’re not talking “Elektra” or “Catwoman.”
In 1984, “Supergirl” was unleashed on an unsuspecting — and largely unimpressed — audience, and while the movie bombed, it is a testament to the character, created by Otto Binder and Al Plastino in 1959, that Superman’s cousin Kara Zor-El made it to the big screen before Catwoman, Elektra or even the iconic Wonder Woman.
Flash forward 30 years, and in addition to having her own live action television series in development, “Supergirl” is part of DC Comics’ New 52, re-imagined in 2011 by Mike Johnson and Michael Green for twelve issues. Johnson continued as the solo writer for seven more issues, before leaving in 2013 with “Supergirl” #19. Now, after a 16-month hiatus, Johnson returns for “Supergirl” #36 with new series co-writer K. Perkins, a playwright making her comic book debut.
CBR News connected with Johnson and Perkins to discuss the character, and during our discussion, Johnson revealed some details about Crucible Academy — the intergalactic training school Supergirl is mysteriously summoned to in their first issue –teasing it as a cross between Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and a Star Destroyer.
Perkins, wanting to break into comics for a decade but too busy writing for stage and screen, has created a roster of new supporting characters for Supergirl that will appear in the opening arc, while a number of classic DC superheroes and villains have also been reimagined by the writers, some making their New 52 debut.
CBR News: Mike, you have been writing comic books for more than a decade and you were actually the co-writer and/or solo writer of the first 19 issues of the New 52 relaunch of “Supergirl.” What drew you back to Kara?
Mike Johnson: When I left the book initially, I was embarking on other projects and the time was right to hand the reins over to a new writer. But I really missed writing Kara’s adventures. She’s a unique character in comics, with an origin and situation unlike any other character, including Superman. With the advent of the “Crucible” story, editor Eddie Berganza, who coincidentally gave me my first job in comics on “Superman/Batman,” thought it would be a good opportunity to team someone who had written Kara’s adventures previously with a writer who was new to comics, namely the one-and-only K. Perkins.
New to comics, yes, but what is your history with the medium and what was your knowledge of Supergirl before landing this gig?
K. Perkins: First of all, I’m thrilled to be writing with MJ on “Supergirl.” I’ve always been a fan of comics, and when I picked up “Supergirl,” I instantly connected with Kara. She’s a cool, badass character with such a rich history.
What led to your move to comics and how did this particular project come about?
Perkins: I’ve always wanted to write for comics, but I’ve been working in stage and screen for the past 10 years. Now seemed like the time to make a big change. “Supergirl” came about due to some key people, like Eddie Berganza, who believed in my voice and thought it could work well with Kara’s — and MJ’s, of course.
What is it about the Last Daughter of Krypton that you think works for fans of the character and what separates her from that other guy from the House of El?
Johnson: I say this as a huge Superman fan, but I think Kara is a more accessible character, which is ironic given that her upbringing is more alien than Kal’s was in Kansas. Her reactions to her extraordinary circumstances are more immediate and sympathetic, given that she didn’t grow up with superpowers. Add to that the experience of being a teenager, which everyone has experienced or will experience at some point, and it is easy to empathize with her.
Mike, you mentioned the “Crucible” arc. What can you tell us about this mysterious Crucible Academy? And should Kara be worried? Because there is always a big villain lurking in the darkness, even if it is a school setting…
Johnson: We have joked that Crucible is Hogwarts crossed with a Star Destroyer, which implies a more nefarious purpose than we intend. But it’s true that there is more to Crucible than meets the eye, which readers will discover along with Kara.
Perkins: Crucible Academy is going to be a big step for Kara. She’s on a quest to figure out where and how she fits in, and Crucible’s a place where she’s going to explore that. I don’t want to say much more than that. I ruin surprises too much as it is. [Laughs] But I will say this, you’re right — there is always a big bad. And sometimes even a bigger bad.
Will Kara meet familiar faces at Crucible Academy, or are you introducing new characters to the DCU during this arc? And if unfamiliar to Kara, will readers recognize any superheroes, or villains, making their New 52 debut?
Johnson: Perkins has created a group of amazing, distinctive supporting characters in this arc, some of who become friends, some rivals, some with names familiar to longtime fans of the DC Universe. We hope to continue their adventures in later stories — assuming they survive this one.
One character teased to guest star is Superboy. His solo series was recently cancelled, so will he be a recurring character in “Supergirl”?
Johnson: Without giving anything away, we can say that he plays a crucial role in the “Crucible” arc. Beyond that, we shall see.
Anything else that you can tease about what’s to come?
Perkins: Like Kara is discovering, nothing is either one thing or the other. Nothing ever is what it seems to be.
Mike, are there any loose ends or plot threads that you plan to circle back to from your initial run on the series?
Johnson: I’d like to see what Silver Banshee’s up to now. And the Worldkillers always promised they’d be back.
Finally, what can we expect from new series artist Emanuela Lupacchino?
Johnson: Ema has a rare ability to combine epic sci-fi scope with quieter, personal moments. She’s a writer’s dream: An artist whose imagination takes the words in the script and turns them into something magical.
“Supergirl” #36, by Mike Johnson and K. Perkins, featuring art by Emanuela Lupacchino, arrives on November 19.
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