If you're not already buying a comic book by Nick Spencer, you may soon be.
After years of building a catalog of unique science fiction-flavored series at Image, the writer broke out in a big way with this year's "Morning Glories" leading to a tidal wave of work in the superhero mainstream. Already on the stands is Spencer's "Action Comics" back-up feature starring Jimmy Olsen (soon to be spun into its own one-shot), and soon on their way will be the DC Comics relaunch of "T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents" as well as his first Marvel series in "Iron Man 2.0." But arguably his first crack at a truly iconic cape-wearer comes this January when the writer and artist Bernard Chang take on DC's Maid of Might with "Supergirl" #60.
CBR News reached out to the writer for the first full rundown of what he has planned for the Girl of Steel, including what it's like to follow in the footsteps of fan favorites Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle, how the DC Universe will play a massive role in Supergirl's incoming adventures and why she's getting tired of fighting against Superman's villain scraps.
CBR News: The "Supergirl" announcement for you and Bernard came out at New York Comic Con, and it took a few folks by surprise given all the work you've already got cooking. How did this one come about? Did Matt Idelson and Will Moss approach you after "T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents" was underway?
Nick Spencer: Work was already underway on "Jimmy Olsen" and "T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents" when Matt and Will approached me about taking over the book with Bernard. As for the why of it, I have written a good number of female protagonists in my Image work, and that probably had a hand in it. Supergirl is obviously a younger character, and with "Morning Glories" and "Forgetless" I've written a lot of those. I think that they saw this as a pretty logical fit, and I felt the same way.
One thing we hear a lot online is people harping on DC and Marvel about how their female characters are represented in the market, and Supergirl herself has a real cultural cachet outside of comics that makes her someone who's watched after in a very personal way by readers. Do those things come to bear at all for you as you're writing this series, or do you try to set aside thinking about that sort of thing?
It's certainly something that I do keep in mind. How many people just dressed up as Supergirl for Halloween last week? She's a character that has an enormous amount of cultural cachet and pop relevance, and for me, I get very excited when I get the opportunity to work on a character like that -Â a character that people who don't read comics and who don't know much about modern continuity still know the name and still know the costume. So, I do keep that in mind. I like to write for a broader audience. I like to write with the hope that someone could come in off the street and pick up a book like this and be able to get into it from the start. At the same time, when it does come time to sit down and write the script, at some point you have to tune all of that out and tell the best story that you can.
On the flipside, within the comic shops this book has been very well received under Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle, and those guys worked really hard to build up the supporting cast. How do you view your job in terms of following up on that run?
Well, I love that run. Sterling and Jamal did a really incredible job with the character, like you said, building up her supporting cast and giving her her own life. The character had been sort of wandering around. Once Jeph Loeb left, I think it took a while for everybody to figure out what she should be and what her role in the DCU should be. Sterling and Jamal did an amazing job of growing her up a bit and giving her a renewed sense of identity and tapping into what made the character so great and so memorable in the first place. When I sat down to figure out what to do with the book was, "Well, the first thing they did was sort of pull Kara back a bit to build her world out and flesh her out as a person, so what I'd like to do is push her back into the broader DCU now that all these changes with her character have taken place." Particularly, I want to play with her role within the younger set of heroes within the DCU. Kara's had involvement with teams like the Teen Titans and the Legion, and certainly with the Justice League now. But what I wanted to do was tell a story about Kara figuring out her role in relation to those other heroes and what her place is.
Obviously, Kara wears the most important, best known and most respected symbol in all of the DCU. But at the same time, she's a very different person than Clark is. This first story is very much about her figuring out if her past in relation to those other heroes is going to be similar to what Clark's was.
Part of the fun of the shared universe is not just the big events and stories, it's also playing these different characters off each other. Do you have anyone on tap to either play a foil for Kara or be a friend to her within the young hero community?
You'll see that slowly build over the first few months of the story. What I'd say is that Kara is going to be interacting with some heroes for the first time, others she'll be dealing with for the first time since she's gone through so many changes in her life, and I think there are some strong relationships like her relationship with Stephanie or her recent encounter with Damian. In issue #61, we'll be expanding on those and diving back into those friendships. In #62, we'll see even more characters get added into the mix. Like I said, some are new, some are old friends, and some are people she hasn't seen in a good while.
Of course, the other part to any superhero book is the villain side and the action side. Supergirl, for a long time, has been a heroine who is pitted against D-level Superman foes because there's no room for them in the Man of Steel's book. How do you view that challenge?
We'll actually be playing with this a lot in the first issue, #60. Kara is keenly aware with the fact that most of the villains she seems to come up against are either younger versions of Superman villains or female versions of Superman villains. This is no small annoyance to her. [Laughs] We're going to have some fun with that particular Supergirl trope and maybe take it in a slightly different direction over the next few issues.
With a book and a character like this, a bit of humor meshes well with the superheroics, and we've seen in recent issues how those two worlds work well for Bernard as an artist. What have you been doing in terms of matching his strengths there?
Bernard is an amazing artist and a blast to work with. I think it's just like you said - I'm trying to play to his many strengths here and give him a nice mix of action and fun and character interaction. I think he's got a lot of different things to play with here, and I'm excited to see what he does with them.
To wrap, we're a few months into your work at DC and coming up on your first work at Marvel after a number of years doing solely creator-owned books. Have you felt that there's a qualitative difference between how you develop these book and your Image work, or does the writing process stay relatively the same on work for hire stuff?
You know, the writing process stays the same, but obviously when you're playing in a shared universe and decades-old continuity, the way you approach things are different. Certain things have an intrinsic value that you could never have in a creator-owned story. So for me, it's really fun to bounce back and forth between the two. They both have their strengths and weaknesses, but I'm having a great time working on these characters that people already know and love.
"Supergirl" #60, the first issue by Spencer and Bernard Chang, ships in January from DC Comics.