One of the most unlikely heroes is getting her moment to shine – and that underdog mentality is part of her charm. On Monday, Marvel announced The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, a new ongoing series by Ryan North and Erica Henderson following the c-list superhero who’s never quite fit in with the Marvel world around her, and they’re making that part of her charm. Pitched as an “awesome” all-ages adventure by North, the January-debuting series will follow the titular Doreen Green as she tries to balance life as a college student with taking down Marvel’s biggest and baddest.
Oh you don’t remember?
Squirrel Girl has taken down the likes of Thanos and Doctor Doom, and has been one of the few people who can make Wolverine eat his words – crazy, huh? Nah, it’s “nuts!” according to North.
Newsarama: Ryan, how would you describe The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, big picture?
Ryan North: The words I used when I pitched the book was "AWESOME ALL-AGED ADVENTURE", in all caps, just like that. It's a fun, funny book about this girl (this Squirrel Girl, if you will) who has taken down the most powerful villains in the entire Marvel Universe, and in the middle of all that she's also starting college and basically starting a new life. So she's dealing with figuring out who she is and who she wants to be, while also taking down god-tier bad guys and eating nuts. Sounds like a pretty good Friday night, right?
Nrama: What’s the “Unbeatable” in the title about?
North: So in Squirrel Girl's first appearance she managed to defeat Doctor Doom (she covered him in squirrels, and caused Doom to utter the now-classic line "Confound these wretched rodents! For every one I fling away, a dozen more vex me!") and then she really didn't to much for several years. And in the interim people started noticing that, due to Squirrel Girl's obscurity, this was one of the few times Doctor Doom was defeated in which it wasn't retroconned to be a Doombot, or a clone or hologram or anything. She actually took down Doctor Doom like it wasn't even a big deal. Since then she's been taking down the greatest villains in the Marvel universe pretty much on the regular. She's just that good.
Nrama: In the past we’ve seen Squirrel Girl seemingly punch a bit above her perceived weight class, as well as have some major league team-ups -- Wolverine, Thanos and Deadpool come to mind after Doctor Doom. Will we be seeing some of Marvel’s big characters pop up in this series?
North: Hah! Yep, absolutely. We're starting out with the biggest one, actually. Surprise!
Her ability to take down powerful bad guys is one of the things I love about Squirrel Girl, actually! It's fun to write too: in the past, a lot of her victories have taken place off-panel: you see the bad guy down but you don't know for sure how she did it. I can't do that in this book - too easy! - so a lot of the fun is figuring out ways that having all the powers of a squirrel really would make you this unstoppable force for good.
Nrama: Will Squirrel Girl be solo here in her book, or will she have some friends along the way?
North: Friends! Lots of friends. I am a big proponent of the pal-centric lifestyle. She's obviously got Tippy-Toe with her: her best friend who is also a squirrel. And with her moving into dorm and starting college, she's going to be meeting a lot of new people. Not all of them will be happy to see her, but lots of them will be. Because she's Doreen Green, Squirrel Girl, and she's pretty great!
Nrama: Not everyone knows about Squirrel Girl, but even less people know about Tippy-Toe. What can you tell us about Tippy Toe?
North: Squirrel Girl is a human with the proportional speed and strength of a squirrel. Tippy-Toe is a squirrel with the proportional speed and strength of a squirrel. So yeah, she's a regular squirrel with no super powers. But -- she has a lot of heart, strongly-held convictions, and a lot of opinions about what Doreen should be doing with her superpowers. They make a good team. And it's good for Squirrel Girl to have someone who's known her for a while be there on her adventures.
Nrama: For someone who may have not been closely tuned in to Marvel Comics, the buzz surrounding Squirrel Girl might be nil. How would you describe what’s brought Squirrel Girl back from being a forgotten back-up story creation by Steve Ditko from the early 1990s?
North: There's something Squirrel Girl has said in the past that, I think, really gets to the core of who she is. She said, "Maybe it's just me, but I'm not crazy about superhero stories where everything's all dark and moody. Personally, I like the ones where good guys fight giant apes on the moon and stuff. Remember those? I do. That was back when comic book worlds were places you wanted to escape to... not from."
I think that's resonated with a lot of people. Squirrel Girl is basically a Silver Age character in the modern age, and that makes her a fish out of water in a lot of ways. She likes being a superhero. She likes fighting crime. She doesn't sit around brooding in the darkness of her Squirrel Hole trying to figure out new ways to make crime pay. I think that's a lot of what's led to her appeal and her increasing popularity over the past several years: she's fun!
I wanted to write a book about a superhero who was fun.
Nrama: What would you say the perception of Squirrel Girl is among her fellow heroes inside the Marvel U?
North: Hah! Most don't know her, and I'm sure those that do don't think of her that often. Besides her friends on the Great Lakes Avengers - already a team considered to be a joke - I'm not sure she's got much notoriety. I mean, yes, people know she's taken down Thanos, but that's exactly the sort of story that morphs from "Squirrel Girl beat Thanos" to "Did... did Squirrel Girl beat Thanos? That's crazy. That's probably not how it happened. I'm sure I heard wrong."
Nrama: With this series you’re working with Erica Henderson, who like you just made her Marvel debut in Original Sins. Have you had the opportunity to talk with her, or look at her art to get a better idea of what you’ll be writing as a story to best take advantage of her style and approach?
North: Oh, for sure! Actually shortly after we met and started emailing back and forth, and I asked her if there were things she wanted to draw and didn't want to draw. Technically she has to draw anything I can imagine (right? right??) but it's always a better comic if everyone's doing something they love, and if she, for example, didn't want to draw boats I'd probably change my planned "Pirate Squirrels Of The Caribbean" arc to be "Air-Pirate Squirrels Of The Sky In An Alternate Universe 1940 Where Zeppelins Are Everywhere" instead.
Luckily, Erica was totally down with drawing both squirrels and girls, so we're in great shape there. And her art is so great! After seeing how hunky she can draw men, I kinda maybe wrote more hunks into the story. Hunks! Hunks everywhere!
Nrama: Last question – why should people be interested in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl?
Because it's gonna be nuts.