As Supergirl enrolls in a new school in November — an academy described as a "sci-fi Hogwarts" — the DC heroine will have a familiar face in her corner: writer Mike Johnson, who helped launch the title when the New 52 began.
Johnson defined Kara Zor-El for the New 52 universe when he co-wrote the title with Michael Green for Supergirl's first couple years. But Johnson left the title late last year, working instead as a co-writer on the recently launched weekly series Earth 2: World's End.
Now Johnson is returning to Supergirl with November's issue #36, this time co-writing with K. Perkins (a new-to-comics female writer we talked to earlier last week) and artist Emanuela Lupacchino.
Newsarama talked to Johnson to find out more about his return to the hero's title and why she's joining the mysterious Crucible Academy.
Newsarama: Mike, what brought you back to Supergirl, and how did you get united with Kate Perkins for the project?
Mike Johnson: Our editor, Eddie Berganza, thought it would be interesting to team someone who had written Kara's adventures before, which I did at the start of the New 52, with a brand new voice in comics, which Perkins definitely brings. It's been a great collaboration.
Nrama: How is Supergirl different since last time you were writing the character?
Johnson: She's had to deal with a lot since I last "saw" her, especially her experiences as a Red Lantern. She's more comfortable with her powers, but she's not a veteran yet. She's still finding her way in our world, and figuring out how to fit in going forward.
Nrama: I remember you and Michael saying, when you launched the comic, that Kara didn't even know if she was on the side of the people of Earth. Is she now?
Johnson: I think she's definitely willing to fight for humans who can't fight for themselves, but as we see in the first issue of our arc, she's not entirely sure that her help is always welcome.
Nrama: Your first storyline begins in November. How many issues is the story? And are you on the book past the first storyline, or do you know yet?
Johnson: Currently the "Crucible" story will be five issues, and there have been discussions about where to take the book after this story concludes. We're introducing characters that we hope to follow beyond the end of this arc.
Nrama: We talked to your co-writer, K. Perkins, about the first storyline, which has Kara enrolling in the Crucible Academy. What can you tell us about the organization and the situation that brings her to that point?
Johnson: Crucible is like a sci-fi Hogwarts, bringing together young students from across the galaxy to learn how to better control their powers and use them in ways they haven't before. Crucible sees the potential in Kara and brings her into the fold.
Nrama: Where does the story take place? What's the setting of Crucible like?
Johnson: The story will take place both on Earth and at Crucible. We don't want to say too much about Crucible lest we give away the surprises in store for the readers. Suffice it to say it's a unique place within the DC Universe.
Nrama: Why did you think this challenge in particular made sense for Supergirl at this point?
Johnson: This is Kara's "graduate school" in a way. She's been through the preliminary stages of her education as a super-powered being. Crucible raises the stakes for her and presents her with dilemmas that force her to raise her game even more.
Nrama: We've been told that the issue also guest stars Superboy, whom we haven't seen in regular continuity since he came "back" from allegedly dying. Does that part of his history play into the comic at all?
Johnson: Without spoiling things too much, that's definitely something that can't be ignored when it comes to Kon.
Nrama: What's the relationship between Supergirl and Superboy like now?
Johnson: It's certainly better than it was early in the New 52, when Kara's suspicion of clones meant she was unlikely to consider Kon an ally. After what they've been through, both separately and together, their relationship has changed for the better. How much better is still to be seen.
Nrama: K. Perkins told us about the "Scoobiegang" you'll have at Crucible for Kara, including Captain Comet and Maxima, as well as a new character called Tsavo, the super-werecat.
Johnson: Yeah, we'll be adding to Kara's supporting cast significantly, starting with her fellow students at Crucible and extending to people she meets (and meets again) on Earth.
Nrama: I'm sure you've heard that a Supergirl TV show has gotten a series commitment from CBS. What are you hopes for the TV show?
Johnson: I'm hoping for "NCIS: Krypton," but we don't always get what we want. I just hope (and I believe) that the show will continue the excellent storytelling we've seen in other DC shows like Arrow, Gotham and The Flash.
Nrama: DC fans are aware that you're among the team working on the Earth 2: World's End weekly. Where else can we see your work?
Johnson: I'm continuing to write the adventures of the new Star Trek crew in the ongoing series from IDW, and over the course of the next year we will be building up to the release of the next Star Trek movie in 2016. I'm also working on an original mini-series for Dark Horse with the great Rafael Albuquerque.
Nrama: I know you used to have a "day job" in Hollywood, only doing comics on the side. But with the weekly and all these other comics, including Supergirl, are you working as a writer full time now?
Johnson: I'm a full-time writer now. I have fond memories of my time in the Hollywood trenches, but nothing beats making comics. In fact, I think I see more movies now that I don't work in the film industry.
Nrama: That's good to hear. Then to finish up, Mike, is there anything else you want to tell fans about what's coming up for Supergirl?
Johnson: Just that we hope anyone who hasn't read Kara's adventures before will join us for this new arc, and that current and past readers enjoy this new direction. Most of all, we're blessed to be working with our brilliant artist Emanuela Lupacchino, who is a rising superstar. She makes the writers look good.