A fan-favorite character from her time in the Teen Titans, Starfire gets a brand new take for the DCYou beginning this week from writing team Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner.
Already writing the hit series Harley Quinn, which also came back this week from its two month hiatus, Conner and Palmiotti are putting their unique stamp on Starfire by emphasizing that's she's both powerful and vulnerable. Approaching her from the angle of a new alien on earth, the pair have crafted a story with artist Emanuela Lupacchino that highlights why Starfire is so beloved, but also gives readers the chance to laugh.
Newsarama talked to Conner and Palmiotti about why they want to have Starfire "own" her sexuality, why they might decrease the size of their Gangs of Harleys in Harley Quinn, and what's coming up in the Harley Quinn and Power Girl mini-series.
Newsarama: As much fun as Starfire #1 was, and as much room as you gave the artist to draw it, there was a surprising amount of progress made establishing Starfire's supporting cast, the book's setting and just her character in general. You guys really hit the ground running and introduced a lot of new characters.
Amanda Conner: Yeah! We definitely want to delve in and develop her character a lot, and I think part of that is seeing how she interacts with new friends. We want to see her as both powerful and vulnerable at the same time, and that's what we're trying to do in the first few issues.
Jimmy Pamiotti: Yeah, and with having so many supporting characters, it's sort of like us looking at her. You know, saying, OK, this is an alien, this is a strange looking girl, she's orange… you know?
We have to treat the issue as if you never read this character before, which is why the first two pages have the flashback to her origin. I wish we could have put the eight pages we did in the Convergence book right before that.
Our job was to make this job approachable for somebody who's never known the character. And in order to do that, there were all kinds of little facts that had to be talked about in there.
So we didn't want to make it too chatty, which our books tend to be anyway. They're never quick reads. But at the same time, there's a natural flow to how she's moving through the story.
We did the chapter headings to kind of break it up a little bit, so it doesn't feel like you're reading one big, continuous movement. We jump around a little bit.
But it's important that we get the new readers in, and we have to make the old readers happy. The first issue's always a tough book to write.
Nrama: The chapter headings are clever. But Amanda, I loved how you said she's powerful and vulnerable. Yet you're able to portray both of those things with humor.
Conner: Yeah, I mean, when you think about it, how entertaining it would be to actually have an alien from another planet on Earth, and try to teach that alien the ways of the world, and they don't understand anything. And they're trying to understand and sort of integrate into society. There's just a lot of material there.
Palmiotti: Yeah, we have to be careful because she knows a lot. But she hasn't been dealing with actual, just "regular" people stuff. She's been around superheroes for the past couple years and hasn't had much involvement with earthlings.
Conner: Regular earthfolk.
Palmiotti: Earthfolk! There's a good word. Earthfolk.
But at the same time, we looked at what was going on in the other books, and we're rewinding it a tiny bit. There are scenes in the other books, from the past couple years, where she does know some of these things, but for us to tell our story, we need to make a little bit of a clean break to make this book work. So not everything's going to be about what happened in the past two years.
I want to make it clear that it's kind of a new story moving forward.
Nrama: She shows how powerful she is at the restaurant when she scares those guys with her powers, and there are plenty of references to her being an alien. Yet she also reflects humanity back at these "earthfolks," as she cries when she hears something sad from Stella.
Conner: Yeah, I used to read the New Teen Titans back in the day when Marv Wolfman and George Pérez were working on it. She was a very emotional being. When she was joyous, she was incredibly joyous. And when she was angry, she was furious.
I figured that would always come up, no matter how she was feeling. If somebody was feeling sad, she would emphasize with that person and it would just happen tenfold in her.
So yeah, I see her as a really, really emotional character.
Palmiotti: And empathy's a nice trait for people to have — the understanding of what somebody's going through. And her trying to blend in, it's almost hyper-sensitive at that point, because she's trying to feel what other people are feeling to read the situation.
Of course Stella even starts to tear up. It also makes sense in the scene, I think.
Nrama: She also still has a sexuality about her, and I think that's where some writers and artists didn't know exactly how to handle the character. If you go too far, it can come across as offensive, yet you can't really ignore it. It's like an elephant in the room, because she's so beautiful and just looks sexual.
Conner: She does. Where she's a very emotional person, she's also a sexual person. But where she's from, that's not taboo so much, the way it is a lot of places on Earth. We don't want to make her want to have sex all the time, but she's not ashamed of her body. And sex isn't dirty to her. We're not going to make that the only thing she's about, because there are so many more facets to her.
But at the same time, we're not going to ignore it. We address that in the first issue also, where she comes out of the shower and doesn't realize she should have a towel. It's just the way she is.
Palmiotti: Yeah, we were laughing as we were writing it. We were like, "The internet has all this stuff to say, yet we're putting a shower scene in the first issue!" But I was like, OK, let's not make it stupid. Let's make it make sense to her character.
We learned that early on with Power Girl. It was like, don't ignore the way she's built. Just make her own it.
And I think that's what you have to do with the sexuality of the character. You have to own it. And just, you know, don't make it sleazy.
Nrama: Anything you want to tell people about what's coming up in the comic book? Obviously there's a hurricane coming, but anything else you want to tease?
Palmiotti: I will say that the hurricane continues. Something gets unleashed. She has an interesting time buying fruit. There's another bar scene.
She meets up with a character that Amanda and I are very close to, in Starfire #3.
And there are relationship stuff that's going to be happening. So there's a lot going on. If anything, it's a very, very loaded book. There's a lot of stuff going on. But I think it has a nice pace to it. It's almost like Key West itself — it can be as crazy as you want, or light and breezy as you want.
That's a pretty good tease, isn't it?
Conner: I usually let Jimmy answer those kind of questions, because I don't want to spill the beans on something I'm not supposed to spill the beans on.
Nrama: While we're talking, you guys had your first new issue of Harley Quinn come out at the same time as Starfire #1. This new Gang of Harleys really feels like a love letter to New York, with the different boroughs and nationalities.
Conner: Yeah, we thought about how much fun it would be to have a bunch of Harleys running around.
We were actually inspired by all the people we saw at conventions. You know? When people dress up as Harley, there are a million ways to be Harley Quinn. That inspired us.
It was a good answer to Harley having too much on her plate. That's part of what Harley is about — she tries to do everything and have it all. And when you try to do that, it's hard to take care of all your business. So we thought that would be a good antidote for Harley trying to have it all — now she can delegate.
Palmiotti: Yeah. The problem I have with it is, we probably should have only made a half dozen Harleys.
Nrama: I was just going to say that I had to write them down to remember them!
Palmiotti: Oh my God! There's this giant piece of paper with all the Harleys on there, we have to look at as we're writing. I don't know what made us think of those Quinntuplets from Staten Island, because that just adds five right there. I think we're going to have to have some of them quit the group at some point!
And at the same time, even though there's a lot going on in each issue, we're still trying to keep their individual voices. It's not easy. But we're familiar with the people in the boroughs, so we can definitely bring in some of that.
The eight-page teaser helped us, because we had that Animal House scene where she's projecting their faces and describing them. We had to kind of do that for ourselves as well.
So there's a lot to follow in the book, but with a Harley Quinn book, it's never boring. I challenge anyone to tell me they know where the story's going, ever in that book.
Nrama: I love the parakeet scene, but I also want to make a personal request that if Mike the Chicken isn't coming back, please bring him back someday.
Conner: Oh, he's coming back.
Palmiotti: Mike becomes a character like Bernie. Mike is definitely sticking around. You'll have your wish. And someday you'll have a nice "Mike" T-shirt. I promise you.
Nrama: And later this month, you've got Harley Quinn and Power Girl. We've talked about this before. It's what happened between the two panels in Harley Quinn #13, right? When Power Girl was a guest star, and there was this untold story between two panels?
Palmiotti: Yes, and Stephane Roux is going nuts with this. It's like Star Wars mixed with Barbarella. It's so insane. The book goes to the weirdest places ever. By the time it's done, our brains are going to explode.
This book, because it's in outer space and we're creating everything, this book goes places you never wanted a book to go before. By the third and fourth issue, you're going to just be rolling your eyes, how insane it is. It is one sexy manscape of a book.