Writer Shea Fontana has been working for years now to use DC’s female superheroes like Wonder Woman and Supergirl to inspire young readers with DC Super Hero Girls.
First announced in 2015, DC Super Hero Girls is a multifaceted franchise of graphic novels, animated media, toys, clothing and other merchandise that focuses on girls ages 6-12. The brand’s mission, as Fontana has described it, is to inspire girls and show that they can be the hero of their own story.
Fontana has helped shape the DC Super Hero Girls universe ever since it launched the next year, writing original graphic novels and animated shorts and movies within the girl-centered universe.
This week, DC releases the latest graphic novel in the universe, DC Super Hero Girls: Search for Atlantis. Now that the initiative is a few years old - and Fontana has a few DC Super Hero Girls projects under her belt - Newsarama talked to the writer to find out more about the project, how the response has been, and what’s up next for the young readers in her target audience to discover.
Newsarama: Shea, you and I talked about the Super Hero Girls universe when these characters were formed. But for our readers that might be new to the mission of this project, what was the idea behind them? The female characters who are in the spotlight of this series are teens at a high school, but they’re still superheroes, right?
Shea Fontana: DC Super Hero Girls is a whole new universe of DC where all of our favorite female heroes are at Super Hero High. So they’re all about 15 or 16 years old, and we have Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Supergirl, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn... all of the great superhero girls from the DC Universe. And we bring them together in this new high school which is especially for the superheroes of the world.
From the initial concept, it was really about empowering girls and showing girls and boys that girls can be the heroes of their story.
We really wanted to bring these female heroes out as the leads in all of these stories, and often in the old traditional superhero lore, you would have a group of heroes, and it would be four boys and one girl. So we really wanted to flip the narrative there.
Nrama: I know there are boys in the comic book, but you’ve really put the focus on the girls.
Fontana: Yeah, absolutely. We certainly have boy characters. There’s Beast Boy and Cyborg and Flash. But the focus is definitely on the girl characters, although they of course interact with boys as most 15-year-old girls do.
It’s really about showing these girls as the focus and the heroes of every story.
Nrama: For this story, you’ve introduced a couple new characters and taken the story into the realm of Atlantis. Can you talk about what sets off this story and how it kind of spins out of this idea of a Super Hero High School?
Fontana: Yes, we have two new girls at Super Hero High, Mera and Raven, who are two of my favorite characters and are complete opposite of each other. They’re new to Super Hero High, and their appearance there has kind of started to change things.
Mera has really become fast friends with Wonder Woman, who has traditionally been Bumblebee’s best friend since Bumblebee first met her back in Episode 1 of the shorts.
And this kind of starts to throw a wrench in how their relationship is working.
On the other hand we have Raven, who is this incredible, magic empath. But she’s got a little bit of an edge to her, which is a bit different than most of our other girls.
So it’s bringing these two really contrasting characters into this world.
And then as they head out in the initial story for a field trip to Atlantis, which is Mera’s hometown. They get there and find out that Atlantis is missing.
So of course, whenever there’s a missing city in the DC lore, it’s probably Brainiac behind it.
Brainiac has shrunken bottled Atlantis. And now the girls are on an interstellar mission to find Brainiac and get the city back from him.
Nrama: You mentioned friendships, and I know that’s a big part of the stories as well. Because they’re teens, and much of your audience is teens, along with the fights against the villains, you have a lot of storyline dedicated to relationships. Was that something you wanted to build into the series as well?
Fontana: I think at the heart of nearly every DC Super Hero story that we do, it is about relationships. And it’s how we interact with each other, and how we are heroes not just in our “saving-the-day” moments, but heroes in taking the high road and realizing that your best friend might have another best friend too, and that’s OK.
Nrama: What’s been the response from your audience? Have you heard from them about this approach?
Fontana: Yeah, it’s been really incredible for me, especially going to comic cons and book signings and things, to see all these little girls dressed up as their favorite DC superhero girl and how that wasn’t really a thing a decade or so ago. There weren’t really superhero costumes available for girls. If you wanted a superhero girl, you could probably choose from Wonder Woman or making your own.
So it’s really fun to see how girls have been taking this geekdom that’s traditionally been closed to girls and really taking it as their own and owning it and showing up proudly in their superhero costumes. That’s really exciting to see how the brand has taken off in that way.
This is our seventh book release. Every one of them has done really well. And every time I go out and interact with kids, they have the entire stack of books they want signed, and they have questions about things, and they want to know, why was this villain here? And where’s this villain from? And, you know, how did Supergirl get here? It’s really interesting to see how girls have really taken to the mythology side of superheroes, which is something that I obviously love too.
Nrama: What other characters might be showing up in future Super Hero Girls books?
Fontana: Our next book, which is out in early 2019, is “Spaced Out,” which stars Jessica Cruz, who’s the first female hispanic Green Lantern. So it’s really fun to get into that story with her as a new character as well. So there really is a lot more coming up from DC Super Hero Girls. There’s also the “Legends of Atlantis” movie, which is out next week as well. And that is the intro to Mera, when the DC Super Hero Girls first go to find Atlantis.