In superhero comics, there are often artists that draw such a definitive version of a character that their name becomes associated with the hero.
Now on her second stint drawing Power Girl, Amanda Conner is quickly becoming known for her work on the character. Beginning with the JSA Classified story she did with Geoff Johns back in 2005, Conner drew a fun, sassy version of Kara Starr that readers and critics alike adored.
With the launch earlier this year of a new Power Girl ongoing series written by Conner's husband Jimmy Palmiotti and his co-writer, Justin Gray, the artist returned to the character and is now six issues into the run. And her version of the character is quickly becoming a fan favorite, as she brings her ability to humanize the powerful superhero and make her more than just a buxom blonde.
Conner was already known for drawing beautiful, powerful women. With her work on titles like Vampirella, The Pro and Birds of Prey, she established herself as an artist who has a knack for capturing the sometimes quirky and often feisty personalities of the comic world's most voluptuous female superheroes.
Newsarama talked to Conner about the series and found out that even in the last four years, the artist thinks Kara has gone through a lot of change.
Newsarama: Amanda, we talked about this character way back when you were doing the Geoff Johns story. How is it getting back to this character and getting back into the swing of her story?
Amanda Conner: I absolutely love it. That's one of the reasons I wanted to do it again, because I really have grown attached to the character. She's a really fun character, and it's nice to have Jimmy and Justin writing it because they're adding an element of crazy fun to it that I love drawing. I'm enjoying the book so much.
It's definitely hard for me to do a monthly book. But I have to say, if it was a very angst-ridden story it would be torture for me to get through it. But since it's just so much fun, it doesn't matter that I'm always working to catch up on it. It doesn't feel like work. It feels like fun.
Nrama: You've played around with her look a little, haven't you?
Conner: I had sort of tweaked her costume a little bit when I was doing the JSA Classified with Geoff. But when this one came around, I tweaked it even more. Basically, I wanted to do an outfit for her that I was going to want to draw at conventions, doing a lot of sketches. [laughs] It's nice to have a change, but I wanted to keep the iconic parts of her look. So I just tweaked it.
Nrama: What did you change?
Conner: She had a rope, and I honestly got sick of drawing ropes. And I just thought there was a better way to go with that. So I gave her sort of a gold leather strap instead. I think it looks cooler and more streamlined. And thought it looked more bad-ass than the other one. I like the look of it. And I just switched around some of the seams on the costume, to keep it fresh for myself.
And also, last Christmas, Jimmy bought me a fantastic pair of boots. And I wanted her boots to look like the boots he bought me, because I just think they're so cool. And they look great. So the boots she's wearing are based on the boots Jimmy bought me, except hers are blue and mine are olive.
But I like the white bodysuit and the red cape. It says Power Girl to me. I didn't want to completely change it because it's almost iconic for her, with the boob window and everything. So I didn't want to change it as much as tweak it a little bit, so you still know it's Power Girl.
Nrama: One of the things you do so well is facial expressions. Does this series provide a lot of opportunity for that?
Conner: Definitely. Facial expressions and body language are my two favorite things to draw. I absolutely love doing that. It's just so much fun.
And then one of the challenges for me is to make, even when she's just sitting there in a chair, to make it interesting by making the characters act. The old school way of doing it, they used to tell us in school that if two characters are having a conversation, the way you keep it interesting is to have a whole bunch of angles. And you do a silhouette, then you do a far away shot, then you do a close-up shot. And I had done that for a while.
Then I thought, let's try something new. And one of the things I like doing is, if they're having a long conversation, using the same angles, but making it interesting by making the characters act. It's a challenge for me. It keeps it really fresh and interesting for me when I do it that way.
Nrama: What has been the biggest challenge? I see you have animals coming up in February.
Conner: Actually, I love drawing animals. But the biggest challenge so far has been that first issue, where they said, "Yeah! A thousand robots come down to New York City." And I was like, "You want me to what? I have to draw this? What?"
Every once in awhile they'll throw something at me like that. And it's a lot of work. But I enjoy doing it. But it also takes a lot of time, which chews into your deadline time. So it's most challenging when they throw something in where I have to draw a thousand of something.
Nrama: In the scenes that you've done so far, what scene was your favorite to draw?
Conner: Oooo, that's a tough one, because there are a whole bunch of them. A lot of times, it's the quiet moments too.
One of my favorite action scenes was drawing Power Girl when Manhattan was suspended in mid-air, and she was trying to figure out a way to get Manhattan back to the surface of the earth. And she had figure out a way to cut the cables, and she was communicating with the JSA. And they were all running around with their own problems, trying to rescue people from falling buildings and stuff like that. It was a really fun action scene to do, because it was telling a story. It felt like a real-life situation, if you had superpowers. I wanted to show the teamwork between her and everybody. The communication is what made it interesting for me. The storytelling, and how things would actually unfold. Instead of just a big action scene, it showed how things would unfold in that situation.
And another favorite scene was her and Donna washing the cat. It was one of those cases where I kept the camera angle in one place and let the cat do the acting.
Nrama: It's interesting to hear you talk about having the characters act. Do you ever sit in front of a mirror when you draw?
Conner: Sometimes I do! Yeah! I do. I was talking to somebody who had gotten Botox, and I was thinking I couldn't do it because then I wouldn't be able to make all those facial expressions that my characters use. [laughs] So yeah, Botox is out for me.
Nrama: Do you have a favorite character that you've gotten to portray?
Conner: Well I do love drawing the cat. That's a lot of fun.
Nrama: You mentioned before the interview that you have a cat. Is the cat in Power Girl based on your cat?
Conner: Not this one, but Power's Girl's cat is my last cat Frankie. Frankie Palmiotti. She has the same facial expression and exasperated look.
But you know, I do have a favorite character that I'm getting to draw right now, for the next two issues of Power Girl. I'm drawing a character that doesn't get used that often. His name is Vartox. He's this hot, clothes-less guy from the '70s. That's been a blast drawing him. And also drawing the interaction between Power Girl and him, because he's the closest thing to a '70s porn star, and he's always trying to come on to her. And she's like, "Oh my God!" So drawing the chemistry between the two of them has been a blast.
I like drawing characters that I don't get to draw very often. Or somebody new. That's always fun.
Nrama: You recently had a few issues with several female characters from the DCU. I know you draw female characters a lot. Is that a preference you have? Or is it just because of the way people react to you drawing them?
Conner: I think it's a lot of things. I think, and this actually goes way, way back to childhood. It was one of my theories when I was at the Joe Kubert school, but when you're a kid, and if you're a kid who has a tendency to draw, if you're a girl, you tend to draw girls. So you get a lot of practice drawing girls. And if you're a boy, you tend to draw a lot of boys. You see a boy in the mirror every day when you're a boy. And you see a girl in the mirror when you're a girl. So you just naturally get better at doing certain things.
And when I got to school, I noticed that the guys were better at drawing guys, and the girls were better at drawing girls. And I think that's just because when you're growing up, that's what you end up doing. And then once you start doing it a lot, you get better at drawing both sexes.
There are probably exceptions to the rule, but not really, because even the guys who were really good at drawing girls were also good at drawing guys. But a lot of people aren't aware of it because they're looking at the girls. For example, Adam Hughes or Frank Cho. Their women are just so gorgeous that people don't notice how good their men actually are.
I don't know if that makes sense.
Nrama: No, that makes sense. I think sometimes even the faces end up looking like the artist who draws them. I've met artists before who, when I looked at their face, I thought, "Oh, so that's why you draw that face on a lot of your characters."
Conner: Yeah! It's what you're used to drawing. And as a girl, I had drawn girls, so over the years, I was better at drawing them. So I got hired to do a lot of female-based books. And since I've been drawing so long now, I've gotten much better at drawing guys. So now they're both a lot of fun for me to do, but I still get picked mostly to do female-based books. It's not that I prefer it; I actually have fun with it. I can identify with it, and I understand the point of view.
Nrama: How would you describe who Power Girl is right now?
Conner: When people ask me, the short version is, she's Superman's cousin that isn't Supergirl. There's a lot of people I talk to who don't read comics, and that's how I explain her. And the long version is, well, there used to be a whole lot of other earths. And all the other earths but this one got destroyed, but she's the only survivor from that earth. And she's the Kara from the other Earth.
But also, when I try to either draw her or explain her, I try to think of her as a real person and not just a really good-looking girl in a suit, punching people. So I try to imagine what her personality would be like.
Nrama: Has she changed since you first drew her?
Conner: Yeah. Toward the beginning, I felt like she was kind of a lost soul. Her whole dimension was wiped off the map. So she's feeling incredibly alone, even though she has other-dimensional relatives, you still have to feel like, everything I knew in my previous life is gone. So there was a period of feeling really bad for herself for a while. But like most people, you just come to a point where you say, "I can't do this to myself anymore. I just have to get on with my life."
And this is the point I feel like where Power Girl is now. She knows she doesn't have a family, so she's going to make her own family. That's where she's at right now. And she's done with the feeling bad, and the angst. She's like, "You know what? I'm around a lot of people who love me. And it's great. I'm going to get on with my life, and get my business started up again. And I'm going to try to rescue people from bad guys."
Nrama: You know, I wanted to ask you about that graphic novel you were doing. Is that still going to happen? Because it sounds like you've got your hands full with Power Girl.
Conner: Yeah, I feel so bad. I was supposed to be working on Black Canary/Zatanna, a hardcover book that Paul Dini was doing. There was just no way I could do that and Power Girl at the same time, so I'm not doing that anymore. I feel so bad, and Paul, if you're reading this, I'm so sorry. I'm sorry I couldn't make it work. And Joey Cavalieri, I'm sorry too. It was just too difficult for me to do everything. I was trying to do everything, and I just couldn't. I wish I could clone myself. If I could have superpowers, I would be Triplicate Girl. Definitely.
Nrama: Is there anything else you want to tell Power Girl readers?
Conner: Just to look for the fun relationship between her and Vartox in the upcoming issue. It's going to be a fun little bit of banter and craziness. And just that, you know, I love all of the support I've been getting on Power Girl. There have been so many people saying nice things about it. I hope they're having as much fun reading it as I'm having drawing it.