As three of DC's relaunched Super-books head toward a 2012 crossover event, Supergirl has already thrown its title character into a deluge of new villains and emotional challenges.
Written by Michael Green and Mike Johnson, the title has been exploring the mystery of how Kara Zor-El came to Earth in a pod that arrived many years after her cousin Kal-El. And as last week's Supergirl #5 revealed, the series is also asking why Kryptonians happened to land on the same planet.
Central to the mystery of Kara's past are the "Worldkillers," a name that has shown up in more than one Super-book. As Kara visited Argo City in Supergirl #5, a new villain named Reign was able to shed some light on the mystery of the Worldkillers. But even more questions are left unanswered as Supergirl found out that her father was murdered before releasing her pod from the doomed Krypton.
Now that Kara has accepted the fact that her planet is gone, Green and Johnson said she'll enter the next phase of her life on Earth. The title will also be building toward an upcoming crossover event with Superboy and Superman.
Green and Johnson are working on Supergirl with Turkey-born artist Mahmud Asrar, who has been winning accolades for his dynamic layouts and emotional character renderings, and colorist Dave McCaig, who's been credited for adding depth to the penciler's marker-toned drawings (some of which we're sharing here).
But DC just announced that issue #8 will be penciled by George Pérez, who's fresh off his stint as writer/artist on Superman.
Relaunching Supergirl is not the first time Green and Johnson have worked together on a "Super" character. The two also united for a run on Superman/Batman for DC. The co-writing works well for the pair, particularly now, as Green is working on The River, a new horror-themed TV series that premiers in February on NBC. Johnson, a TV veteran himself, is also working on comics.
Newsarama talked with Green and Johnson to find out more about why George Pérez is drawing issue #8, what they've been trying to accomplish with their first five issues of Supergirl, and what readers can expect in 2012 from the series.
Newsarama: In issue #5, Supergirl finds out that it's all true. Krypton's really gone. How important was this moment for the title? It's a real turning point, isn't it?
Mike Johnson: Yeah, I think issue #5 is the place where we wanted to start giving the fans some answers. We always answer a question with another question, but hopefully fans are getting enough clues now that some things are starting to get resolved.Of course, the biggest thing is, as you said, now she knows for sure that Krypton's gone. She knows what has happened to her family. And it has really set the table for the rest of the book.
Michael Green: For us, her finding out what happened back home, and that "home" is gone, is probably the most foundational part of her back-story. If Superman's never-ending story is, "what is my place in this world," because he got to grow up here and be an out-of-place child here, her story is so disruptive that her story becomes, "what happened to my world? Where did those people I love go?"
We wanted to make sure we gave as much attention to those emotions as possible, and really make that the first big piece of her story, finding out that it's all gone and dealing with it. It's real loss. It's everyone know you know and love is no more. There's nothing to do about except honor their memory by staying a good person in the face of it.
Nrama: Supergirl has been constantly in danger in this comic, and when she found out that her world had been destroyed is coupled with danger yet again.
Green: We wanted to keep her from being allowed by life to have too much time to process and grieve. She's getting bad news while still very much a participant in her adventure. So it wasn't something that she heard and then got to sit with for a long time. I think if Clark had his way, he was going to give her the bad news and then sit with her as she cried it out. But she resisted that, because she just wasn't ready to hear it. And as a result, it's just been a roller coaster for her.
Johnson: And part of that is the larger story that we're building to, which is how she got here, because as you saw in issue #5, somebody got their hands on the shard that recorded the father's death, and why would that be in her pod with her? Who put it there? And who ultimately sent it there, even though the pod was her father's plan to have her survive the death of Krypton?
Green: So some other people were interested in her survival. Who they are and why is something I think people will enjoy unraveling.
Johnson: We didn't want this issue, and this series, to make everything convenient for Supergirl and just have her be a superhero on Earth. This story is really more about her discovering a much larger story that's going to unravel over the course of the book.
Nrama: Mahmud Asrar drew a very emotional moment, when she saw her father die. And you really relied on him for this, didn't you?
Johnson: It sounds horrible to say, but my favorite panel so far that we've seen is the panel where she just sort of screams and lets it all out.
But you're right that we relied on him in that moment. We told Mahmud, "We're not going to put any captions or dialogue here, so it's all on you." And he just nailed it, better than we could have imagined.
And any words would ruin that image. But it's the most emotional moment that we've had so far.
Green: Mahmud is one of the most emotional storytellers I've ever seen and certainly had the pleasure of working with. He just really comes at it from that place of, what is this person experiencing? What are they feeling? And that on top of being able to do it beautifully. But he's just a very sensitive artist.And that moment, the scream that you see as she realizes she has lost her family, was the moment we'd been building toward, that moment of her really feeling it, her realizing it's true, and just being in pain.
Nrama: Can you explain why the sunstone disintegrated? Was that Kara's fault?
Johnson: Yeah. It basically was overloaded, not just by her, but also due to the fact that she was using what she had discovered as ruined and broken technology, and she had to use her own power to get it started, which she doesn't have completely under control...
Green: She fried it.
Johnson: She fried it. Yeah.
Green: And with it, her answers.
Nrama: We found out who the Worldkillers are, thanks to the appearance of this new villainous character, Reign. And Supergirl isn't really not on the same side as Reign, and yet she they're both looking for the same answers. What does Reign represent for Kara?
Johnson: Reign will be an ongoing, important member of Kara's rogues’ gallery. And the best villains, I think, have something that connects them intrinsically to the hero. Reign is a twisted reflection of Kara. She has all this power, but she's a little bit of a loose cannon.
Green: We wanted Kara to be able to see some of herself in there. And in a way, it's temptation, because she's so much in pain that there is a part of her that does want to be like Reign and get angry, and use that pain to get even or just feel better by taking what she wants. And that is a real temptation, especially given the insane amounts of power she woke up with when she landed under the light of a yellow sun.
Johnson: So Reign's like her raging id that is personified. And you're going to see just how raging it is in issue #6.
Nrama: We found out a little about the Worldkillers concept and that Reign is one of them. Will that be something that's central to the story of Supergirl coming to Earth?
Johnson: Yes, it will be. We're going to tease that in issue #6 and #7. And issue #7 is the story that really brings the Worldkiller story to a head. It's all part of a larger mystery, given that the Worldkillers are tied to Krypton in a very direct way. They're not just going to be one-and-done villains.
Green: And issue #7 is my favorite issue of any comic I've had any involvement in.
Johnson: We're getting art for issue #7 from Mahmud now, and it's just amazing. The other thing is, he's so fast. It's one thing for artists to be great, but as we all know, sometimes they're not the fastest or most regular. Mahmud is just amazing. I mean... wow... it seems like every day, he sends something beautiful to our in-box. It's like Christmas every day.
Green: It's at least a page a day! And a baby a year.
Johnson: [laughs] He just had a baby.
Green: Yeah, he's doing all this with a newborn!
Johnson: He's going to hate us for saying this, because now we've set the bar for him.
Nrama: You said that Kara will be tempted by the unfettered rage she sees in Reign. Now that she has learned the fate of Krypton, does she have some decisions to make about her life on Earth?
Green: Yeah, Kara's going to have a lot of choices to make about what kind of Kryptonian on Earth she wants to be. And she's going to hear a lot of advice from a lot of different people, of "if I was in your circumstance," or "as someone who's in your same circumstance, here's how I see it." And she's going to have to choose for herself what kind of person she wants to be.
Nrama: It's always seemed a bit of a coincidence that all these Kryptonians landed on Earth just because it had a yellow sun. It sounds like Reign is thinking the same thing?
Johnson: Yeah, that ties into a larger story that's unraveling, and it's kind of mirroring Kara's adaptation to Earth. You'll see the unraveling of that mystery.It's very convenient that this happens to be the safe place for Kryptonians after the death of their planet. And feeding into that as well is the question about the House of El itself, because Jor-El and Zor-El both had different plans, different responses to the threat to Krypton, and the difference between the brothers themselves is something we want to explore over the next year.
Nrama: Will we see more of her interaction with Superman soon? She's going to be appearing in other Super-books, right? And then the crossover this summer?
Johnson: Yes, we'll be talking more on that soon, but there's going to be a crossover between Supergirl, Superboy and Superman. And of course we'll see them interact elsewhere, including what you're seeing next month, when Kara guest starts in #6 of Superman and Superboy.
Nrama: Last time Superman and Supergirl met, they didn't exactly see eye to eye, as we discussed in our last interview.
Johnson: [laughs] That's putting it mildly. But there's a meeting coming up between Superman and Supergirl that deals with how their perception of each other might have evolved now, given their acrimonious meeting the first time.
Nrama: So it sounds like, up through about issue #7 or #8, you're really dealing with how Supergirl got to Earth and these Worldkillers, but then beyond that, is she going to be adjusting more to Earth?
Green: Yes. Adjusting is always a process. Finding her place and making some key decisions.
Johnson: By the end of issue #7, she's sort of... maybe not "accepted," but she's had to realize that Earth is going to be home for the foreseeable future.
And then issue #8 starts her story of trying to learn how to cope with this new plant. That's also the issue that we have George Pérez drawing. We're excited about that.
Green: And one of the first things you need when you're in a new place is, find some friends. And I think that's where we're starting to have our next bout of good times. Who do we introduce her to, both old and new characters, and who are we going to let influence this newly landed persona?
Nrama: How did the opportunity to have George Pérez draw Supergirl come about? We just heard he's helping out with the new Worlds' Finest title, so you must have hit him at just the right time.
Johnson: It was because Mahmud had a baby, and he needed well-earned break. And we were talking to our editor about who could fill in, because we wanted it to really matter. Also because I think when you get somebody of George's caliber, it's also complimentary to Mahmud, because it's a way of saying, "we want somebody who brings your level of artistry and dedication to the book."
And when we first started talking about it, we said, can we get somebody like George Pérez? And they say, well, let's get George! And it worked out.
Green: Yeah, it's pretty damned cool! The pages are just exquisite.
Johnson: Yeah! It's like a dream come true, to see a story and characters that you worked on brought to life by George Pérez. And you see the pages, and you just...
Green: Mike sent me an email after we got our response saying, "George Perez! George Perez! with like, 80 exclamation points."
Johnson: Yeah, but that email!
Green: Yeah, it was an email saying very complimentary things about our script. So it was a nice feeling.
Johnson: And issue #8 is an important issue, because it's where we introduce the new Silver Banshee, who becomes part of Kara's supporting cast. It's great that George is drawing an issue that is really important to the book itself, because it sets the table for the next arc.
Nrama: Then to finish up, can you give us any hints about what 2012 will bring to Supergirl?
Green: February 7th, The River premiers.
Johnson: [laughs] Green's just using the interview to get viewers for his new show.
Green: Just getting that plug in there at the end. But 2012 will see us move into the next phase of Kara's life. For the first few issues, we really wanted her on a roller coaster, experiencing the information as it's coming in and not really having a chance to sit with it and process and make some decisions about how to live her life.But the next arc really is about, OK, I'm here on Earth, I've taken a stand and said this is a place worth defending. Now what do I do? And we'll see her meeting people and making new friends, or maybe making new enemies. Because if you're going to be somewhere, you have to talk to creatures there and learn their language.
Nrama: Oh, so she has to learn to speak English, doesn't she?
Green: Yeah, that's her next battle.
Johnson: We should get that on the cover. "This issue, she battles the English language!"
Green: This is the vocabulary issue!
Johnson: The most dangerous adjectives!
Green: Irregular verbs!
Johnson: Yeah, that would really go over well. No, but really, in Supergirl, over the next year, the series will be all about getting Kara to the point where the trauma, while not over for her, is at least resolved in the story. It's going to be about her adjusting to life on Earth and the new challenges and decisions that brings.
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