While Supergirl is flying high on television every Monday night, we’re also getting her adventures flying across the computer screen on Monday mornings with an out-of-this-world digital first series. Now coming to comic shops everywhere May 4 with individual print issues, Adventures of Supergirl boasts all the newness of the television series with a creator whose Supergirl expertise can’t be denied: Sterling Gates, writer of the acclaimed Supergirl series from 2008-11.
Gates graciously answered questions for Comicosity about his thoughts on Kara Danvers, the legend of Supergirl, and what its like to return to a character he’s gotten to love and write — twice!
Matt Santori: Sterling, congrats on the expansion of Adventures of Supergirl to print distribution! With the first issue hitting stores on May 4th, how has the reaction been to the digital format so far, and what do you hope to gain with the LCS presence?
Sterling Gates: Thank you! We’re all extremely thrilled and immensely grateful for all of the fan support that Adventures of Supergirl has gotten so far. The online Supergirl community has really embraced this book, and everyone on Team Adventures has been blown away by the response we’ve gotten and how well it’s been received.
From the day of the announcement, fans have been asking when Adventures would be available to them in their comic stores. When the first issue hit the digital platforms, retailers started asking DC when they could have this material in their shops. Adventures of Supergirl is a fun, accessible story about Supergirl, set in the world of one of the most successful superhero TV shows on Earth. We’ve also designed this comic to stand wholly alone if need be, so you don’t need to see every episode of the show to understand our story.
The great news is that DC printing the book and putting it in stores means our reach grows into a totally different marketplace. I’ve found that digital comics fans aren’t necessarily always physical comics fans and vice versa. Now both worlds are happy!
I’m also ecstatic that DC set issue one’s release date to May 4, which will coincide with Free Comic Book Day. I think younger Supergirl fans already had a great reason to visit comic shops on FCBD with DC Super Hero Girls #1, but now there’s a fun Supergirl book fans of the show can find in stores as well that day! We’re all obviously happy to be a part of the Supergirl fan community, and the book coming to stores feels like a big win for everyone.
MSG: You’re, of course, a veteran Supergirl writer, having helmed an extensive run on the character in the late 2000s. What’s different (or the same) this time around for you? And what keeps drawing you back to the character?
SG: I find Supergirl’s optimism and her compassion to be very similar to the DCU Supergirl. I think TV Kara’s in a different place in life, certainly, both physically and emotionally, but they’re not that dissimilar.
When Geoff Johns, James Robinson, and I worked on New Krypton together back in 2008-11, a huge component of my approach to Supergirl was how a teenager would react to those giant, world-shaking events unfolding around her…how a teen would react when their parent is murdered and the other parent is wallowing in grief. Very emotional, heavy stuff. All of those stories were filtered through that lens of a teenage girl looking for where she belonged, either on Earth or New Krypton.
Kara Danvers, on the other hand, is firmly rooted in herself. She’s made a life for herself as Kara, gone to college, started a career. She has a great support system in her sister, Alex, who is original to the tv show. Her relationship with Alex is the engine of the show for me, and it’s what inspires Kara to out herself to the world in the first place.
After that, Kara puts on that costume because of a drive within her to do good for other people, to offer other people the “save from above” that she wasn’t able to receive on Krypton. On the show, she was Kara first, unlike the DCU Supergirl who is usually Supergirl first. I think the TV show Supergirl can be more compassionate for people than the pre-Flashpoint Supergirl, if only because she’s lived among humans half of her life and she understands what makes people people.
Lemme put it another way, and it’s the way I’ve said this a thousand times before in the past: Supergirl is the hopeful voice in a dark and cynical world. We need characters like her, both on television and in movies and in comic books. It’s so, so easy to be cynical and snarky about the world, and I feel like people are distrustful of positivity. We’re always looking for the ulterior motive to positivity. It feels duplicitous to us, because we’re so used to everything being bad all the time. But as someone who’s had emotional struggles before, who has had days where it’s incredibly hard to see any sort of light in the world, sometimes all we need is that one ray of hope to hold on to. And Supergirl, for me, represents that.
Supergirl’s story is – in a lot of ways – always rooted in immense tragedy. It always starts with her losing both a planet and her parents at virtually the same time. I actually think that’s one of the most interesting things about Supergirl.
Superman left Krypton as a baby, not knowing his parents or having an emotional connection to them. Heck, Batman saw his parents be killed by a criminal. Supergirl has to deal with both of those giant losses…and usually gets half the credit as a character. She lost her people, sure, but as a kid you don’t necessarily have a great grasp of what that means. You do understand losing your parents, though.
Kara puts on a brave face when she gets in that rocket, but can you imagine how hard that must’ve been for her? Can you imagine what that’s like to grapple with every day? But Supergirl pushes on. And people think she’s not a strong role model? Some people think she’s a dopey character? Gimme a break. [laughs]
I think the fact that she can get out of bed most days speaks to the strength inside her, and it’s one of the many reasons I like Supergirl as a character. She has faced the two worst things a person can endure – both losing a planet AND losing her parents – and she still goes to work and tries to show the people around her how great the world can be. Then on top of that, she puts on a costume and works hard to save others so they won’t have to deal with the same losses that she’s had.
It’s one of the things I admire most about the character, and it’s one of many, many reasons I find her so fascinating. She is a survivor in a way that neither Batman nor Superman can ever understand. That makes her better than both to me.
Supergirl is sincere without being saccharine, and she’s trusting without venturing into Pollyanna-ish territory. She believes in people, and I think a lot of people in our modern world can be instantly distrustful of that type of positivity.
MSG: Working within the television universe must have some advantages and challenges regarding continuity and openness for new stories. What are some of each you’ve encountered? Where does this fit into the television show timeline for you?
SG: Adventures of Supergirl takes place firmly in the first half of Season One. BUT! That doesn’t mean you have to watch Season One of the show to follow this story. We designed this book to be read as a self-contained story so anyone who picks up issue one can understand what it’s about, and anyone who picks up the whole series will get a beginning, middle, and end.
One of the great things about the show and working with its wonderful producers is the flexibility they’ve given me for this story. Greg Berlanti, Ali Adler, and Andrew Kreisberg have built such a solid foundation for story in this world, we can come in and pitch just off-the-wall, crazy stuff and it all works. It was important to me to try and tell stories that the show might not necessarily be able to do…or even want to do!
For example, we’re doing this huge dream adventure in Chapters 6 and 7 and they’d never do it on the show. It’s got werewolf knights and giant battle cats and New Kryptonian armies and armored mechs attacking Chicago in the year 2965. Lots of stuff that’s easy to pull off in a comic book, but a TV show budget might not be able to cover any of it, you know? [laughs]
MSG: You’re working with a ton of really fabulous collaborators on this series, including a large number of women creators. How has the experience of putting together the team worked out and what have been some of the highlights for you?
SG: I LOVE the creators we have on this book. Love them. Everyone has been fantastic. It’s probably one of the most diverse groups of creators I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with on a title. My editors Kristy Quinn and Jess Chen have assembled some of the best artists out there, and while each artist brings a different set of sensibilities and talent to the pool, all of them are here for the love they have for Supergirl. Bengal, Jonboy Meyers, Pop Mhan, Emanuela Lupacchino, Carmen Carnero, Cat Staggs, Emma Vieceli – we just have this massive crew of extremely talented people, all pitching in to tell this fun Supergirl story.
We also have John Rauch and HiFi and Sandra Molina doing some of our colors and Saida Temofonte on letters. Saida, by the way, lettered Morrison/Quitely’s New X-Men, one of my all-time favorite comic runs! She’s a tremendous letterer, and we’re extremely lucky to have her. She’s been doing a bunch of crazy Kryptonian lettering in the later chapters and they are so, so cool.
This book is creatively comprised of a huge group of women and men from all walks of life and from all over the world, and I believe the book is stronger for it.
MSG: We’re seeing Kara come up against Rampage and Vril Dox in the first two stories. Why are each of these villains perfect antagonists for Supergirl in your mind?
SG: I like that both of them challenge Supergirl in different ways. Rampage is an incredibly visceral, immediate physical threat. We play her for laughs a little in that first issue because we wanted that first story to be more lighthearted and inviting, but she comes back later on and is scary. Like, SCARY. Dox is a great mental challenge for Kara. He can mentally unlock the Internet and populate it with all of your information in a second, and when you have a secret identity, that’s the scariest thing imaginable. At the same time, it’s clear that he has an agenda he’s pursuing, and Supergirl knows it. So we get a nice cat-and-mouse to their relationship as this story unfolds.
On another level, both of them act as metaphors for Supergirl’s problems. Both of them speak to the darkness that can happen when you hide secrets. Either from the ones you love, as in the case of Rampage and Alex, or from the public, as in the case of Vril Dox. Both of those felt like really important metaphors to talk about in this book, a story where Supergirl has only just recently assumed her secret identity and started working alongside her sister in the D.E.O.
MSG: What other tidbits can you tease for fans coming up?
SG: You know, I can’t give away too much, but…Vril Dox will come back in a big way in the back half of the series, as will Rampage. Hank Henshaw fans will be happy in the last few chapters, too, as Hank takes it upon himself to stop a villain. There’s a great Supergirl and Alex Danvers team-up in Chapters 8 and 9 that I think will stun some people. OH! And Alura shows up in Chapter 10. Cat Staggs jumps from covers to our interiors to draw that entire chapter and it’s awesome.
The other thing I’d like to say again is thank you to all of the Supergirl fans who have supported the digital book. I hope you’ll follow us to comic stores and see the huge library of Supergirl titles that are available besides this one. I should point out that my and Jamal Igle’s Supergirl trade paperbacks are coming back into print, too! So if you want to own “Who Is Superwoman” or “Bizarrogirl,” you no longer have to pay $80 a volume on Amazon, they’ll be available through your local comic shop!
Adventures of Supergirl hits Comixology every other Monday morning, but will start arriving in local comic shops in print on May 4, 2016! Call your shop to reserve your copy NOW!
— Sterling Gates (@sterlinggates) April 11, 2016