If there's one area of the DC Universe that is changing the most in September, it's the world of Superman. Asreaders found out today, Superman will be more of an "alien," will have lost the Kents as parents, and won't be married.
But all those changes apply to Supergirl as well.
In the new Supergirl comic by writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson, Kara Zor-El is a new arrival on Earth. She feels like an alien, has just lost her parents, and will be isolated on this world.
Featuring art by Mahmud A. Asrar, Supergirl #1 will introduce readers to this new teenage Supergirl from Krypton as she begins her journey toward becoming a hero. But not only is she unsure she wants to be a superhero like her cousin Superman — she doesn't even know if she likes humans well enough to want to help them.
Green and Johnson are best known to comic readers for their Superman/Batman run. Green is also one third of the team who wrote the Green Lantern movie, while Johnson is involved in television production and worked on the Fringe comics based on that TV show.
Newsarama talked with Green and Johnson to find out more about their plans for Supergirl and found out they're approaching Kara Zor-El as a new character, while incorporating many of the things fans will recognize about the hero they know well.
Newsarama: We've seen the two of you write Superman before, but how is the story of Supergirl different?
Michael Green: Her story is very different, and that's what's exciting about writing this book. We're going to explore the question: Who is Supergirl as an individual, aside from just being a relative of Superman? If anyone knows anything about her, it's just that she's his cousin, and maybe then, they're not sure how that works because his whole planet blew up.
And we really want to get into, who's this girl and what's her journey here on Earth?
Nrama: So with Supergirl #1, you could pick this comic up and know nothing about the character at all, right?
Mike Johnson: You could pick up the book and never have read anything about Supergirl. The stuff that you might already know would inform it, but we want this to be a book that you can hand to anybody, boy or girl, at any age, and they can just enjoy it as a story without having to know anything about Supergirl or Superman or Krypton or anything.
Green: We're approaching this as if we're inventing a new character. Obviously, she'll have similarities to the character people already know, but she'll have some new things as well.
We're really focusing on her specific journey on our crazy planet, and letting it just be about that. She'll interact with other people in the DC Universe who are experiencing interesting things in the relaunch, other characters you'll recognize. But this is going to be Supergirl's book.
Nrama: How would you describe this Supergirl? Can you tell us about her as a person?
Johnson: She's a Kryptonian teenager who has had her entire world taken away. All her friends and family are gone, and she's suddenly on this planet called Earth, with backwards technology and people who don't behave as well as the people on her home planet.
It's like taking a teenage girl from today, who's locked into modern technology and social media and everything, and throwing her back into the Middle Ages.
And in Supergirl's case, she also suddenly has the power to rule the place. All of that would mess with anyone's head. It would mess with an adult's head, let alone a teenage girl who's finding her way in the world.
Also, she's an alien. Kryptonians are aliens. And I think that gets lost. In the past, they've been heroes and they look like us, or at least really good looking versions of us. But she notices the differences when she arrives. And that informs the way she reacts.
Green: There's also a bit of a mystery as to how she got here. Superman was supposed to be the last one from Krypton, and now she's here, and there has to be a story behind that.
But also, how does she feel about Earth? How does she find her place on Earth? What isher place on Earth? Especially when you are automatically associated with someone so world famous. How does she become her own person in Superman's shadow?
Johnson: There's also the idea that she's learning her powers in a way that Superman didn't because he grew up here. She is much more used to the Kryptonian world, since that's where she grew up. That extends to even speaking the language and understanding the way things work.
Green: She has quite a bit of struggle once she gets to this planet. Nothing here compares to the life she thought she wanted for herself, and now she has to find a new place for herself, one that really ends up being her destiny.
Nrama: It sounds like this starts off at the very beginning of her journey toward being a hero, instead of being about an established hero named Supergirl.
Johnson: Yes, the first story arc will be about her arrival. The second story arc will be more about her building her life here.
And there's a lot to explore as she becomes a hero and becomes used to this place. Rather than getting her to the end point that I think a lot of people are familiar with, where she's speaking the language already and enjoying how the food tastes, we want to first explore the alienation that she would experience.
Green: The first set of stories will be her getting to that place. She doesn't just land on our planet and immediately turn into a superhero. It's a learning process. It's right there in the name: Supergirl. She's not an adult yet. She has a ways to go.
Mike had a great line when we were first talking about this: "All teenagers are aliens in some way or another." We're just really heightening that metaphor.
Nrama: You mentioned that she feels alienated, but will she have a supporting cast?
Green: Definitely. She's going to meet people, meet friends. We're going to give her a life here. Like a lot of teenagers, it's about choosing your family through the friends you make. But it will also introduce her to people who are supposed to be her family, and she'll have to figure out what her relationship is with them.
Nrama: Is she under pressure to be like Superman?
Green: Everyone just assumes she is like Superman, because she's from the same planet and has the same type of powers. They think she should ostensibly be like he is. But she's a different person, with a different personality. Like any teenager, she would struggle with anyone's assumptions about her, whether they assume she's good or evil or helpful or indifferent.
Johnson: That extends to her powers. Obviously her basic power set is the same as Superman's, but we also want to play with the idea that the yellow sun affects Kryptonian females differently from males. And in some ways, she may be more powerful than Superman. She has different abilities that she's trying to cope with.
Nrama: Just to clear something up, though, Michael mentioned the word "evil." Kara is still one of the good guys, right?
Green: She's obviously on a journey toward becoming Supergirl and everything that name implies. But when we meet her, she doesn't know what she is. She was just a Kryptonian girl, and she's thrust onto our planet and has to figure out what she's going to be. She didn't know anyone was going to ever ask her that question, so she has to ask that question of herself: What kind of person am I going to be now that I have these new strange abilities that make me special and different?
Nrama: For fans of your work together on Superman/Batman, will this feel similar?
Johnson: It'll be similar to in the sense of getting into their heads and being very character-specific and character-driven, but also with big action. But never losing sight of the fact that we're telling this girl's story. The action should come out of whatever she's going through.
Green: It'll probably have another similarity because, while it will fit very nicely within continuity, it's not a continuity-heavy or continuity-focused book. That's just a personal taste thing. As much as I really admire what they're able to pull off in the heavy-continuity books, because it's so much massive story to handle, we're going to be a book you can enjoy without really having read any other books. But if you've read those other books, you're going to like it even more.
Nrama: When you mention big action, will this book have villains and such for this new Supergirl character to fight?
Johnson: Yeah. There absolutely will be, and we'll be making a real rogues gallery for her in a way that she hasn't really had before. As we relaunch the book, we'll introduce villains who are not just Earth-based, but space-based. We'll put her up against real threats that challenge how much power she has.
And that's where the fact that she's learning how to use her powers comes into play.
Green: They will also be threats that challenge the type of person she wants to be. What makes a great rogues gallery is that they're not just physically as powerful as you, but they present some type of psychological question about what kind of person you want to be. So we want people who are up to his level.
Johnson: We'll also be bringing back a character who used to be on both sides of the hero/villain equation and hasn't been seen for awhile. This person was associated with the Justice League. But when we started talking about the character, it seemed like this character would be a great foil for Supergirl.
Nrama: You mentioned the mystery of how she got here. Is that part of the story you're telling in the comic?
Johnson: Yeah, where she comes from and how she got here is a mystery we'll be playing with. And through that, we'll be diving into Kryptonian stuff a little more. We want to take advantage of hinting and revealing things about Krypton.
Green: Look for surprises. She did grow up in Krypton, so she has memories of what Kryptonian life was. Until the day she left, she got to live the life Kal-El would have lived had the planet not blown up.
Johnson: That's one way where the book will be connected to the other Superman books. But you won't have to be reading the other books to understand what's going on in Supergirl each month. Let's just say we'd love you to buy every single DC book that comes out each month, but if you just buy Supergirl, you won't feel like you're missing out on anything.
Nrama: What is it like working with Mahmud on the book?
Green: We talked about action, and wow, Mahmud's action scenes are amazing. We have a huge gift here that we get to work with Mahmud. I feel like we don't even need to write a script... we just need to let him draw pictures of Supergirl flying around Earth and hitting villains.
Johnson: We're just ridiculously spoiled when it comes to artists. We got Rafael Albuquerque on Superman/Batman, we got Francis Manapul, we had Rags Morales, we hadall these great artists. And now we have Mahmud. I think we have the best cover of any of the books. I'm totally biased, but he's just blown us away. We're really excited. We feel like we keep hitting the jackpot with artists.
Green: We always start our conversation with artists by asking, hey, is there anything you particularly want to do? And everything that was in his sweet spot was right in line with what we were hoping to accomplish with the book. It's like we keep saying, "What do you want to eat?" And he keeps saying, "Candy!"
Nrama: Did you guys have any input on the costume?
Green: Not really, and for me, it's not about what the costume looks like — though it is pretty cool — but it's about what it means and what the story is behind it.
Johnson: There is a story reason she wears that particular costume.
Green: Right. Why is this girl wearing a costume in the first place? That's not an obvious thing. Usually, putting on a costume for the first time means something. It means putting on a mantle and deciding your place in the universe and what your personal goals for yourself are. So we wanted to make sure that particular costume is part of the story.
Nrama: You mentioned that other characters who have some cool things happening with them will appear in your comic. So you're working as part of the Superman office and everything else that's going on with the other books?
Green: Yeah, it's synthesized in. It's definitely going to exist within that larger world, and Superman of course has a big role in that larger world. Everyone is going to be curious about his new incarnation. And we're working with the editors on that, to make sure our story works with what is happening in that world.
Nrama: Then to finish up, is there anything else you want to tell fans to kind of summarize what they should expect from this new Kara in Supergirl?
Green: It's the Kara you know, except we're telling the story of her arrival and how she got started on her journey toward becoming a hero. We think that's the most important part. This whole relaunch is about new beginnings.