The worlds of Supergirl and Superman have collided, now that Kara Zor-El has uncovered the true conspiracy behind the destruction of Krypton. She's out to get justice for the dead... and neither Superman nor DC's newest Superboy are going to stop her.
It's been a surprising year for fans of the Superman Family, with writer Brian Michael Bendis shaking up the known history of Krypton--now killed at the hands of Rogol Zaar, on orders from a cosmic circle of authorities. While Superman broke the news, it's been the Supergirl series from writer Marc Andreyko that has chased down the truth, and started to get some payback. We spoke with Andreyko to get a preview of Supergirl #31, and how the time has finally come for Kara Zor-El to get more than revenge for her people... she wants justice.
The final panels of Supergirl #30 saw Kara suddenly yanked through space by the axe of Rogol Zaar (which Kara has been wielding, recently realizing its own dark influence over her, as well). She finally discovered that the axe was, indeed, pulling her towards its master--embroiled in a three-way space battle--and smack into Superman and his son, the newly-teenaged-Superboy Jon Kent, already on the scene. Needless to say, Kara and Clark are both going to have some explaining to do. Take a look at our preview and interview with Andreyko, below:
Kara already has some experience with Kryptonian cousins changing overnight, but now we're getting another dose - after baby Clark grew into Superman while she was asleep, Superboy has become an adolescent in weeks. What did you want to get across in writing their reunion? Because they seem to overlap now, almost more than Kara and Clark ever did.
Oh it's a thrill, I think what Brian Bendis did with Jon, it was slightly controversial but I think it's a real smart thing to do by aging his character up. And a lot of these scenes write themselves. You'd have to be blind to not see the... what you just said, about it being the inverse of her relationship with Clark, is her relationship with Jon. And now she gets to be a mentor, senior class buddy sort of equivalent. And it's paying it forward. Every person inspires someone else, you see that happening through this family for generations and how close they are. It's just a joy to write stuff like that, the strength and power of family, the strength of who you love, and who you want to protect. It's transcendent, and universal.
I've been reading Supergirl comics on and off for more than a decade, and that's one part of her character she's never really gotten to embrace. Was that something you wanted to foster, or a direction you wanted to take Kara?
Well the first issue I did, Issue #21, there's a scene between Kara and Clark where she says to him, 'Krypton is theoretical to you, you were a baby.' She doesn't say it but in so many words, he's the grandson of a Holocaust survivor. She's a Holocaust survivor. You know? Imagine everything you knew dead. Your entire life gone. You come to Earth, your baby cousin is now an adult, and the #1 hero on the planet. So unpack all that stuff on an emotional level. Kara's always been, 'Marcia, Marcia, Marcia' to a certain extent. And she's probably smarter than Clark! People forget--you know, doing the research when I took the book over, she's a child prodigy. She's a genius. So it was fun discovering these facets of the character that had been laying a bit fallow over the years and then bringing them into the forefront.
Because some of the problem with the character of Supergirl is also the problem that she has, you know, sort of defining herself. There's an actual logic to why she has to recombine herself. It's because she hasn't processed her survivor's guilt. And it doesn't mean her story is going to be a deep, dark, navel-gazing character study about grief, and that sort of thing. But those small emotions play a lot into her physical journey through space. It's a physical manifestation of the emotional journey she's going through. She's got to learn to forgive herself. Forgiving herself and allowing herself to find joy now is not betraying those memories. If a parent loses custody of a kid and the kid gets adopted, the kid loving his adopted parents doesn't reduce the love for his biological parent. It's like an onion metaphor, but it's a similar emotional thing. So for her, it's allowing her to treat herself with the love, and kindness, and positivity with which she treats other people. allowing herself to realize that she's worthy of this as well. We all struggle with that on a certain level.
Well that seems like a uniquely Supergirl problem, right up to the moment where she actually says she's 'just tired of being angry.'
Yeah, it's exhausting being angry. You know, you want to be angry about things that matter. That's why the Internet makes me sort of ultra sad, and laugh. People get upset about... like if you can get upset about the thread count of a character's clothes in Star Wars, you have a great life. I have more immediate concerns that are going to upset me. That's just a spectacular level of specificity, and thing to choose to get mad at. My tagline is if I'm creating drama, I'm getting paid to write it, I'm not doing it for free in my own life.
So you're not going to be signing many petitions online for having your favorite things changed.
No! Not for rewriting TV series. I'll sign petitions about people in government, and laws, and the constitution and things, but... it's just insane. If you described what happens now on social media to people twenty five years ago... it's ridiculous. We've become a Robert Altman satire. But not even a Robert Altman satire--a David Spade satire.
Speaking personally, if there was a petition that said 'We need to remove Marc Andreyko,' or 'Kevin Maguire's art isn't whatever,' is it impossible to even take that seriously?
Well I understand the passion, it's why these characters endure. I get where the passion comes from, I get that. We think as fans we want characters to be happy all the time. But have you read stories about people who are happy all the time? They're really boring. There's a reason why they say 'happily ever after.' Because once they get to that point the story is kind of, 'Oh, they woke up and had a great day! Then they went to bed early and had a good night's sleep, then woke up and had a great day!' There's a reason the artifice of drama is what we focus on. But like I said, to me it's worth it that my mom knows who Groot is. If you had said that ten years ago, or five, I'd be like, 'That's never going to happen.'
We're in a sort of golden age of our superhero mythology being absorbed globally, by everyone. I think it might be the fastest absorbed genre, maybe, in entertainment. Ever. We were such a niche thing for so long I get the over-protectiveness of fans, and I love the passion. We've just got to focus on why we love these characters, and not what makes the characters our version of them. Because for me, growing up in an era when this was a much smaller scale of entertainment, when you met a fellow fan there was a camaraderie. We should go back to that. We should celebrate the fact that these things are popular, and there are multiple versions of every character. Like I said, my mother knows who Groot is. If you told me that ten years ago I would've said, 'I'm going to be the President of the United States before that happens.'
Supergirl in the modern age has struggled with rage and anger, and still does. Like you said, she has a lot to be angry about--
Yeah, but the thing is finding the depths of the character. Whenever I take over a character I try to read as much if not all of their appearances beforehand and find out what, in all the years of this character's existence, what is the through line? What's something that different people touch on? And what's something that's been touched on that hasn't been brought back? I've never been a 'everything you knew is wrong' sort of writer, I think that's sort of short-sighted. Especially when they're characters that are owned by the world, at this level. You try to find what works and what doesn't, and if there's a bit of continuity or weird storyline that doesn't work... we've done enough stories explaining stories, let's just set them aside, you know?
I've been guilty of this in my younger days, the ownership that fandom takes over these characters, but for me it's a matter of building on the mythology and not taking away from it. On explaining continuity, unless it's a specific story where that's the thing, that's the mystery, is the most uninteresting form of storytelling. Kara is such a vibrant character and is so full of potential and positivity, getting her through this deals with her emotional arc in the storyline with Rogol Zaar. And it's an arc of her character's over the past decade or so, trying to process these feelings. She's a superhero, she's a prodigy, but she's also a teenage girl who lost her family. And those things can exist concurrently.
It's also worth pointing out that as rightfully angry as Kara has been, she isn't drawn enraged.
Oh yeah, we've spent since Issue #21 building on the axe [of Rogol Zaar] and how the axe is sort of a mood ring of its own. Going back to that iconography of a dark blade, and once she and the reader uncover that this is feeding on that, and likes that, it makes her realize she has more control over her emotional well-being than she thought. She can take ownership of this. It's showing herself the attention that she shows with every action she does for everyone else. I think we all need to treat ourselves with the love and respect with which we treat our friends and our family. It's not selfish doing self-care. Whether you're a superhero, or someone like a teacher, or a public servant, or someone who gives back, that's not selfish. Because the healthier you are, the more help you're going to be able to give. I don't mean to get all deep here. I'm feeling very Californian at the moment.
No no, I think it does come across in Supergirl #30 and into #31, where she is mad as hell, and runs into Superman who I would normally expect to stop her. But this seems like as just, and as righteous a fight as she's going to get. She has earned what begins in this issue, making the right people pay for what they've done.
Yeah. And justice and revenge are two different things.
Its nothing against Rogol Zaar, since he's a really effective villain, but after so many months it has to feel good to just write an issue of Zaar getting his butt handed to him.
Well, yeah. But what's great about a character like him is that can happen, and then it can change on a dime. These sort of elemental force characters who just work on a scale that is... they're all id. And in addition to that, the Superman family are characters that are about life, and fostering love, and empowering people. They will fight bad guys, but they'll also inspire. So to have this guy who is almost the exact photo negative of what they are--and villains don't think they're villains. Except for that great scene in The Simpsons, they don't sit around toasting. There's some of that going around in the world, but Rogol Zaar thinks he is righteous. Unless the villain is a kind of natural occurrence, like the shark in Jaws or something, the antagonist has to have... you have to be able to empathize with him. Empathy and sympathy are two different things. Understanding why someone acts the way they do is not an endorsement of that behavior, but it gives you an insight into them. He's an embodiment of rage, and Kara can see that, and she doesn't want to be that. Being angry, like I said, is exhausting. It's literally physically rough on your body. Frown and you feel your muscles contract, smile and you sit up straight. It's a bumper sticker that's true.
You spoke to fans shifting into feeling possessive and defensive, but readers who have been following Supergirl, and Superman, and Superboy's stories have seen a lot of what they know about Krypton changed. That they weren't the perfect society they were made out to be, but involved in one way or another, with ugly history. You obviously know readers are going to have strong feelings about that, but I'd imagine you would have strong feelings about that long before them. Can you talk a bit about how you kind of approached, or accepted that?
When Brian was coming over to DC and telling me what he was doing with Superman, and the Krypton thing, I was like, 'It's sort of genius in the way that it fundamentally adds new color to Superman's history and the DC Universe--but it doesn't change any story that has happened already.' The event is the destruction of Krypton. The how is sort of irrelevant for how it's affected this universe. But knowing that it wasn't an accident, and trying to find out after the fact, this is trying to solve a multiple-decades-old cold case. There are how many Kryptonians actually left alive? It's a tough history. I think what Brian did was a way to enhance the storyline, and bring a freshness to it without, once again, saying 'everything you knew is wrong.' It's uncovering layers that exist, not creating new stuff.
That does feel like an industry-wide shift. That used to be the way to guarantee new eyes on your reboot, but now it goes without saying that new creators are going to stay reverent to what came before. For you, is that at all motivated by nostalgia... but in a healthy way?
Yeah, and it's looking at it as both a creator and a fan when you're doing this. What about these characters resonated with me as a reader? Sometimes if it's a character that I didn't have a deep knowledge of, or a deep love of, it's finding out what about these characters that I'm getting to play with, what traits of their story fascinate me? And feel like they haven't been explored, or explored to their fullest. And, once again, standing on the shoulders of all the people before. These characters are a part of us.
I said to Brian when I started doing Supergirl and he was doing Superman, 'You know, the last time two guys from Cleveland were writing the Superman books, it was 1938. How crazy is that?' Brian and I used to be nobodies at Comic-Cons. And we were talking about the Leviathan Special that just came out, which is so crazy cool, and Brian was like, 'Isn't this is crazy?' If we had told eachother that this is where we both were going to be, and so many friends of ours who entered the industry at the same time... it's crazy!
Does it make you think differently about the kinds of stories and writers you revered, to be on the other side of it now?
It's funny because I just saw the movie Rocketman, which is really a fantastic film. And there's a scene where Bernie Taupin and Elton John are in his parents' house, and they're in their pj's and their underwear and they're writing... I was watching it and getting emotional thinking, 'These are just two guys, two teenagers, two young men, who met through an ad to write songs together. And in their underwear, sleeping in late, not having jobs, annoying his mom, they created the songbook of the 20th century.' So it's crazy to me that Kevin Maguire is now my friend. Kevin Maguire I've been a fan of since I was twelve or thirteen years old. To get to work with these people, sometimes I have to put aside the six year-old me going, 'Holy crap, you're so lucky!' And be able to work with these people. Because I respect them. It's just a win-win. It's the equivalent of Robert De Niro showing up to your stupid film and saying, 'Where do you need me?' Well you actually don't need me, so you do whatever you want.
Kara's pursuit of justice for Krypton isn't going to end here, with future issues promising an intergalactic war. So what can you tell us about where the story is going to be headed next?
As Supergirl #30 and Superman #11 both ended in the same place, Supergirl #31 and Superman #12 which are both out this week, are going to be crossing over and showing different sides of this battle, different points of view, and revealing some stuff that we didn't know yet. And expanding on some stuff, and raising even more questions. And get to have the coolest family in superhero families do some really cool stuff drawn by artists like Jeff Maguire, and Eduardo Pansica, and Ivan Reis. So it's exciting. And once again, for me to be working on a crossover with one of my oldest, dearest friends who I respect immensely as a talent, on the Superman books with our connection to Cleveland, and just the fact that it's Superman, Supergirl, and the Superdog, I have zero to complain about.
The fans' dollars are limited, and you can't ask people to follow your word if you wouldn't pay the four dollars an issue yourself. I've been very fortunate with great collaborators and I think we're telling some really fun stories that are going to put Supergirl on a level where she deserves to be. I hope people enjoy it, and if nothing else, buy the books for the art. Even if you don't like my writing, just look at these books. theyr'e worth that just for the level of artistry I've been blessed with on this run. It's just been insane.
I also have to thank you, for now making me picture you and Brian Bendis in your pajamas and underwear plotting out these Superman and Supergirl storylines together--
That was not the point of that story my friend! I rescind my permission to--
Oh I'm sorry Marc you seem to be cutting out there, I think we're going to--
Supergirl #31 will be available from your local comic book store on June 12th, or direct from DC Comics. Be sure to check out the full synopsis and issue details below, and read our interview with Brian Michael Bendis ahead of "Event Leviathan":
- SUPERGIRL #31
- Published: June 12th, 2019
- Writer: Marc Andreyko
- Art: Kevin Maguire
- The House of El is united in this SUPERMAN/SUPERGIRL crossover! The Superman Family must unite to banish Rogol Zaar once and for all! But little do Supergirl, Superman, Superboy and Jor-El know, Rogol Zaar has brought some friends of his own…from the Phantom Zone! Supergirl not only has to make sure that Rogol Zaar doesn’t unite with his ax at all costs, but also has to deal with how the 10-year-old Superboy is now her age! This is the start of an intergalactic war you don’t want to miss!