Ed Catto: Paul Kupperberg Looks Up Into the Sky!
I have a friend who loved opera and music growing up, and now she sings in the chorus for the Metropolitan Opera. There’s something energizing when you witness someone leverage their passion and turn it into a wonderful and fulfilling career.
And my friend, comic writer Paul Kupperberg, is exactly that kind of person.
As a kid back in 1976, Paul was buying comics at My Friend’s Bookstore in Flatbush, Brooklyn. “My ideal book store,” Kupperberg explained. “Carts out front, loaded with cheap books. The counter on the right had all the Golden Age issues. Superman #1 was $100. They used the Howard Rogofsky price list. Behind the counter there were boxes on the shelves. A magical place – we’d go on weekends. We would even work there.”
Even though Superman was his favorite, Kupperberg has had a long experience with the character, Supergirl. “I didn’t come to the Supergirl strip until the sixties,” he said. Supergirl was “one of the first characters I collected.” These adventures were unique as they employed an internal continuity. Certainly more than other DC series at that time. “It was a very different strip for that era,” said Kupperberg.
But by the late 70s and early 80s Kupperberg had the opportunity to contribute professionally to Supergirl’s mythology. “I did stuff for Superman Family. It was an oversized book. I was writing Jimmy Olsen. Marty Pasko was doing Supergirl. He left and I picked it up. Win Mortimer was drawing it – about a year’s worth,” said Kupperberg.
“Then she got her own title. A big deal.”
Kupperberg finally got his chance to fly with Supergirl. Supergirl debuted in her new comic – The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl in late 1984.
“Julie Schwartz was the editor,” Kupperberg recalled. “and Julie was famous for reinventing characters. Supergirl was, at that point, a soap opera star in New York City. I had a problem with a grown woman as Supergirl. We wanted to push it back, so we sent her back to college. We didn’t say if she was an undergrad or a graduate student. In those days, hard reboots didn’t exist. The idea of totally changing a character didn’t exist. You could bring them back and reinvent them.”
Kupperberg wrote the series for almost two years, until it ended with issue #23.
Due to slow sales, this Supergirl series was cancelled, along with Superboy. But there were plans to combine Supergirl and Superboy into a single, oversized, 40-page comic called DC Double Comics. The two characters would rotate as lead feature and back-up feature.
Plans called for Kupperberg to write the stories. Carmine Infantino and Klaus Janson would provide art for Superboy. The revised premise would showcase Superboy’s intergalactic adventures with the Galaxians. “They were like the Legion of Super-Heroes but in the present day,” explained Kupperberg.
Supergirl fans would have enjoyed a real treat. The brilliant Eduardo Barreto was assigned as penciller on this strip. Bob Oskner was to be the inker. The first issue was penciled and lettered.
“Life had caught up with Supergirl,” said Kupperberg. The premise was that she was going to visit her parents on New Krypton, and have adventures on the new planet recently established from the restoration of the the bottled city of Kandor.
In the DC mythology, the Supergirl of Earth-2, that alternate earth where the Golden Age heroes still thrived, was called Power Girl. Originally created as a Wally Wood heroine appropriate for all ages.
After the Crisis on Infinite Earths streamlined the continuity, “they wanted to keep her around,” said Kupperberg. Gerry Conway and Bob Greenberger rejiggered her backstory in an issue of Secret Origins where she became the
granddaughter of Arion, Lord of Atlantis. (This was a character that Kupperberg created.) Kupperberg wrote several Power Girl adventures, including a mini-series illustrated by Rick Hoberg.
“I love my Wally Wood,” said Kupperberg. “But Rick Hoberg drew her in human proportions.”
As for the new CBS series, “I’m enjoying the show,” said Kupperberg. “They got it right. They got the heart and soul of Kara correct, and that’s what’s important.”
Kupperberg sees a bit of the DNA of his Supergirl run in the TV show, but concedes there’s no direct influence. One character they’ve used is Reactron. “I came up with him,” said Kupperberg. “So there’s that. That’s cool.”
But he watches it just like every other fan. “Hank Henshaw – when they turned him into Martian Manhunter – I knew it was coming but I was still like: EEEK!”
Kupperberg is very philosophical about different interpretations of characters. He related a story where he and longtime pal John Byrne were bitching about evaluating one of the recent comic versions of Superman. They were saying that those guys aren’t writing the real Superman. But then he realized, “neither were we. The only person who wrote the real Superman was Jerry Siegel. Everyone else is just writing his own version. Sure, we stuck close to the original source material, but <even> we were pretty far from the original. The original Superman was like Bernie Sanders. He was democratic socialist. He was knocking down doors and saving an innocent guy from the electric chair. He was battering down the Governor’s door.”
Today, Paul Kupperberg is involved with myriad ventures. One is Charlton NEO, “a revival of the old Charlton comics in name if not in spirit.” His collaborators include Roger (Daredevil) McKenzie and Mort Todd.
Paul Kupperberg’s Secret Romances is a comic that attracts an A list of comic professionals, including Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Dean Haspeil, John Byrne, Joe Staton & Nick Cuti (on a new E-Man adventure), Rick Burchett and Neil Vokes.
He’s also working on The Scary Squad, a Scooby Doo style team of cosplayers, a Planet of the Apes story for an upcoming anthology, and a trilogy of Atlantis stories. “These are essentially my last Arion stories.”
Kupperberg has always enjoyed writing strong women: Supergirl, Power Girl, and Chian in Arion. “Even my Betty and Veronica” (in the recent Life with Archie series). I like women. I respect women,” said Kuppperberg.
For more information check out Paul’s site http://kupps.malibulist.com.