I don’t know what the hell goes on in the minds of the CBS suits, or why the hell they are dragging their heels about Supergirl’s future.
But it doesn’t look good.
Monday night at 8:00 I turned the television on to CBS, only to see that Big Bang Theory was on for the entire hour.This isn’t the first time the network has done this; so have other networks for other shows, and it’s almost always a sign that the show is struggling for life, that its ratings are not satisfactory enough for the suits to keep the show on the air.
CBS is not a network noted for niche or cult programming, or a network geared towards the “coveted” 18-34 slice of the Nielsen ratings.Their programming has been dominated by police procedurals (NCIS and its many spin-offs) and soapy dramas masquerading as law procedurals (The Good Wife, Madame Secretary), and reality shows (The Amazing Race, Survivor) with sitcoms eating up the rest of the airtime.And the sitcoms are pretty standard fare; Big Bang is—im-not-so-ho—an outlier on their schedule.I really don’t know how that series ended up on CBS, it’s so out of the box for them.
Buffy, The X-Files, Twin Peaks, Star Trek, The Walking Dead, The Sopranos were all the “little shows that could.”All started out incredibly low in the ratings—Buffy lost out to Seventh Heaven initially, and only showed up as a truncated mid-season replacement its first year—but slowly became powerhouses through word-of-mouth.But the networks to which they belonged all gave them a chance.It may have been because there was nothing to replace them with; it may have been, like Star Trek, because of massive fan letter campaigns in that pre-internet dark age which in 2016 would equal or surpass the number of e-mails on Hillary’s private server.Or, and I think this is the most important reason these shows stuck around to gain fan-atic followings, it may have been because there was at least one executive who championed it, who really believed in it.I just haven’t read or seen that happening at CBS.Rather, I think they simply wanted to jump on the bandwagon of the CW’s Arrow and Flash, and ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.There was no one who really loved Supergirl for herself and the show’s potential.
I admit, I was not all that happy with Supergirl when it first premiered.(You can check out my initial complaints here.)But followers of this column know that I have slowly been changing my mind, and I’m here to say—in-my-no-so-ho—that the second half of the series has really started to come into its own.
For too long a time the supporting characters—Hank Henshaw/J’onn J’onzz, Alex Danvers, Cat Grant, even Max Lord, Winn Schott, Jimmy Olsen, and Lucy Lane—were developing and growing and becoming people we cared about.Meanwhile Kara Zor-el/Kara Danvers/Supergirl was stuck in Barbie doll land—and then sometime around the
Episode 13, “For the Girl Who Has Everything,”—which I admit had some problems—the “doll” showed some cracks and wear and tear.And with Episode 16, “Falling,” when her Freudian moral super-ego becoming subordinate to her darker and selfish id, Kara Zor-el was a Barbie no more; like Pinocchio, she was no longer moving to a puppet master’s strings, always dancing and singing and play-acting, but suddenly self-aware.Was it ugly?Sure, but it was human, and suddenly the audience could identify with her.
As of April 4th, and with the success of the Supergirl/Flash crossover—which absolutely rocked!!!! (and which was a big flip of the bird to that other team-up currently gracing movie screens)—giving the show a much-needed ratings boost, the series is still in renewal limbo, although Les Moonves, CBS’s president, has said that “all freshman shows are likely to be renewed.”
There’s something about team-ups that fascinate fans. And on the big screen, movies like Frankenstein Meets Dracula to Godzilla vs. King Kong, and AVP: Alien vs. Predator were all “can’t miss” affairs. Well, I actually did miss the last one, but it you get the idea.
As I write this, the newest superhero blockbuster, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice premieres tomorrow. I’m sure the debut has been analyzed to death by the time this column is out, but there’s some strange things going on. And I wanted to analyze it all before the starting gun officially went off and pop culture runs full speed down the track.
One peculiar thing is that I can’t believe I’m not more excited about this movie. If I were to go back in time (ala last week’s column) to tell my 10-year old self that there will one day be a blockbuster movie starring Batman and Superman –together – he’d never believe me.
For years, comic fans delighted to Batman and Superman teaming up in the pages of World’s Finest Comics. That was one of those comic series with a heart that was hitting its super-stride just as I was really getting into comics. In the late sixties, World’s Finest released a bunch of classic issues in quick succession:
In World’s Finest #168, Batman Superman and Robin fought the Composite Superman. He was a creepy bad-guy sporting a half-Superman, half-Batman look with Kryptonite skin. And he had all the powers of the Legion of Superheroes characters. He was one bad guy that gave me nightmares.
Batman and Superman struggled to change the Batmobile’s flat tire while Supergirl and Batgirl snickered at them, hidden behind a fence in issue #169. How could that be? A must-read!
Issue #175’s powerful Neal Adams art detailed Superman and Batman’s annual contest. But that particular year, the tradition would be interrupted by two criminal clubs bent of revenge of the World’s Finest Duo.
Superman and Batman had a King Arthur adventure in issue #162. This story contributed to my life-long interest in all things Arthurian. Of course, in this story, each of the Knights of Round Table had a different super power. I don’t think Mallory ever could have envisioned that plot twist.
Issue #170 was an 80 Page Giant – a real treat back then –representing seven classic World’s Finest
World’s Finest #184 was a shocker, even though it was an “imaginary tale”. Batman dies and Robin seeks revenge!
And I’ll never forget that 1968 double page spread ad for CBS’s new Saturday morning cartoons. There were Superman, Batman and Robin. I clearly remember wondering if they’d all be in one adventure, ala World’s Finest. Spoiler alert – they didn’t team-up.
It’s easy to forget that in the mid-80’s, John Byrne’s Superman reboot and Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns presented fans with an idea that was radical at the time – what if Batman and Superman weren’t friends? By now, it’s baked into the mythology and not a radical idea at all, but back then it was almost sacrilegious. But after forty years of the World’s Finest team-ups, we all knew it was time for a change in the status quo.
For this Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice movie, there is a lot of anxiety in Geek Culture and beyond. Before the movie debuted, the 13th Dimension wondered what effect early negative reviews will have on the cinematic plans for the DC heroes and Forbes had written about how Warner Brothers had destroyed the Superman brand.
On the other hand, let’s compare and contrast this to the other big super hero team-up. In Monday’s episode of CBS’s Supergirl, the Flash is scheduled to drop in for an adventure! With his incredible speed powers, he can travel through time, across dimensions and between networks!
This reminds me of when Oscar Goldman was hopping between networks to spend time with both of his bionic friends. The Six Million Dollar Man was on ABC and The Bionic Woman, having been cancelled by that network, was picked up by NBC.
I’m not hearing any anxiety about this TV team-up of Flash and Supergirl. In fact, it’s more reminiscent of a favorite cousin coming to visit during the holidays. It will be fun and you just can’t wait. There’s no overthinking involved.
But the brands of these heroes are different. The cinematic Superman and Batman are dour and serious, while their television counterparts have picked up the mantle of fun and hope. In fact, you may have seen this wonderful open letter a mom wrote to Supergirl stars Melisa Benoist and Chyler Leigh after meeting them at the recent C2E2 comic convention. She talked about what an inspiration these women are in their roles, and especially as they deal with issues of adoption and the effects on families. Carrie Goldman’s article is worth a read.
Movie and TV adaptations are a big deal. I’m currently enjoying Sundance’s Hap and Leonard, adapted from the Joe Lansdale novels. For me it’s still fresh and astounding to see these characters live as a TV series, even though there have been about a bazillion detectives who’ve made the leap from the printed page to the screen.
And that’s why I have this perplexing anxiety about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice movie. I hope it’s wonderful and everyone –from the creators to the studio to the theaters to the promotional tie-in partners – enjoy great success.
But now that this World’s Finest movie is finally here, I feel like I have to tell my 10-year old self, in classic geek fashion “After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting.” We’ll see. And I’m eager to hear your opinions, too. What did you think?
Oh, and I’m also worried I’ll eat too much popcorn. But that’s a worry I have with every movie.
What is wrong with you people? Yesterday, I heard that CBS might not renew Supergirl for a second year, which generally happens to a television show because not many people are watching it and so I ask again, what is wrong with you? It’s not like you’ve got anything better to do with your Monday evenings! I could tell you that as this is being typed, in a few hours, Supergirl will deliver to your screens a first. (Well, actually a second, but we’ll get to that.) But you won’t read this until four days from now – unless you’re too busy to read it! – and by then what I’m about to reveal will be history. The way you young people reckon time, ancient history.
Well, fudge. I’ll reveal it anyway. The current episode of CBS’s Maid of Might entertainment will feature a crossover! The Flash, hero of another show, will visit Supergirl and… they’ll do some pretty darn interesting stuff, I bet. Probably catch a villain or two, maybe more. Now, of course, such events aren’t exactly boggling in tv these days. Just recently, the cops of Law and Order SVU, set in Manhattan, visited the
Chicago cops and… caught a bad guy. Both SVU and Chicago PD have the same producer, Dick Wolf, and appear on the same network, NBC, so although the crossover was a big deal it wasn’t that big a deal. And it had happened before and may happen again.
But The Flash and Supergirl? Here’s what makes this a socks-knocker: the shows appear on different networks! Those of you who read comics – there are still some people who read, aren’t there? – may be aware that comics publishing’s two Giant Gorillas, Marvel and DC, have been staging print intercompany crossovers beginning, I think, with Superman vs Spider-Man in 1976. There have been others since – I’m not sure how many, but some. That’s print, an ancient technology of which you may have heard. But television? Count the palling up of Supergirl and the Flash as revolutionary.
Or maybe not. Way back, characters from two lawyer shows, The Practice, broadcast on ABC, and Fox’s Ally McBeal, met on each other’s turf. Both programs were created by David E. Kelley, so maybe the stunt wasn’t earth-shaking, but it was unprecedented. And it set a precedent which I, at least, will witness at eight tonight. You? Well, you don’t seem much interested in watching Supergirl. You certainly don’t watch it enough to keep it on the air. Is what’s on C-SPAN really all that enthralling?
This week we took a little trip to one of our favorite places in the world…
Target to check out the new DC Superhero Girls dolls and the new Black Widow doll (action figure, if you wish) from Marvel. Maddy also explores the choice of geek socks made for women that somehow forgot to include women.
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.
Unfortunately, as DC developed the Crisis on Infinite Earths, a company-wide reboot of DC mythology, these two characters were written out of continuity. Plans for DC Double Comics were scrapped.
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.
So it turns out that I maybe I do have a TARDIS, because I was able to finish watching Jessica Jones and to catch up on Supergirl.
You remember that basically crappy review of Supergirl I gave a couple of months ago? Well, the show is getting there, though, im-not-so-ho, they aren’t taking advantage of what could be some great story arcs. Except for Alex Danvers. And Cat Grant. And Hank Henshaw. But more on that in a bit.
I watched “Strange Visitor From Another Planet,” an hour that really could have called “Why Did You Abandon Me?” Hank Henshaw, a.k.a. J’onn J’onzz the Martian Manhunter, struggled with the personification of survivor’s guilt and abandonment in the appearance of a “White Martian,” a member of the “other” Martian race responsible for the Martian holocaust – a literal “Strange Visitor.” And while the psychological voices from beyond the grave – including his wife and two daughters – chastised J’onn J’onzz for abandoning them by not joining them in death, Cat Grant dealt with her own, different kind of survivor’s guilt and abandonment issues when her “Strange Visitor” turned out to be the child she had chosen to abandon in her drive to become a professional success, now all grown up and wanting to know why she hadn’t loved him enough to stay. “Bizzaro,” a twist on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, borrowed – well, stole – the origin of the sad creature from DC’s New52 reboot, only instead of Lex Luthor creating the “monster” from splicing Superman’s DNA with human DNA and injecting it into a teenager, it was Maxwell Lord splicing Supergirl’s DNA with the human DNA of comatose young women who “resembled” Kara Zor-El. I thought the show sorta fell down on this one – it was essentially a “monster of the week” episode with Bizzaro Supergirl dying at the end and Maxwell Lord becoming “The Man in the Glass Booth,” kidnapped and imprisoned – for now – at DEO headquarters. Which is rather illegal, and I assume will lead to further ramifications down the line.
One immediate ramification of Max hanging around the DEO, though, is that he just happened to be handy when the alien chest-hugging flower called the “Black Mercy” dug its tentacles into Supergirl’s rib cage and inflicted her heart’s desires upon her in a hallucinatory mind-game. Many of you will recognize this as an adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ 1985 Superman Annual #11 story, For the Man Who Has Everything.
It’s not a bad adaptation, but if you remember FTMWHE, it’s not quite up to par in comparison, especially in the Krypton sequences. Granted, the show’s budget had to be a serious factor in producing this episode, but in Superman’s dream world, we really become invested in Kal-El’s life on Krypton and in Kryptonian society. Kara Zor-El, however, never leaves her home. She just sits in the “living room” talking with her parents and Aunt Astra, who was never banished to the Phantom Zone. Oh, yeah, and we also meet a prepubescent Kal-El, though there is neither mention of nor a visit from Jor-
El and Lara. And though there is mention of a serious boyfriend, we don’t meet him nor do we see anything else of what Kara’s dream life if Krypton had not exploded entails.
In Superman’s dream state he has no memory or sense of anything wrong – well, the dream does start becoming increasingly disturbing – but Kara’s immediate reaction when waking up in her bed on Krypton is one of confusion and a sense that something is definitely wrong. But as the Black Mercy continues its psychic invasion, Kara starts forgetting, and by the time “virtual reality” Alex shows up she has accepted her life for what it is and does not recognize her “Terran” sister.
It’s a good attempt, but not one for the ages. For one thing, for a story about Supergirl’s lost dreams, it’s a fantastic showcase for Alex, who totally steals the scene(s). Alex’s quest to save her sister, her devotion to her, is really what this episode is about – and I don’t know if that’s what the writers had in mind. In fact, lately it almost seems that the title should be Supergirl’s Sister, Alex Danvers. She has become the most well developed character on the show (with Cat Grant coming up behind and Hank Henshaw/J’onn J’onzz nipping at Cat’s heels). It’s too bad, because this could have been a real showcase for Supergirl/Kara Zor-El.
And, again, wasn’t it convenient that Max Lord was on DEO premises so he could help develop the “virtual reality” psychic connection thing-a-ma-jig that got Alex into Kara’s dreamland in the first place?
However, Melissa Benoist did a bang-up job in displaying Supergirl’s anger and rage and hurt and sorrow when she woke up. Echoing Moore’s words, she spits out “Do you know what you did to me?” and then “Burn” as she lashes out with her heat vision against Non, the evil – and oh so incredibly boring – Kryptonian who’s Aunt Astra’s husband, and who exposed her to the Black Mercy in the first place.
There’s a lot more plot about Non’s plan to destroy Earth (or something – I’m not quite sure exactly what he wants to do), but there’s a twist at the end that really disappointed me, which now means that it’s
Astra is killed by Alex.
This is right up there with the whole “fooling Cat Grant and convincing her that Kara isn’t Supergirl” storyline. I mean, Boo! Hiss! Really, Bernanti, Adler, et.al., killing off what could have been a fascinating character and story arc? Again, Boo! Hiss!
And as for JJ – it left me shaken and stirred, with that uncomfortable feeling you get when you’ve had a horrific nightmare which stays with you all day, or after you’ve made the mistake of watching a double feature of Fail-Safe and Dr. Strangelove (Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb) on Turner Classic Movies.
SPOILERS HERE FOR ANYBODY WHO HAS ALSO BEEN LATE TO THE PARTY!
What really got me was the straightforward and uncomplicated denouement of David Tennant’s Killgrave – a simple twisting of his neck, a quick dislocating of his cervical vertebrae, a horrific rupturing of the right and left common carotid and vertebral arteries, and he’s as dead as the Tyrannosaurus Rex that King Kong killed using the same method – only with a lot less fight than in that epic battle. It was so straightforward, not what is usually expected when dealing with the gifted, as the show’s super-powered individuals and others called them; in comic-book land fights are usually a chance for the artist to strut his stuff, consisting of many panels and sometimes many pages of balletic and brutal brawling. What I thought, as Jessica approached Killgrave, was that she was going to rip his tongue out, which would certainly, I think, have been an apt Sisyphean punishment for him – King Sisyphus of Ephyra was punished by Zeus for his hubris, lying, greediness, and self-aggrandizing by being condemned to push a gigantic boulder up a steep hill, only to have it roll back down to the bottom before reaching the top, repeating this pattern forever and ever and ever.
Killgrave with his tongue is essentially powerless, and as I said, it would have been a fitting punishment; but Jessica said she was going to kill him and she did. But though it looked simple it wasn’t; Jessica Jones literally killed her demon. But the question is: Will it be enough? Stay streamed.
I am in no way dissing Krysten Ritter or anybody else in the cast of this superb show – Krysten Ritter was nominated for a Critic’s Choice Award, but I think it’s sin that no one else was nominated (Jessica Jones was ignored by the Golden), especially David Tennant.
I now have an even bigger crushon appreciation of David Tennant.
He’s getting handsomer and handsomer and handsomer.
His acting chops just keep getting better and better and better.
Geek Culture in popular media has some dark and grisly stories to tell. I’m talking about shows like Gotham, The Walking Dead, Deadpool and the upcoming Suicide Squad movie. But it’s a big tent with lots of room.
CBS’s Supergirl show is on the other end of the spectrum. Supergirl is a positive, upbeat program that focuses on heroism without the grimness or grittiness that so many other comic shows embrace.
Over the years, however, Supergirl’s adventures have had many different styles. She’s run the gamut from being sweet and innocent to sultry and sexy (with goth-esque overtones). With a fresh and friendly point of view, Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle jumped onboard to the Supergirl comic in 2008. They never looked back. Today we see so much of what they brought to the party baked into television’s version of Supergirl.
I caught up with Jamal Igle, the brilliant artist of that Supergirl comic series, to see what he thinks about TV’s Supergirl and on his other projects.
Ed Catto: The CBS hit show Supergirl seems to embrace so much of the version of the character established by you and writer Sterling Gates. What’s your reaction?
Jamal Igle: I was over the moon, to be honest. It’s a little surreal to see the things you’ve drawn homaged on screen. There have been subtle changes in some cases like substituting Alex Danvers for Lana Lang, Hank Henshaw/ J’onn J’onzz sort of standing in for Inspector Henderson but the broad strokes were definitely maintained.
EC: Did you know about this approach before it debuted?
JI: I had heard some rumors before hand but I have some media connections who got to see the CBS upfront presentation and confirmed it for me.
EC: Do you watch the show, and what’s that like each week?
JI: I watch it with my daughter, we both enjoy it immensely. It’s definitely gotten stronger with each subsequent episode. I particularly like how they manage to balance the interpersonal relationships between the characters with the action. It’s fun for me to see Kara and Alex interact on one level as sisters and then as partners.
EC: Was your approach to Supergirl dictated by management or did you and Sterling develop that approach?
JI: No, in fact just the opposite. I think, at least for me we were going against the grain a bit. Keep in mind that when Sterling and I first came on the book, the series was a bit rocky in terms of characterization. It floundered after Jeph Loeb and Ian Churchill left and the sales had dipped a bit as they were trying to find an origin and a take that would work. Sterling came in with an honest to god love for the character that was infectious and made me love her as well. It seemed to work because we started to get some serious notice for what we were doing,
EC: How was your Supergirl received by management? How did the fans like it?
JI: The majority of the fans loved it, and a lot of women came back to the book as well. There were some detractors of course. One example that always sticks out to me is a poster from the old DC Comics message boards who went by the name “Larry Gardner” who was incredibly upset by what we were doing. “Those of us Supergirl fans who continue to be pissed off by the undershorts and Supergirl’s lack of hormones, spirit, and personality need to keep up our angered posts and let them know their gender double standards and anti-Supergirl witch hunt will never be tolerated.”
There were some in the upper management that weren’t too keen on what we were doing either. They thought our approach was too prudish, that she was being written like an old woman. When the subject of the fore mentioned “Supershorts” became known after an interview I did on Comic Book Resources was picked up by NPR and a slew of feminist blogs, DC started turning down media requests from newspapers that wanted to cover the story. So the irony that the very same approach that some derided has been embraced by a large television audience hasn’t been lost on me all these years later.
EC: How did Supergirl sell then?
JI: There was an uptick in sales for a good portion of our run, in fact we were at one point outselling Superman and Action Comics for about six months.
EC: Firestorm is an integral part of the CW show, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. What’s been your reaction to that?
JI: I’m a fan, and again it’s awesome to see one of my designs translated into another medium that way. The first two episodes have been great.
EC: You’re now working on a comic called Molly Danger. Can you tell us about how that started and what it’s about?
JI: I originally created Molly back in 2003 as an animation pitch, but I ended up trying to make a comic series out of it. After many misfires, I put the series to the side until 2010 when I was approached by an editor at a publishing company looking for kids’ comics materials. So I revisited the concept and adapted it to its current form. When I finished my contract at DC, I was approached by another writer about trying to put together a Kickstarter and I decided to do Molly instead. After two successful Kickstarter’s, Molly is well on her way as an ongoing series. Molly Danger is looks and acts like a 10 year old girl, but she’s actually an immortal, invulnerable, super humanly strong 30 year old. She’s an incredibly famous hero with fans, merchandise deals but she’s also an incredibly lonely person. She’s trapped because on the one hand she’s probably one of the most famous people on the planet, but she isn’t allowed to have a private life. It tears at her and that’s where the story begins.
EC: How are Molly Danger and Supergirl alike?
JI: Beyond the similarity of their power sets, they’re both ‘good’ people, genuinely altruistic and loving. I think they share a love of humanity and a need to believe in the better nature of people.
EC: And what makes them different?
JI: Molly is much more world weary and cynical, even if she doesn’t like to admit it. The nature of Molly’s physical condition keeps her separate from the world and that creates a bit of pathos for her.
EC: Molly Danger is published by Action Lab Comics. What makes that publisher unique, and what are some of the other titles they publish?
JI: I think in terms of publishers, Action Lab has an incredibly diverse line-up of creator owned book as well as company created titles. Everyone involved on the business side of the company are people who self published or worked for large marquee publishers. So, while it’s a young company, the staff is comprised of established professionals who are incredibly serious about building the type of company we want to see flourish. The fact that as a smaller publisher, we have the luxury of developing new talents and giving them a platform is something many companies in our position can do. We’ve grown exponentially over the past few years and I feel that Action Lab will be the next marquee publisher in comics.
Last week, after I submitted my column to Old Man Editor Mike Gold, I made myself a cup of English Breakfast tea, sliced up some mozzarella and cheddar cheese, grabbed some crackers and got into bed – this woman has to get up way before the first rays of the sun crack the horizon during her work week – and so I didn’t read Old Man Editor Mike Gold’s e-mail in response to my submission until the next afternoon. It said something like: Jessica Jones is old news. It debuted on Netflix in November.
Well, gee, that was only two months ago, Old Man Editor Mike. Two months and 16 days, to be precise.
But I get it. In today’s hyper-streamed world, 10 weeks might as well be 1010 (or 10,000,000,000). There’s so much to watch, so much to read, so much to talk about on the information superhighway that was brought to us courtesy of the U.S. military industrial complex and Al Gore – the World Wide Web, baby – that it’s just about impossible for anyone to stay absolutely current and up-to-date unless you happen to be a green-skinned alien and Legionnaire from the 21st century named Brainiac 5. Even Chris Matthews, of MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews, now has a segment he calls “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know” in which various reporters and pundits tell him, well, something he doesn’t know. And he has a research staff.
Sometimes I feel like the Gallifreyan, trapped in a confession dial for 7000 years while the universe just merrily keeps on expanding, minding its own business, and intelligent life and civilizations and planets and suns within it are born, thrive, wither, and die.
I can’t even keep up with my e-mail. Every day, for instance, I get at least three notifications from Comic Book Resources (CBR). I delete the ones that don’t sound interesting to me, but even the ones I want to read pile up faster than those cars and buses and trucks that were stuck on the Pennsylvania Turnpike last weekend. Then, by the time I actually have the time to check them, they are all old news which I’ve either already heard about, or read about, or watch somewhere else on the net. And that’s just CBR. There’s also Entertainment Weekly, Vulture, Den of Geek, Bleeding Cool News, Michael Davis World, et. al. Oh, and that also includes ComicMix.
Plus my other e-mails and notifications. On Saturday it took me two hours just to clear out my mailbox. Some of the stuff dated back to November, and I never even read them. I’m telling you, it’s like reading a newspaper with the headline U.S. and Japs At War.
I am up-to-date on my X-Files. (I’m thinking that it rocks!) I saw that movie its first weekend in theatres. And I’m actually ahead of the ball on Downton Abbey, having just watched Episode 8 of “The Final Season” on Amazon Prime.
I missed the premiere of Legends of Tomorrow, Parts 1 and 2, and I missed last week’s Supergirl because I watched X-Files. So now I have to catch up those two shows. And I’m embarrassed to admit that Daredevil is still in my queue.
Not to mention that I have three more episodes of Jessica Jones to go.
(SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! Spoiler spoiler spoil spoil spoilery spoilers.I’m chatting this week about the events on some of the superhero TV shows last week. If you recorded them and intend to watch them later, give this a pass. Here endeth the warning.)
It was an interesting week in superhero TVland – specifically, DC superhero TVland. At least for me. I had a personal connection to some of them.
Arrow had a few events, some minor, one major. The character Felicity who is their computer geek expert recently got shot and it appears she has nerve damage to the spine and now has resumed her place with the team in a wheelchair. Sound like anyone we know? Yup – Oracle, whom my late wife and writing partner Kim Yale and I created from the remains of Barbara Gordon. Oh, they’re not calling her that but that’s who she is, wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more.
They also had Felicity dealing with a hallucination of her younger self, perhaps brought on by pain medication or even an aftereffect of anesthesia. What’s interesting is that younger Felciity is the spitting image of Death from the Sandman series – pale skin, raven dark hair, dressed in black, with an ankh necklace. However, they don‘t reference Death at all. They just grab her look. Guess Felicity was really into the Goth scene back then.
The major event was – they killed off their version of Amanda Waller. Bad guy just suddenly shot her in the head without warning. That was startling, I will admit, as it was no doubt intended to be. Since I get a little bit of money every time Amanda shows up on Arrow (or anywhere), her death was not a terribly pleasant surprise.
OTOH, this was a young, pretty, skinny Waller which is not how I saw the character. When I created the Wall, I saw her as a certain age and a certain heft for a variety of reasons. The bulk made her more physically intimidating. Also, I wanted a character who was unlike other comic book characters. Being black, middle aged, and plus-sized did that. I understood that this was the CW and that’s what the CW does – young and gorgeous is the rule of the day, every day. I did nott and do not object to their interpretation. And we have Viola Davis playing Amanda in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie and I’m looking forward to that. (The second trailer came out for the Squad movie as well recently and it’s looking real hot, IMO.)
There was another unexpected death in DC superhero TV-land this week and it was in the second episode of the new DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow. On the team is the CW version of Hawkman and Hawkgirl (you couldn’t call her Hawkwoman, CW?) and, lo and behold, they offed Hawkman this week. Well, boy howdee, that was a stunner.
I didn’t create Hawkman but I’d written him for a while (although it was alien Katar Hol rather than Carter Hall) so I did have a personal attachment to him. I’ll continue watching for now just to see where they go with all this but I’m not sure of its longevity.
The last event happened for me on Supergirl over on CBS rather than the CW. The main character is alright but, for me, the real draw is the Martian Manhunter, J’onn J’onzz. Tom Mandrake and I did a series on JJ in which we explored more of his society and culture. For example, it had been long established that, on Mars, J’onn had a wife and daughter who died. No one, however, had ever given them names, so I did. The daughter I named K’ym as a tribute to my late wife. On last week’s Supergirl episode, J’onn went into some of his past. He mentioned two daughters, one of whom was named K’ym.
That pleased me a lot. It was just a small thing but I know Kim would have been very pleased. I can almost hear her giggling and see her bouncing up and down with glee. Most pleasant.
So that was my week in Superhero TVland. How was yours?
Geek Culture has been buzzing about Star Wars: The Force Awakens to an overwhelming degree. It’s been a wonderful way to wrap up the year. Even with a focusing on the marketing, I’ve been talking about it on TV and in Entrepreneur Magazine. But the more I think I about it, the more I realize we may have gotten it wrong. I think we’ve been talking about the wrong movie. Joy, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Robert DeNiro is the movie that should be the poster child for Geek Culture. Let me tell you why.
My wife and I saw it last weekend, and I’ll admit I went into the theater thinking it was a (so-called) chick-flick. But now I realize the studio missed the bullseye with their marketing efforts. At the core, it’s an inspirational story of a persistent entrepreneur.
Joy is the tale of a single mom smacked around by the trials and tribulations of a difficult life. She embraces her entrepreneurial passion in order to save the day.
It’s loosely based on the real life of Joy Magnano, the inventor of many household products, including the Miracle Mop.
It’s fair to say that you’ve seen these types of movies before: the hero–with-a-dream struggles to overcome adversity and eventually triumphs. In fact, the hit TV show Shark Tank shows a part of this process each week, as entrepreneurs share their business plans with potential investors and their dreams with the audience.
But the most interesting thing for me was how many times Joy, the heroine, was told, “No, you can’t do that”. Most of the supporting characters, many with well-meaning intentions, tell her what stupid ideas she has and counsel her to abandon her crazy efforts.
And you know what? There are a lot of dumb ideas out there. And it is good for each of us to assimilate the right kind of advice and course correct in our endeavors.
On the other hand, the world of Geek Culture is a world of dreamers who fight against seemingly impossible odds, passionately working to tell a story or create a product. It’s filled with modern day Men (and Women) of La Mancha.
This point was driven home to me last week. As a part of my daily commute through mid-town Manhattan, I saw four huge billboards for Geek Culture –themed TV shows.
In reality, Geek Culture creators who “make it big” are few and far between. Select successes, like that of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, inspire so many aspiring creators to keep plugging away.
I’m always impressed with these folks. I’m thinking about new creators who have stories to tell and are trying to get published. I’m thinking about an international lawyer I know who wants to spread the word about social injustice through comics. I’m thinking of collectors-turned-makers like my pal Tim Ellis, who’s started CKRT LABs, a brand new superhero toy/collectible company. I’m positive they’ve all heard “No” and “That’s a stupid idea” many times.
One of my favorite Batman moments is from an old Justice League of America comic. All the heroes are trapped on a distant planet in a traditional jail, but they can’t bend the bars open to slip free. The villain taunts Superman that even he couldn’t get out of this nefarious death-trap. So the mighty Superman (who’s done this a million times before) tries to bend the bars but can’t. Then J’Onn J’Onzz (currently co-starring in CBS’s Supergirl) takes a turn. He can’t either. Each of the other heroes subsequently takes his or her turn. Despite their impressive powers, they each fail to bend the prison bars.
Finally, Batman, who is not gifted with superhuman strength, steps up. He admonishes his fellow justice leaguers to remain silent. He grips the bars with both hands and grits his teeth. Astonishingly, he bends the bars apart!
The Justice League is amazed. The Caped Crusader explains it this way:
“I noticed that before each of you tried to bend those bars, someone told you that you could not do it. I thought can it be possible on this strange world – that what someone is told – is believed to be true?”
That’s a great life lesson and a great entrepreneurial lesson. We can learn it from Batman, we can learn it from the movie Joy and or we can learn it from the many persistent creators working so hard to create comics, graphic novels, collectibles, toys and more in the Geek Culture space.
Just because they tell you that you that you can’t do it doesn’t mean you have to listen to them. Dream the impossible dream.