If you've been reading Supergirl: Being Super, then you know big things have been happening in Midvale.
After the earthquake devastated the town and killed Kara's friend Jen, both Kara and Dolly are utterly devastated. As they try to come to grips with the loss of their dear friend, Kara is also left to wonder what went wrong with her powers. Why couldn't she save her friend? All of that continues to weigh heavily on Kara, at the same time that her memories of life on Krypton are slowly coming back. Which is why it's no coincidence that Supergirl: Being Super #3, which hits comics shops Wednesday, is subtitled "Who Are You?" It's a real game-changer in this story.
Kara is realizing that what she thought were dreams are actually her memories slowly rising to the surface. She's also about to learn that despite her adoptive parents' best efforts, her super-abilities have not been kept as secret as they believed. And people she thought were friends turn out to be … not so friendly.
In terms of concept, Supergirl: Being Super is a comic book that was long overdue. One of the most familiar yet strangely unfamiliar super heroines of the comic book world was finally getting the "secret origin," or Smallville treatment, if you prefer the Kryptonian comparison. Through the first two issues, Eisner Award-winning writer Mariko Tamaki (This One Summer) and artist Joelle Jones have been been able to dig deep into Kara Danvers' formative years without worrying about connecting dots, since the series doesn't exist within the DC Universe proper. The conceit that Kara initially doesn't have any memories of her Kryptonian past doesn't hurt, either.
The result has been a character-driven look at life for a midwestern teenager — who just happens to have super powers and super pimples. Tamaki brings her well-honed YA sensibilities to Midvale and has grounded Kara as much as you can ground a young lady with incredible powers.
Syfy Wire hopped on the phone for a conversation with Tamaki about her take on Supergirl, the importance of accurately portraying awkward teenage interaction, and the awesomeness of a good fort. And down below, we have a six-page preview of issue #3 of Supergirl: Being Super for your perusing pleasure!
This is such a fun, interesting take on a character that can be so difficult to provide a fresh perspective on, because of the history and the nature of her powers. Putting her in a situation where she doesn't remember her life on Krypton seemed like a great call. Who came up with that?
Mariko Tamaki: The editors came to me a few years ago with the idea of doing this mini-series and told me I didn't have to worry about continuity. So I just took that as far as I could (laughs). I didn't realize how far off the beaten path I was taking it by kind of doing a full reset. I just imagined the story as it made sense to me. For me, it was interesting to me to write a story about adolescence and I'm … I'm a big Friday Night Lights fan …
Listen, I'm obsessed with that show. And I wanted to go in that direction. And her knowing her origin from the beginning felt, to me, very adult. Like, if you arrive on Earth with this mission and you know who you are and everything about yourself and you're kind of off to the races, it just felt too adult to me. Yeah, I just wanted to do a different take on her. It's funny, I didn't think it was that big a deal (laughs). But then every comic book person I know tells me, 'she doesn't know where she's from? That's crazy!'
It also helps get rid of the weight of the expectations and history of the character by taking this approach. As a creator, it must be nice to know you don't have to worry about connecting your origin story to everything that's come before.
It really lets it be a story about her, her friends and her parents in the beginning. And that's what I was interested in. I wanted to tell a story about what it means to be somebody who has great ability but for whom that ability … like, how does that ability fit into your daily life? Especially when it's something that is unspoken. I kind of liked the idea that she could fly and she knows she can do these other amazing things, but it's not ever something … I think that's the thing with being a teenager; when you're a teenager you're sort of curating your abilities but you don't have to really be responsible for them. And actually becoming responsible for them is kind of your bridge to adulthood. I thought it would work out really well [on this book].
And just like with non-super powered teenagers in real life, what some people may look at and say, 'oh, you can do that? That's amazing!' may not be so great to that person. Because they make you different.
Yeah, like when you're a super-smart kid. Everyone's like, 'that must be great.' But actually, no it's not. The fact is, being the smartest kid in your class is not always the greatest thing, right?
I wouldn't know. I was blessed to not have that problem.
Me neither (laughs). But I was like, maybe the sixth-smartest person and I looked up the food chain and realized, [that person] has it much harder than I do. I just thought thematically it worked in so many ways, to think of someone's superpowers as not just a secret, but a part of your life that you haven't really figured out.
Let's talk about the earthquake that really rocked Midvale - for lack of a better word - in so many ways. We saw some of the direct consequences of the quake in issue #2. But that's not the whole story. In fact, we'll see more details come out in issue #3, which comes out this week. What other fallout can we expect Kara and co. to deal with?
On a personal level, it's a horrible thing to feel powerless. Especially if you're somebody that has the abilities Kara has. And nothing makes someone feel more powerless than losing someone they love and it's … it's a life-changing event. For Kara and for Dolly, it's a bit of an end of innocence, and for Kara, it's like this moment of mortality. She's seeing the mortality of the people around her, how fragile things really are and all the things that don't really seem to matter to her now, like keeping the secret of your powers because your parents asked you to do that, takes on a different light. And also for Kara, it's truly an end of innocence because she's seeing not only that she's more complex than people know, that's also true for the world around her.
Issue #3 has some pretty major revelations. How do you see this chapter in Kara's story and what fans will get out of it?
The third installment is sort of the culmination of what we've set up since issue #1. Like in the beginning, she says, 'here's what I know about life now,' and then issue #2 is where this horrible thing happens that starts to chip away at things that were Kara's foundation. And in #3, Kara starts to see the complexity behind the sort-of simple life she's been leading. So yeah, it's definitely the 'growing up' issue for her and it's the issue where she's starting to see things that maybe … the same way there are people around Kara who notice all the stuff about her she didn't think they were noticing, there's like other things Kara was noticing in the world around her that are going to come to light.
What's hiding inside that bunker, that will change Kara's life forever?
(Laughs) Exactly. I always like a good bunker. I mean, a door in the ground that you climb into, I'm super into that. This is my first time [as a writer] that I've been able to make that happen. When I was a kid, I always had a fort and …
Oh yeah. Forts are amazing.
My daughters are always building them out of our pillows and couch cushions.
See? This is my version of the pillow fort.
Getting back to Midvale, we know Kara's memories are slowly coming back. By the end of this series, will she have regained most or all of her memories of life on Krypton? Or will it be left open for interpretation?
For me, it's important to end things with a realistic step forward with an understanding — especially when you're writing a young character — that they have a ways to go. The most important thing is not necessarily for Kara to know about herself in terms of her memories, but what she's decided about herself in terms of the person she's going to be. That's kind of the big goal for Kara in this series.
Has there been a big surprise or a pleasant discovery for you while writing this character?
I always come back to writing [Kara's] friends. The friendship between Kara and Dolly especially is something I really enjoy writing. It's also curiously fun to write people using their powers. There were certain powers that Kara has that I didn't know when I started writing [this series].
I didn't know she had laser eyes. Well, it's not that I didn't know it, I think the thing is is that I was so focused on flying and super speed and strength, that I forgot she had all these other accessory abilities. And then, when a character is in a fix, and you're like, 'what's going to happen now?' well … fortunately I have Paul Kaminski and Andrew Marino [the book's editors] there, and they're like, 'she has all this other stuff.' (Laughs)
As well as alien zits.
Yeah, right? Alien zits. That was … alien zits were key. They're awesome.
It's kind of hard to believe after decades and decades of superhero comics, that this is really the first time we've seen a superhero tackle acne.
Right! Don't you think they would get them? Of course they would! As well as alien cramps.
Are you saving that for your next superhero assignment?
Yeah, of course. Why not? What's interesting about superheroes is that they're human, right? They're alien but they'e also human, like us. That's the fun stuff to write.