Wednesday Interview: Sterling Gates

If you have been reading Living Between Wednesdays for a long time, then you might be familiar with my long struggle with Supergirl. It went from apathy to hate to offense to curiosity to optimism to love in only a few short years. Supergirl's role in the current New Krypton event has solidified my love of the latest version of the character. Much of this can be attributed to the current Supergirl writer, Sterling Gates. Today Supergirl #40 hits stores, and the mysterious Superwoman will be revealed! Sterling was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.

1. How did you get the gig of writing Supergirl? Was she a character that you specifically wanted to write?

Well, I liked Supergirl a lot when I was a kid. Like, a LOT. The "Supergirl" movie came out when I was very small, and I was really, really drawn towards Helen Slater and her interpretation of Kara. DC published a comic adaptation of the "Supergirl" movie around that time, and I read it enough times the cover fell off. So she’s always been a character I was interested in and enjoyed.

As for writing Supergirl, it was a combination of wanting to write it, some really hard work, and some fortuitous circumstance. I work as Geoff Johns’ assistant when I’m not writing, and over lunch one day I was telling him all these ideas I had for Supergirl, and what I would do with the title. He gave me some great advice over that lunch, and told me I should just go away and write my first issue. That is, write what I would write if I were to suddenly be handed the title.

I spent a weekend writing an issue on spec and a series proposal and emailed them off to Geoff. Geoff really enjoyed the script, and he sent it off to James Robinson (who writes Superman) to check out. He liked it, too, so the pair of them approached Superman Group Editor Matt Idelson with it.

Matt and the other super-editors at that time, Nachie Castro and Tom Palmer, Jr., had been actively looking for someone to take over that book. They responded to what I’d written, and a few days later, Matt called me and asked if I’d be interested in being the new Supergirl writer.

Naturally, I freaked.

After I’d picked myself up off the floor, I told him that I’d absolutely love to write the book. And the spec script that I’d written turned into Supergirl #34 and the very lovely and talented artist Jamal Igle signed on to draw the book a few weeks later.

But I really owe Geoff and James and Matt and Nachie and Tom for giving me the chance to write Supergirl. I can’t possibly thank them enough.

2. It seems that Supergirl's return, starting in the Superman/Batman title, has been awkward and only very recently have we seen her find her place in the DCU. I feel that in the past year or two, DC has really thrown a lot of support behind Supergirl as a character and as a title, and including her in this crossover New Krypton event is a good example. Do you find it to be an exciting time to be writing Supergirl as a character, and have there been a lot of discussions about the future of the character?

Well, personally, it’s one of the most exciting times I’ve ever had in my life. Every day I get to go to work and write the adventures of the strongest girl on the planet. No, scratch that -- strongest girl on TWO planets, Earth and New Krypton. And yes, I’m thrilled that DC has put so much support behind Supergirl. Jamal and I have been working hard to make sure Supergirl’s as good a book as we can possibly make it, and I’m grateful that DC has been so supportive of us.

I know that I have discussions with my editors Matt and Wil Moss and the other super-writers almost every day about Supergirl’s future, and her as a character, and what the best possible stories are that we can tell to service her character.

At the end of the day, I want Supergirl to not only be an iconic superhero in the DCU, but also a good role model for kids and adults alike. Jamal and I’s take on the character is a little different from how other writers and artists have interpreted her, I know. But in my head, she’s a member of the Superman Family, so I’m going to write her as such, y’know?

That isn’t to say we’re going to tell “boring” or “safe” stories with her, which are accusations I’ve seen leveled against Superman before. What I mean is: Supergirl’s a hero, and I’m going to write her as a hero. A hero that makes mistakes, sure, and lives and learns from them. Her flaws can be very noticeable, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Supergirl should be someone we can all identify with and support and root for and learn from.

3. New Krypton seems like a very tight crossover. Are there regular meetings or discussions between yourself and the rest of the New Krypton team (Geoff Johns, James Robinson, Greg Rucka)? Have you found it challenging to write a series that ties into a larger story?

It can be a challenge, yes, but it’s also part of the job, taking into account what’s going on in the bigger picture as you write.

James and Greg and Geoff are really a blast to work with, and I feel that I'm very, very blessed to be working alongside such talented writers.

Greg and James and I have a weekly conference call with editorial where we sit down and plot and plan and break stories and figure out the beats in August’s crossover and just how long has Jimmy Olsen known how to ride a motorcycle and where could we find a good Kryptonian animal for Non to fight? “Oh, what about a torquat?” “What’s a torquat?” “Who’s got reference for a torquat?” “Well, they’ve only appeared once before, in Krypton Chronicles #2, I can send you a scan…” It can be a madhouse on the phone sometimes, but I think all of us really want to make the Superman Family of titles as strong as possible, and we're working hard towards that goal.

Plus, there’s a HUGE endgame in mind, which you’ll start to see the first few strains of in August’s big Superman crossover. It's not going to be an easy couple of years for Kal or for Kara.

4. Is Superman going to stick a braided wig on Kara and force her to live in an orphanage again?

Ha. No.

…although, that does give me an idea for something...

5. What other projects are you working on now, and what have you got planned for the future?

Well, today I’m working on Supergirl Annual #1, which I think is scheduled to come out in September. As I said before, we’re doing a month-long Superman crossover in August across the four main Superman titles, and we’re producing a pretty extensive Superman Secret Files to go along with that story. It won’t quite be on the scale of the Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps Secret Files that Geoff and I wrote, but it’ll be a really great resource, with extremely detailed maps and profiles and stuff.

As for future plans, there are things in the works, but nothing I can announce yet. Sorry!

I can tell you that I’m planning on staying on Supergirl as long as DC will let me write it. Maybe, just maybe, I can figure out a way I can put Supergirl in the braided wig at some point. 

If I do, you’ll know it’s just for you, Rachelle.