Sterling Gates Interview Looks Back On Supergirl Run

Sterling Gates recently did a video interview with CBR during which he discussed his time on Supergirl and working on “New Krypton”. He clearly knew at the time that he was leaving the series, but not yet when. The interview was posted Oct 7 but seems to have taken place shortly before Supergirl #56 released in September. It’s hard watching him answering the question about being ready to let Supergirl go, because he so clearly loves the character and had big plans for her.

ComicVine more recently interviewed Gates at NYCC 2010after his departure was announced, in which he discussed his approach to the character and looked back on the arc that started in Supergirl #34.

I’ve transcribed as much of the 6:46m video as I could:

COMICVINE: Reflect on this series for me: how do you feel like you changed the character, and how do you feel about her, before and after you worked on her?

I really tried hard to make the direction of that character about the hero’s journey, and about her maturing into that role, the ‘S’, the super S on her chest, and living up to that ideal. I’m not sure other people keyed into that before me, and I don’t know if people after me will key into it, but for me that was – the touchstone that I always went back to is she’s always striving so hard to be super. She can be born with powers, but that doesn’t make her “super”. It’s a much harder ideal to live up to, and all of us wanna live up to that ideal, I think. All of us as people would like to be the best we can be, and that’s what that S symbol means, for me.

Yes. This. That journey should be what future writers focus on. (Although past experience shows that not everybody knows how to do that well. Future writers really need to pay attention to how Sterling did it.) The powers don’t come with an instant knowledge of how to use them, but Supergirl wants to be super and that’s her story. She should want to “be the best she can be” and live up to the ideal. And she can set her own template for that ideal. I don’t want her simply trying to live up to Superman’s ideal.

And so for me, it was about taking Kara and moving her to a spot where she was really starting to realize…being that hero. And Jamal Igle and I tried really hard to make that happen.

She had realized that point recently, and damnit, I was looking forward to seeing what happened next!

COMICVINE: Do you feel differently about the character now that you’ve worked on her? Did you always like Supergirl, but did you fall in love with her?

GATES: I always liked Supergirl. And it was the movie’s fault, because Helen Slater was so great in that movie, that I had an affinity for her, to a point, to an extent.

Did I fall in love with the character? I think we…Yes and no, because as writers we put so much of ourselves in these characters. I couldn’t fall in love with it because I was trying so hard to write her as – this is going to sound weird – I was trying to write her as a version of myself. And again, going back to that ideal, I really worked hard to make her a character that you the reader could fall in love with. I don’t know that I can ever say that I fell in love with her – I loved writing her. Her internal monologue is…a lot of my internal monologue on the page. And so no, I put so much of myself, it’s hard to “love”…yourself..? Uh, that sounds…

(joking and laughter follow :)

So cute! That Sterling wrote Supergirl as a version of himself and that much of her internal monologue was his own just makes me love him more.

When you read our last issue, and you get to the last page of our last issue, you will see it bookends our first issue, I think, really well. I feel like I had an arc, and I started here and I ended here, and I am satisfied with how that plays. Are there more stories to tell? Absolutely. People will be telling stories about Supergirl for the next hundred years – I pray to god, I pray. Do I have more Supergirl stories to tell? Well yeah, we all have more stories to tell about every character. It’s just, I hit the point where I said: when and if we leave, this is exactly what I want do, the last story, Supergirl and Cat Grant. Because we started with Cat Grant talking about what was wrong with Supergirl, why the world doesn’t need Supergirl. And so, for me, that final story was always going to be, well what if Cat needs Supergirl’s help and there’s no one else who can help Cat? And Superman’s gone, and Jimmy Olsen isn’t wearing the signal watch or whatever, who does she turn to? And the answer is Supergirl.

YES. Been waiting for this.

And it’s a really fun two-part story. We introduce a new villain, and we kind of dig into why Cat is, why Cat is. I think it’ll be a lot of fun to read.

I kept wondering why we didn’t get resolution of Cat’s antagonism with Supergirl sooner, and some explanation of Cat’s change in personality. I’m surprised this is a story that Sterling saw as the final story. Although maybe if he’d had more time than two years, he would have gotten to that story sooner than later.

In a September 21, 2009 interview Gates said that

She still is learning how to be a superhero. That’s my whole take on Supergirl: She’s the most powerful teenager in the universe, and she has no idea how to handle it. So every day — every adventure — is a learning process to teach her different things.

That’s where she was a year ago. Supergirl #59 will find Kara in a much stronger place, much more sure of herself and comfortable with being Supergirl.

Are you listening, future writers? Continue that story.

It’s not about villains or guest stars or high stakes monster action set pieces – and those have their place – it’s about how everything that happens to Supergirl, every adventure, helps her grow as a hero. Make me care about the character. I don’t care about the crazy shit and random guest stars/villains – they could appear in anyone’s book. However! A rival or foil whose story I care about like Superwoman’s, give me more. I didn’t care about Reactron but I cared about Lucy and Alura as people. There are a lot of stories left to tell about Lucy.

Kara’s supporting cast – Lana Lang, Alura, Thara Ak-Var, Cat, Superwoman, Dr. Light – are/have all been integral parts of Kara’s story. Don’t lose that cast. Continue that life as Linda Lang that Gates and Igle set up. Have her team up with the Teen Titans (if you must…sigh) but don’t ditch that life she has with Lana. It would be a crime not to keep Lana on as Kara’s big sister/aunt. (And they could adopt Cass Cain, or another of DC’s many abandoned female characters! ETA: I’m kidding about Cassandra: she should be Batgirl again and part of the bat-family. Go Batgirls!)