Exclusive Interview: Michael Alan Nelson Builds A New World For The Girl of Steel in Supergirl


[[wysiwyg_imageupload:7913:]]Superman turns 75, Man of Steel debuts at the box office, comics left and right reflect the importance of this hero among heroes as they bear his familiar logo! So where does that all leave Cousin Kara?

To find out, Cosmic Book News Managing Editor Byron Brewer exclusively chatted with new Supergirl writer Michael Alan Nelson about the state of New 52 Kara’s life, her painfully slim rogues gallery, her differences from former iterations and where her life is headed.

Cosmic Book News: Mike, that was quite a bold move and very un-New 52-ish to feature Kara with her doppelganger from Earth 2, Power Girl, in your first issue. What led to that?

Michael Alan Nelson: I wish I could claim that it was my idea, but that storyline was already set in motion when I started. But it was a lot of fun to take such a great set-up by Mike Johnson and play with it. I’m really happy with how it turned out.

CBN: This girl coming of age storyline reminds me of when Supergirl was first created and kept a secret from the public by Superman until she was formally introduced in a Grand Parade. Is there any material from those early stories that you’re looking to get for the New 52 Supergirl?

Michael Alan Nelson: Most definitely not, no. I really want to come up with as much new material as possible. There will always be a core set of concepts with primary characters, their origins, their place in the universe, etc. But the great thing about the New 52 is that it’s really conducive to new stories, new ideas, new characters and situations. And though it’s nice to be able to mine older stories for ideas and inspiration, I really want to find something new. Supergirl is such a rich character and with so much to her story yet to be told.     

CBN: Were you a fan of the character before taking over the book with issue #20? What is it about Kara that makes you want to tell her story?

Michael Alan Nelson: I love the underdog aspect to her character. She always seems to be defined by her relationship with her cousin, Superman. And I want to explore how she comes into her own, learns to define herself on her own terms. Plus I find her situation simply fascinating. She’s lost everything and desperately wants to find a place to call home, to have a family, to have relationships. But all these epic-level hardships keep getting in the way of that. I think it will be fun to see how she’s able to create a life for herself while dealing with all of these situations. If she can at all. I see Kara twenty years from now, living a well-rounded, healthy life with a great circle of friends and family all while dealing with problems only a person with her strength and intellect can. But right now she’s not even remotely close to being that person. How does she get there? What happens along the way? And that’s what I want to explore. I want to see Kara’s failures and successes she experiences along her journey into womanhood.   


CBN: You have said you would like to add more adventure to Supergirl’s stories. How do you keep those fresh and different from those of her male cousin?

Michael Alan Nelson: Keeping her adventures fresh and different is always a struggle. But adventures are usually an extension of the main character’s own internal struggles. Since both have different desires and challenges in life, the nature of their adventures will be different. Some things may overlap, especially if they are dealing with the same villain, but I think their approaches to conflict (and choices of which conflicts to approach) are different enough to keep their adventures from being too similar. At least that’s my hope. 

CBN: Supergirl is in desperate need of her own rogues gallery. What new big-bads might we expect to challenge Kara during your run on the book, Mike?

Michael Alan Nelson: Oh, dear. That is a good question. I’m really looking forward to helping develop villains specific to Supergirl and I think “Sanctuary”is a step in that direction. And it’s already been solicited so it’s safe to mention “Cyborg Superman.” I know many readers are thinking that he isn’t Supergirl’s villain. And they may be right. And they may be wrong. We’ll just have to wait and see. But in addition to all of that, we’re definitely working to build her rogues gallery. It’s going to take some time, but we’re getting there.  

CBN: As we have seen during the myriad talent changes on the Superman family titles, it is not easy to write decent adventures of Kryptonians who are invulnerable and can do almost anything. How do you face this challenge with Supergirl going forward?

Michael Alan Nelson: For me, the key is the word you used: invulnerable. It’s an incomplete description of the “Super Family.” They are physically invulnerable (for the most part, anyway). So how do you create challenges for a person who is, for all intents and purposes, a god? I do it by trying to focus on where they are vulnerable. Their emotions, their intellect. It’s still tough, but if I can find a way to play with Supergirl’s head instead of just beating her up, I think it makes for a bit more interesting situation.    

CBN: This year will be a big one for Superman and his family of books, with new comics revolving around him to the Man of Steel movie debut. How will this affect Supergirl and what role will she play in her cousin’s life?

Michael Alan Nelson: On a story level, it’s more about how much of a role her cousin will play in HER life. The answer to that is probably more than she wishes he would. She’s still working out her relationship with him and isn’t fond of the idea that the world defines her by her relationship with her cousin. But on a meta-level, this is the summer of Superman. So I’m sure there will be some cross-pollination going on. And it’s going to be fun seeing how that affects Supergirl and the challenges she’ll be facing.

CBN: Mike, you have been known for your writing of indie horror titles. Will any of that horror genre slip into the Girl of Steel’s magazine?

Michael Alan Nelson: Yes. Though I’m really focused on bringing a sense of fun and adventure to the title, there are some dark things coming up for Kara. Those who are familiar with my work know that I am always particularly cruel to my protagonists. But the reason I do that is because I believe that when a character is plunged into darkness, it makes their rise into the light that much sweeter. The trick is finding the right balance between fun, humor, and just enough darkness to keep the reader on her toes. I admit that I sometimes lean a little too much one way or the other, but if I do my job well, it will all even out in a way that makes the stories compelling.   


CBN: What does artist Mahmud Asrar bring to the book? Why is he right for Supergirl?

Michael Alan Nelson: Mahmud brings awesomeness. Lots and lots of awesomeness. Plain and simple. He does expressions really well and I think that’s key for a title like Supergirl. Kara is dealing with some overwhelming situations and a conflux of powerful emotions that get embroiled together. Mahmud is able to really get that across, even in the middle of action. He really makes this series come alive in a way that makes it just a joy to read.   

CBN: Mike, are there any current or future projects you would like to talk about?

Michael Alan Nelson: I have new series called Day Men coming out for BOOM! Studios that I’m writing with Matt Gagnon with Brian Stelfreeze on art and I’m also working on a young adult novel that I hope to be able to officially announce very soon.

Cosmic Book News would like to thank Michael Alan Nelson for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. CBN also thanks DC’s own Alex Segura and Alex Nagorski who helped make this interview possible.

“Supergirl” #21 hits shelves June 19th!