Sterling Gates On Weaving Between Episodes In ‘Adventures of Supergirl’ [Interview]
CBS' Supergirl television show is one of the most fun and enjoyable superhero adaptations in recent memory, a true all-ages superhero show with an abundance of action, drama and most of all, heart. While we have to wait until DC Rebirth for Supergirl to return to the main DC Universe, comic fans have been getting their fix with the digital-first series Adventures of Supergirl by Sterling Gates and a roster of amazing artists, which updates every other Monday.
While originally planned to be digital-only before being collected in print, the adaptation has been so successful that DC is collecting the series into single issues first, beginning next month. Ahead of the print release, ComicsAlliance chatted with Gates about adapting character voices from another medium, weaving in between the continuity of the show, and the differences between writing for digital and print comics.
ComicsAlliance: What’s different about writing Kara Danvers from the Kara Zor-El of the comics?
Sterling Gates: I find their voice to be very similar. The television show Kara Danvers is older than the comic book Kara Zor-El, so you're dealing with a different take on the character because they're at different points in their life. I find the voice the show has developed for Kara is very similar to the comic book voice in that it is an extremely optimistic hopeful young woman who is struggling to come to terms with her life.
If you're familiar with what Jamal Igle and I did back in the day, that whole run was about Supergirl coming to grips with taking on the mantle of the S-Shield and how hard it is to be a teenager and feeling like you have no say in the world, especially when you assume such a powerful symbol.
The show is approaching very similar themes, where Kara is learning to be a hero, learning to think things through. She's brash, she's impulsive, but at her heart she wants to do what's right. I think the show provides a very powerful message in that optimism, and we in the comic are trying to reflect that. In terms of the differences, it feels very similar to me, while at the same time you're talking about two different version of the same character. There are some differences, but hopefully the writing is navigating between the two Karas.
CA: Is it easier or harder trying to emulate the voices of TV characters?
SG: I find it pretty easy. I know people have found it hard before, but I think Melissa [Benoist] does such a great job as Supergirl that that voice is just gonna shine through no matter what. My writing is very much based on her take on the show, so in my head its always her voice doing the lines and doing the narration and all that.
We only put Cat Grant in a couple of scenes, but I think her voice comes through pretty easily. She's got that acidic, snarky, brilliant voice of authority down. I feel like the actors do such a good job that it's easy for me, so I just sit down and its already in my head at that point.
CA: Have you heard any feedback from the actors about their comic book counterparts?
SG: A few tweets here and there. Jeremy Jordan was very excited to see Winn Schott in a comic book. I went on set a few weeks ago and talked to Melissa and she really loves all the artwork, she really love Cat Staggs' covers. As we all do, because Cat Staggs is brilliant.
Everyone is so excited that this comic is coming out. Everyone, both on cast and crew and creative and the producer, everyone's just so happy that this book is coming out digitally and will be coming out physically to comic shops soon.
CA: How much free reign do you have to update characters like Rampage and Vril Dox?
SG: I had a bunch of meeting with [executive producer] Andrew Kreisberg, discussing villains and discussing who I wanted to use, and I pitched him all everybody and I pitched my takes and he gave me the thumbs up. We took it to DC and they gave it the thumbs up, and then we were off to the races.
We're also introducing a new villain soon, Chapter 7 will be the first time you hear of her and she'll be coming along presently to mess up Kara's life pretty drastically.
CA: Do you approach writing for digitally different than writing for print?
SG: I've done some digital DC comics stuff before, I wrote an issue of Flash: Season Zero, but it's a different tool and you have to learn how to use that effectively. When the artist draw these pages, so you can't necessarily do the same type of layout that you can do on a print comic.
Honestly, we've done some gymnastics to make sure that when it goes to print, because it was always going to be a trade paperback, it would read well. That's one of my biggest pet peeves with the digital books, is that sometimes they can read like they're just top-half/bottom-half, so we went to great lengths to make sure that when it went to print it reads great, as a great print comic.
There's definitely a learning curve, it just feels like a different experience. As you're writing it you have to plan on there not being full splash pages or full double page spreads which takes some of the tools out of your toolbox, but thankfully because of how DC approaches digital books, we've been able to sneak some in that readers won't even know about until it goes to print.
There's a great splash page of Rampage in #1 that when you read it digitally it doesn't feel like a splash page, but when you read it in print it opens up the top and the bottom and reads very different. I'm excited because I'm really intrigued to see how different the book will feel for readers jumping from digital to physical, and we'd planned for that all along. I love print comics, and to be able to sneakily really cool print comics while doing digital stuff has been a lot of fun.
SG: We have some really great editors with Kristy Quinn and Jessica Chen, and at the start of this project they gave me the list of the artists they were looking at and as a result of that I was able to plan who was going to draw what story, which allows me to play to an artist's strengths. When you write these types of stories, you always want to play to you artist's strengths.
I'd have conversations with Bengal or with Emanuela Lupacchino and say "I have a story in mind, what do you want to draw" and they've all seen the show so I'd say "What about this world intrigues you? What excites you? What interests you?" and then I would take that feedback and find ways to put it back in the script. The goal when you write these scripts is that everyone should wake up excited to draw that day.
As a result, we got some really stellar work. Cat Staggs is drawing Chapter 10 and she said "I want to draw a story with Alura, and I want to draw a story with lots of emotion, and very tense." So I tailored that script to Cat specifically, because I knew she could nail all those big emotional beats, and there's some big emotional stuff as Supergirl confronts the Alura hologram.
When you do comics they are a collaborative medium, and you always want to make sure your artists are happy, and you always want to make sure you're giving them stuff to draw that excites them, that gets them fired up as much as you're fired up.
CA: If people haven't been following the series and want to jump right in, what can they expect with second half of the digital run?
SG: You're going to see part two of this nightmare story with the villain Psi. We're going to dig deep into Kara's psyche, no pun intended. In Chapter 7, we do a lot of stuff with classic Supergirl easter eggs and I was honestly surprised that my editors liked those things and let them through. I think if you're a fan of Supergirl and Supergirl history, you're going to want to check out Chapter 7.
Chapters 8 and 9 is a story with Supergirl and Alex Danvers, where they go and explore a Fort Rozz splinter site, when Fort Rozz crashed pieces of it broke off and fell across the desert. Chapter 10 is the Alura/Supergirl chapter, then 11/12/13 is the reveal and giant massive battle with our new villain. You can expect to see some cool Hank Henshaw stuff, you can expect to see some cool Winn Schott stuff too.
My goal was to make the end of this story feel like a massive season finale, and editorial agreed, so we pull out all the stops. Emma Vieceli is drawing it and the pages are amazing, just gorgeous. She is an excellent penciller and I think people are going to be blown away by her style. She has a very unique style, and for the grand finale I think people are going to be surprised at how great it is, honestly, she's drawing her heart out.
That's what happens when you're dealing with a property that people have this much affection for. Bengal is a huge Supergirl fan and he was so excited to do those first three chapters, and I think you can see it in the work, you can see how beautiful those pages are.
I'm excited for this stuff, all of the art teams are excited for this stuff. Hopefully all of that excitement shines through because we're having a ball telling these stories and weaving between episodes. I make references to things in episodes throughout so if you watch the show, you get a deeper understanding of where characters are in the story. If you don't watch the show, the story is clean and stands on its own.
That was always my goal, to tell a really great story in this world that you don't have to watch twenty episodes of a television show to get, you can just pick up that story and enjoy it from the get-go.