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Supergirl TV series comes to life in comics

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Matthias Clamer/Warner Bros

Much like The Flash and Green Arrow before her, Supergirl is getting her own comic — well, another one, this time, based on the CBS superhero series of the same name.

First released as a digital comic earlier this year, The Adventures of Supergirl will hit comic book stores on May 11. The first of the twice-monthly print periodical collects the first three digital chapters, which were written by comic book vet Sterling Gates, with art by Bengal. EW caught up with the longtime DC writer to get the scoop on the connection between the show and The Adventures of Supergirl:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was the goal in re-creating another Supergirl comic considering the show is already based on the comics?

STERLING GATES: The whole goal of the comic was to do stuff that I didn’t think would show up on the show, while at the same time taking place pretty firmly in the world that the producers of the show have developed. Kara (Melissa Benoist) works at the DEO, she works for CatCo as a day job, and her secret identity is Kara Danvers, but she has an adopted family and hangs out with her sister, Alex (Chyler Leigh), a lot. It was important to root these stories within that world, but then go off and do crazy side stories that slot in within the show’s continuity, but aren’t necessarily beholden to a straight adaptation.

Timeline wise, where does the comic fit into the continuity of the show?

Eagle-eyed readers can figure out exactly when each comic issue takes place, because we drop little hints and Easter eggs along the way. The 13-chapter story takes place before episode 10 of season 1. But if you really want to dig into it, you can find chapters 1-3 take place after episode 4. You can do that if you’d like, but we didn’t want to be too heavy handed with that. It’s early in Supergirl’s career. She’s just come out as this new superhero in National City, so we’re watching her grow as forces seem to align against her.

Do you have more freedom to do stuff the show might not be able to do on a TV budget?

Yeah, that’s the fun of comic books. The only limit is really your imagination and what an artist can draw. There are no budgets. For people who haven’t read the digital book, we go to some really strange places. We do this very long dream battle that goes deep into Supergirl’s psyche and deep into a dreamscape. As a result, you get a Lord of the Rings-style battle, followed by a battle versus other versions of Supergirl; just crazy comic book stuff there’s no way the show could necessarily do on budget or necessarily want to do. We play into a lot of comic book tropes and put Kara through some comic book style stories the show might not want to deal with.  

How much are you working with the Supergirl producers on the story to make sure the continuity works out?

Fairly closely; more so at the start of season 1 than right now. I had a bunch of meetings last summer with [executive producer] Andrew Kreisberg and we talked out a story. I pitched a bunch of villains that I wanted to use, and he said, “Go for it.” He’s been checking in, and we’ve been talking as its gone along. By the time I came on board, they had a bunch of scripts written, so I had an idea of where things were going within the continuity of the show, so I could dance between episodes and play with that.

Are there particular previous Supergirl storylines in the comics that you’re drawing inspiration from at all?

I wrote Supergirl from 2008 to 2011, we did a run on the book during New Krypton saga. I suspect the reason they called me is because they had read those books and wanted me to come back and do Supergirl stories. To me, it just feels like writing the character that I’ve always known, loved, and that I’ve written before in terms of tone and who Kara is internally. It feels like an extension of the books we did back then, but set in a slightly different world, which isn’t to say I wasn’t looking at other Supergirl stuff. As a guy who used to write that book, I’m pretty well-versed in the Supergirl lore. We make reference to a lot of different Supergirl stories throughout, particularly in the dream battle chapters. I made a point to drop a lot of Easter eggs for longterm Supergirl fans — referencing stuff from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. But our main inspiration is the show. We take what they’re doing on the show and our goal is to build their world further in ways that they might not do on screen.

Is there anything you can’t do?

Pretty much everything that was in my initial pitch is in the book. They said no to a couple super villains that I pitched early on just because there were either plans for them on the show or they just said no. I don’t know that they’ve said really no to anything we’ve tried. They seemed very willing to go with me on this journey that I put Kara on. It feels a lot like we’re only limited by imagination and what we can draw. We have crazy battles. We opened issue 1 in the middle of a giant football stadium with people running around and Rampage, who is an old Superman villain, tearing things up and throwing buses. She rips off the goal posts and smacks Supergirl with it; stuff that’s easy to do in a comic book, but might not be something they could pull off on a television show.

The producers of the show have said time and again that this is Supergirl’s story, so they don’t plan to make Superman a focus. Do you follow the same party line for the comics?

Absolutely. It always comes back to Supergirl. The story we’re telling in Adventures of Supergirl is about Supergirl, because it’s Adventures of Supergirl. She is the hero in her story, and it should be about her, and it should be about what she’s going through. She’s going to encounter a new villain in the story that will take her to some pretty unexpected, dark places by the end, but it’s about her. I wouldn’t want to write a story called Supergirl that is about anybody else.

DC Comics
DC Comics
DC Comics
DC Comics
DC Comics
DC Comics