at CBR, is a very long interview with Matt Sturges on his two issue fill-in arc on Power Girl
CBR News: Matt, July sees you and Sami Basri teaming up on "Power Girl" #26. Will you be writing more issues of the series beyond that?
Matthew Sturges: It's actually two issues, so it's twice the fun! For the time being, I'm just doing the two issues. I love Power Girl; she's always been one of my favorite characters in the DCU. Some might say she's been my favorite character in the DCU. I love her personality so much, she's just sort of brash and brassy. There's not another character really quite like her and writing her has always come really naturally to me. It's always a good time to do Power Girl.
Sturges takes the titular hero to a convention held in her honor in "Power Girl" #26 & 27
Your story takes place at a Power Girl Convention. Is this you getting some of your PG fandom out there?
[Laughs] Maybe so! The image occurred to me of a bunch of people running around dressed as Power Girl. I think when you are at conventions, especially San Diego, you tend to see a lot of Power Girls -- and it's a look that not everyone can pull off. It requires a certain body-type in order to be convincing. The Power Girl costume leave zero to the imagination! The whole sexual politics of Power Girl is something that's kind of interesting, so that's kind of where the idea came from: seeing all these gals at conventions running around in Power Girl costumes and thinking about who those people were. If you had a convention in the DCU that was focused on Power Girl, what would it be like and what would happen? How would they get Power Girl to actually show up at it and what chaos would ensue when she did?
Why would people in the DCU have conventions about heroes (like Power Girl) who actually exist in their world?
My idea has always been that superheroes are sort of the celebrities of the DCU, in the way we look at movie stars or the British look at the Royal family. I've always envisioned there are tabloids devoted to the comings and goings of superheroes and trying to figure out who they really are and wanted to work that concept into comics. I've always been interested in subverting genres and doing meta-commentary on them. This seemed like a good way to do it. I mean, when you think about the DCU and how it functions -- and the Marvel universe in the same way -- the rules and physics of social existence are significantly different from our world. So you have to plot the crossovers with how we act and how people in that world act and find your metaphors. Dealing with a world where things are significantly different from ours gives you the opportunities to create situations you can't have in our world. Moving beyond just bad guys showing up and people fighting, it's trying to make a comment on who we are as people and to show this through the lens of this weird alternate reality that's been created and molded over seventy years.
Because Power Girl, at least in Judd Winick's current run, as well as the previous one by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Amanda Connor, is an comedic and off-beat character, did you feel her comic would be an especially good place to explore those meta ideas, rather than with established heroes like Superman or Batman?
Absolutely. The thing about Power Girl is that she's a character that hasn't been around as long as those characters and isn't as iconic as those characters. She is herself a comment on superheroes because she's this alternate version of Supergirl. The fact that her personality is a little more aggressive and a little brasher gives you a lot of comedic opportunities and certainly that's something that I always play into. It's fun to watch her get annoyed by the things that are going on around her. She's not the most patient person and she doesn't have time for a bunch of crap.
For me, the best thing to do with Power Girl is put her in a situation where she's incredibly annoyed and watch her react. And I want to make comics that are fun and let the reader have a good time; when you are doing a fill-in it's especially important because you have to get in and get out quickly. You don't have the luxury of spinning some big cosmic tale. You have to get in, say something and leave. Sometimes a lighter tone makes that easier.
So, what can you tell us about your Power Girl Con story?
Essentially, Power Girl shows up at a convention she's been talked into appearing at. The reason she's agreed to come is she decided she wants to take advantage of this captive audience of women to talk to them about empowerment. The whole issue is a story about female empowerment. People might say, "What does this guy know about female empowerment?" I guess the answer is not as much as maybe a woman writing the same book, but at the same time it's a subject that deserves to be talked about. I think the more we talk about these kinds of things, the better off we'll be. Even if someone says, "This guy doesn't know what he's talking about; to be empowered as a woman is X," then I've still done my job because I started a conversation.
It's also a story that could appeal to younger readers. You could take an issue of this comic and hand it to a girl who was eleven or twelve years old and they could read it and get something out of it, without having to know anything about Power Girl or the DCU. Make it a gateway drug in a sense, without being condescending. The basic story appears to be about a rabid fan of Power Girl who wants to know everything about her and is actually writing a Master's thesis on Power Girl and her powers. She's done all the comparisons and has decided Power Girl is the most powerful woman in the world. But then you find out her motives are a lot more sinister and she's taken her admiration for Power Girl to a level that is clearly unhealthy. Also, this issue takes place in the zero gravity of outer space, which will be fun, though I'm sure artist Sami Basri is going to miserable. My apologies to Sami that you have to draw the same people floating a room for twenty pages -- best of luck with that!
Sturges first wrote Power girl as part of his and Bill Willingham's "JSA" run
Where were you first exposed to Power Girl? She's not normally a character people point to when listing their favorite DCU superheroes.
You're right. I think my first exposure to her was in Geoff John's "JSA," which is a book I really enjoyed. Geoff is someone who has had a clear understanding of the character, who made the character his own for a really long time and did a really good job in the four issue "JSA Classified" about her origins. That portrait of the character has always stuck with me. He really humanized her and showed this vulnerable side, so that's really where my love for her started. It occurred to me that I've been writing the character for two years, so I guess I've also made some minimal impact on who the character is and how she is to be viewed.
During the time you've been writing her, have you been able to consciously see Power Girl change?
I think so. One of the things I wanted to do was open her up a little bit as a person. She is often in this role of leadership and I think she sees herself as someone who has to be really tough and really strong, often to the detriment of her own relationships. That's something I played with a lot. Also, she's seen as this Marilyn Monroe in spandex and there's a lot of attention paid to her chest. I think she's very cognizant of that and it makes her a little standoffish. That's something I've been very careful about. If you notice, in "JSA" and "JSA All-Stars" I've never, ever once mentioned her breasts. It's a subject I don't want to get into. I don't think it's funny. This issue is the culmination of that because she's decided to open up to these young women and tell them what she thinks it means to have power. The title of the issue is "Girl Power," so that's what it's all about.
That's interesting, as with Power Girl you have this dichotomy of her being a feminist but also being sort of a sex object.
That's the big inner conflict to Power Girl, isn't it? She looks like how she looks. She certainly makes no attempt to hide how she looks. I think that is a legitimate conflict a lot of women have. Again, this is me talking from a man's perspective. I can only talk about my observations and not my experiences. But this desire to want to be beautiful and attractive but at the same time be taken seriously as a person irrespective of that, that's something that men don't have to deal with as much. I always try to play her as a real person. In the DCU the notion of a woman dressing in tight clothes and jumping around and punching people has a different meaning within its own invented culture than if someone was doing that in the real world. We look at that and we say there's obviously selling of sex here, metaphorically speaking. But if you look at how society functions in the DCU, people don't see it that way. There's always that dichotomy of a woman who obviously wants to be taken serious but at the same time dresses in this extravagant, almost outlandish way given her figure. I think that's got to be a source of conflict for that character. But at the same time it's something I've shied away from because I don't want to get involved in gender politics.
I don't know, it sounds like you could write your own Master's thesis on Power Girl!
[Laughs] Maybe I could! I try to be sensitive to that stuff. It's something I spend a lot of time thinking about, especially since I have daughters. I want my daughters to be raised in a world that respects women and gives them the opportunity to be who they are without trying to pigeonhole them. Power Girl embodies that. She doesn't allow herself to be pigeonholed as a sex object or a stone bitch. It's the same problem Hillary Clinton had when she was running for President; there's this weird cognitive dissidence between her perception as a woman and her perception as a politician. When you see a woman being very forceful or aggressive it's perceived differently than if a man is forceful and aggressive. So there are parallels. Anything I can do to help soften that dissonance is a positive.
Achilles is the kind of evil that hollows out a volcano for a lair, and sends killer robots after his enemies.---Lord Simian