Fontana and Garbowska on ‘Super Hero Girls’—and Dinosaurs
DC’s Super Hero Girls comics imagine what some of the most iconic female characters—Batgirl, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and even Harley Quinn—would be like if they all went to the same middle school. We talked to writer Shea Fontana and artist Agnes Garbowska about the series a few weeks ago, and now that they are coming close to the end of this story arc, we thought we’d go back and talk dinosaurs and timelines with them.
The comics are published first in digital format and then in print, and at the end of each story arc they are collected into a graphic novel. The current story, Past Times at Super Hero High, has the girls going on a field trip to the past, and when Harley tucks a dinosaur egg into her backpack, things start going awry. Harley and Batgirl skip through time, trying to set things right… and then the egg hatches, throwing things into further disarray. Chapter 11 of the series debuts this week, and we have a preview below the interview; the story winds up next week with Chapter 12.
What’s your favorite part about writing and drawing this story?
Shea Fontana: I love getting to play with such iconic characters and bringing them to this new wacky challenge. Plus, I get to really focus on Batgirl and Harley, who are two of my favorite characters. It’s fun to mix it up and see some of the alt timeline characters be a bit more like their DC canon counterparts—Frost, Star Sapphire and Cheetah get to be full-on villains in this story. And the baby dino is the most adorable thing in the world. Who wouldn’t want a baby dino?
Agnes Garbowska: My favorite part of drawing the story is getting to work with all the wonderful characters. I have always wanted to work with characters from the DC universe, and Superhero Girls has all of my favorite characters written in such a fun and whimsical way. I really loved working on the story. And did I mention I get to draw dinosaurs? How cool is that! I grew up loving dinosaurs so getting to draw them with the Superhero Girls is extremely fun.
How did you come up with the design for the baby dinosaur, Bitey?
Garbowska: The design was made by a different artist, Marcelo Di Chiara, but I did have a blast drawing it in the story! He is super cute and fun to draw.
Harley has taken a more prominent role in the last few issues, and we are seeing a different side of her when she takes care of Bitey. How did you come up with this plot twist and how does it fit with her character?
Fontana: When you look past Harley’s big, zany, overreactive personality, a lot of who she is stems from her sensitivity and it’s this sensitivity that makes her so intuitively good with Bitey, the dino baby. She doesn’t fear Bitey. Instead, she feels for him and tries to understand what he needs. Harley is drawn to characters that need her and appreciate her, which is part of why she and Batgirl butt heads. Batgirl is fiercely independent and Harley needs validation in ways that don’t come naturally to Batgirl.
Garbowska: As an artist, getting to draw Harley interact with Bitey is really lovely. Harley has a history of interacting with animals in the comics and TV series so it’s really nice that her love of animals (and dinosaurs) has carried over to the Superhero Girls line! Harley does have a very sweet and loving personality to me and it really shows when she takes care of others.
Why did you decide to have two Bumblebees from different timelines in the story?
Fontana: In the seminal episode of DC Super Hero Girls, Wonder Woman and Bumblebee meet and Bumblebee takes Wonder Woman under her “wing.” The whole series starts at that moment, so I thought it would be interesting to see what changes for those characters if we take that moment away, especially from Bumblebee’s perspective. We find that Bumblebee is still this amazing, heroic character, but we begin to see all the ways in which the friendship between Bumblebee and Wonder Woman have enriched both their lives. When you can trust a friend to always be there to catch you, you can reach new heights.
Time travel stories can be confusing! How are you keeping track of all the pieces so you know you will be able to wrap it up and not leave anything out?
Fontana: Oh man, I hope I didn’t leave anything out! I tried to keep the logic consistent and use the time travel as a vehicle to tell this emotionally driven friendship story of Batgirl/Harley and Wonder Woman/Bumblebee. It’s basically just three timelines that we’re dealing with: our regular DC Super Hero Girls timeline, the timeline in which the egg is taken (which allows Vandal Savage to rise to power), and the timeline in which the girls don’t help young Amanda Waller. I love stories with different timelines because it illustrates how our actions change the world. Being a hero is all about taking the action to make the world a better place.
But admittedly, if you think about any time travel story too hard, I think they all fall apart.
Garbowska: As an artist working on a time travel story I have to make sure that each time the girls reach a new setting I make it clear in the background and environment. When there is a clear setting change it helps move the story along clearly and hopefully without confusion to where the characters might be in time. I also had to make sure to keep the setting as accurate as possible to the part of history they are visiting. Doing the research was also very educational for me since I learned a few things about a few of the historic moments I did not previously know.
About Brigid Alverson
Brigid Alverson, the editor of the Good Comics for Kids blog, has been reading comics since she was 4. She has an MFA in printmaking and has worked as a book editor, a newspaper reporter, and assistant to the mayor of a small city. In addition to editing GC4K, she is a regular columnist for SLJ, a contributing editor at ICv2, an editor at Smash Pages, and a writer for Publishers Weekly. Brigid is married to a physicist and has two daughters. She was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards.
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