Exclusive Interview: Sterling Gates

Supergirl Sterling Gates

I was lucky enough to meet Sterling Gates a couple years ago at Comic Con, through one of my favorite authors – Mel Odom. Gates had just been hired to write for the Supergirl comic series, and was able to share some of the preliminary sketches. I was very excited, as Supergirl is one of the few comics that I still keep up with. (This will be no surprise to those who know I named my dog “Lois Lane.”). From the Silver Banshee to the latest New Krypton storyline, Supergirl has had quite a wild ride since Gates came on board. Now Gates shares with readers about what’s coming next for Supergirl and his experience with the DC Comics world.

What can you tell us about the latest Supergirl story arc?

It’s a dark time for the Girl of Steel. We’re coming out of the WAR OF THE SUPERMEN, an arc that featured the destruction of the planet New Krypton and the death of Supergirl’s mother, Alura. So she’s in a pretty dark place, both physically and emotionally. She’s been away for a few weeks, just getting her head back on straight, and she’s just returned to Metropolis and moved back in with Lana Lang. Lana acts as a big sister-type to Kara, helping her in ways that not even Superman can. And that’s where we pick up.

Kara’s dealing with the loss of her people, and coming to terms with what she perceives as her culpability in their deaths. That’s a lot for a teenager to handle, even if they are a superhero, so she’s got a lot to think about.

Then a twisted and scary version of Supergirl arrives in the form of a villain named BizarroGirl. BizarroGirl is exactly that, a Bizarro version of Supergirl, and she crashes down in the middle of Metropolis. Intense mayhem ensues. [laughs]

The next arc is about responsibility and dealing with regret and remorse, though. It seems like a romp though the streets on the surface, but there’s a lot going on there emotionally and physically for Supergirl.

Can you tell us about any new villain(s) Supergirl will be facing? Any spoilers?

Well, coming out of New Krypton, I wanted to start adding new and different villains to Supergirl’s rogue’s gallery We’re introducing a completely new “cosmic” villain to the DCU in the BizarroGirl arc, and then I’m dusting off an old Legion of Super-Heroes villain for Supergirl Annual #2, which is out this fall.

After that, there are a couple familiar faces coming, and a couple new ones that I’ve been setting up since I started writing the book. Long time readers will be rewarded for their patience!

Tell us a bit about yourself and your experience in writing. How did you get your start?

I was always interested in writing. I used to write short stories in middle school and drew my own comics in high school and college. As I got older, I got more and more interested in film, and eventually I decided that I wanted to be a writer/director. I studied film at OU, and had it in my head I could be Preston Sturges someday.

Halfway through college, though, I realized I was a stronger writer than director, and after graduation I moved to LA to learn to write for television. I got an entry-level job as a writer’s room production assistant on a show called Blade the Series. After we were canceled, one of the writer-producers, Geoff Johns, hired me to be his personal assistant.

A year and a half into that job, Geoff helped me pitch and sell a short story to DC Comics called “Fear is a Baby’s Cry.” The editor on that story, Eddie Berganza, eventually offered me more Green Lantern work, and that sort of kicked off my comics writing career.

Then one day, I started talking to Geoff about Supergirl, and he told me I should pitch my idea for the character to DC. I wrote a spec script, Geoff read it, gave me advice, consulted with James Robinson, who was writing Superman. The two of them agreed that they liked it, so they sent it in to the Superman Group Editor, Matt Idelson. Matt liked it and he hired me to write Supergirl full-time.

What are your favorite comics/superheroes?

In no particular order: Superman, Supergirl, The Flash, Robin, Kid Flash, Longshot, Tarzan (I know, literary hero, but I loved the comic version), Batman, Dr. Strange, The Legion of Super-Heroes. Doctor Who (who’s very much a superhero). The Monster Squad (superheroes in their own right).

But for comics, DC Comics and their characters. I’m a DC Comics kinda guy.

What are some other ongoing series that you’d like to work on after Supergirl?

Oh, man. There are a lot. Pretty much any DC book. Like I said, DC Comics are my favorite comics, so I like and want to work on most of the characters over there. I’d love to do Firestorm, the Teen Titans, Batman. I’ve got a year long Superman story that I’d love to tell. The Legion of Super-Heroes. The Justice League. The Doom Patrol. Too many series to list, really!

Who are some of your favorite writers and artists?

Writers, I’d say: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Jeph Loeb, James Robinson, Greg Rucka, George RR Martin, Robert Jordan, Craig Thompson, Gerry Conway, Len Wein, Stephen King, Timothy Egan, Russell T. Davies, Stephen Moffat, Paul Cornell, Joss Whedon. Those’re just the ones off of the top of my head, if you really want to know, come find me at a show and I’ll give you the long version!

If we’re talking about comic artists, same thing, I could go on for days. I love a lot of the guys I work with, such as Jamal Igle, Matt Camp, Eddy Barrows. Brian Bolland’s a favorite of mines, so is Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. Gary Frank. David Finch. My favorite painters, though, are Frank Frazetta and NC Wyeth. Brilliant artists, both of them.

What do you do when you’re not writing? In your spare time?

I play guitar. Read a lot and draw. Hang out with my girlfriend. I’ve been playing video games a lot lately. I’m traveling a lot this summer and doing a bunch of conventions.

What inspires you?

Good movies. Books that move me. Music. Television. Other people. I love people. I know a lot of writers who are semi-reclusive, who don’t like talking to people. I think that’s a mistake. Everyone has something interesting going on in their lives, so I just love listening to people talk about themselves.

Also, I find talking to other writers inspirational. I love hearing about their ideas and what they’re working on at that moment.

If you could have any super power, what would it be?

The ability to stop time, so I could make all of my deadlines! [laughs]

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