Superhero comic readers are used to seeing the marquee characters of the cape and tights set gathering at satellite bases or in shimmering sky rises, but the latest launch from BOOM! Studios places a set of recognizable archetypes far away from the action of most comics and into a whole new world: the suburbs. In "Grace Randolph's Supurbia," a team of heroes known as the Meta Legion led by the aging patriot Marine Omega and featuring a cast of superior men, dark vigilantes and wondrous warrior women settle together in a pre-planned development, and the focus of the story is seen through the eyes of their often beleaguered spouses.
The series creator and writer is known by many for her hosting of online geek culture videos across the internet, but Randolph has also been writing comics for a number of years with projects like BOOM!'s "Muppet Peter Pan" and Marvel's "Her-oes." And last week at Emerald City Comic Con, BOOM! announced that "Supurbia" would continue as an ongoing starting later this year with a new #1 meaning plenty more typing in Randolph's future.
With "Supurbia" #2 now on sale (check out CBR's exclusive preview here) and the announcement that an ongoing was on the way, CBR spoke to Randolph about the story to date, her inspiration from books like "Gotham Central," the impact of series artist Russel Dauterman, making the characters of the Meta Legion more than mere homages and what twists and turns lie in store for new super wife Eve by the end of the four-issue mini series.
CBR News: Grace, the general background for this book is one a lot of comic readers can readily identify – the world's biggest superheroes team up and also share a suburban development together. But your specific focus in "Supurbia" is the spouses to the heroes and telling their side of the story. What was the attraction to that angle for you?
I have two action figures on my shelf: Alfred Pennyworth and Jim Gordon from the DC Direct "Hush" line. Like a lot of readers, I've always been drawn to the supporting cast in superhero comics but I find they don't get a lot of time in the spotlight. I think "Gotham Central" was the only mainstream comic to truly focus on the "real" characters that inhabit these universes - and it was a great comic!
The other side of the coin is that as an avid comic book reader, I've noticed there isn't a lot of diversity in the types of personalities portrayed in comics - both men and women. So another driving force behind "Supurbia" is to put certain kinds of people into the comic book universe that aren't usually there, and at the same time use those new characters to twist the familiar characters.
Obviously, you're playing with a lot recognizable tropes and archetypes in the series. What do you do to make these characters both in and out of costume stand out as uniquely their own?
Like I said, "Supurbia" is all about twisting those tropes and archetypes. I see a lot mainstream characters stuck in a corner these days, like a wind-up toy with nowhere to go yet they can't change direction. And I understand that because these are big companies that have to maintain brands that bring in huge amounts of money. But in "Supurbia," I can tear down walls and take risks.
So of course, you're supposed to recognize these archetypes at first glance but then the fun comes in watching them change before your eyes. As the series continues, you'll see the superheroes of "Supurbia" deviate more and more from what inspired them and - hopefully readers will agree - reach new levels of potential.
Congratulations on making it to an ongoing after having just one issue out! While you originally were planning on four issues for the series, is taking this world further something you were thinking about from the start?
Well first off, I have to thank everyone who bought "Supurbia" #1 and spread the word, because that's why it was made into an ongoing. And as someone who does videos on YouTube I'm used to being able to interact with viewers, so thank goodness for Twitter which is helping me interact with readers.
Yes, the original plan was for four issues and we'd see how it goes. But the whole team - myself, Russell, editor Eric Harburn - threw all our creative energy into these four issues and didn't hold anything back because we really hoped it would become an ongoing. I think I can fairly say "Supurbia" isn't just a job for us, or a stepping stone, but a book we all truly believe in.
In fact, [BOOM! Publisher] Ross Richie and [Editor-in-Chief] ]Matt Gagnon's belief in "Supurbia" has been amazing from the start. They are 100% the right home for "Supurbia," and I'm very fortunate I happened to already have a pitch meeting set with Matt the very weekend I came up with the idea!
We see this story unfold through the eyes of Eve – the newest wife to the community who has a lot going on in a short time. What drew you to her as a POV character, and what about her story do you hope will draw readers in?
Eve is the focal point for the first four issues, but going forward it will switch up. I think it has to with a cast this big. But I imagine readers will continue to be drawn to Eve going forward anyway because she's like them – new to the Meta Legion community. And she's also a fellow fan! Only her superheroes are real instead of on the page or the screen.
As for why I picked her to be the POV character, in addition to being new to the community, is that she's an agent of change – and, as readers will see, a pawn of change as well. Something big is happening to the Meta Legion, and Eve happens to be right in the middle of it. The question is will she be able to stop it from happening.
On the other side of the coin, we've got Ruth – the wife of patriot proto-superhero Marine Omega...or is she? Readers know that she is some kind of shape-shifting saboteur. What can you tell us about who the real Ruth is, who she's working for and what her ultimate plan will be by issue #4?
Well I certainly don't want to ruin the ending of this arc! All I will say is that you'll get SOME answers by issue #4. That's because "Ruth" is not big on monologuing. I'm trying to interject an element of realism into "Supurbia," which means villains that are not only dangerous but effective. I'm not a big fan of villains that are all bark but no bite.
Of course, you've got a whole neighborhood of people in play: Helen "Hella" Heart, the villainess turned secret girlfriend of Sovereign. Alexis, who controls Night Fox's Fortune 500 company as he cheats on her with his sidekick Agent Twilight. And meek explorer/Mr. Mom Jeremy's relationship with his domineering wife/Amazonian warrior princess Batu. Which of these stories have been the most fun for you as a writer, and which will have the biggest impact on the story of Ruth and Eve?
They're all fun! All three of these are great examples of what we talked about above – twisting archetypes. When I began to develop "Supurbia," I thought to myself who would ACTUALLY end up with these superheroes? What problems would they have to be willing to put up with? And who would these superheroes even happen to meet in their day to day activities? Because we're all at the mercy of our social circle when it comes to finding a mate.
Now, I don't want to give away how these couples met because that's something readers will learn over time as "Supurbia" continues. But for instance with Batu, while most guys might think it would be awesome to date a beautiful warrior, I think her condescending attitude would get old real fast. However Jeremy Metzger is an explorer who studies ancient and modern cultures. As a natural observer, he's emotionally distant to start with. Pair that with an endless fascination in how Batu interacts with the world outside her tribe and he's all set! However, as we're seeing, Batu's behavior is having a devastating effect on her son, Eli.
It's hard to say who will have the biggest impact on this first arc aside from Ruth and Eve, but I will say that desperation drives Helen to make a pretty big move in issue #3.
One maybe overlooked aspect of the story is how the kids of the neighborhood are not just dealing with their parents very different lifestyles but maybe even engaging the superhero world themselves. Will this play out as a major thread in the mini series, or is that something that you're looking to expand in the ongoing?
You'll see the roles of the kids expanded right here in the first arc! Look for all three of their roles – Sara, Eli and Zari – to grow through issue #4, and continue to do so in the ongoing. To me, the kids are just as important as the adults in this story. And I think readers feel that way too! I've had a number of people tell me that Eli is their favorite character.
Your artist on the series is Russell Dauterman. What's his interpretation of these characters been like for you as a writer? Will he be continuing into the ongoing?
BOOM found Russell for "Supurbia" and he is, quite simply, a perfect match. Interestingly, we have very similar creative reference points which I think helps. Before he was hired, I'd put together notes on how all the characters should look complete with pictures I pulled off the internet. BOOM gave that to Russell, and he not only interpreted it perfectly but took it to the next level. As I've said before, I like to think that I give Russell pages that are a 10 and he cranks them up to 11! Every writer should be so fortunate as to have the kind of working relationship that I do with Russell.
And yes, Russell will continue with the ongoing - hooray!
Finally, we've got a lot of twists left in the story of Ruth's betrayal before we get to the ongoing. What can readers expect from the rest of the mini, and in what ways is the current book a "pilot" for your broader plans once the monthly kicks off?
As I said above about wanting villains to be effective, I feel that way about the whole book. As a reader, I hate it when comics never really progress but just go in endless circles. I can promise readers that the Meta Legion will be forever changed by this first arc, and that it will keep on changing as "Supurbia" will always move forward. No filler issues. No pulled punches. My goal is for readers to look forward to "Supurbia" every month because they know each issue will be packed with the kind of twists and surprises they can't find in the usual superhero books.
With this first arc vs the ongoing, obviously the ongoing gives us a lot more room to play and I can introduce even bigger ideas and set pieces. Like Mongolia. Yep, that's right, we're going to Mongolia - and so much more!
So again, a HUGE thanks to the quickly growing community of "Supurbia" readers. I know the books have been selling out and are therefore hard to find, but people's dedication to getting them anyway – which I hear about on Twitter and Facebook – is just so appreciated. And to show my thanks, I'll continue to make sure your hard work is rewarded with a great comic!
See you online!
Readers can connect with Randolph on Twitter via @GraceRandolph. Stay tuned to CBR for more on "Supurbia."