Marriage and family can be challenges enough for some people. But adding in supervillains and shape-shifters definitely makes things more interesting.
This November, BOOM! Studios is bringing back its "superheroes in the suburbs" series "Supurbia" for an ongoing run from creators Grace Randolph and Russell Dauterman. The series spins the behind-the-scenes stories of the Meta Legion – an all-star assemblage of iconic superheroes who move their spouses into the same suburban complex to live as a community while they save the world. The mini series introduced the concept through the eyes of Eve – a registered nurse who's husband was a former sidekick to patriotic team founder Marine Omega.
With a mini series ender that saw a traitorous shape-shifter in the guise of Marine Omega's wife Ruth kill off the aging hero to take control of the team, Eve and company's story is looking to get more complicated as it moves to a monthly ongoing. CBR News spoke with Randolph about how the team is adjusting to life, how she's adjusting to a long-form story, why the opening arc of the new series will focus on cape-wearing alien Sovereign and what makes "Supurbia" more like a cable drama than a superhero universe comic.
CBR News: Grace, there may still be a few people out there who haven't picked up or maybe haven't even heard the full story of "Supurbia" to date. In a nutshell, what should folks know going in to issue #1, and what about this new ongoing series is different than what they had to know before the mini came out?
Grace Randolph: Ever wondered what it would be like to be in a relationship with a superhero? Or start a family with one? Well Supurbia is about just that, but not the honeymoon period – the nitty gritty! For the ongoing, it's really nice that the trade for the mini series is coming out the same day so readers can easily catch up if they want to experience the story from day one. However, new readers can also feel free to just jump right in and the story catches them up in broad strokes – this is a very reader-friendly book.
One major new factor effecting the whole cast of this series is the fact that Eve has organized the non-powered members of the Meta Legion's community into a new kind of "think tank" for the team's activities. How does this status quo serve to open up the book and reintroduce us to the cast?
One of my favorite lines in the first issue of the ongoing is when Tia reminds Eve that just because these spouses aren't superheroes doesn't mean they don't lead busy lives. I feel it's commonplace to think that supporting characters are willing to just drop everything when their superhero comes calling, but that's not the case in "Supurbia"! So in the first arc of the ongoing, Eve is not only trying to get this group off the ground but hold it together period – just like in real life when anyone tries to start something. As for the effect Eve's group has on the story, in this first arc it'll be seeing how each character's new role in this group makes them feel about themselves. For instance, Helen isn't thrilled about being the "super-villain consultant" as she's trying to distance herself from her past.
The other huge change that hit at the end of the last series was the death of foundational hero Marine Omega. How much time has past since that incident, and how are the Meta Legion dealing with that loss still?
Well remember, as far as the Meta Legion is concerned Mike White died of wounds he received in battle – something they were already bracing for as he was not only a much older member of the group but sick to begin with. They have no idea he was slowly being poisoned and then murdered, and they won't know for some time! I also think a number of the members in the group where bristling under Mike's old school leadership and were eager for change. Now that he's gone, they feel they can finally do things their way and so when the ongoing starts – about a month after the mini series – it's a very heady atmosphere. But as a result, the team is directionless and its members are spinning out of control both personally and professionally.
Of course, I can't ask about the legacy of Marine Omega and not mention the entity that killed him – a malevolent force that's taken over the identity of his wife Ruth. What can you say about your larger plan for that very significant plot point? Would you consider fake Ruth the "Big Bad" of the series, and if so, how soon will her full plan come to light?
They always say that real power is wielded by "the woman behind the man," which is why this shapeshifter impersonated Mike White's wife in the first place. Yet when she discovered that Mike didn't listen to his wife's advice, she killed him and now advises his replacement as Marine Omega, Robbie. And since Robbie is so desperate for recognition and approval as a superhero, he really listens to "Ruth." This creates a problem with Robbie's wife Eve not only in that Eve feels she should be advising Robbie, but because it underlines the fact she isn't as supportive of Robbie as she should be - which is why "Ruth" is able to manipulate him so easily. But as far as "Ruth" is concerned, she's achieved her goal of controlling the Meta Legion and isn't going anywhere! She will reveal her shapeshifting ability to some key characters in this first arc, and we'll see her start to make some big moves this summer - but she's only one of Supurbia's villains. In this first arc, we'll be focusing on former super-villain Helen aka Hella Heart as she tries to redeem herself and her ex-boyfriend Hector Hunt as he tries to lure her back into the fold.
On the flip side of that coin, we know two of our most important characters are the new Marine Omega and his wife Eve – the newest members of the team/community. Since Eve served as our "point of view" character in the first series, what's her journey like in the ongoing now that he husband has stepped up beyond the sidekick role?
Ah, this is where I think "Supurbia" gets interesting and differs from other comic books! Since "Supurbia" has such a large and diverse cast, every arc will focus on a different couple. So while the mini series focused on Robbie and Eve, this first arc of the ongoing will focus on Sovereign and Helen. But as I noted earlier, Eve spends this first arc of the ongoing trying to make her new group a success, which means pushing certain people - sometimes with unintended results.
One new piece of the puzzle we've been teased is this mystery woman starring in an issue #1 variant cover who seems to be quite taken with alien hero Sovereign. What's her role to play in this new series, and how does she complicate Sovereign's already complicated life?
That is Hayley Harper, the journalist we saw briefly on the news in the mini series. She is Sovereign's first girlfriend whom he dumped for former super-villain Helen, and to say she's not taking it well would be an understatement! But while we know Sovereign is living with Helen, the rest of the world only knows that Helen hasn't been seen for two years. Even Hayley doesn't know for sure that they're together. However she feels if she can prove he's sleeping with a murderer who should be jail, it'll be a worthy revenge for leaving her in the lurch both professionally and personally. This is obviously very bad news for Helen, who not only is afraid of being locked up for her past crimes but is trying to forget them - something that's hard to do when Hayley Harper begins to publicly ask why the US government hasn't been able to bring Helen to justice.
The rest of the cast is diverse in their stories and family situations as well. While I'm sure you've got plans for all of them in the months ahead, who comes out the gate in the first issue of this new series and really shakes things up? Is it a challenge to balance so many cast members, or have you found a method of balancing everything out that works well for you and Russell?
Again, I think what really helps is that every arc a new couple gets a turn in the spotlight. But you're right, that doesn't mean the other cast members disappear! While Sovereign and Helen are the main focus of this first arc in the ongoing, we'll also see Batu take Eli to Mongolia to meet her tribe as well as a resolution to the love triangle between Alexis, Paul and Gio. It is a challenge to balance so many characters, however both Russell and I are very emotionally invested in each one – which I think, I hope, comes through in the storytelling. We're careful to make sure everyone gets at least a moment to shine each arc, if not issue.
Speaking of the crafting of the series, what's been your experience overall doing an ongoing as opposed to a mini for the first time? Are there any elements you feel you can do in this book now that you couldn't have done even with a series of minis?
This is my first ongoing, and it's totally different than I expected! Seriously, you can't really understand how much work it is until you actually do it, and my hat goes off to anyone who does. That said, while it is a challenge it's a wonderful one to have! I couldn't be prouder of how the ongoing is coming along, and I'd say that everyone across the board is stepping up their game. Getting the greenlight to become an ongoing is totally because of reader demand, and all of us take that stamp of approval very seriously. And yes, there is so much more I can do in the ongoing than I could in the mini. The mini laid the foundation, so now I can really begin to explore the world of "Supurbia" and its characters in earnest. Russell and my imaginations are the limit and, believe me, I'm testing them!
On the whole, the story of the Meta Legion includes some meta-commentary on superheroes roles in the public eye. What makes that story aspect attractive to you as a writer, and how will the clever twists on "normal" superhero universe mutate as this ongoing gets rolling?
One of the reasons I created this book was because I was frustrated as a comic book reader. Now with "Supurbia," I can "fix" my problems with not just comic book characters but comic book storytelling. To a large degree, I feel that while the explosion of comic book movies and television shows has brought some much needed attention to the medium, it's also put huge corporate demands on it – demands that have backed the medium into a creative corner. I'd liken "Supurbia" to cable television, while the Big Two are like network television. I can do things they can't, and I'm going to continue to do that. And I think "Supurbia" is getting a lot of attention because there are a number of comic book readers who are equally frustrated.
Lastly, you're continuing to work with artist Russell Dauterman on the book. What about Russell's work on the mini really realized your vision for the book, and what kinds of things have you been putting in the new scripts with an eye towards his particular skills?
I love working with Russell! We just get each other. And it's funny, because we have the same visual taste, be it Disney Animation to vintage travel posters! Plus as we just said, "Supurbia" plays with superhero archetypes, yet it is still a superhero book - and Russell's style walks that fine line perfectly. Finally, I also appreciate how committed Russell is to "Supurbia." It takes much longer to draw a comic than write it, and sometimes an artist will tell a writer to dial the story back because of time restraints. Russell has never done that, which has been a huge asset to me as a writer - I know that I can throw any idea out there, and he will catch it. And the big winner, I sincerely believe, is the reader.