The revamp of incredibly successful DC Super Hero Girls brand from acclaimed animator Lauren Faust premiered earlier this year and the franchise has reached even greater heights with the new look and tone. Wasting no time, DC Comics has already begun publishing tie-in materials such as the Weird Science digital-first comic last Spring. This week sees the release of the DC Super Hero Girls: At Metropolis High original graphic novel written by Amy Wolfram and illustrated by Yancey Labat.
This isn’t the first dive into the world of DC Comics for either creator, or even the DC Super Hero Girls franchise for that matter. Best known for her work as writer/story editor on the 2003 Teen Titans cartoon, Wolfram actually wrote a few animated shorts for the previous DC Super Hero Girls incarnation while Labat has illustrated tie-in comics for both brand iterations.
The Beat had the chance to talk with both Wolfram and Labat about adjusting their approach with this new version of DC Super Hero Girls as well as channeling their own experiences and John Hughes films.
Taimur Dar: You’ve both worked on the previous incarnation of the DC Super Hero Girls property that preceded the current reboot by Lauren Faust. How do you approach the new version both in terms of art and story?
Yancey Labat: It’s not that tough for me. I used to work for Scholastic for a number of years as the house artist. Every project had a different style so I pretty much have spent my career adapting different styles. All you needed to throw at me was a style guide and a few drawings of things and I was able to develop it based on that. I never had much problem incorporating my work with new styles.
Amy Wolfram: The previous version they were in their superhero identities all the time. So this was a really fun chance to have them go back and forth between their regular high school identities and also the superhero [identities]. That became a really fun plot point as well.
Dar: I’ve heard the voice actors for the show say that DCSHG has been almost therapeutic in that it allows them to channel their own experiences from high school. So I’m curious if you tapped into your own memories from high school while working on the At Metropolis High graphic novel?
Wolfram: I’m sure I did! I think everybody has these relatable things. I’m still going through a lot of the same stuff like meeting new people. This book in particular is about trying something that you may not be good at and learning that you have these skills that you didn’t know. I think that that probably starts in high school but it goes throughout my whole life.
Labat: I think it might start a little before too because I have an 11-year old daughter and she seems to be going through that right now!
Wolfram: Maybe it’s just part of being human. [Laughs]
Dar: Yancy mentioned having a style guide, but was there any communication with Lauren Faust and the animation team directly or was coordination handled by editorial?
Labat: Pretty much the editors. It’s really funny because it was like this with the first version. The animation was just getting going. They didn’t have a lot of information to give me because we’re trying to get the book out around the time the animation started with the original [DCSHG].
So it was through the editor who was trying to get whatever they can out of the animators and they’re going, “Not yet, it’s coming!” That’s usually a little struggle with the first book but it definitely was through the editors. I never spoke with the animators. Although I’d like to!
Dar: Amy, what was it like for you? Had the series aired yet or had you seen any episodes or footage?
Wolfram: My experience was similar too where I hadn’t seen anything. I was sent a lot of scripts so I had read that. The only characters I was able to hear the voices for were Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and Batgirl and that was from the original DC Nation shorts that came out a few years ago. Those characters stayed true into the new Super Hero Girls show.
Labat: I had to kind of work with those also when working on expressions because as mentioned it hadn’t come out yet so I had to get the whole look of how it would feel so I went back to the DC Nation Super Best Friends Forever shorts.
Dar: The last few years have seen a greater push for inclusivity, particularly for female readership, in the superhero genre which has typically been viewed as male dominated. How do you feel DC Super Hero Girls can foster female readership?
Wolfram: I hope we’re telling stories that relate to everyone. Even if it’s female leads, I think they are going through the same thing that anyone is going through.
Dar: Now that the series is now available for the public to watch what are your thoughts and reactions to the show?
Labat: For me it’s a lot more reference. [Laughs]. I actually had to go back and change a few things after a few more reference shots came out. I’m loving it.
Wolfram: Same. As I said, there were three characters I was able to hear the voices for. The first time I heard Green Lantern, Zatanna, and Bumblebee it was great to go, “Oh, now I know who you guys are a little bit more.” So that was fun.
Labat: When the expressions came out in the animation, it helped me to develop the style a little bit more because I knew what they were looking for. I did work for The Lion King a long time ago for Disney and I remember that Timon and Pumbaa had these incredible over the top expressions and that’s what we’re getting in this. So it adds a little fun to it and helped me along the way.
Dar: Back at San Diego Comic-Con when I had the chance to do press with the DCSHG cast/crew, they definitely cited some influence of The Breakfast Club. Even in this graphic novel, we get a little Breakfast Club moment near the end, so was that something that consciously informed the writing?
Wolfram: I LOVE John Hughes! So yes. [Laughs]. Anytime I can pay homage I am definitely on board there. It was a great way for them to just say who they are but also reference that wonderful movie too.
Dar: Fun tidbit, Poison Ivy according to the producers and actors was their homage of the Ally Sheedy “basket case” character from The Breakfast Club.
Wolfram: I hadn’t heard that. That’s cool.
Dar: What should readers, those who are fans of the DC Super Hero Girls and those that aren’t familiar with it, know about the graphic novel and why should they pick it up?
Wolfram: For me, the great thing about these books is having all these different types of superhero girls. I think someone will relate to each one. You may be the popular girl or the one who can run fast. Or you may be the one who’s good at science. Or you may be the one who feels like they’re not good at anything right now. I think any kid can pick this up and find somebody who is like them and a story that speaks to them.
Labat: That sums it up perfectly!
Check out a preview below:
DC SUPER HERO GIRLS: AT METROPOLIS HIGH
A new era of DC Super Hero Girls begins in the upcoming original graphic novel DC SUPER HERO GIRLS: AT METROPOLIS HIGH! When Batgirl, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Green Lantern, Bumblebee and Zatanna are continually late to class because of their crime-fighting, they are told to find an after-school club for a whole week or else be suspended. But finding a club is not as easy as it looks, and when the girls keep finding themselves kicked out of the clubs, they must think outside of the box and go out of their comfort zones to avoid suspension. Just when they thought balancing school with secret identities and super-heroing had enough challenges.
- Written by Amy Wolfram and illustrated by Yancey Labat
- On sale: 10/9/19 in comic book shops; 10/15/2019 everywhere books are sold
- MSRP: $9.99 US/$13.50 CAN
About DC Super Hero Girls
DC Super Hero Girls inspires girls to embrace their unique abilities and harness the power of teamwork and diversity to discover their true potential.