The title that made waves last year for National Coming Out Day looks to bring even more queer representation to the DC Universe in July’s Superman: Son of Kal-El #13. Making her way to the book from television’s Supergirl is Nia Nal. And Nia is bringing her actress, Nicole Maines with her to the DC Universe. Maines is teaming up with ongoing writer Tom Taylor for the special event to bring Dreamer into the main DC Universe, and I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to talk to both writers about both that book and their other Pride-related stories.
CORINNE MCCREERY: So first of all, thank you both for the early birthday present. Because the scheduled week for this issue is the week of my birthday supply chain willing, and that kinda leads to my first question. Was it a conscious decision to go for a July release and avoid Pride Month? To kind of stretch it out a little bit more to celebrate Pride all year long? Or was it just tricks of fate and scheduling?
TOM TAYLOR: I think it was certainly tricks of freight and scheduling battles. Certainly like one of the big goals, and a lot of the editors and the people in the background, certainly would like to celebrate Pride all year long.
NICOLE MAINES: So that’s the answer we’re gonna go with. We’re gonna say it was expertly planned, and we’re celebrating pride all year round.
MCCREERY: What made Superman: Son of Kal-El the right book to bring Dreamer into the mainline DC Universe?
MAINES: I think it’s the right book because they are both coming in at a time where we’re sort of ushering in this new lineup of queer superheroes. And both of these characters are, I mean, listen, willing, sort of at the, at the apex of the of this new sort of roster of heroes, as they’re coming in. And so I think putting them together and teaming them up. Just feels right. And, you know, I think we’ve seen the kind of trouble that a Naltorian and a Kryptonian can get up to together. And so it felt like if we can have a queer Naltorian and a queer Kryptonian team up both of them half-human half-alien like they’re existing kind of in a very similar realm together. So it just sort of made sense to pair them up because they’re going through a lot of the same stuff.
MCCREERY: What was your co-writing process like for this book?
TAYLOR: It was basically a lot of phone calls, a lot of jumping a lot of WhatsApp messages. A lot of us talking through the plot. Nicole has just fantastic storytelling instincts. Which certainly helps. Like she called up and she’s like, what if we did this? I’m like, “Oh, that’s great. Like, why don’t we do this?” So we basically just bounced off of each other for I want to say like, a month, I think continually. We’ve just kept at it.
MAINES: I mean even up to today. We’re like, under like, you guys, we really need to get this to the printer. And we’re like, okay, okay, but what about this thing?
TAYLOR: Yeah, yeah, so we literally still tweaking it. I will be tweaking it straight after these calls.
MAINES: And I will be checking to make sure I didn’t miss anything.
MCCREERY: Nicole, I know you had some involvement in the Supergirl writing room just in a little bit of the more Dreamer-centric episodes and bringing that trans voice to that writing room. How does it differ in having more control over the character, in being one of the two sole voices, or in the case of the upcoming graphic novel, the only authorial voice for the character? How does that differ?
MAINES: Yeah, I mean, it differs and the level that it terrifies me. On Supergirl, it felt pretty contained. I was able to just sort of come in and they were like, “Hey, yeah, we’re pretty sure we know what we want to do. You know, we’re dealing with a lot with Nia’s trans identity in this episode, can you just you know, point out any red flags that you’re seeing?” And, you know, occasionally I was able to come in and be like, “Hey, there’s this other idea I have for Dreamer” and less often we’d go with those, but it was more like I didn’t have to worry about trying to you know… It’s weird because playing Nia, especially for three years, I was really able to step onto set and just kind of subconsciously like okay, the words are in front of me. And I kind of know how to just have her in my body and do that. writing those words myself… is terrifying. And it’s very stressful because I’m like, “Oh god, wait, how would Nia say this? Wait, wait, does? Does she talk? Does she talk? Can she talk?” I, like I’m second-guessing myself. And, and so that’s very terrifying. But this has been really fun working on Son of Kal-El. Because I sort of get to just hop on the phone and throw my wildest ideas at Tom and have them validated. And I’m like, “Oh, I like this.” But for the graphic novel, I mean, me being judge, jury, and executioner is perhaps more power than I can handle. But we’re gonna see.
MCCREERY: So question for Tom. We got to see Lois’s reaction to Jon’s coming out. And that was extremely special and really powerful. And exactly what I expected Lois to be like. But what I know, I am waiting for, and a lot of the other fandom is waiting for is when we get to see Clark’s. And I know that’s hard to do right now with the Warworld Saga and with the Death of the Justice League. But is there any chance we’re going to see that moment in between those two events?
TAYLOR: Yeah, I just want to apologize for my dog going absolutely. Crazy up here. Sorry. It’s the neighbors.
MAINES: Never apologize for a dog!
TAYLOR: Yeah. Trying to deal with it. But we’ll see. The answer is that I don’t know how much I can talk about it. But there is a very good chance that you will see the coming out to Clark. I can’t tell you when but you know, it’s certainly in the back of my mind to the point where I know someone has created a fan comic. And it’s been posted online everywhere of Jon coming out to his father, and I haven’t responded or liked or anything. Because I don’t want to read it. Because I don’t want to have to scrap my story. So if this fan is reading this interview later, I just want to say, I appreciate that you’ve done this and everybody’s pointed at me. But I haven’t read it yet. Because I can’t. I can’t until I’ve written it.
MAINES: That’s the worst when someone comes up with when you’ll be online, someone will come up with a great idea. And I’m like, “oh, I want to use that, damnit.”
TAYLOR: Sorry but I can’t.
MCCREERY: I know neither of you was involved in the Superman story in the Pride 2022 special, but in that special Dreamer got to share the page with three other gender-nonconforming DC heroes. Heather After, from The Dreaming: Waking Hours, Danny the Brick and Kate Godwin from Grant Morrison and Rachel Pollack’s Doom Patrol runs. How does it feel for you Nicole, knowing that a character that you helped to shape gets to build on and share the page with the past and present, and now future of trans rep in DC Comics?
MAINES: You know, that page made me so happy because first of all, I had no idea that she was being included. I got the book and I opened it. And I was like two reactions one I was like, “Oh my God, she’s there. Nobody told me.” On the other side, she’s there and nobody told me. So, I mean, it was so cool to see her there. And I think I mean, it’s I can only really hope that we get to see all of them in like a team-up. Like it. Just it feels like we have all of these heroes now. And I’m just like, please, can they just do a team up and fight someone together? Like they don’t even have to talk about any of it. They can just be there be powerful and destroy something. That’s what, anytime anyone asks me, and they’re like, “What do you want from queer heroes?” I’m like, “I want them kicking the most butt.”
MCCREERY: Have you read The Dreaming: Waking Hours?
MAINES: No I haven’t.
MCCREERY: I highly recommend it. It has a trans woman protagonist that is a protege to John Constantine. And she is just as much of a chaotic disaster as he is. And it’s wonderful.
MAINES: Now does this have anything to do with dreams? Because that could be very interesting…
MCCREERY: It is Sandman related. So yes, it has a lot to do with dreams just in a different aspect than Dreamer.
MAINES: Hmm. Interesting.
MCCREERY: Tom, how early in the planning process for Superman: Son of Kal-El did you decide that this was the route you were gonna take Jon?
TAYLOR: Very early like in, in the pitch. So oh, I think just after the pitch, I had the pitch. And I had this thing that I wanted to discuss. And I was like, I will tell you that in the past, like, I’ve been working in comics for 12-13 years now. And in the past, I’ve had queer characters erased or denied, or the literally changed on the way to the printer. Not with the current people, of course, but so it was one of those things that I was, like, do a do I pitch this? Or is it gonna get kicked back? And it was actually my editor at the time, Jamie Rich from Superman who said, “Tom, there’s been this idea floating around at DC” and I’m like, “Oh, yay.” So it was like, we had it together. And there was so much will at DC to make this happen. But no I didn’t have to sell it. It was fantastic. So from the pitch we had, there was a bit of the idea that we definitely wanted it for Coming Out Day. So it had to happen a little bit quicker than we were originally planning, but you know, I couldn’t be happier with how it went down and the response globally to that moment.
MCCREERY: Nicole, in your introduction to the Pride special this year, you said that you see writing representative heroes as a form of activism, and that really resonated with me. A few years ago, the year that you were announced as being cast in Supergirl. I was at Comic-Con and I was on a panel that day, that morning, before we got the news, talking about media representation and its importance. And on that panel, I talked about how when I was growing up, the representation that I had was things like Ace Ventura where the trans person was a joke character and made fun of. Or things like Silence of the Lambs, where the trans character is a sexual and violent predator. And things like that kept me in the closet for over a decade, because I didn’t have good representation. Today, transgender teens can look up and see themselves as superheroes, in part, thanks to you. And I hope that that helps them to keep fighting in this really dark time. But what helps keep you fighting? What keeps you from burning out?
MAINES: So I mean, I think the honest answer to that question is I burn out frequently. I am not immune to the things that happen in this world. I spend many, many days… I had to develop a new rule for myself. And that rule is if I cry today, I get McDonald’s. I had to amend that rule. I was getting heavier. It is very, very difficult. I’ve I’m learning more and more to allow myself breaks, allow myself space to grieve, to be angry, to be sad, to be hopeless. But I’m learning better, it’s a work in progress, work in progress, to compartmentalize all of that and Dreamer helps a lot, getting to work for this character who I know is in direct opposition to all of the things that are happening to queer youth right now. You know, as they are having their rights taken away, as they are being told they are not allowed to participate, just in existing, just are not allowed to participate in society. I am proud to know that I can help give them at least a superhero, who looks like them, a superhero who has been through what they’ve been through, and a superhero, who is going to fight the kinds of people doing this to them, and give them that kind of validation and at least provide that escapism for people because we all need it. Because comic books and television and movies and video games are ways that, for me, at least, ways that I pull myself out of all of that. They are the ways that I removed myself from the crap in this world. And I’m like, “Well, this fictional universe is also crappy. But at least I have superpowers there.” So it’s become, I think, a kind of therapy, in itself to get getting to tell that story and getting to just bring this character to life, it feels kind of like a kick to the crotch of all of these bills, and just nonsense that’s flying around. So that at least feels a little satisfying.
MCCREERY: And what can you tell us about the Dreamer graphic novel? Is it in the mainline DC Universe? Or is it its own thing?
MAINES: So the DC graphic novels are stand-alones they are not necessarily canon. Dreamer’s in an interesting position because she’s never been canon before. So what I’m focusing on in this story is setting up her origin. And so we’re taking elements from Supergirl, things that have happened in Supergirl, you know, obviously, her sister, her mother, her father, her situation, the power is being passed down from mother to daughter. We’ve taken that and expanded on that. And so we are showing you okay, what is Nia’s life in Carthis like? What is her relationship with her sister? Like, what is her relationship with her family like? What does she do when she first realizes that she has these powers? And so it’s not canon per se, although I’m being careful to at least give myself, sort of landmarks, I guess you could call them landmarks you know, every superhero origin story has a couple. Batman, you know it, sometimes it shifts and changes how it happens. His parents are always shot outside an opera, you know, raised by Alfred, like, there are a couple of consistencies. And so that’s what I’m focusing on with this. I was I want to establish a couple of consistencies for this character, while also presenting it in this kind of Snow White and the Huntsman story about sisters and just a poor girl’s fight or flight response.
MCCREERY: And do you know how long it’s gonna be?
MAINES: How long the book or how long it’s gonna be till it’s released?
MAINES: So my limit is 200 pages. Exactly how long it’s going to be, I don’t know, because I keep changing things. I’m currently sort of in Act-Two Hell, where I’m like, okay, my beginning’s really strong, my end is really strong. But something has to happen in the middle. So that’s getting shifted around a lot. And so I’ve added about 10 pages to my page count already. And so now I’m kind of like, “Well, shit, now I gotta try to cut it back again,” so it’s under 200 pages. How close I’m gonna cut that I don’t know. And then it will be released, probably sometime next year, I would say hopefully, hopefully, it’s gonna be 2023 or 2024 depending on just how quickly things move or, and by how quickly things move. I mean, how fast I can move. But they’ve been really good about just about letting me sort of, you know, not take my time but also no one’s being like “Hurry up.” So that’s been nice because I’m like, “I haven’t done this before. I don’t know what to do.”
MCCREERY: Well, I think we are just about out of time. It was a wonderful pleasure talking to you again, Nicole, and to you Tom for the first time. This really made my week.
Superman: Son of Kal-El #13 has a final order cutoff of Sunday, June 12, so order your copy today!