On the first-ever Required Reading episode of our DC podcast, we’re diving into Tom King and Bilquis Evely’s Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow. The eight-issue series channels ’70s-style space adventure books and other sources to craft a new tale of Kara Zor-El, and her new companion Ruthye as they go on a mission of revenge. In this episode, we’re breaking down the inspiration for the series, its legacy, reactions on reading it again, and speculation about how the story will fit into James Gunn’s new DC Universe — and whether Sasha Calle will return to the role after The Flash.
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Alex: Welcome to Sons of a Gunn, a podcast about all things DC. I’m Alex Gunn.
Justin: I’m Justin Gunn.
Pete: And I’m Pete.
Alex: Also last name Gunn.
Pete: Gunn. Yep.
Alex: Important to mention for legal reasons, we’re not allowed to say who our father is, but we are identical triplets and we love the DC Universe. Totally unrelated for our dad. Wink. Wink. Anyway, this is the first episode of our Required Reading.
Pete: Nothing like giving the audience homework before they have to listen to a podcast.
Justin: Well, dad said that everyone had to read this stuff. I mean, James Gunn said that we all had to read [inaudible 00:00:54].
Alex: But yes, James Gunn, who is the new head of DC Studios, after he announced his upcoming Slate Chapter One: Gods and Monsters, he tweeted out a bunch of books that he said really inspired what they’re doing. One of them, the first one we’re going to start with here, is very much a one-to-one. It’s Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow, which is also the name of one of the movies that they’re doing. It is clearly very specifically inspired by that, and we’re going to talk about that at the end of the podcast.
But as comic book podcasters and hosts for the past 15 years plus, we’ve definitely reviewed a ton of comics and we love talking about comics, so even beyond the movie stuff, what we’re going to do with these Required Reading podcasts is take a deep dive either into or back into the book, in this case, because we did review every issue individually on our The Stack podcast. So that’s the groundwork here.
Let’s talk a little bit about the book, which, mind you, as soon as James Gunn tweeted this and three other books out, they sold out immediately. They’re not available physically unless you can find an old copy or a used copy somewhere. You got to get it digitally, at least right now. But DC said they’re going back to print on all of this stuff, so that’s good.
Alex: It is cool.
Justin: It’s exciting just as a comic reader to see the impact that doing a story set specifically from a book like this can really have. It’s great.
Alex: Yeah. And this is, just to continue this side trip a little bit, I love the fact that they’ve been putting in the trailers for the DC movies at the end, here’s three books that you could buy that inspired this movie or we will let you read more about the movie. It’s something we’ve been asking for for decades for the movies to do, and it seems like something they’re really leaning into. So very exciting.
This is Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow. It’s written by Tom King, art by Bilquis Evely.
Justin: Come on.
Alex: Come on. Colors by Matheus Lopes. Come on. Letters by Clayton Cowles. I wanted to mention this here because they were, apparently at least, part of the inspiration behind this, and Tom King credits them as working very heavily at crafting the book. Edited by Brittany Holzherr and Jamie S. Rich.
So, background on this book. This is a eight issue series released starting June 2021, running through February 2022. In 2022, it was nominated for best limited series at the Eisner Awards, which, if you don’t know, is sort of the Oscars of comic books. It lost. It lost the Eisner. Didn’t get the Eisner. Which I was very surprised to see, because this book is phenomenal.
But man, tough competition that year. Pete, you’re going to get a angry about this, but the Beta Ray Bill book that Daniel Warren Johnson was also up for the Eisner that year. Another phenomenal book. There are a couple of other phenomenal limited series, but one-
Pete: Wait, wait. What won? What Beat out-
Alex: Well, this is the thing, is it lost to The Good Asian by Pornsak Pichetshote. Sorry, I always mangle that name. I apologize. And Alexandre Tefenkgi, another great book. So very tough competition, but this is right up there in terms of one of the best books of that year. Also, a little bit of groundwork-
Pete: Wait, wait. I just wanted to say, while we’re talking about the art, this is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. This comic was such a breath of fresh air in The Stack and was so beautiful. The page layouts, everything was just absolutely gorgeous. So well thought out, so well done. It’s a breathtaking book. It is unbelievable. Worth it for the art alone. I just wanted to [inaudible 00:04:32].
Alex: No, and thank you for bringing it up now in the middle of laying the groundwork for the history, because we weren’t planning on reviewing the book at all. [inaudible 00:04:39].
Justin: I didn’t even notice there was art here. I’ve just listened to it as an audio comic book. It’s hard.
Alex: Honestly, this is one that kind of actually would work as an audiobook. I know you’re making a joke.
Alex: But a couple of other things that I wanted to mention here. I went back and I read this interview, I think, gosh, I should have looked up, I think it was on SyFy, actually, syfy.com, where they talk about-
Justin: S-Y-F-Y, how I spell sci-fi.
Alex: SyFy. Tom King talked a little bit. If you don’t know him as an author, he writes very dark corners of the DC Universe, and he said that a lot of the stuff he was writing, in particular Rorschach and Heroes in Crisis, and… I’m forgetting the other book that he wrote. Oh, Strange, Strange.
Justin: Strange Adventures.
Alex: Strange Adventures, thank you. I wanted to say Strange World, the Disney book. But all those books were very, very dark books, and he said they were specifically inspired by 2020 and the darkness of the world, and it felt like there was no hope left, and that’s something that he really wanted to explore, deal with those feelings that he was feeling. And as he started to think about it, as he started to move forward, they’re started to feel like, to him, these glimmers of hope.
Things are still very dark. They’re still very grim. But that’s what he was looking at here in terms of Supergirl, is trying to find that spark of light in that overall grimness that he was feeling for the world. Moving over to the art that Pete thankfully mentioned, Evely actually sent a mood board over to Tom King, and I think this really hones in on a lot of what the art is. She was inspired by 70s European books, Mobius in particular, as well as some of the weird stuff from John Buscema and Gil Kane.
The quote that Tom King used, which I got to say, as a fan of this book, I don’t think he’s quite on par here, but he said, “This is our Incal,” which is a pretty famous wild graphic novel. Incal’s way wilder than this. Nothing against this book. But interesting thing there. It also points to a lot of these books that he’s calling out, the John Buscema and the Gil Kane books, they are 70s epic space adventures like John Carter, Warlord of Mars, which seems like a very direct inspiration here.
Pete: Man, John Carter. Was one of us a huge John Carter fan. I can’t remember.
Alex: Okay, this is crossing the podcast streams, but after a screening of the John Carter movie-
Pete: You were so hyped. You were so hyped.
Alex: You weren’t there, Pete.
Justin: You were hyped.
Alex: It was just me and Justin.
Pete: You were so hyped.
Alex: We came out and a PR agent asked us, “How did you think?” And I said, “I could see this being somebody’s Star Wars.” And that’s somehow-
Pete: You changed your quote. [inaudible 00:07:19].
Alex: That’s what I said. That’s what I said.
Pete: That’s not what you said.
Alex: I did say… Over the years, this has nothing to do with this book, over the years, this story became, I came out and said, “This is this generation Star Wars,” which I [inaudible 00:07:32].
Justin: That’s the quote I remember.
Pete: You were so hyped.
Alex: I did not say that.
Pete: You were so John Carter hyped up.
Justin: Alex, I know this [inaudible 00:07:39]
Alex: Here’s the thing, it’s panned out with all the John Carter sequels and the spinoffs and the TV series. It is this generation’s Star Wars.
Justin: It has panned. I will tell you that. I was just listening to a podcast talking about mistakes Disney’s made over the years, and John Carter was literally the biggest mistake in the last 100 years of Hollywood or something.
Alex: Well, what was that podcast, we’re wrong about everything, the podcast.
Justin: Yeah, it was Alex’s actual quotes.com.
Alex: Last little bit of history that I want to say here that I thought was kind of interesting. Steve Orlando, who’s a great comic book writer, we’ve had him on our live show a bunch of times, actually helped out Tom King figure out the character of Supergirl when he was trying to tackle it. Again, I’m not 100% sure about this, but I thought this was an interesting take.
What Steve apparently offered up to Tom King, and they’re both Jewish in their background, at least in part, what Steve said is that Superman is the baby that was sent away before the Holocaust starts. Supergirl is the kid who was in the Holocaust and managed to survive. I definitely think that plays into the way that Tom King writes throughout this book. Again, I don’t know that I 100% agree with that.
Pete: That’s heavy shit, bro.
Alex: It is very heavy, but I don’t know. It plays into certainly the way that Tom King crafts the story.
Justin: Well, and I don’t think that’s used so one-to-one as that type of sort of tragic scar on her that is really present the whole time, but it’s definitely an undertone. And you see some flashes throughout the series of her dealing with the trauma. I think when the series starts, we pick up with her sort of in her cups, as they say, having some drinks, being sad about her lost family, lost planet, everything. And I think that this melancholy she has throughout the series is very much rooted in that, I think.
Alex: Well, and it definitely plays into… I think it’s the seventh issue when we finally get quote, unquote “Supergirl’s origin,” which shows her Argo City surviving after the explosion of Krypton, dying from radiation poisoning, and her just looking out at this destruction, trying to save what she can. So that definitely plays in there.
I think that segues us nicely into the plot. Just to give you a broad overview of the plot. It is narrated by this new character called Ruthye, I think that’s how you pronounce it. She is an alien farmer, young girl, lives on a world that doesn’t really know from space travel or aliens or anything like that, and this man kills her father and she begins a quest for vengeance to go and kill him back.
Pete: Quest for vengeance.
Alex: At which point she encounters Supergirl. This man also hurts Krypto, the super dog, shoots him with an arrow, terrifying, horrifying scene, and so they’re both united in this purpose to track down this guy and go on a long universal track to finally track him down, ultimately leading to the question of, should you kill this man or should you not? And there’s plenty of twists and turns there. So that’s the broadest possible overview of the story.
Now let’s talk about it. We, like I said, reviewed every issue individually on The Stack. Pete, I know has some qualms about it, but I think overall we love the series and we love the direction of the series and loved aspects of the series. But particularly revisiting it now, what struck you, what jumped out at you, but not the art, because we’ve already talked about the art.
Pete: Come on, man. No, we can’t talk about this book [inaudible 00:11:16] without talking about the art. And what I’m really worried about is this is a real achievement in comics. This feel, this mood, this tone, this is such a great way to be introduced to Supergirl. She’s not in the shadow of her cousin, it’s just about her struggle, her story, and it’s this kind of cowboy in space story with a little bit of kind of vengeance in there. And I think it’s such a beautiful way to start her story, and such an interesting, unique thing that, as a reader of comic books, I’ve seen her story a bunch of different ways, and this one is just so striking and so unique.
It kind of reminds me a little bit of The Mandalorian, where it’s just kind of her on an adventure. You know what I mean? You’re not constantly bumping into other DC characters and stuff. It’s just kind of her out there, and it’s just such a beautiful… I’m really worried about what they’re going to do when they translate this, because the comic is an achievement.
Alex: I’m going to cut you off there [inaudible 00:12:26]. No, it’s fine, I 100% agree with you, and we’ll get to that more towards the end. I mean, one note that I’ll throw out, just because it’s coming up, when they did announce the movie, they were like, Tom King’s incredible story. And I was like, yo, Bilquis Evely is not just 50% of this, she’s like 60, 70%, something like that.
Pete: I’d say 80.
Alex: The other thing that I wanted to mention about the art, without getting… Again, we’ll talk about the movie adaptation towards the end of the podcast. But what really struck me this time was the colors by Matheus Lopes that are phenomenal throughout. The art is absolutely beautiful, but the way the colors pop and make these different alien landscapes feel unique from each other, is stunning.
There’s these washes of pages, these layouts, that are just double pages spreads. I’m thinking of one, by the way, I probably should have mentioned we’re going to get into heavy spoilers for the book, so if you haven’t read it, skip this part, go to the movie stuff if you want to go to that talk. But we’re definitely going to talk about every aspect.
There’s a thing towards the end when Comet shows up and Supergirl is flying through space on Comet, this double page splash where you see them appear multiple times… That’s a beautiful image of it itself. But Comet and Supergirl are so tiny on this page in places, it’s mostly up to Lopez’s colors to make everything pop and make that composition work. And it really does
Justin: I think the variety and the world building of the different issues. And then the different art styles, or color styles and art design of the characters and worlds, really feeds into the story a lot. We’re talking about how much an artist can influence the actual storytelling. And I think with this, it really shows time and space passing. They’re traveling for so long, there’s a weariness to this book.
They always portray Supergirl as this bright young innocent hero who’s like just there to save the day. And we don’t get into a lot of this painful backstory or the fact that she has to be bright and shiny despite the fact that she’s facing just waves and waves of evil all the time. And I think the art really helps to tell that side of the story.
Alex: The other thing that I think is interesting, and this doesn’t exactly jump from the art, but, like Pete was saying, we start off with Supergirl, 21 years old, she’s celebrating her 21st birthday at the beginning of the book by getting drunk on a planet that has a red sun, because she can’t get drunk otherwise, because she’s Supergirl.
Justin: That’s the way I do it too. I have to go-
Alex: It is an interesting dynamic, because you’re getting this true grit thing that you expect to get from The Mandalorian, from Lone Wolf and Cub, all of these different stories, it’s usually a wizened older man and a young girl or young boy that’s tagging along with them on this mission of vengeance. Having Supergirl somewhat closer in age, but still more life experience than Ruthye, it changes their dynamic. It doesn’t exactly make them equals, but it makes them more understandable to each other. And I don’t know, it’s interesting how that dynamic changes it.
I also think it changes the dynamic that it’s two female characters instead of a male character and a female character or a male character and a male character. And it’s little changes like that, but they definitely work in terms of executing on a story that does feel fresh and new, even when it’s hitting all of these tropes across the board.
Justin: We talked a lot of about the western nature of it, but it has this sort of storybook fantasy angle on it as well, where it’s like a quest, they wander except it has the modern take that they’re constantly underestimated. Supergirl’s like, “Who cares about you?” Or “I’ve heard about you.”
And then she has to kick ass over and over again to prove who she is and that she has faced all of this before and is back here again trying to help out the situation, but dealing with just horrible… There are so many issues in this where it’s just encounters horrifying tragedy that she has to swallow and then find a way to move on from.
Alex: One other interesting emotional thread that I think goes through the entire book is, there are no easy answers. We ultimately find out at the end of the book that a lot of this journey, Supergirl didn’t really need to go on. She needed Ruthye to identify the face of the guy that they were looking for, but Krypto, who you’re worried about the entire length of the book, is fine.
She reveals that as a little twist at the end, that Krypto is okay. But what she was trying to do was teach Ruthye that you don’t kill, and that is not a thing you do and that is not a thing you should do, but she knew she could only learn by example, so they end up in all of these situations where that’s challenged.
And I do think that gets to the heart of a big difference between how Tom King is treating Supergirl here versus Superman, where Superman is just this very earnest, I always do the right thing no matter what, except in cinema, when I’m snapping people’s necks. But in comics, yeah, I’m always doing the right thing. I always maybe don’t know immediately the right thing to do, but I always figure it out.
Supergirl, the way that they depicted her here, struggles with that a lot more, and so she is able to make that connection with Ruthye, who is very naive, has never been outside the world, and ultimately it isn’t even necessarily about her learning not to kill so much as her learning the process of how you make a choice whether to kill or not.
Justin: Right. Yeah. And I think what we were talking about earlier with the difference between Superman and Supergirl’s origins, where he was a baby when he left his planet, never had to deal with the reality of that loss, and she felt it. And I think that informs sort of the slightly controversial end of this book.
I think another aspect of this story is, it’s about holding pain. She’s holding her pain. There’s a lot of talk in here about how hey, Supergirl is in pain for her whole life basically. And it’s hard to read that, it influences the way you look at every Supergirl story, not just this one. So she has her own pain and then she is taking on the pain of others, Ruthye, all these other different alien species they encounter. And it’s about how that wears down your ability to make the choice that you’re talking about, Alex.
Alex: I do want to ask about one particular scene, on that note. As they’re traveling to these various alien planets, they… Sorry, I forgot to write it down. What is the name of the villain in the book?
Alex: Clem. Thank you. So Clem starts as this guy who is just a lone, bad guy, loan villain, and then ultimately he falls in with these brigands, these thieves who are completely overpowered pirates to the point that the final fight against Supergirl in the last two issues, they’re able to take her down for a good portion of time. So he’s a legitimate threat to her, which is surprising coming from somebody that doesn’t necessarily have superpowers.
But they stop on a planet where one of the brigands has been caught, they’re following along sort of the path of destruction that these brigands have caused, and this planet is punishing this brigand by essentially stoning him to death, but just piling stones on him until he dies. And Ruthye and Supergirl are watching them, and Ruthye says sometimes the effect of, “I thought you were going to stop them.” And Supergirl says, “Now, why would you think that?”
Now Supergirl clearly is letting this girl, this person, die. What do you think about that moment? What do you take away from that moment?
Pete: Well, I mean, there’s a couple things that first pop in-
Justin: Sorry, real quick. It was Krem, not Clem.
Justin: I was wrong.
Pete: I was like, Clem, that sounds a little too… But anyways, the first thing that kind of pops into my head is what’s interesting is Supergirl’s reaction to that. You know what I mean? Because we’re all kind of thinking, what’s Supergirl going to do here? But it’s this interesting idea of, she’s visiting another planet. They have their own set of rules that they live by, their own kind of thing, and if they want to just pile… It’s not like they’re throwing them, they’re just piling them on somebody.
Justin: That’s nice.
Pete: [inaudible 00:21:10].
Justin: I’d still not like the piling.
Pete: Yeah, I mean, the piling, sure, but at least you’re not getting hit all the time. [inaudible 00:21:17].
Justin: I feel like the end result’s pretty not good.
Pete: Well, when you’re dying, sure. You know what I mean?
Justin: I’ll remember that.
Alex: But if you got your choice, Pete, if you got your choice, you’d be like, pile some rocks on me?
Pete: Well, if somebody was going to kill me, but then was like, “Hey, here’s a pillow first” I’d be like, “Thank you,” and then I would die.
Justin: What if they were smothering you with that pillow?
Pete: It’s still a nice gesture.
Justin: What if they were piling pillows over your breathing holes, so then you died?
Alex: How many pillows do you think it would take to kill you? Probably a lot. Huh?
Justin: To crush you?
Alex: Yeah, to crush you to death.
Pete: Well, it would be… I don’t know if there is enough pillows to crush you to death.
Alex: Gosh, we got to get a scientist on the next podcast, or that MyPillow guy. Maybe we’ll have [inaudible 00:21:57] info for us.
Pete: That sounds like a horrible idea.
Justin: That guy knows exactly how many pillows it takes to crush somebody. What a great way to go out. Anyway, you were saying, Pete, that you liked this guy dying.
Pete: No, I was just saying that it was interesting, the fact that she responded that way. It was kind of a cool needle scratch where it was like, there’s stuff going on here, we don’t always have to interfere and interject ourselves onto things.
Justin: Well, it’s like, if it’s stepping out… When we meet Supergirl in the beginning of the story, she has been to all these plants. It’s not like she doesn’t know about it, but she learns the lessons that while Superman goes into any situation and is like bad guy, good guy, got it. Her here, she’s like, it’s not as cut and dry in that. This person may have committed a crime and this is his punishment. This is what justice is on this planet. It’s not my job to save every life.
And it directly informs… Ruthye is like, “I’m going to kill Krem of the Yellow Hills. No problem. Soon as I get my hands on him” from the jump, and it’s about, like you said, Alex, she’s teaching her that lesson throughout the course of this, and this is a huge part of that lesson.
Alex: That was the thing that I was going to bring up is, at the end of the book, Supergirl actually is the one who steps up and is going to kill Krem, or seemingly going to kill Krem, and Ruthye stops her. So you could draw a direct line from that moment where Ruthye is disturbed by Supergirl’s behavior where they’re stoning this guy to death and ultimately making the decision to spare Krem, at least in that moment. So I think there’s an interesting connection there.
I do want to talk about one of my favorite issues, though, which is Mordru globe issue. They finally catch up to Krem on a lava flow, and he’s got an ace in the hole. Which Superman, Supergirl, all the Kryptonians, they have a weakness to magic. So he pulls out this magic globe called the Mordru globe that sucks Supergirl and Ruthye in… And sends her to a planet that has a green kryptonite, sun. I believe, it is full of monsters, and a very tempting oasis that they want to ignore.
And this is another very specific contrast point between Superman and Supergirl. Where we find out Superman was also stranded on this world. He was eventually rescued by the Justice League, and the amount of time he was there was 45 minutes. On the other hand, Supergirl doesn’t have anybody coming to rescue her. And she has to survive there for 10 hours with only Ruthye and a sword, and she can’t do anything.
Pete: Well, I think you bring up a good point. You can try to ignore Oasis as much as you can. But, I mean, they got some hits, you know what I mean. And eventually you’re going to be listening to the radio and it’s like you can try to ignore Oasis for as long as you want, but they’re just going to creep in.
Alex: If they were playing a concert, I don’t care how many monsters there were, I’m there, man.
Justin: That’s what I assume when I’m lost in the desert. I just hope there’s an Oasis cover band playing.
Alex: After all, there’s a Wonderwall. You know what I’m talking about?
Justin: Strong. Remember when everyone was like, “They’re cool. They’re good. They’re the new Beatles.” And then [inaudible 00:25:10].
Alex: What? No one said that.
Justin: People said that.
Pete: Lots of people said that.
Alex: No way.
Justin: No. Then one of the Gallagher brothers was like, “I actually think I’m the reincarnated John Lennon.” And everyone was like, “Yo, dude [inaudible 00:25:19].”
Alex: Back it off. What did you guys think about this issue? Did you like this one as much as I did?
Justin: Yes. I mean, there are a lot of great issues. The one on the reread that I like the most was, I think, issue three, the one where she’s on the planet where everyone seems nice and it’s because they killed half of the people on the planet.
Pete: [inaudible 00:25:41].
Justin: The blue versus purple town, and Krem comes in and kills them. That one was just so dark and so realistic to me. But this one was very much the superhero, the makings of a hero type issue, and I loved the scene we get finally of her talking to her dad right before she’s sent off of Krypton. I thought that was such a great exclamation point in the middle of this issue.
Alex: Pete, what about you? Do you have a favorite issue from this one?
Pete: I do. I just think the first one is such an epic, kind of really sets the tone for this unbelievable thing. I also love the way it starts of her just wanting to drink with her dog and have a moment. Very much-
Alex: You’d love to drink with a dog. That’s like one of bucket list, right, man?
Pete: I felt very seen in that moment.
Justin: Spuds MacKenzie, you think? Or do you want to [inaudible 00:26:42]
Pete: Any dog.
Justin: Any dog. [inaudible 00:26:43].
Alex: Does it need to be a talking dog?
Pete: I’ll drink. Spuds MacKenzie, is what my… But anyways, I just think that the start of this was such a mind-blowing, kind of different look at Supergirl in such a great way that I thought the start of this was such a cool, epic idea. If you don’t have a good start to something, it’s not going to happen. So I was just really impressed with what they were able to accomplish in that first issue and setting up this unbelievable thing that we’re still talking about to this day and is now going to maybe become a movie.
Alex: Well, hold your horses there. I do want to ask you in the opposite direction though, Pete, because I know, first of all, you’re probably nowhere near as big of a Tom King fanboy as me and Justin.
Pete: That’s true.
Alex: You seem to be much more critical of his work. And you did express earlier, before we were on here, some reservations about the story as a whole. What are those? What are your concerns there? The things that don’t quite work for you?
Pete: Well, I just think sometimes Tom King’s storytelling and withholding information and having this kind of melancholy grief, things aren’t good, depressing kind of mood, sometimes can be a tough way to get people onboard. I don’t want to be depressed for two hours, why am I going to see this? That was some of my initial concerns.
And also, the way Tom King unfolds information can sometimes be frustrating, because it’s not we know and the character is going to catch up to us, it’s we’re all learning together, and sometimes that can be a little tough.
Justin: Well, I feel like this one, there’s less of that coyness. I feel we’re really riding along with Supergirl the entire time. Very much an adventure story that we’re along the right for. But I will say there is definitely that melancholy that you feel throughout this and sort of an inevitability of evil. Like, we’re never going to beat evil, every day evil, but at the end of the day, it’s still worth pushing back against it. And Supergirl embodies that, despite her world weariness.
Alex: Well, we’ve definitely.
Pete: She embodies evil.
Alex: She embodies evil. Just to throw it out there, we’ve talked about this before on other podcasts and things… I think part of it is, you look at comics as an escape, right? You want that aspirational, heroic aspect, where they win no matter what. And a lot of what Tom King is dealing with, like we talked about at the beginning here, is the hopelessness of the past couple of years.
And like Justin was getting at, there is that glimmer there, because Supergirl ultimately does, up to a point, and then we should probably talk about the ending of this book, up to a point, inspire Ruthye and inspire other people to do better, and certainly tries to do better herself and fight against her own darkness. But that’s still there. Like you’re saying, there is, melancholy is a great word for it, running throughout the entire book. There’s the sadness, there’s the sparseness in Bilquis Evely’s art. It’s all going on there. It’s so good.
Let’s talk about the ending. And you’ve already been spoiled about the book in case you’re listening, but definitely turn away here. So the whole book is a book that Ruthye has written about this. And in her book she ends it with Supergirl killing Krem. That’s not actually what happens. They stop from killing Krem and, as we find out at the end, he has been banished to the Phantom Zone.
Supergirl comes back years later, when Ruthye is an old woman, to release him from the Phantom Zone where she knows he’s been trapped for hundreds of years and ultimately repented his sins, become a better person, even though he is a scraggly old man at this point. He comes out and begs Ruthye for forgiveness, and, in the last page, that mirrors the artistic layout of the first page, where Krem killed Ruthye’s father, we see Ruthye smack him to death with a cane as Supergirl looks on, seemingly surprised, and then they walk off in opposite directions.
Justin sounds like you feel like this is a controversial ending. What do you take away from this and how do you feel about it?
Justin: Well, I think it’s controversial, not necessarily to me, but I think other people were like, Supergirl basically let that killing happen. And I thought we had established that justice here was not killing him, but putting him away for all that time.
Pete: Yeah, it’s almost like killing him twice. He had to do this sentence in the Phantom Zone, and then he got caned to death. One of those would’ve been-
Alex: Just real quick, would you rather be caned to death or crushed with a billion pillows, Pete?
Pete: Billion pillows all day.
Alex: Billion pillows. Okay. It’s going to be much slower.
Justin: Really? What if the cane is really soft, like a really-
Pete: Still going with pillows, man. I’m still going with pillows.
Justin: Feather cane.
Alex: Smacked for 30 years with a nice soft cane until you die.
Justin: Isn’t that what life is? Isn’t that what life is?
Pete: Sometimes the cane’s not so soft.
Justin: But I do think the lesson here was the punishment needs to fit the crime, and as much time as he had to reform. And as much as maybe he did reform when he was in the Phantom Zone, Ruthye had all this time to sort of move past it. And I think the point we’re left with here is that Ruthye isn’t able to move past it. So that meant the crime was not satisfied in its punishment. If she couldn’t move past it, then he needed to have a final judgment.
I’m not saying that’s right, but I think that’s the idea here. And so, just like Supergirl let the justice carry out on the planet as it was, that’s why she didn’t intercede here, because she’s like, it’s not my justice. This is the justice between them. The crime was between them, the justice is between them, and she’s there sort of like a steward, almost. She taught the lesson and now she’s here to see the lesson paid off.
Alex: I think it’s very much up to the interpretation of the reader, particularly because the way that Bilquis Evely draws it is all in silhouette, so you can’t actually see what Supergirl’s reaction is, but I certainly take away from her body language, surprise. That’s what I read there. Because I do think Supergirl comes to this situation expecting, well, this is closure on this story, I’m going to bring Krem to Ruthye, and she’s going to forgive him, and then he’s going to go live the, I want to say conservatively, three to six months left he has in his life before-
Pete: Oh, come on, man.
Justin: That’s nice.
Alex: He’s a scraggly old man. I know I said that earlier, but-
Justin: What are you, are you a Krem doctor over here?
Alex: I got my Krem doctorate at Krem University.
Pete: You don’t know. That alien race could live for millions of years. You have no idea.
Alex: No, I don’t. I don’t.
Justin: Did that mean she should have killed him if he was going to live much longer?
Pete: Yeah. What’s that about?
Alex: That’s a great question. I’m not going to answer. But the main thing that I’d say is I think this is not the outcome that Supergirl expected, and I think that’s why they walk in opposite directions, because Supergirl is ultimately going off to a place of, no, we do not kill. That is not what we do. I’m always striving to do better. And Ruthye is like, well, lived my entire life, killed this guy. That’s what I needed to do. I thought about it for a long time and decided back on that beach I made the wrong decision.
Justin: That’s like dessert. Her life’s dessert.
Pete: I think there’s a lot of life stuff that happens in between the panels here. What we didn’t see was he was like, “Hey, can you forgive me?” And she was like, “No, I can’t.” And he was like, “All right, well, I got some weird radiation in the Phantom Zone, if you could just end my misery by caning me to death right here, that would be great. So that way I can-“
Justin: Now, wait, do you really feel like you need something like that in here for this to fit? Are you left unsatisfied with this? Because Supergirl is allowing or assisting in a murder?
Pete: I didn’t like the Sopranos ending on this a little bit, where it was kind of like, I don’t know, we’re going to walk away in different directions. Both people kind of scratching their head going, I don’t feel good about this. It’s such a beautiful, amazing achievement, and the ending is a little kind of weak sauce.
Justin: But I don’t know though, I think that’s very much the point of the ending. I don’t think the ending was like, I don’t know what to do. I’ll just have them walk away. I think this was very intentional. It’s not like the sauce got weaker at the end, I think it’s just-
Pete: I think it’s just one of those things where… And again, it comes back to what [inaudible 00:35:28] was saying is, I want this not to match what’s happening outside, where there’s tons of sad stories and the good guy doesn’t always win, but in comics it’s nice to get a hopeful story. So I’m always rooting for that instead of the reality that this story built that it did a great job of just staying in.
Justin: Well, I think that’s Tom King’s thing, is injecting some real world gray area into a lot of comic book stories, and that’s definitely what this is here. Let me ask you this, Pete, though, would you want revenge if Krem, or a Krem like figure, had shot an arrow through Spuds MacKenzie, your drinking [inaudible 00:36:07]?
Pete: Yeah, exactly. Especially [inaudible 00:36:10].
Justin: Because I have a feeling you would murder that dude a heartbeat.
Alex: I think, maybe I read this wrong, but I think that’s how Spuds died, right?
Pete: Oh, come on, man.
Justin: Space Pirate. That’s the part they leave out of the legend. Space pirate killed Spuds.
Alex: They got to put that in some of those Bud ads, man. Before we move on here, are there other moments from the book that you wanted to call out, things jumped out to you, scenes, et cetera? Pete, I’m sure you have a list a mile long.
Pete: Well, I just think it’s one of the-
Justin: Did you mention the art, Pete?
Pete: Don’t worry, I’m getting to it.
Alex: Did he? I’ll rewind the podcast real quick just to check [inaudible 00:36:43].
Pete: It’s one of those things where flashbacks and stuff can be done well, can be done not so well. I was really impressed with the way that they kind of did this, where we got to see parts of her life and the coloring and the choices that they made. So I was really impressed with that in this book.
I feel like there are a ton of different ways to tell the stories, but the way that they kind of leaned into the art and the coloring to set this mood and tone that wasn’t a Supergirl story that we’ve seen before. We got a lot of new information in this story. Also, it showed her being a badass in a way that wasn’t as bright and as kind of I’m bulletproof and an alien. We felt her pain, we felt her struggle, we felt these things, and it felt very human. It didn’t feel very alien to me. And it was really successfully done and really impressive.
Justin: One other observation I had coming out of rereading this was, it’s very much like an American folk tale, sort of like your John Henry or Paul Bunyan, and she even says in the first issue right when we meet her, truth, justice, and the American way. And I thought that line stuck out a little bit, it felt very purposeful. And in American folk tales it’s a great adventure, but then John Henry dies at the end. The hero is just like, whoops, too much for my heart. Falls over dead.
And I think that’s the idea here, is that it’s an amazing story, but reality is always there and it’s very American to be like, I did this great thing and now I died. You don’t see that in a lot of superhero storytelling, so I think that’s great. And I’m curious how they will translate that, that darkness, that melancholy, to the screen.
Pete: Now, are you curious or scared?
Alex: Well, hold on. Before we get there, I just want to kind of wrap up talking about the book a little bit. One observation that I wanted to throw out there that I really appreciated during this read through, is the idea that the universe is bigger than one character. And what I mean by that is a lot of books will have Superman going through a story and the villain of the story is very tied towards Superman and is focused on Superman and everything is Superman, Superman, Superman, Superman.
This definitely ties into the emotional and other themes of the characters, Supergirl and Ruthye, as they go through these adventures, but it definitely clearly implies, and outright state’s at points, there’s a lot of other things going on. They all tie into their story, but there’s a point at the end when Ruthye is talking about, “Now I got to take a break from the narrative here, because I wasn’t actually on this ship when Supergirl was fighting these brigands, so I need to go off other people’s descriptions.”
And she talks about another book that was entirely about this moment, and that really struck me, the idea that, of course, in a realistic universe where all this DC stuff is happening, it’s not like everybody’s like, “What’s going on on earth? Let’s read Superman 1 to 82 to find out.” There’s a lot of things going on in a lot of places and a lot of people will be writing in a lot of different ways, and, I don’t know, it’s just a little detail that makes the world feel bigger that I really, really liked quite a bit.
Justin: Yeah, agreed.
Alex: I do want to throw out one more thing about the comic to you guys as a question, as a discussion, question here, if you will, in classic book club fashion.
Justin: Comic book club.
Alex: What does the title mean? Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow. What does it mean? How does it tie into the themes of the book?
Justin: I think that’s a great question. I was thinking about this, because it’s very much a bright, shiny Disneyland title for a book that is not that at all. And I think it’s about sort of really giving us a starting point with the character, to be like Supergirl, she’s this bright, shiny, woman of tomorrow, so that gives us something to undercut from the jump of the story. And I like that as a way of putting a flag and then giving us a true beginning to really get this story going.
Pete: To me, it kind of sets up this thing of her growing as a person, as an alien, I shouldn’t-
Justin: Thanks for clarifying.
Pete: Into a woman of tomorrow as far as just their trials and tribulations. This kind of growth that we all go through, hopefully becoming something better tomorrow. So it is hopeful, which is completely the opposite, as Justin was saying, as the tone of the book. So it’s a weird title to put on such a interesting take on Supergirl.
Alex: Totally agree with everything you guys are saying. I think, first of all, Tom King, whether he came up with the title or not, has a tendency to come up with these titles that harken back to yester year, like Strange Adventures, Woman of Tomorrow, currently he’s writing a book called Danger Street, that throws back to the Dingbats of Danger Street, forgotten characters by Jack Kirby. So he’s always finding these things and then taking a twist on them in some way. Or even Mr. Miracle, that is one of the darkest books he wrote, and it’s not really about miracles necessarily so much as the drudgery of day to day.
Here, I think it’s giving that sense, because you do have this adventure book. It is ironic, at the same time, because it’s playing against the actual content of the book. And Pete, I think you’re actually totally right as well in terms of, that’s what Supergirl is telling Ruthye to do. She’s like, “Think about tomorrow. Think about the next day. Don’t think about, this is vengeance on my mind and this is all I have right now, but what are the repercussions here? What’s going to happen next? What does that mean for me?” So great title, I think, when you really think about it.
Why don’t we turn to the topic that Pete has been champing at the bit to talk about the whole time? So we know that in some sense they’re going to be doing an adaptation of this book in the new DC Studios. Now the little asterisk there is they’ve talked about all these projects can change, so maybe this will happen, maybe not, but considering Tom King is part of the brain trust here at DC Studios, there’s a good chance they’re going to push forward in some way.
Wanted to read through real quick from Variety what they wrote about this movie, just so we have groundwork in terms of what they’re talking about. This is directly from the Variety article, where they announced the DC Studio stuff. “Based on King’s comic run of the same title,” leaving out Bilquis Evely, “from 2021 and 2022, Woman of Tomorrow features Superman’s cousin, Kara Zor-El, who, as Gunn explained, quote, “is a very different type of Supergirl.” And then this continues that quote. “We see the difference between Superman, who was sent to Earth and raised by loving parents from the time he’s an infant versus Supergirl, who was raised on a rock chip off of Krypton and watched everyone around her die and be killed in terrible ways for the first 14 years of her life. Gunn called this Supergirl quote, “Much more hardcore” though, King’s series also involves Krypto, the super dog.” That was Variety adding that stuff [inaudible 00:44:07].
Pete: Wow. Putting a little something on the end there. Geez.
Alex: Yes. Krypto’s pretty hardcore man. I’m just going to throw out there.
Alex: Pete, let’s finally get to it, because we’ve been talking about this book for a while and I know this is the main thing you wanted to talk about. What are your reservations with this movie? What are you concerned about and what are you potentially looking forward to?
Pete: Well, here’s the thing, a lot of times when you spring off of something that’s already a successful comic, there is kind of two ways you can go. You can be very faithful to the comic and bring that comic to life, or you can kind of use that as inspiration and make different choices, but trying to stay true a little bit to what the seed of the idea is. And what I’m worried about is something that I love and then pay money to go see on the big screen, I’m going to be like, “What? How was this related to this?”
Because the feel when you start reading this story, it’s so different, so unique, so beautiful and haunting in a lot of different ways, that if you’re not giving me that same feeling, I might be very upset by that. So I’m very upset that they are going to try to take something and put it in a two hour movie and focus on the fact that Supergirl’s hardcore now, and not do justice to this beautiful story.
I really want the same colors. This is so such an achievement in comics, anything less than that on screen is going to be a little disappointing. And I also think that the fact that it’s a movie instead of a TV show is a mistake, is a little bit of a misstep, because I feel like an episodic would be a really cool way to really kind of explore a lot of the tones in this book.
Alex: That was definitely something that struck me during this readthrough, knowing that they’re adapting it to a movie, and this is too Tom King and the team’s credit, is they lead into the singular issue nature of the comic book, each issue, maybe with the exceptions of the last two, but even those somewhat, feel like their own individual issue, their own individual adventure part of this bigger story. And they are really fleshed out stories. For anybody who doesn’t regularly read comic books but is listening to this, that’s a rarity. Most comics feel like, here’s the first five minutes and then here’s the next five minutes, and we’re kind of keep going there. So that’s the way it should be, but it doesn’t really happen that often.
I definitely felt that, Pete, I felt like they’re going to have to figure out a way, if this is a movie, to excise some of this information, figure out how to smooth over other stuff. Before I keep going here, though, Justin, it looks like you disagree.
Justin: I have an alternate take. I’m very excited. I think this is an excellent movie. Think about the structure of an Indiana Jones movie, and I think there’s a very much an adventure story where you start someplace, are given a quest, and you get to follow it on half a dozen different places where Indy has to accomplish tasks and move through to find the inevitable end. I think you could make a movie just like that for this, and each issue, or maybe they’d have to cut one or two or combine a couple, something like that, but each one becomes a big set piece where we are teaching this lesson to the Ruthye character, building toward the inevitable end.
There’s a really, especially with Tom King on the team, and James Gunn seemingly invested in this particular story to recommend it in the initial announcement, that they’re going to do a pretty faithful translation of this story, and I think really land on something that we can all get behind. I love it as a movie. With a TV show I feel like there’s a potential to bloat it out a little bit and really sit in these moments, when the characters, we learn about them over the course. There’s not a ton of change that needs to happen, we just need to see them go through things. And that’s perfectly tailored to a movie.
Alex: I think that’s a pretty fair point. There’s one issue in particular that we didn’t talk about earlier that I’m thinking of, where Ruthye narrates and says, “Okay, while we were on this space train traveling from place to pace, people would always approach Supergirl and say, “Hey, you’re Superman’s cousin, right? I’m going to kill you for something that Superman did.” I’m just going to tell you about this one thing rather than all the things, because there’s too many of them. It happened too many times. It’s kind of boring.”
I could see what you’re saying with the TV show, where they’d be like, here’s an entire episode of that happening, when Ruthye is right, we only need to see it once and we get it.
Justin: And I think in that issue, it’s a scene. It’s one scene where they’re on the train and then we’ve covered that idea and it plays into the larger story. The trick, I think, is going to be the tone. Because it’s a tone we don’t see in a lot of superhero movies where… Melancholy. We don’t get that. And I think there’s a potential here to turn this into John Wick, basically, where Krypto gets hurt and Supergirl and her sort of sidekick are on a quest to get revenge. And then that’s a different movie, and maybe that’s a good movie too, but it’s a misrepresentation of the comic book that we have here.
Alex: I will say, continuing this train of thought, I had a little light bulb go blink in my head while I was reading this book this time, where I realized, I think what they’re trying to do, this is really obvious, so I don’t know why it took me so long to figure this out, they’re trying to show us superhero stuff we’ve never seen before. This, being a movie, we have never seen two female characters traveling through space on a mission of revenge, ever. I can’t think of anything that that’s ever done in TV or movies, and certainly not in superhero movies. And thinking down the rest of the DC Studio’s slate, it does feel like that pretty much across the board, that this is the sort of movie we haven’t seen before. And we’ve seen a lot of superhero movies over the past decade.
Justin: A lot of similar superhero movies.
Alex: Exactly. So it feels like, to me, if they really can execute on this, they’re going to be giving us something different, which is exciting.
Justin: Well, this is something that we didn’t really talk about when we did our first launch of this podcast, but the chance that DC has here with all of these projects is to really upend. Marvel made the first big creative leap with all of their movies and established a very clean tone, but they’ve been stuck in that tone for a while. They’re trying to deliver the same thing in different ways, and everything’s getting a little bit complex and a little bit watered down, and I think there’s a huge vulnerability by leaning into what James Gunn. Seems like he wants to do is to get more creative again, innovate, lean into script writing first and find these great stories and bring them to screen in different ways.
I think this is a huge opportunity in that department to make a movie that is different, feels different, looks different than anything we’ve seen before.
Pete: I also think that Legends of Tomorrow did a great job of having some female leads be the focus in driving on these kind of space adventures. What I don’t want to lose from the comic is these epic panels that are just gorgeous and filled with amazing color, and these planets that look so different than anything we’ve ever seen. I want them to try to really channel that in the movie, and I won’t be disappointed.
Alex: Mentioning Legends is a very good call there. And I totally agree with you about the look. If this does end up looking like Marvel’s usual space mud at the end of the day, that is a huge fail in my mind.
One other thing I wanted to throw out to you guys about the movie, and this is complete speculation at this point, but do we think that Sasha Calle, who is playing Supergirl in the upcoming Flash movie, will come back to do this? And with the caveat, we haven’t seen The Flash other than a trailer.
Justin: And I think, no. I think that casting here… I think that her Supergirl is different than… Purposefully. It’s a multiversal flashpoint Supergirl, and I think that’s a hardened Supergirl, it seems, just based on the trailer. And I think for this, you need sort of the bright, innocent Supergirl, no matter how they cast it. I think that sort of core, that tone, needs to be in the casting choice.
Alex: I’m going to disagree with you and say, I think we’ve only heard really good things about Sasha Calle in the movie. This is in The Flash, it’s a flashpoint version of her that’s been imprisoned her entire life, so she is going to be harder. She is going to be hangrier. Granted… Did I say hangrier?
Justin: Yeah, she’s hungry.
Alex: She might be hungry.
Pete: I mean, there’s angry and then there’s angry, you know what I mean?
Alex: But if you can do that-
Justin: That’s be crazy, if they put she’s trying to get a lunch the whole movie, and it’s just like that.
Alex: Listen, this guy Krem has my lunch and I got to get my lunch back by the end of the movie.
Justin: He’s a lunch pirate. He’s a sandwich pirate.
Pete: Oh man, that’s the worst kind of pirate.
Alex: Those guys are the worst. I really don’t like those guys at all. No, I think if her performance is as good, I feel like, and this is just pure suspicion on my part, that might have been even the impetus for throwing this on the pile here, that you got Andres Muschietti, who directed The Flash, who they apparently love and love the work he’s doing. James Gunn has said that he would love to work with him again in some capacity.
You’ve got Sasha Calle that, again, is getting good notices coming out of The Flash movie. So knowing they have a solid Supergirl, knowing they have a solid director that’s worked with her before, it’s really just up to the actress to moderate her performance in some way from Flash to this movie, and they could follow it forward. Totally different Supergirl because it’s a totally different universe, but you keep that connection there. I think that might be kind of interesting.
Justin: Could be. It could be.
Alex: All right, well, there we go. Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow. If you can find it somewhere, definitely pick it up, otherwise get it digitally, at least for the moment.
Pete: Yeah, please do.
Alex: Phenomenal book. And for all of you out there, if you’d like to support our podcast and all the podcasts we do, patreon.com/comicbookclub. Also, we do a live show every Tuesday night at 7:00 PM to YouTube and Facebook. Come hang out, we would love to chat with you about this book and all the lovely DC books out there. Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, or the app of your choice to subscribe, listen, and follow the show @comicbooklive on Twitter, comic book club live on TikTok and Instagram, comicbookclublive.com for this podcast, and many more. Until next time, dad, you’re doing a great job.
Justin: Dad, you’re crushing it. I will say, the milk, which is prevalent in the fridge, is expired and we need to throw it away.