Writer and actress Nicole Maines and writer Leah Williams both make their solo DC debuts in this week’s Lazarus Planet: Assault on Krypton #1. We sat down to talk to them about the event and their favorite Teen Titans.
CORINNE MCCREERY: So Nicole, I’m gonna open by being candid and say that even though this is the fourth time, we’ve talked, I’ve interviewed you, I get nervous every single time.
NICOLE MAINES: Well, I’m nervous constantly, so it’s okay.
MCCREERY: You have meant so much to my life and my career, and it’s always a joy to get the opportunity to speak to you.
MAINES: Well, I always have a pleasure during our talks. So thank you.
MCCREERY: So,on that note, this time you got, you got to actually write Dreamer meeting Supergirl for the first time in this universe.
MAINES: It feels full circle doesn’t it?
MCCREERY: A little bit! How did that feel for you with your connections with both characters?
MAINES: It was really fun. And I’m glad that it got to be in this really major event. And it got to lead to, you know, a really important mission objective for Lazarus planet and the heroes on their quest to defeat Nezha. I mean, definitely, as I was writing it, I kept trying to find ways that I could prolong that partnership in the comic, and I kept trying to because that’s my problem. Every time I’ll get an eight-page story or a ten-page story. I’ll get halfway through it as I’m writing it, and I’m plotting it out. And then I realized, oh, this really needed to be 20 pages, this really needed and then I find more and more. So I wanted Supergirl and Dreamer to stick around a lot longer. Originally, I had Supergirl, like carrying Dreamer to Lazarus Planet and having like, girl talk in the sky. But it was like, it doesn’t all fit, but I want it so bad. So there’s, there’s so much more of that relationship that I want to do in the comics. Because I love that friendship. And that was so special on the show. And getting to explore that in the comic books, I think is going to be really fun. And finding a way for them to have that moment where they’re like, did we just become best friends? I’m really excited for.
MCCREERY: Yeah, I would love to see more of that. And honestly, the current version of Supergirl needs more friends. She doesn’t have a lot.
You mentioned that this was an event comic and it was your first event comic. Leah, you are an old pro at event comics working with the X-Men line over at Marvel. How did this experience differ for both of you from what you’ve done in the past for comics, Nicole, and for past events you’ve worked on Leah?
LEAH WILLIAMS: Well, this is like my first DC gig. So it’s, it’s different in a lot of ways. But I think the most apparent one to me in how you know, the process, my creative process that I’ve come to establish through the past five years with Marvel how it is not like a one size fits all solution approach to DC characters because continuity doesn’t function the same way. And you’re laughing.
MCCREERY: I’m laughing because I have another question on here that I’ll get to in a minute. (Writer’s note: the other question “How did you approach Power Girl’s complicated continuity?” did not get asked because it gets thoroughly answered here)
WILLIAMS: So that was the first thing that was really obvious because I was coming in with like, my notes, my notebooks full of notes, of continuity notes. And I had a million questions for my editors because so much of Power Girl’s continuity contradicted itself. And I was like, “Okay, so what’s what’s true? Like, what’s the official, you know, story here?” And they were like, “What do you want to be the official story?” I was like, “Oh, it’s like that. Okay, okay.” So that was just breathtakingly exhilarating and extremely different compared to Marvel, especially the X-Men line, where the continuity is famously convoluted, but also it is gospel, and fans are really intense about it. And you know that’s it, full stop. The freedom that I immediately had in that regard with Power Girl was just kind of, it was a heady experience, I would say.
MAINES: Yeah, I think I think for me it was challenging because this is still me finding my sea legs as a writer. But also, this is really the first time that I am on my own, writing. I did DC Pride, but that was I had a lot of leeway that way because that wasn’t, you know, oh, it wasn’t canon and you can kind of do whatever you want. It’s just a story. Right? It was whatever you want it to be. And then doing this was the first time with me dealing with the canon of other characters and having her interact with Supergirl and Batman and Damian. And then also I need to be aware of what happened in previous Lazarus stuff. I need to read Batman Versus Robin, and we need to see everything that led up to this point. And now we also need to get into Dr. Fate and I need to find okay, what’s Khalid up to oh, shoot, I need to figure out what’s gone on in the Justice League Dark storylines and all that stuff. And it was so much to keep track of. And that was the hardest part. And I think I had my biggest ally. And I don’t know if this is cheating, but my biggest ally was the DC Wiki. And just constantly having that open and double-checking everything and kind of being like, okay, there is a gap in continuity here. What happened from this point to this point? What’s the what’s happening right now? We don’t know? Just make something up? Okay. It was a lot of that. And I think it all came out. I think I ironed out all the wrinkles. But it was very nerve-wracking, trying to keep everything straight in my, in my little dog brain.
MCCREERY: One thing both of you share with this issue is, you got paired with two of the most phenomenal artists in the industry. What were your experiences like working with Skylar Patridge and Marguerite Sauvage, because they’re two of my absolute favorites?
WILLIAMS: This is my first time working with Marguerite and I have always wanted to work with her. I’m a huge fan of her work. So going into this, I was able to script for her style. And also, you know, knowing she was going to be doing the art and knowing that we had the sort of like wild, psychic landscape storytelling with a lot of surrealism and symbolism going on. It was like, Okay, let’s get real weird with it. And Marguerite can get wild and have some fun. And I remember the first time she read the script, and she came back and she was like, “Maybe I’m not understanding this, like, is there a mistranslation here?” And I’m like, “Oh, no, it’s that weird. It’s just that weird. Like you have all the freedom in the world here to get as dreamy and weird and beautiful as you want. Within, like, you know, I’ve given you the parameters of the action and what’s being said and what’s happening, how it looks, you know, the art direction of it. That is up to you. Like there are no limitations on what’s happening here. I can give you suggestions. But I’m not going to give you any sort of hard and fast rules about what this is supposed to look like, because, by nature, a psychic landscape can be anything.” And she has been knocking it out of the park it is, I just gasped when her layouts come in, like just the initial sketches are so pretty, they’re gorgeous. And every subsequent story that we’ve been telling with Omen and Power Girl and these kinds of psychic journeys have gotten progressively bigger and weirder and more surrealist and strange and more tender and insular and like really dealing with internal feelings. Because it is such a personal thing to do with someone and I look forward to every new page from Marguerite just astonishing work.
MAINES: Yeah, I mean with Skylar, similarly every time a new sketch, layout, ink came in from her. It was always gorgeous and it always takes my breath away. And I have all of the pages saved on my phone. And I look at them all of the time. Because they’re, they’re gorgeous. And the way that Skylar has illustrated the descent into the dream realm, the descent going from Khalid’s subconscious further into the dreams into the helmet of Fate and seeing how the foundation of it falls apart. I mean, it was brought into even the way the panels were laid out, and the way that the panels were constructed. It’s so cool, and it’s so surrealist and she always met me with such great ideas and, and everything they had, like a, like a “Yes and”. And okay, yeah, so we’re in the hospital, we’re doing Grey’s Anatomy with Khalid Nassour. “What if all of the doctors and patients and staff were Khalid, what if just everyone is Khalid?” and I was like, “Yes, that’s perfect. Do that.” And what if we had a paradox stairwell in here, why not? It’s dreams. Let’s make it crazy. It was so much fun, and it came out so beautiful. And now I feel spoiled. And now I’m like, “So you’re doing Dreamer forever. Right? Right?!” Like it’s, I mean, it’s gorgeous.
WILLIAMS: Spoiled is a really perfect word for it. I’ve, like literally verbatim said that and emails to my editors when we get our back like I feel spoiled. Absolutely.
MCCREERY: You mentioned the other main character of your story, Leah, which I have to say, took me completely by surprise. Sometimes I think I am the only person who remembers Lilith Clay. And then all of a sudden she appears in this event comic. What made you decide on Omen as a secondary lead character for your stories?
WILLIAMS: So I was coming at it from a standpoint of like, “Okay, so we’re going to give Power Girl this kind of nascent psychic ability that she’s struggling with. And she has a really hard time relating to other people. So what if there is a team-up with somebody who can kind of help her on that front?” And immediately you know, the first name that came to mind that I fully have to credit my editor Brittany (Holzherr) with, she was like, “What about omen? What’s Omen up to?” And then you can hear Paul (Kaminski) and I gasping from our like other ends of the phone line? Like, “Yes, oh my god.” And then we just started like, excitedly discussing the possibilities of it because not only do they just have this sort of perfect Odd Couple personalities that work really well together. They are each other’s foils. But also Omen is like a licensed counselor. She is a trained psychotherapist, and has dealt with trauma. And now she’s teaming up with Power Girl to mindwalk in the traumatized minds of superheroes, because who else aside from like, you know, them would be qualified to do something like that? They’re uniquely suited to it. And it’s, I don’t know, it’s just worked out so well because Omen is like she is OP telepathically, she is OP as hell. But Power Girl is still kind of struggling with this and the way that we have it set up, because, you know, she’s like, a combat person. She’s great at fighting, she’s great at punching. The way she enters the astral realm is she punches her way into the astral realm. So we’ve got like Omen, the trauma counselor sitting in their sunny therapy office, and Omen is like, okay, so close your eyes. And then they’re like, why? And then Power Girl’s like, “Because this is what it looks like.” And then, you know, they think they’re getting punched in the face, but that’s how Power Girl enters the psychic realm. And then Omen just sighs. Omen has all of the people skills that Power Girl does not. And it’s just a beautiful dynamic. I’m loving it so much and just as much as we are, you know, centering Power Girl and kind of powering her up and giving her a new, bigger platform. We want to rehabilitate Omen’s character too and kind of bring back this groovy go-go dancer psychic who is just so OP and so underrated.
MCCREERY: So since you’re using the Titans in your story, I want to know your favorite Titan. And Nicole, feel free to chime in with yours as well.
WILLIAMS: I probably would have had a different answer to this before writing the backup story for Action Comics #1051. But, because Beast Boy is kind of the first recipient of this, you know, new team-up capacity between Omen and Power Girl, being inside his mind and researching his trauma and what he’s been through recently, I was just like, “Alright, he’s my son now”. He got mentally sorted over into this category in my head that’s like, these are my children. They’re my kids. So that’s where he is now. I just feel so tenderly about him such a sweet boy.
MAINES: Yeah, I don’t know as much of the Titans as I should comic book wise, because I, of course, I grew up with the animated show on Cartoon Network. And that was my first exposure to them. But I’m a big Kory/Dick Grayson fan.
(Writer’s note, at this point I showed my Nightwing and Starfire tattoo sleeve to Nicole)
MAINES: See? That’s what I’m talking about. See? That’s what I’m talking about. Let’s stay on the same page.
MCCREERY: It seems like there’s more to Dreamer’s role in this event to come. How involved are you in the rest of the event, Nicole?
MAINES: I don’t know anything past what I’ve written. I don’t know what’s come up. I hope that we see her again. I know if we don’t see her. I don’t know if we see her again. Honestly, if we don’t I have my idea about where she goes post-Lazarus Pit exposure. But if somebody else has another idea, I don’t know. I don’t know if we, if we if anyone is brought her back, because, of course, we know that she does retrieve the helmet of Fate and we do know that she leaves it in the Hall of Justice. But when the heroes find it, there’s no Dreamer. And so it’s kind of like okay, so she completed her mission. Where did she go? And why is it covered in Lazarus resin? And why is she missing? So now we have to answer this question of okay, what has gone on with the Lazarus supercharged, Lazarus-exposed Dreamer? And what does that look like? Because we know people who bathe in the Lazarus Pits generally aren’t super okay afterward.
MAINES: Leah, what hints can you give us about what’s coming in Action Comics, which I have to say I’m incredibly jealous that your second DC work is on Action Comics.
WILLIAMS: Isn’t it wild? So Power Girl and Omen are going to continue exploring this new, permanent telepathic link between the two of them in particular, it’s like a permanent open channel between the two women’s minds in particular, but also the way that they can utilize this to help people the way that they can use it to do good. And we see I think the biggest thing people will be excited about is that we see Power Girl kind of confronting her inferiority complex with certain other members of the Superfamily that she is often mistaken for. And it gets kind of raw and it gets real, because her family members are trying to relate to her and she’s like but we’re not really family. And I’m the one on the outside and I’m the loner and the outcast and they’re like, and you’re not doing anything to fix that. It’s going to get juicy with the family drama and Phil (Kennedy Johnson) is doing an amazing job of, you know, setting up really great family stuff in the main story of Action Comics.
MCCREERY: It’s always a pleasure to talk to both of you. And I very much look forward to whatever’s coming next.
MAINES: Good to talk to you again.
Lazarus Planet: Assault On Krypton #1 is out today, so go to your Local Comic Shop to get your copy!