As a proud comic book nerd, one of the coolest things about my job as a collection development librarian is the opportunity to preview the latest in the DC Superhero Girls series, OUT OF THE BOTTLE, which was released in August, and SEARCH FOR ATLANTIS, which hits bookstores on October 2nd.
OUT OF THE BOTTLE highlights Harley Quinn as the comic book character she’s created for Ms. Moone’s art class comes to life and wreaks havoc on Superhero High. SEARCH FOR ATLANTIS introduces Raven and Mera to the team. Mera is a new student at Super Hero High, and as she and Wonder Woman becomes friends, Bumblebee becomes anxious that she’s losing her best friend. When the heroes discover that Atlantis has been stolen, the girls have to work together to get it back.
Then, I had a chance to talk to author Shea Fontana about the series.
MUF: Every book in the DC Superhero Girls series deals with an important life lesson. For example, OUT OF THE BOTTLE stresses the importance of mental health care, and SEARCH FOR ATLANTIS deals with accepting change. Do you feel that the graphic novel format makes these issues more accessible for young readers? If so, how?
The graphic novel format really gives us the space and intimacy with the reader to dive into big ideas. Plus, having these awesome, well-known characters explore these topics makes it accessible for kids. Our heroes are aspirational for kids reading the books, and we want to show kids that even heroes face hardships. When kids deal with those types of things, like mental health care or accepting change in their friendship groups, it can feel very lonely and it helps to know that superheroes are dealing with it, too! My goal with these types of stories is to always help kids feel less alone and empower them — like they have a team of superheroes that can fight and win every battle with them.
MUF: SEARCH FOR ATLANTIS has a couple of new beginnings. Both Mera and Raven are introduced, and the Teen Titans were essentially formed. Which of these new beginnings were you most excited about introducing? Was it fun brainstorming new names for the Titans? Were there any rejected names that didn’t make it into the book?
I loved integrating both Mera and Raven into this graphic novel! Both are such wonderful, and very different characters. From the beginning of the series, I knew that I wanted to build up to the Teen Titans reveal, bringing together the traditional Titans that kids know from the TV show as well as the comic book version that includes Miss Martian and Bumblebee. The misnaming thread was a fun way to build the tension toward what everyone knows is coming — of course their group name should be the Teen Titans!
MUF: Why was Brainiac chosen as the villain for this story?
We knew that Brainiac got away at the end of the DC Super Hero Girls: Intergalactic Games animated movie, so he’s been waiting in the wings for his next attack. Since in the Legends of Atlantis movie, we meet Mera and Aquaman under water on their “turf,” I wanted to do something different, but still Atlantis-oriented with this story. So, I decided to bring Atlantis out of the water. Since Brainiac is a collector of bottled cities, it seemed the perfect fit.
MUF: What was your favorite part of the story? What was the most difficult to write? What was the most fun?
My favorite part of the story is how Miss Martian steps up as a leader. She’s not the regular kind of leader that the heroes expect — she doesn’t seem as bold as Wonder Woman or as outgoing as Supergirl. But she has a quieter style of leadership that is just as valid.
The ending on this one was difficult for me to write. I really felt for and related to Bumblebee!
MUF: Who’s your favorite superhero? Who’s the most fun to write about? Why?
I loved writing Raven in this story! Her personality is a great contrast to a lot of the other characters. She has an edge and attitude that we don’t often see in kid superhero stories and it’s fun to explore that.
MUF: Conversely, who’s your favorite villain? Who’s your favorite to write about?
We have had so many fun villains in this series, both in the graphic novels and the animation. I think my favorite is Dark Opal, because he went into villainy as a back-up career when musical theater didn’t work out. Mera’s sister, Siren, who we meet in the Legends of Atlantis animated move, is also great. She’s so controlling and manipulative.
MUF: If you could teach any class at Superhero High, which one would you want to teach?
Power Naps 101.
MUF: Right there with you! I think that would be my favorite class to take. Is there a superhero or villain that you’d like to write about that you haven’t yet? Who?
It had been Batman, as he is my childhood favorite hero, and he is not featured in DC Super Hero Girls. But now I’ve had the chance to write him in BATMAN: OVERDRIVE which will be published under the upcoming DC Zoom middle grade imprint! I can’t wait for everyone to read it — it’s some of the most fun I’ve had writing.
MUF: And finally, do you have any advice for aspiring writers and writers who would love to work on graphic novels one day?
Read a lot and do a lot! The best way to get familiar with story structure, dialogue, and how graphic novels work is by reading. But the best way to come up with stories is by doing! While the old adage of “write what you know” isn’t true (I don’t know how to fly or shoot lasers out of my eyes), the more you experience, the more you’ll have to pull from when thinking of story ideas. Whenever I need the courage to do something new, I tell myself, “Well, it could be a good experience for a story…”
Shea Fontana is a writer for film, television and graphic novels. Her credits include developing and writing the DC Super Hero Girls animated shorts, TV specials, movies and graphic novels; Polly Pocket, Doc McStuffins, The 7D, Whisker Haven Tales with the Palace Pets, Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz , the new Muppet Babies series; two Disney on Ice shows where she wrote new material for the worlds of Mickey Mouse, Inside Out, Disney Princesses, Finding Dori, Frozen, and other Disney and Pixar properties; and the feature film, Crowning Jules. Learn more about her and her writing at http://www.sheafontana.com/.