DC Super Hero Girls has been nothing less than a cultural phenomenon.
The vivid reimagining of classic female superheroes has been universally beloved and given a whole new generation of fans a way into the wonderful world of comics. To celebrate the release of the newest DC Super Hero Girls book, Out of the Bottle, we chatted with series writer Shea Fontana about the impact of the series and some of her absolute favorite moments.
Like many of us, Fontana had an inkling that DC Super Hero Girls would turn out to be something very special. “I knew from the beginning that it was something I and lots of women I know would have loved when we were kids,” Fontana shared. “I always believed that girls enjoyed superhero stories just as much as boys do, and when we began the project, there was very little female superhero content available. So I thought it had the potential to fill that gap. But I could not have fathomed the extent of the success, not only with girls, but with boys as well.”
For Fontana, one of the highlights of the experience has been seeing the positive impact that the series has had on young fans. “Every time I see a kid dressed up in our version of the character, my heart explodes,” Fontana said.” Being able to bring to life versions of these iconic heroes that are relatable and aspirational enough that kids want to be them is such an honor. As a writer, seeing kids connect with the characters that way gives me the highest sense of creative fulfillment and joy.”
She continued, “I have heard so many incredible stories from fans—and their parents. There have been kids who have learned to read from DC Super Hero Girls graphic novels; a girl who, with some mom-made magic, has a costume for every major character and does DC Super Hero Girls videos on YouTube; dads who’ve found that they have something comic book-y to bond with their daughters over; and a touching letter from a mom whose son finally found heroes in our girls that he connects to.”
After so many successful stories, I wondered what inspirations Fontana pulled from for her latest outing with Out of the Bottle. “This story was very personal to me because at its heart, it’s a story about creativity and telling stories. In the beginning, we see the stories each girl tells herself about herself. Their internal monologues are laid out in these autobiographical comics that they’re creating for art class. Wonder Woman is self-conscious about her art and feels that she needs to do more—so much more she wishes she could multiply herself! Harley, who’s always getting detention, has cast herself as a potential ‘anti-hero.’ And, like the stories we tell ourselves about who we are, they have a habit of coming to life!”
It’s a comic that for Fontana has an important message at its core. “When the comic characters that Wonder Woman, Harley, Katana, and Supergirl created spring off the page and into Metropolis, the girls must use their creativity and self-expression to combat them,” she said. “The way they use their art becomes a lifeline, a weapon for good.”
There are two big points Fontana is hoping young readers take from DC Super Hero Girls. “The message that I wanted kids to get from the book was, first, that they can change the story they tell themselves about themselves,” she said. “A lot of us have an internal monologue that tells us we’re not good enough or we can’t do something, but changing that monologue is a super power. Telling yourself that you can, even when you feel like you can’t, is huge.”
She went on: “The second big takeaway is how the arts—no matter if it’s painting, storytelling, dancing, or whatever you prefer and no matter how traditionally ‘good’ you are at them—are an important tool to have in your mental arsenal. Self-expression and arts are powerful coping mechanisms and important to our mental health.”
When it comes to comics it’s all about the art, and Fontana is incredibly happy with what her collaborators have created with the newest story. “I love what Agnes Garbowska, Marcelo DiChiara, and Mirka Andolfo have done in the art with the comics created by the characters to make them so unique and truly ‘drawn’ from the character’s perspective. Agnes did the absolute cutest comic, which is drawn by Supergirl in the story. Marcelo did a sleek, angular comic drawn by Katana and Mirka did the comic drawn by June Moone about her experience becoming the Enchantress. The different styles give this book more visual variety than any other in the series.”
Fontana’s enthusiasm is infectious and she’s already thinking about the future of the series. “I’m really excited about our next book, Search for Atlantis, which is our first graphic novel to feature Mera,” Fontana said. “I hope kids continue finding new characters that they connect with and are inspired to ‘be their super-self!’”
Images: DC Comics