Ricky Church chats with Legion of Super-Heroes screenwriter Josie Campbell…
Next week the next DC animated film Legion of Super-Heroes is set to be released, taking viewers along a ride to the 31st Century with Supergirl as she learns to hone her powers. Training alongside new Legion recruits as well as the egotistical Brainiac 5, a descendent of Superman’s enemy, Supergirl and her new friends discover a threat that could destroy the universe and must work together in order to prevent it.
We spoke with the film’s screenwriter Josie Campbell. She has previously written for the DC animated shows Teen Titans Go! and Justice League Action, but this marks her first feature film writing for a group of characters she is a self-described fan of. We talked about bringing the Legion to their first animated feature film, introducing them to a wider audience and what makes Supergirl such a popular character. Check out our interview below…
Ricky Church: The Legion are made up of a lot of fan-favourites in the comic community, but they’re not well-known characters like the Justice League to the mainstream audience. What attracted you to the idea of writing this movie for them?
Josie Campbell: Yeah, so I will admit that I am a Legion fan. I think the thing that attracted me and made me excited about writing this movie is the same thing that makes me excited to read them, which is I like how weird they are. I like that they’re a group from the future trying to save the day with these very strange, crazy powers, but nobody, no two characters have the same powers, and they’re all powers, backstories and aliens that you wouldn’t at first be like “Oh yeah, that’s a superhero.” Like, Bouncing Boy turns into a ball and bounces around and he fights crime! That sentence seems insane! It’s wild. Being to write them was both fun for me as a fan, but also fun because I really love characters that are strange, that are different, that people maybe underestimate because they’re different, then letting them shine and show people we can be heroes too. Just because my arms fall off doesn’t mean I don’t have the makings of a hero, you know?
It’s also interesting this movie doesn’t really feature the main Legion characters like Saturn Girl, but focuses on a bunch of the recruits like you say with Bouncing Boy and Arms Falling Off Guy. What advantage was there for you to focus on some of the lesser known Legionnaires?
For me it was two things. One of it was that everything that I did in this movie, I kind of wanted to give a slightly different spin on some things that I think comic fans have come to expect. Like at the very beginning we’re seeing the destruction of Krypton, but from Kara’s perspective, not Clark’s. We’re seeing the Legion, but it’s not the same Legion characters who get used over and over and over again. Here’s these characters that you take a hard left turn and here they are. So for me, some of it was just doing the things that are a little less expected or doing things that you think you know and then there’s a little bit of a twist on it.
I kind of looked at all the eras of Legion and I said to myself “What are the characters and the ideas and the villains that stand out to me the most? What leaves an impact on me?” Just sort of glancing through all these comics and all these eras it wasn’t always the main characters you see over and over again. A lot of times it is the weirdos, the strange ones, the ones in the corner. Here’s Timber Wolf who does not have a filter. They felt so rich and so fun to explore in a way that if you know Legion you will be excited and if you don’t know Legion, we’ve created a new world and a new context for you to discover them with.
Awesome. Now you said you’re a Legion fan, but this movie also follows Supergirl for the most part. She is a very popular character, especially in recent years with the Supergirl TV show and some of the comics she’s headlined. Did you feel any intimidation tackling a character like Supergirl?
You know, I didn’t feel intimidation. I felt like anticipation and excitement. I think it’s because of all of those things. A lot of these Legionnaires I’m getting to establish or what the Legion is like, who are they like in this world, but then you have Supergirl and she is such a multi-layered character. It supports so many different versions of her. I think I was excited because I was like people will be coming into Legion fresh or maybe coming in expecting other characters, but everybody thinks they know Supergirl. To be able to dive into her character and to explore her as somebody who’s basically a refugee, as somebody who’s whole life was standing out and it was ready to go and then it all literally blew up in her face and now she’s having to start from scratch. That’s such fertile ground for conflict and character that I wasn’t intimidated. I was really excited and I really wanted to show sort of a different side to Supergirl than maybe you’ve seen in the TV show or maybe you’ve seen in the comics. The character is so deep and she totally supports herself.
Cool. What do you find about Supergirl that makes her so popular and distinct against Superman?
I love Superman too. He’s cool, he’s great, but he grew up from a baby in the American heartland. He’s a Midwestern boy. At his core he’s an Earthing. Kara is different. Kara at her core is Kryptonian. She’s alien and she’s come to Earth and she’s discovered her cousin who was a baby is now older than she is, and she’s got superpowers and also there are super villains. She’s got everything thrown at her, but then she still wants to help people. All of this stuff is really traumatic. It would be very easy for her to have thrown in the towel, say “I’m done. This is wild.” Instead she pulls herself up and she’s like “No, I’m going to help people and not only am I going to help people, I’m going to wear this costume and look fabulous doing it.”
That grit and sense of humor is so enticing and so fun. I think that’s what makes Supergirl such a great character no matter what version of her that there is. From the comics, to the movies, to the TV shows. There’s always that joy and delight and grit to her. To me what makes the best Supergirl story is that she’s resilient, she’s not going to stop and she’s still having fun despite every obstacle being thrown at her.
Yeah, for sure. Now this isn’t your first DC project. You’ve previously written for a bit of Teen Titans Go! and Justice League Action. How does it feel for you to be writing your first DC feature film featuring characters that you obviously love and are a fan of?
Oh, it was so fun and it felt so great! Because of this is my first actual feature, it was kind of really fun to be able to have the space to really explore these characters and really explode out and have these big action scenes and these big character scenes and these big horror scenes. Working in TV with Justice League Action and Teen Titans Go!, those are 11 minutes. The action-adventure stuff is done in two minutes. There’s always stuff that you can’t quite dive into because you’ve got a limited amount of time, but with this it just felt like going on a long walk with my best friends. It was so fun to dive in. It was so fun to have the room to explore and then it was so fun to be able to hand that off to Jeff [Wamester, director] and his team and see his artists crush it and see them add their own little flourishes and bring this to life in a way that it’s so much more intense and scary and beautiful than I could have thought. The short version of my very long ramble is it’s great!
Awesome! We kind of touched on this a little bit, but you could say that Legion of Super-Heroes is like a coming of age story since Supergirl and the recruits are all young and in training. What factored into your inspiration to focus on the Legion Academy and their hopes to join the team?
Well, there was sort of two parts to it. One is that I personally like the Legion Academy concept. If you know Legion you’ll have fun and if not this is kind of a great way to introduce you to the whole idea and the team. But then also because so much of Kara’s story is trying to find that place where you belong, it just goes hand-in-hand with coming of age stories where you’re trying to prove yourself. You’re trying to find where you fit in in the world. And so having Kara be a younger adult, having these characters be younger adults and all of them in various ways needing to prove themselves and prove their worth to people who doubt them or people who don’t know them, it just felt right to make them all part of the Academy. Part of that idea of “We’re going to find a place to belong. We’re going to prove that we belong here. We’re going to show people that they’ve underestimated us. We’re going have fun doing it.”
Thank you to Josie Campbell for speaking with us!
Legion of Super-Heroes will be released on 4K, Blu-ray and DVD February 6th and digital February 7th.
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