From Girls To Women, Plus Batman: Talking Shea Fontana’s Work With DC

by Gary Catig

Shea Fontana has had an interesting career as a writer. She’s had various projects in both animation and comics and has even written some Disney On Ice live shows. This year, at Long Beach Comic Con, Fontana was the Guest of Honor and at the show, she sat down with to discuss her work with DC Comics.
Gary Catig: We’re at Long Beach Comic Con currently. How have your experiences been at this show? Is it different this time being the Guest of Honor this time compared to previous times?
Shea Fontana: It’s been a really fun show. It feels like it’s just getting started. I had a signing this morning at the Golden Apple booth and had a lot of people come by. A lot of the DC Super Hero Girls fans. That was really great. We also did a panel this afternoon where I talked a bit about writing both comics and animation so it’s been really fun. I’m not really sure how being a Guest of Honor is different because I don’t remember before but I’ve just been treated so well by everyone here at Long Beach Comic Con so it’s fun to be here.

GC: You’ve already touched upon it, but many people know of your work on DC Super Hero Girls. How was it working on this property? Especially since you were involved in different ways through books, shorts, movies and of course, the graphic novels.
SF: Yeah, so I got started on DC Super Hero Girls very early in its conception. In 2014, Warner Bros and DC and Mattel knew they wanted to make a series or brand or property specifically targeted to girls about six to eleven but they didn’t quite know what they wanted to do with that. They brought me in to pitch and they liked the direction that I went with it.
We have a high school full of superheroes. All of our best-known superheroes, both male and female from the DC universe, have been aged down to about fifteen to seventeen years old so they’re high schoolers. They still all have their superpowers. We had to change some of their backstories to make that work but we have this incredible cast of DC characters with Wonder Woman, Super Girl, Poison Ivy, Bat Girl, Harley Quinn and just some of the best-known superhero characters in the world.
It’s been very fun to get into that from the very beginning of development. I started off first with the animation. I did about 90 of the shorts as well as three movies and a TV special on the animation side. Then I’ve written eight graphic novels and a couple picture books for it as well.
GC: You have done other work for DC including writing the comics, the floppies, like single issues and stories in their specials. You even did an arc on Wonder Woman. What kind of transition was there moving from graphic novels to single issues? What kind of differences did you experience since Wonder Woman was a bi-monthly and had a different audience from DC Super Hero Girls?
SF: With the Wonder Woman book, I think it was really interesting to see how, in my mind, how her character evolved from when she was a younger character that I was used to writing to this adult character in her late 20’s to early 30’s. I don’t think she has a specific age. We’ll just leave it open but she is an adult.
Kind of thinking about what things she is going through at that point in her life and how she’s looking at the world a little bit differently than when she was younger. I think the great thing about Wonder Woman is her core characteristic is always really about her desire for justice and peace. She’s the one who brings peace to the world as a superhero.
That’s her overarching goal but as she gets into the more complicated morality in the adult book that I did, it really is figuring out how you choose the lesser of two hard situations. I don’t want to call them failures, but there’s not always a great choice in every situation.
It’s figuring out how you go about that even when you are Wonder Woman. When you are the superhero. When you are used to having your way and how you deal with a little complication that way.

GC: Moving to your future projects on the horizon, you have a book entitled, DC: Women of Action coming in October. Can you tell our readers about it?
SF: DC: Women of Action is a non-fiction book that profiles about 56, I think, of the greatest DC female characters as well as some of the creators behind these characters. We have all of the characters you would expect like Wonder Woman, Super Girl and Louis Lane.
We also get into some of the women in the League of Shadows. We have Poison Ivy. We have Harley Quinn. We have these incredible characters that we go into their histories. Their publication history. How they have been portrayed in movies and TV as well as in the comic books.
Then we get to meet some of the people who started in comics long, long before you and I were born. We have profiles on people like Dorothy Woolfolk, who was assistant editor on Wonder Woman starting in 1942. She actually came back in the 70’s and was an instrumental force in getting some very progressive, feminist, Louis Lane comic books on shelves.
We also have Ramona Fradon, who was an artist on Aquaman and the co-creator of Aqualad in the 1950’s.
I think it’s always interesting, currently in the zeitgeist, there is a push of “Women in Comics”. You’ll see a lot of these panels at comic cons and things. It’s this new thing that’s happening but women have been in comics since the very beginning. Sometimes, they didn’t always receive the credit they should have but they have been around and have been really instrumental in creating these characters that we love.
GC: I imagine there was a fair amount of research involved. What was the most interesting thing you encountered either character or person behind the scenes?
SF: Ooh, that’s interesting. Ramona Fradon was super interesting. She is now about 90 years old and she still occasionally does comic cons where she’ll go and you can commission art from her as well. That was a very interesting [person] who I didn’t know a lot about before getting into the book.
Seeing how she really started to change the house style of DC and brought in this more cartoony style rather than this realistic style. She’s also the co-creator of Metamorpho so she was really into this squash and stretch, very plasticky feeling character. It was fun to get to see a bit about her.
Adriene Roy was another one who was really interesting. She was a colorist on Batman for a lot of issues. I’m not going to quote how many it was because I know I’m going to remember it wrong but I believe she’s the second most credited creator on Batman of everyone who’s ever worked on a Batman book since the 1930’s. She was really incredible as a colorist really establishing the aesthetic of Gotham.

GC: Finally, you have another graphic novel due out next year called Batman: Overdrive. I think it’s an interesting concept where you have Bruce Wayne fixing up his dad’s old car to help him cope with his parents’ loss. Also, he can relate to other people better as he works with them putting it together. I guess it’s also an origin story for the Batmobile. What made you go this route for the story? Are you a gear head or have a love for cars in real life?
SF: I enjoy cars. I actually, as I was writing this story, I did this race car driving experience just to figure out what it’s like to drive a racecar. I enjoy cars. I wouldn’t say I know a ton about them but I did get into that subculture which is really cool. These kinds of cars that people take these objects and really transform them into so much more.
Batman: Overdrive is really the story about this fifteen going on sixteen, it’s one month out from his sixteenth birthday, Bruce Wayne and his parents have died a few years ago. He’s still really coping with that loss and he’s trying to connect with his father, who is no longer there, through restoring this old car of his. It’s both how he starts to get into the car, and as he’s doing that, he needs of course a little help from a few friends.
He meets this new character named Mateo Diaz, who is kind of this mechanical wizard and is going to really help him build up the Batmobile. As well as a young lady named Selina Kyle, who knows a thing or two about cars because maybe she’s been stealing a few. She’s the girl that he kind of starts to fall for a bit in the book. They understand that they have something in common and that’s they’re on different sides of this crime ring that’s happening.
It’s really fun to get into these characters and see how they would be as younger characters. We’re all used to this adult, brooding, Bruce Wayne but it’s taking him back a few years and really introducing this idea that he doesn’t have to be a loner. I think in all the Batman books, it’s really about Bruce Wayne wanting to find his Bat Family. We’re bringing that into a little bit of a younger character.
We appreciate Shea taking the time out to speak with us and you can learn more about the talented writer on twitter and her website. DC: Women of Action will be released October 22, 2019 and is up for pre-order on Amazon. Look for Batman: Overdrive when it drops next spring on March 3, 2020.
We would also like to thank the organizers of Long Beach Comic Con for helping coordinate the interview.

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