DCSHG – Shea Fontana Interview Questions
1. How did the DCSHG project resonate with you when you were first approached? What inspired you to sign on?
When DC and the animation team first contacted me, the project was a very big secret – they wouldn’t even tell me what it was we were talking about! The initial interview was a bit of a game of twenty questions trying to decipher what exactly I was being interviewed about. The only information I had was that DC was involved and I assumed it probably had something to do with one of their female characters – and that was plenty to get me excited! DC has such a rich history with empowering female characters that it would have been an honor to write for any one of them. When I found out I would be writing for not just one but many of the major DC characters, I was thrilled. DCSHG is a unique opportunity to reach girls and to make girls a priority in the comic book world. But good stories are for everyone so we know boys will like it too and the webisodes already attracting a co-ed audience.
2. How does DCSHG differ from other animated series you’ve worked on? Any challenges or surprises?
It’s been really fun and challenging to write DCSHG! There are so many facets to the types of content we’re doing that I’m writing a lot of different genres with the same set of characters. The webisode shorts that we do are more comedy-centric while the DVD releases will be full-on action epics. The graphic novel is a whole new medium for me and that was a challenge to get to know the format. Though a lot of people have mentioned that it has been surprising to see how much young girls love big action that was not a surprise to me because I was a girl who loved superhero action!
3. Since your background is mostly in animation writing, did you do anything special to prepare for this project?
I think the most important thing when getting into any type of writing is to read as much as possible. Not only did I read a lot of graphic novels, I also got my hands on some great graphic novel manuscripts. Studying the manuscripts was very helpful in transitioning from the type of storytelling that I’m used to in animation to the type of storytelling that works in graphic novels. I was lucky to have a team of incredibly experienced editors at DC working on this graphic novel and they provided invaluable help along the way.
4. What was your relationship with these DC characters before you started? Has this project changed how you view them?
I was a DC fan going in, but once I actually got into the thick of it, I realized how little I knew about the DC universe. It has been really fun to get into the comic material for all of our heroes and see how the characters have evolved through the years. Since we have created a new universe for the characters, we’ve had to play with some of character’s backstories and mythologies, but it has been a priority for us to remain true to the defining personality traits of each of our heroes. The core DNA for the characters remains in tact while we explore what they may have been like as high school students.
5. What has it been like to reimagine these iconic characters as a group of teenage friends? What new possibilities or value do you think this adds to their stories?
It has been a blast to 'hang out' (in my head!) with the teenage versions of these characters. Especially with characters like Harley and Ivy, who have been traditionally portrayed as villains, it’s been fascinating to imagine how they might be different if they had a group of supportive super hero friends while they were in high school. Like all teenagers, our characters are still exploring who they’ll become. Plus, they’re testing the boundaries of their powers, trying to determine what’s important to them, and figuring out where they belong.
Our core characters are so diverse and the teenage experience is so rich that there’s unlimited potential for stories in this world.
6. One of the guiding principles behind this series is to embolden young girls—and all kids—and inspire them to be their own heroes. How has this core idea shaped your writing of this project?
It has always been important to me to portray the DC Super Hero Girls characters as relatable, flawed, and genuine teenagers. I wanted to avoid making this diverse group of girls too perfect or god-like (even Wonder Woman is only half-god!). It’s hard for kids to see themselves in characters who are flawless. But when a character has hopes, dreams and fears that kids reflect how kids really feel, it show them that no matter who they are, they can make heroic decisions too. The message is that you don’t have to be perfect to be a hero. We all have the potential to make heroic decisions.
We also made it a priority to have diverse and inclusive cast of characters so that young girls can see characters like themselves portrayed positively on the screen. Traditionally in entertainment, females are relegated to backseat roles like girlfriend, wife, sassy friend, or receptionist, and it was really important to us to show girls taking charge as the heroes of their own stories. Super Hero High is a co-ed school and we show that girls can work together with boys who are their friends while being independent, strong characters who aren’t defined by their male counterparts.
7. The DCSHG retail line includes a lot of amazing interactive accessories that enable kids to connect with their favorite characters. Which DC Super Hero Girl do you most identify with?
It’s impossible to not bring pieces of myself to the characters I write, so they’re all at least a little bit like me. I’m probably most like Wonder Woman. We’re both perfectionists about our work, tend to take on a lot and have high expectations for ourselves. Also, I’m introverted like Ivy. There’s a storyline of one of the webisode shorts about Principal Waller encouraging Ivy to have more of a social life by joining a club. That’s straight out of my school experience when teachers would say things like, “Shea does well with her school work, but she just needs to come out of her shell. ..”
8. Which character do you most enjoy writing? Are any particularly challenging?
Our cast is so diverse that each character is exciting to write in a different way. Bumblebee has such a great energy and is usually the most empathetic of the characters. I get to exercise my wacky side with Harley who always has the punchline. Katana is just dripping with a modern coolness. Supergirl may be the strongest teen on the planet, but she’s still figuring out who she is, who she wants to be and how she’ll use her powers.
Batgirl may be the most challenging to write since she’s a tech genius and I am not. She’s the one who most often has me researching the proper terminology or what parts one might need to build a Batjet.
9. Do you have any opportunities to interact with fans? What type of feedback have you received from them so far?
It’s been so great to see how the fans are responding and the feedback from fans has been overwhelmingly positive. On Twitter, in the YouTube comments or at the Cons, the fans – both kids and their parents— have been very supportive of our vision for DCSHG. I’ve strived to create the series that I would have wanted to see when I was a kid and it’s so amazing to watch how kids light up when they see the characters.
10. What are your hopes for DCSHG moving forward?
The heart of everything we do is about encouraging girls to be the heroes of their own stories. My biggest hope is that in reading the graphic novel and watching the animation will give kids that extra little boost of confidence, validation or encouragement that will make just a little bit of difference as they grow-up. I’d love to think that a little girl seeing Bumblebee and Batgirl’s tech smarts could be encouraged to pursue her dream of going into tech. Or that our scientist characters, like Ivy and Frost, would spark an interest in science. The entertainment we consume has the ability to inspire us and I hope that DCSHG will be part of the inspiration for a generation of real-life superhero girls.