We’ve got a special treat today here at FIRESTORM FAN – an interview with the writer of the upcoming KILLER FROST one-shot, Sterling Gates!
With just two weeks before the release of JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #7.2: KILLER FROST, Sterling Gates took time out of his busy schedule for a chat with FIRESTORM FAN! You may be familiar with his work on Supergirl, War of the Supermen, Justice League of America’s Vibe, or one of his many other projects. Sterling is a rising star in the world of comics and he’s bringing his passion and creativity to the Nuclear Man’s #1 nemesis!
FIRESTORM FAN: How did you first get interested in reading comics and what were some of your favorites?
STERLING GATES: Well, my parents owned a comic store in Tulsa, OK when I was growing up, so comics have always been a part of my life in one form or another. We sold the store when my dad passed away in 1998, and then in college I became the weekend manager of a comic book store called Speeding Bullet Books and Comics. My final thesis was writing and drawing a 20-page comic. I graduated college in 2005 and moved to Los Angeles. Through the help of Geoff Johns, I got a job as a production assistant on Blade: The Series. Comics have played a huge role in almost all of the different areas of my life so far, and hopefully they’ll continue to do so for a long time coming!
When I was a kid, I was chubby and slow. As a result, the Flash was my favorite hero, because he could always outrun the bullies! I actually found an old script the other day I wrote when I was a senior in high school. In it, Kid Flash teaches a young boy (who suspiciously looks a lot like me) how to be faster and outrun the bullies who chase him after school. I was a really, really big Flash fan when I was a kid.
I was also really into Batman (and Tim Drake Robin!), Superman, the Justice League and Spider-Man when I was a kid, and then as I got older I got really into slice-of-life comics. Adrian Tomine, Craig Thompson, that kind of thing.
FF: How familiar were you with Killer Frost and Firestorm before receiving this assignment? Any particular appearances stick out in your memory?
SG: Very familiar. In 2010, I developed a huge Firestorm pitch for DC post-Brightest Day, so I spent a lot of time going through Firestorm’s rogues and figuring out things to do with all of them. I think Frost is probably the most important Firestorm villain, the most iconic. Their subplot in Crisis on Infinite Earths made sure of that!
I also think her inclusion in the Injustice video game marks a pretty big development in the character’s life and profile. She’s got such an interesting look and is so powerful, I think she should be put up there with the great DCU villains.
FF: Congratulations on being the first to write a Killer Frost solo story! What can you tell us about the one-shot?
SG: Is this the first Killer Frost solo story ever? Like, ever ever?! I had no idea! That’s awesome!
This one-shot is Killer Frost’s secret origin, a brief history of her time in the New 52 DCU, and her reaction to the events in FOREVER EVIL #1.
FF: Killer Frost appeared in the recent Firestorm series, but we still don’t know much about her. Will we learn about her past in your story? Can you tell us some of the differences between the original Killer Frost and the New 52 version?
SG: One of the exciting things about the New 52 Universe is that we can explore familiar stories and characters but update them in different ways. In our story, we’re introducing Caitlin Snow as if she’s never existed in the universe before (outside of her two appearances in Dan Jurgens’ recent Firestorm run), so we’re getting to know her before she became the powerful villainess, Killer Frost. Caitlin was a brilliant young scientist before the events of her secret origin, and I wanted to really emphasize just how smart and…well, innocent she was before she became this monster.
Whereas Gerry Conway wrote evil and bitterness in the first Killer Frost as an extension of her personality, I wanted to flip it, so that Frost is the polar opposite of Caitlin’s normal existence. That almost Jekyll-and-Hyde approach gave me a lot to play with in this issue, and it’s a slightly different take on Killer Frost than we’ve seen in the past.
One of my editors, Kate Stewart, said she really appreciated that Caitlin is this very relatable, smart, independent young woman before she changes into the villain we all know and love….or know and hate, I guess. Depends on your point-of-view! [laughs]
FF: What aspects of Killer Frost have you found most enjoyable to write? What aspects are the most challenging?
SG: Well, Caitlin’s very, very well read and intelligent, whereas I am not. [laughs] She’s a young S.T.A.R. Labs scientist with a head full of science and scientific theories…stuff that I didn’t study in art school. I read a lot about perpetual motion machines and thermodynamics to try and prep myself for writing her, but I ended up just skimming the surface of all the hard science in her narration. And then once she’s frosted up, she’s like a shark or an energy junkie. She just has one thought in mind: “Hungry.” Once she gets her fix, though, she relaxes and can think through things a little better.
I like that dichotomy, and I liked developing a character who is (hopefully) very sympathetic and interesting to the reader, then letting her cut loose mentally and physically and watching her tear things up.
I was also very happy to reference a Peter Stark article about freezing to death in the issue. He wrote this great article about the cold for Outside magazine twenty years ago, and it’s easily one of the scariest things I’ve ever read. If you get a chance, look it up, it’s fascinating.
FF: You’ve only got 20 pages to tell Killer Frost’s tale. If you were given the opportunity, where would you take her story after this one-shot?
SG: Well, I cheated, because Geoff told me where Killer Frost’s story goes after this one-shot in FOREVER EVIL. Since I knew what would happen to her, I knew where I needed to leave the character. I’d love a proper shot at writing more of her and Firestorm some day. The scenes between the two of them are really quick in the issue, so I didn’t get to do too much with them.
FF: What comic books are you reading nowadays?
SG: Oh, geez. A lot…? [laughs] I’d have to actually look at the stack on my desk and I’m on vacation right now. I don’t read a lot of comics anymore, but I try to always stay up on Marvel and DC stuff.
At Marvel, I’m all about Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s Daredevil. I think it’s one of the best superhero books on the market, and delivers the perfect amount of character, action, and tone. I’m reading a few of the main X-Men books, All-New and Uncanny and Wolverine & the X-Men. I’m rereading all of the old Len Wein Thor stuff from the ‘70s, just because I’m so pumped for a new Thor movie.
With DC, I’m reading all of Geoff’s Justice League books, all of Jeff Lemire’s books. I LOVE Aquaman. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman.
A couple Image books, like Saga, I read in trade and really enjoy them. Duffy Boudreau’s BlackAcre is awesome if you haven’t checked it out yet. Buffy season nine. Anything Jen Vaughn draws, anything Adrian Tomine puts out. Optic Nerve #13 was PHENOMENAL. Anything Frank Cho draws….Man, that’s a tough question when you’re not sitting in your office and can just look around and talk about what you’re seeing. [laughs]
FF: Besides Killer Frost & Vibe, are there any other projects you are currently working on or have coming up?
SG: I’ve got a bunch of stuff happening in the fall. I scripted a superhero webseries called The Posthuman Project and the trailer for that hit last month. I think you’ll be hearing more about that as time goes on.
I’m co-teaching an online comics writing class for LitReactor.com. That’s a fun, six-week course that covers the basics of comic writing, everything from how to start a script, to how to structure a story, to why it’s important to number word balloons and captions. Bree and I have a lot of experience in various aspects of the comic industry, so it should be a cool class to check out.
I’m developing a couple other comic projects and working on a novel, but I probably shouldn’t talk about them until they’re further along.
Oh, and JLA: VIBE comes out every month! Vibe’s dimension hopping through several famous DCU dimensions in issue 8, and then issues 9 and 10 are a big throwdown with the supervillain, Rupture…which, if you’re reading the book, you know how big that battle could potentially be.
People call things “Earth-shattering.” When Vibe and Rupture fight, it’s potentially “universe-shattering.” Hope you guys check it out.
FF: Who would win in a fight: Dale Gunn or Archer?
SG: Oh, Gunn, all the way. Alllll the way. I gotta rep my Vibe guys.
Thanks a lot for the opportunity to chat, and I hope you guys enjoy the Killer Frost one-shot!
My thanks to Sterling Gates for donating his time to this interview! JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #7.2: KILLER FROST goes on sale September 11, 2013. If you haven’t already, be sure to reserve a copy now with your local comic shop! To keep up with Sterling Gates, be sure to visit his website and follow him on Twitter!
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