Batgirl at Super Hero High: A Conversation with Lisa Yee

lisayeeAs a gnarled man-thing, we’re not exactly the prime target audience for DC’s Super Hero Girls prose imprint. But that hasn’t stopped us from enjoying Lisa Yee’s adorkable novels featuring teenage versions of Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and Batgirl.

In our opinion, the success of these novels is due directly to Yee’s efforts. She’s a funny lady with a big dollop of nerd cred. Plus, she’s a deceptively keen writer. She’s been able to imbue our favorite superheroines with charm and humanity. And that’s hard to do with an expansive cast that includes sketchy characters such as Harley Quinn, Cheetah, and Poison Ivy.

We talked to Yee recently about the joys and challenges of writing her Super Hero High novels. Judging by her website, she’s busy as Bumblebee during a “Save the Day” drill. We thank her (again) for taking a few minutes to chat with us.

SuperheroNovels: Batgirl at Super Hero High is the third novel you’ve written in the DC Super Hero Girls series. They’ve all been terrific so far. If we could, we’d give a gold star to the person who hired you for this project. How did you snag such an awesome gig?

Lisa Yee: My agent called me up and said, “There’s something big brewing, but I can’t tell you about it.” So I had no idea! I’d previously written a middle-grade novel called Warp Speed, about a Star Trek fan who got beat up by school bullies every day. The book was full of Star Wars and Batman, and, of course, Star Trek. I mean, the kid even carried around a Spock action figure in his backpack to give himself courage.

When I got the gig I was told, “You are just the right amount of geek.” I want that on my tombstone.

SN: We presume that it’s been fun playing around with the DC bullpen of characters. But can you talk about the challenges (if any) you faced re-imagining some of them as teenagers? Or how difficult it was recasting iconic villains as heroes?

LY: When I first started writing I was paralyzed with fear. I mean, c’mon! These were some of the most famous superheroes in history, and I was challenged to write about them as teens? But then, I realized, I wasn’t writing about superheroes who happen to be teenagers. I was actually writing about teenagers who happen to be superheroes.

Once I wrapped my mind around that, I was able to tap into the anxieties and challenges that all teens have … and then ramp them up tenfold.

As for recasting villains as heroes, I reminded myself that no one is born thinking they will be evil. At least I hope not! Usually something happens along the way to inform who a person will be. In this way I’m able to write about the villains “before” they become villains, yet plant some seeds to shine a light on their future selves.

SN: You and Shea Fontana (the author of the DC Super Hero Girls cartoons and graphic novels) have included a wide range of characters in your stories. But Batman has been conspicuously absence so far. We thought he might pop up in your latest Batgirl book, but he didn’t. Is there a reason for this?

LY: While there is a long and rich history of Batman, Batgirl at Super Hero High was her story alone. Therefore, the focus was on Barbara Gordon, er, Batgirl. I didn’t want anything to take away from that.

SN: Your first three novels featured Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and Batgirl. Now that you’ve tackled the most iconic female superheroes in the DC catalog, what other characters would you like to write about? Personally, we’d love to read a Big Barda novel. And a Cheetah novel too.

LY: I had a meeting with DC and Warner Bros., and had a particular character in mind that I wanted to write about. In fact, I had a list of reasons why she should have her own book.

“I’d love to write about Katana,” I told them. And I was prepared to argue for her. But they said, “Sure!”  And I said, “Um, don’t you want to hear all my reasons why we should feature her?”

As a result, Katana at Super Hero High will be the fourth book in the series (available 07.04.17). I even went to Japan to indulge in some ninja training so I could get a feel for her weapons!

SN: The whole DC Super Hero Girls venture has been wildly successful. The toys, in particular, seem to be very popular. How are the novels selling? If Random House continues to publish them, are you on board for the foreseeable future? Frankly, we can’t imagine a Super Hero High book without your name on the cover.

LY: It’s so thrilling to see how well the whole DC Super Hero Girls brand is doing. As far as I know the books are selling really well. We’re in 10 countries, and I’ve just signed on to write more! It’s the best job in the world.

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