Kate Leth and Matt Cummings On Power Up! and Giving Classic Tales a Fresh Twist (Interview)
Have you seen every season of Pretty Cure? Maybe you still know all the words to Moonlight Densetsu, or you’re just starting to get into newer shows like Steven Universe. If the magical girl genre has ever been your jam, then it’s time for you to Power Up!
BOOM Studios imprint BOOM Box launched the six issue miniseries last month to rave reviews, and Geeks with Wives is thrilled to bring you an exclusive interview with writer Kate Leth (Kate or Die! and Adventure Time) and Matt Cummings (also an Adventure Time alum). Get the inside scoop on this charming new series before you pick issue two up at your local comic shop on August 19.
Geeks with Wives: Congratulations on a very well-received first issue! Have you been surprised by the response to Power Up so far?
Matt Cummings: Oh totally! This is the first time large-scale print comic I’ve done and I keep forgetting that folks all over the world are getting their hands on it! Everyone’s been super nice.
Kate Leth: It’s been great! I think we’ve both been thrilled with the reaction and enthusiasm we’ve gotten from all over.
GWW: Issue one was such a fun read from start to finish. As someone who relates very, very strongly to Amie’s situation, it was fun to feel like the ‘target demo’ for something in the magical girl milieu for the first time in a while. What inspired you both to create the unconventional team in Power Up?
Matt: When we started putting the team together, we tried picking characters with very little attachment to the genre. Not necessarily as a way to distance ourselves from any previous hero/magical girl story but more to make their journeys more fun to write and discover.
Also, transforming goldfish with superpowers are really fun to draw.
Kate: Exactly! I personally relate pretty strongly to Amie – I’ve worked retail for a decade and also went to art school – but there are pieces of each hero that come from both Matt and I.
GWW: Matt, this is such a visually charming book — you do an amazing job capturing little details that would fit right at home in a shoujo anime, from faces to the amazing action sequence at the end of issue one. What influenced the design and colors you chose for Power Up?
Matt: Well thanks!
Matt: For issue 1, a lot of my visuals were informed by the original Sailor Moon series – Lots of flowy gradients and dreamy colours! As the series progresses I feel like I’ve incorporated and adapted a lot of styles into the mix. I’m a real obsessive with colours, so expect to see all of ’em!!
GWW: Any of these characters could feel like a gag in the wrong hands — Amie isn’t the willowy heroine we’re used to, and Sandy is a harried mom with two older kids. But what I love about your writing here, Kate, is that they all just feel like real people stuck in weird circumstances. Were there any particular tropes or archetypes you were looking to subvert with these characters?
Kate: Well, to be honest, I just wanted to see magical characters that looked and interacted like real people. I don’t like treating people as jokes, I’m generally not a fan of “mean” comedy. I like my dialogue to feel real and natural, as best I can, and this is absolutely a weird circumstance for each of these characters to be in, so it’s fun to have them react honestly about it. I think Sandy’s a fun example – way too often on TV, moms are treated so badly. They’re the nagging, fun-ruining, prudish harpies, and it’s just so frustrating to see over and over again. I know so many cool, tough, fun, interesting, hilarious moms, and several of them are actually named Sandy. Write what you know, I guess!
GWW: For me, seeing the way Kevin and others take his costume in stride in upcoming issues is especially refreshing. Matt, I especially love the way you illustrate him in some classic magical girl fight poses this month. It can be tough to craft a character like Kevin and keep on the right side of the fine line between ‘subversive’ and hurtful. Was this something you both talked about, as he started taking shape as a member of the Power Up team?
Matt: We were so excited about Kevin’s arrival since very early in the process. Back when the series was announced, his appearance raised questions and some curiosity about his role/portrayal but I think anyone who checks the book out will quickly be able to tell how much we love Kevin and his attitude toward his new powers.
Kate: What Matt said. We’ve been very conscious through the whole process of not having him be the butt of the joke, but someone fun and charming, empowered by his abilities. We’ll see him become even more comfortable with it and open up more to his new friends as the series progresses. Matt’s transformation sequences are stunning.
GWW: Even though you’re looking at more ‘grown up’ perspectives on being part of a magical team, this is still a very light-hearted book. What’s it like taking these older characters and translating them into a ‘younger’ genre like this?
Matt: I was pumped when Kate recommended an all-ages pitch. I feel super comfortable in the space of big dangerous situations presented with fun charm!
Kate: I just love all-ages books and don’t think there are enough of them. People think of “all-ages” as meaning “kids only” but it’s just not true – think of Over the Garden Wall, Steven Universe, Gravity Falls – and that’s just cartoons. We both want it to be fun, cute and exciting for kids, but relatable for older audiences as well.
GWW: On a scale of, say, early first season Sailor Moon, to Madoka Magica or Revolutionary Girl Utena, where will Power Up fall along the spectrum of emotional intensity? Are you planning to keep things pretty upbeat?
Matt: Kate’s got a good grasp on how dark to take things but there’ll definitely be some TENSION coming up!
Kate: Oh heck yeah. Issue four definitely gets pretty intense and issue five is… It’s so crazy!!!
GWW: How much of the world of Power Up do you already have worked out? Is this for sure just a six issue run, or is there the potential for more stories?
Matt: The Power Up universe is HUGE and, although we have a tight arc planned for these six issues, we could definitely tell more stories!
GWW: Who do you both identify the most with of the characters we’ve seen so far? (Kevin is my personal favorite – even if I feel like I can’t be Tuxedo Mask anymore, I could definitely be Kevin.)
Matt: I feel like I’ve been parts of all of them, especially Silas. I was definitely an Amie for a long time.
Kate: I love them all. I have a crush on Matt’s drawings of Kevin, for sure, haha! But, I mean, it’s hard to say. I love them all. I love Sal and Derek.
GWW: Matt, some of my favorite things in issue one were the posters in Amie’s bedroom. Are there any more visual easter eggs you’re excited to have snuck in this month’s issue, or future pages?
Matt: Haha those posters are all Kate’s doing! She’s whip-smart with title puns, as anyone!
Matt: I actually HAVE snuck many goofs/references into future issues, which I will gleefully reveal in time!
Kate: Sometimes I write in the background gags and sometimes Matt surprises me. I’ve gotten really into descriptive backgrounds, or the idea that a character’s house tells you more about them. Wait until you see Kevin’s place.
GWW: And last but not least: if you could have anybody compose some really rad transformation music for an animated version of Power Up, who would you want to hire?
Matt: Oh dang! Hmm…I’m a big fan of the Steven Universe score, so I’d be over the moon for a piece by Aivi & Surasshu!
Kate: What he said!