Writer Lauren Faust has spent the better part of the last decade working on some of the most popular animated shows on TV. She got her start on Cartoon Network’s “Powerpuff Girls,” later serving as the head writer for “Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends.” More recently, Faust was behind the Hub TV revival of the classic toyline-turned-cartoon “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic” and this week, she makes her return to Cartoon Network as the writer of “Super Best Friends Forever” as part of the DC Nation block of animation and shorts.
“SBFF” features teen versions of Batgirl, Wonder Girl, and Supergirl in one minute shorts getting the most out of being teen heroines, and premieres this Saturday. But we’ll let Faust tell you more about the show through our recent phone interview.
MTV Geek: How were you approached to participate in DC Nation?
Lauren Faust: Well, actually, it’s kind of funny—I heard about it myself and sought it out. I worked with Jeff Prezenkoswki at Warner Brothers before at projects on Cartoon Network and I caught wind that DC Nation was doing these shorts. I had an idea, so as soon as I heard about it, I gave him a call and asked him if he’d be interested in a pitch.
Geek: What was the appeal for you? Were you a big DC fan growing up?
Faust: I was always a huge comics fan. My older brother—a typical comic collector—had tons and tons in the house, and when he wasn’t home I’d sneak into his room and pull out all of his comic books and read them when he wasn’t looking because if I messed them up, I know he wouldn’t have found it [laughs]. But yeah, I was definitely a comics fan. To be honest, I read a lot more Marvel than I did DC. My biggest influences from DC were mostly the movies and that sort of stuff.
Geek: What was the “gateway” drug for you in terms of comics—was it a particular character or story or movie?
Faust: Uh, X-Men. I think I was in middle school when they were doing the “Mutant Massacre” and I don’t know what it was that drew me right in. I got pretty obsessively into it and couldn’t wait for my brother to leave so that I could steal his comics. [Laughs]
Geek: Looking at your DC Nation project, Super Best Friends Forever, how did you come to these particular characters? Were they in your original pitch or were they pitched to you?
Faust: I pitched this. I was very much inspired—my good friend Brianne Drouhard, who is doing some DC Nations shorts—she’s been doing fan art for years, specifically of Batgirl that always has energy, always has this kind of excitement, and [Brianne’s] always got this cut approach with her that makes being a superhero the most fun thing in the world. And I had always wanted to see that kind of energy and that kind of approach to these characters.
So with her blessing, I took her approach and put it towards that idea with Batgirl, Wonder Girl, and Supergirl—they just needed to be a trio in my head—and just pitched this idea of the three of them and the tone and the concept is more of a humorous take and [that] it’s fun to be a superhero.
Geek: What was Cartoon Network’s reaction to the idea?
Faust: Well, it couldn’t have gone any better. I came in with a verbal pitch and a little bit of artwork and things just sort of fell into place after that. They really—one of the things that’s so wonderful about these shorts it they’re really letting these creators do their own spin on things and really embracing the idea of people bringing their new vision, a new approach to these classic characters. So everything went really smoothly—I had hardly any adjustments to make and actually this was a really fun project to do.
Geek: Even in allowing you your own take, were there any franchise concerns or anything in terms of canon that you were asked to stick to? Or were you simply allowed to go, “Here’s my take on Supergirl, Batgirl, and Wonder Girl?”
Faust: That—it’s actually what you just said. I said “This is my take on these three,” and I had my own perfect canon that I wanted to stay true to and the liberties that I wanted to take, they just really let me go for it. It was wonderful, actually.
Geek: Could you tell us a little about that take—how are you handling these three characters in terms of their personalities?
Faust: Well first off with Batgirl, I took the idea that—I’m using Barbara Gordon—her dad has worked with Batman since she was a little girl, so she’s heard about him all the time, of course as much as anyone else in Gotham would’ve. And she’s a fan, she is a fan of Batman and Robin [laughs], and she grew up dreaming of being part of that group and being a superhero. And now that she’s older and she’s a 15-year-old, and she’s got the skills and she’s got the costume, she’s out there, pursuing her dream as a fangirl. I think out of the three girls, being a superhero is the most fun for her.
Supergirl, I’m taking the idea that Kara is from Krypton, she has all of the same powers that Superman has, but she gets none of the attention. It’s “all Superman, all the time,” and nobody notices her. If I were 15 or 16 and that would’ve made me really mad. [Laughs] So, I’m taking my version of Supergirl and along with her power and strength, I’m making her a little of a hothead with something to prove.
And then Wonder Girl, I’m using Donna Troy, and she is the younger sister of Wonder Woman, of course. And because she was a princess from Themyscira, she’s very royal, she’s very regal, she’s a trained warrior, she’s very idealistic, she’s very responsible. Her mother says that she’s ready to go to the world of man but her sister, Wonder Woman, doesn’t think she’s quite ready yet and so she has to prove herself to her sister. But because she group up on this island away from the world of man, she doesn’t understand the world of man. And some of the things that Batgirl and Supergirl say just fly right over her head. [Laughs] She doesn’t understand slang, she doesn’t know what they’re talking about when they make pop culture references, so even though she’s the more stoic and responsible one, she kind of has this clueless side.
Geek: Who’s providing the voices for your leads?
Faust: We’ve got Tara Strong reprising her take on Batgirl, but a lot cuter, a lot funnier than I think you may have seen Batgirl before. Grey DeLisle is doing Wonder Girl for us, and Nicole Sullivan is Supergirl.
Faust: I worked on Powerpuff Girls for a very long time and it was the first time I worked on TV, it was probably the biggest influence on me. I wouldn’t be surprised if some people thought there was some similarities.
Geek: How do you think this might be able to act as a gateway drug for some girls who might be interested in comics and superheroes?
Faust: I feel like reaching out to girls with this sort of content, superheroes—which is traditionally more of a boy sort of thing—I think the key, and hopefully I’m right, is being really sincere. I don’t know if girls have seen very often in the world of superheroes, a girl that they felt like, “I’m just like her,” or “She’s just like my friend,” or the way she talks or the way she is or the experiences that she’s having are so much like me. Or even the way she looks is so much like me.
And I think that writing the characters themselves, and not necessarily the situations they’re in, but the characters and their motivations, and the way they speak and the way they relate to one another, making that sincere and true to life will hopefully draw them in. And for me, it’s—I’m putting in what I remember from being a teenager. And I don’t watch girl teenagers and try to determine what they’re doing, I’m writing what I felt as a teenager and what my friends felt as a teenager or how we related to one another. It’s coming from a real place of sincerity.
And they’re short, they’re very short—only a minute, a little over a minute long. And they’re really based on comedy and trying to get laughs more than trying to save the day. But hopefully that’ll speak to girls and hopefully that’ll speak to other people as well.
Geek: What kind of challenges were there working in the one-minute format? Any particular opportunities?
Faust: The challenge is I want to write really long stories [laughs]. And as short as you plan on writing them when you start, you inevitably go a little bit over. And the challenge is to be as clear as you can visually in a storytelling standpoint in the short amount of time that you have. From a story approach, when things are that short, you really don’t have a beginning, a middle, and an end—it’s really more of a joke, and it’s really more of a setup and a punchline.
For me, the biggest challenge was absolutely not tossing in everything that I saw in my head that would have inevitably made these things five minutes long [laughs]. But when all is said and done, hopefully they’ll be clear, and they’ll be funny.
Geek: And looking at some of the other contributions to DC Nation by the other contributors, what are you especially hyped about viewers seeing?
Faust: Just the whole program in general is something I think people should check out. As I mentioned before, each of these creators is getting an opportunity to share their visions and you’re going to see new takes on these classic characters and some more obscure characters that you’ve never seen before. And everything’s going to be very unique.
The DC Nation block premieres Saturday morning, March 3rd at 10/9 Central on Cartoon Network.