Gates’ stratospheric launch into a career writing comics officially began in 2007 at DC Comics with Fear Is a Baby’s Cry!, a backup story for Tales of the Sinestro Corps: Superman-Prime. It drew immediate acclaim from fans and the industry alike, and it introduced Gates to the comics world as a promising new voice. Soon after, Gates took over the reins of Supergirl with artist Jamal Igle. Interestingly enough, Supergirl is the character Gates identifies with most. “Supergirl is always struggling to establish her own identity and prove her own merits,” Gates explains. Even more notably, certain issues that Gates recognizes in his own life — unrealized paternal approval — also resonate through Supergirl’s personal demons. In the saga of New Krypton, a collaboration between Gates, Johns and James Robinson, Supergirl’s father is killed, and the young heroine must reconcile the bittersweet emotions that plague her as she carries out acts of bravery and goodness — things she knows would honor her fallen parent.
“I’ve put a lot of myself into Supergirl. In many ways, those stories are autobiographical,” Gates admits. He was 17 years old when his father died suddenly; 13 years later, his emotion over the loss remains palpable. “I know how proud he would be to see me live my creative dreams.”
Whatever the source of his inspiration, Gates has become as mythical as the superheroes he personifies, largely because of his masterly storytelling. Leagues of adoring readers were crushed last fall to learn that his 28-issue run with Supergirl would end with issue No. 59 last December. Now a free agent, Gates has turned his writing focus to projects he can’t yet announce, although one thing is certain: The stars are probably already aligning in anticipation.
Does Gates believe in a cosmic lottery — a predetermined storyline that catapulted him to epidemic acclaim in the comics industry? In true artistic form, Gates considers all possibilities. “When I think of all the things that had to happen at a certain moment on a specific day to get me to this point, then, yeah, I can believe destiny had a hand in it. But then the logical part of my brain kicks in and says, ‘Dude, come on.’ ”
Still, it’s hard for Gates to argue that fate has smiled on him. “I feel like the luckiest kid on the face of the earth most of the time,” he says. “If there is a higher power out there, it’s definitely working overtime for me.”