Whenever you have something that originated as another medium, such as the upcoming TV version of Supergirl, fans are always going to wonder — and often be very vocal about — the differences between the new adaptation and the story's original form. That's exactly what happened to Mehcad Brooks, who received some backlash after the African-American actor was cast as the usually red-haired and Caucasian Jimmy Olsen in Supergirl.
However, Brooks pointed out during a roundtable interview with several reporters at New York Comic Con Sunday that Jimmy's appearance is not inherent to the character but a product of the time in which he was created.
"The DNA of the character [in Supergirl] is the same. Here's the thing. So Jimmy was created in 1940, so we had a much different world back then. People lived a monochromatic existence, so you really can't blame them for writing what they knew," Brooks said during the roundtable interview. "It's not that the character's changed so much as that we're taking cultural liberties with him as he might be today."
Though many may see the character's appearance in Supergirl as the show's biggest departure from the comics, Jimmy — or rather, James in this series — is overall a more mature and suave photojournalist than the bumbling cub reporter he is often portrayed as in Superman's various comics, movies and TV shows.
"Think about if Jimmy Olsen was hanging out with Superman for a long time. He was like, you know what, I want to be my own man. So, you go to confidence bootcamp, go to the gym, change your style. He gets a Pulitzer Prize for photographing Superman. He gets a better job," Brooks said. "This is who we're dealing with now. We're dealing with a Jimmy Olsen who's coming into his own."
Peter Facinelli is also taking a different approach to his Supergirl character, Maxwell Lord.
"When I looked at the comics, he was more, kind of, Donald Trump-esque, you know, cover of Forbes magazine. I said, let's do less Donald Trump, more Elon Musk, more Steve Jobs," Facinelli said during a roundtable interview at New York Comic Con. "You know, the billionaire of today is a little different than the billionaire of yesterday. I think there's a time when you could be a gruff, hard businessman, but I always think that you have more power in being charming. Then, if you can win people over, then that gives you the power."
Maxwell will use some of that charm in his interactions with Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart), the boss of Kara Danvers, a.k.a. Supergirl (Melissa Benoist), both to get closer to her and repel her.
"I think our tension is more like Dangerous Liaisons tension, where it's like they might be adversaries, but they respect each other. There's also a sexual tension there. They definitely have a history together," Facinelli said. "If they're going to zing each other, it's playfully."
Though it seems like Maxwell will be a morally ambiguous character, don't think that he's just another Lex Luthor.
"Lex Luthor, I think, he's an evil genius. Lex Luthor wants to take over the world," Facinelli said. "Maxwell Lord, he's a billionaire. He has power. He doesn't need to take over the world. His agenda is to try to figure out a way to save humanity from itself, and so, I don't think he's evil in the sense Lex Luthor is."
Of course, there's still a lot about Supergirl that any fan of the comics will immediately recognize, such as the hero's costume and flashbacks to Kara's home planet of Krypton and Midvale, the suburb in which Kara grows up, executive producer Ali Adler said during a roundtable interview at New York Comic Con. With all of these familiar references, fans won't be able to help but wonder if Kara's cousin Superman will make an appearance on the show.
"I think that we have to say that Superman lives on this planet that Kara Danvers lives on," Adler said. "But very quickly into our series, we address that question of where is Superman?"
However, there's a good reason why Superman won't be prominently featured in Supergirl.
"There's references to him, and we allude to him a lot, and it's done very tastefully, but this show's about Supergirl. We want to make this about a strong, feminine quality," Brooks said. "Superman has enough fans. We don't really want to bring too much attention to him. We want to keep it on her, and she deserves it. She's fantastic. She's really great and a hell of a hero, really a hell of a hero."
Supergirl premieres Oct. 26 at 8:30 p.m. EST on CBS.
For more Comic Con news, check out T-Lounge coverage of New York Comic Con 2015.