Interview: Gail Simone: The Gail Force Taking Comics Readers By Storm
by R.J. Carter
Published: March 15, 2004
If you haven't heard of Gail Simone, then you probably haven't been reading comics for the past three years and obviously stumbled over this interview by googling an odd combination of keywords.
Gail's work caught the attention of comic fans by way of her humor column, "You'll All Be Sorry," which ran regularly at Comic Book Resources. She got the opportunity to do some stories for Bongo's SIMPSON'S comics, springboarded over to Marvel to work on DEADPOOL, performed magic with Lea Hernandez on KILLER PRINCESSES, and has since become one of the hottest writers to grace the DC Universe. Her characters exude a realism about them the likes of which hasn't been seen since the 1960s minutiae-filled life of Peter Parker.
Busy though she be, we managed to coax, cajole, bribe and pry (actually, all we had to do was ask, she's that nice) some answers from Gail regarding some of her current and upcoming works.
BIRDS OF PREY
What is it about Dinah and Barbara that makes them click? They don't seem to have the commonality of theme that is inherent in some partnerships or teams. In short, what's their raison d'etre? (And how will that chemistry be affected by the continued presence of the Huntress? And for that matter, do they even refer to themselves "Birds of Prey", since there's only one 'bird' in the entire cast?)
They don't really refer to themselves at this point, but it's not beyond the realm of possibility that they will in the future.
In my own experience, friendships and other non-family relationships are only partially built on similarity of purpose. In this case, Babs and Dinah respect each other tremendously, and each is capable of great things the other is not. Dinah's not just Oracle's legs, sometimes, she's her conscience, or her muse, or just her best friend. And Oracle is far more to Dinah than just the mission controller. They trust each other, and out of that, there's a friendship that they believe in.
Huntress...I see Helena as someone who is not a loner completely by choice. Dinah is so accepting, and so open, that Helena sees an opportunity to be part of something without having to force her way in. There's friction, because once Helena puts the mask on, she's really not very good fitting in. But she likes that they're giving her a chance. Whether she blows it or not, you'll have to keep reading.
Superman draws a paycheck from the Daily Planet. Batman's independently wealthy. How does Dinah earn her living? What's Barbara doing, drawing disability, or a pension from her days as a congresswoman?
Dinah currently draws a check from a shadow corporation that represents Oracle's interests. Rumors are that the money comes from a 'sin tax' that Oracle has taken from various criminal organizations. Another rumor is that Bruce Wayne pays for everything. We will be seeing more of this soon.
There's a list floating out there in cyberspace of female comics characters that have been abused/tortured/killed.
I know, it's my list! :)
On it we find: "Batgirl I (paralyzed)," "Black Canary II (tortured, made infertile, depowered)" and "Huntress II (sexually abused)." All three of these characters fates are now in your own hands. Will these experiences have any bearing on how the characters will act under your tenure? (Obviously you've already tackled--or started tackling--the Black Canary situation with the recent story with Savant.)
My feelings on this come from many years spent doing volunteer work. Some people are crushed when they stub their toe, and others really only come to life after a great hardship. I think Longbow Hunters was a vital piece of Dinah's story, and quite a bit of our first arc was to show that Dinah didn't give up, and she won't crack from the mere mention of similar circumstances. If you read the arc, she's about as beat down as you can be, but I still maintain she's calling the shots the whole way.
It's much more interesting to write about characters who have things to overcome. More heroic, too.
ROSE & THORN
Thorn isn't really a hero, is she? She's mean, vicious, spiteful--I think I dated her once. She's truly a vigilante. That's got to set police and other vigilantes after her at some point?
Yeah, well, our twist on the classic character, and I think this is still something you can reconcile with the original, is that THORN is the real personality and ROSE is the construct. But we're at early, early days in her story, and if we get the chance to do more, we'll see her struggle to find her place. Right now, yeah, she's unpredictable in a way that most 'grim' vigilantes aren't. She's very capable of screwing up badly.
It's a six issue series, but can we presume that Thorn is going to stick around in the DC Universe?
I hope so. She was around before this series, and we don't really take the kind of liberties that would entail her complete removal from the DCU. DC is very happy with the book, and it gets the kind of mail that's rare...some people who have actually been through troubled times, either personally or with a family member, have been incredibly supportive.
I'm hearing your name mentioned in reference to an upcoming JLA arc. Given (a) the fan dissatisfaction with the current stories, (b) their rave reactions to your own work, and (c) that you've stated that it was partly Grant Morrison's JLA that brought you back into liking superhero comics again... are you in the least bit daunted about taking on the so-called "Big Seven?"
Ooh...that's a lot of presupposition there. First, I don't know that there's fan dissatisfaction. Sales haven't changed, and I think the world of Joe Kelly as an idea man, writer, and human being. This is a nice shake-up, and it's fun for me as a reader to see these different teams. Being PART of it is just insane. JLA was the first book I collected. When I was told (by Mike Carlin) that the artists would be Jose Garcia Lopez and Klaus Janson, I literally couldn't breathe for a minute. I thought he was kidding me.
He wasn't, bless him!
Is it daunting, sure, because if you mess up on JLA, that's a big stumble. But we're having such a good time, and I swear I could write gobbledygook and people would still be drooling over the art.
I believe Oracle is still a member of the JLA. Will the Birds of Prey be playing any role alongside/against the JLA?
Not in this story, and I don't think she's an active member. But Dinah and Oracle are both considered first-tier reservists.
While you were writing DEADPOOL, with sales increasing every month, Bill Jemas seemed determined to cancel the book out from under you. There seemed to be some kind of conflict going on, not so much in the comic book, but in the stories circulating around the industry at the time.
I'm not sure it was Bill. Joe had mixed feelings, and the editor at the time pretty much hated what we were doing in almost every aspect. More likely it was just not to their taste. I don't really know the whole story, but at the time, Marvel was pretty chaotic, and I figure they just didn't get the book, preferring their own brands of humor. That sounds kinda bitter, but I'm not bitter at all. I have a LOT to thank Marvel for. They gave me my first mainstream work, and editors Mike Raicht, Mike Marts, and Marc Sumerak were all a joy to work with. I learned a huge amount, AND a great many of those readers have been supportive enough to follow me on to DC, even when they had never bought DC comics before.
It WAS weird, because of all those relaunches at that exact time, precisely ONE went up in sales and continuned to go up in sales: Agent X.
It's an important thing to learn, that it's better to leave a book, if you can, rather than be forced to turn it into something you think sucks. The upside of the whole thing is that Marvel invited Udon and myself to come back and finish Agent X properly. They didn't have to do that, and I thought it was very classy. It gave me a chance to pay back the readers with a proper ending. That meant the world to me.
What's the status on the small-town horror book?
Heh. You did some research! Still working on it, but another horror story might come first.
What is www.gailsimone.com and when the heck will it be it?
It's nothing and likely will continue to be nothing. It was suggested to me that it was a good idea to grab the domain name just in case, but I feel pretty stupid making a shrine to myself, so I'm fine with it being nothing. When I do something, maybe it'll be something, but I've done not much, so it's nothing. :)