In this consumer-based industry, it can be easy to forget the years of hard work that the people in the business put in. Behind every panel, it takes a skilled writer, artist, inker and colorist to make the product complete. Hush Comics’ weekly article “Respect My Craft” will dive into the history of these comic book greats that will hopefully give a new perspective on how the men and women behind the pen (or stylus) contribute to the collective awesome-ness of comic books, or at least give you a reason to invest in their work.
Name: Gail Simone
Notable Work: Batgirl (New 52), Birds of Prey, Tomb Raider, The Movement (New 52)
“Right now there are so many wonderful female things in comics; characters, creators, commentators, editors, convention organizers, store owners and readers. They don’t threaten anything in the industry, they add to it.” – Gail Simone
When you make a list of top-tier writers in the comic book industry right now, Gail Simone should always be brought up. Her great dialog and story vision has made Batgirl and The Movement two of DC Comics most intriguing titles, and garnered a strong fan-base along the way. Simone’s beginning are far simpler than the juggernaut writer she has become, though. Simone began as a blogger – well, I suppose they weren’t really known as bloggers in the late 1990’s. Through Comic Book Resources, Simone wrote a periodical called “You’ll All Be Sorry!” with a group of collaborators, writing satirical stories (one of my favorites was the “Bizarro Preacher” article, written on my birthday). The stories must have given her the courage to piss off a whole lot of people when she launched Women in Refrigerators in 1999.
Women in Refrigerators was originally meant to poke fun at an industry flaw, not incite rage – the same way we hoot and holler when Laurel starts making pouty faces on Arrow, chastising it for being too “C-Dub.” Anyway, the joke behind WIR is that women are constantly being used at plot pieces for either the development of male characters, or the deconstruction of the female ones. This wasn’t just some wild accusation either. On the site, which looks a whole lot like a 90’s Geocities page I made when I was in junior high, had a whole list of characters that fit the bill of expendable women in comic books. The most shocking thing about the list of that many of these characters – Storm, Supergirl, Wonder Woman – are prominent characters in the comic book world. She may not have made many friends by openly criticizing the industry, but it’s where Simone got her first job in the industry.
She began writing for The Simpsons in 2000, and covered several outlets for them. From the main title, to a Bart-based and Treehouse of Horror mini-series to the Sunday morning comic strips in the papers, Gail Simone was breaking out in a big way. Her work on The Simpsons led her to a job with Marvel on the Deadpool and Agent X series, where she was able to show off her humorous side – which has always been a strong suit of hers. It wasn’t until Simone got a gig writing Birds of Prey that things really took off.
It was with DC Comics that Simone would really get the opportunity to spread her wings. Spanning 52 (heh heh, DC loves its 52’s) issues from 2003-2007, the Birds of Prey are a group of crime-fighting women working as a team. At this point in the story, Barbara Gordon AKA Oracle is confined to the seat of a wheelchair after the grueling fallout of The Killing Joke. Physically limited, yes, but Oracle is one of the team’s most valuable assets with her technical savvy. After runs on Secret Six, Gen13, Villains United and other short runs, Simone really turned heads with her long run on Wonder Woman and The All-New Atom. Even with all that under her belt, it wasn’t until her second run on Secret Six that Gail Simone was a name that made me a fan for life.
The Secret Six are a ragtag group of villains, led by the likes of Bane, that try to work as a team on contract to kill another villain. Simone was able to breathe a lot of life into these characters, most of which were unknown to casual fans. In fact, before the New 52 relaunch, Secret Six was one of the most beloved books on the shelves. The way Simone was able to turn these despicable villains into misunderstood heroes. After 36 issues of Secret Six, the series was canceled and Simone was brought on to write the new Batgirl series.
Batgirl has ben one of my favorite books, and it’s because of the development of Barbara Gordon. The Batgirl from the first few issues is hardly recognizable to the Batgirl in issue #28. I love that her character is strong, yet shows vulnerability to the reader. That’s the result you get when you have a writer who is as passionate about the characters she or he is writing about. In a time where DC was criticized for its a lack of diversity (out of all the New 52 books released in 2011, hers was the only one written by a woman), Batgirl gave all leaders a better sense of identity. Her other DC story, The Movement, is loosely based super-hero version of the Occupy movement – once again giving a voice to those who cannot do so themselves. Unfortunately, the series will be canceled after the 12th issue in May. Lately, Simone has expanded her scope to write for other publishers now that her exclusive deal with DC Comics has ended. She has been writing the new Red Sonja series, as well as a brand new Tomb Raider. She hasn’t stopped there, either; Simone will be heading the Savage Wolverine series starting in May.
From Killer Princesses to her upcoming Kickstarter project, Leaving Megalopolis, Gail Simone writes women characters that are capable, intelligent, and convincing. Her career in the industry started very much the way ours has – just a group of awesome friends typing out their love for comic books. Gail Simone is constantly on the floor at comic book conventions, and engages her fans via social media (Twitter, Tumblr). It might have started out as a joke, but her Women in Refrigerators piece was great commentary on the industry’s need to represent women better. One woman can’t change the world view alone, but with a work ethic like hers, you have to respect her craft!
Checked out her bibliography and still want more? Check this out:
Gail Simone lights up the social networking with her witty, honest and often hilarious Tweets.
You can find paperback collections of her “You’ll All Be Sorry” articles on Amazon for less than $5.
I wanted to point out that none of this art is mine; it is all credited to the original publishers (Marvel Comics & DC Comics) . Thanks for all the love and support for You Nerd Like A Girl. Look to us next week for more “Respect My Craft!,” featuring the industries most talented contributors.
Written by Sherif Elkhatib