V. and I had a lot of questions for writer extraordinaire Gail Simone post-Megacon, and she answered them with her trademark blend of thoughtfulness, wit and candor.
There was plenty of ground to cover. She’s writing The Movement, a superhero series starting in May that focuses the DC universe’s 99 percent. Gail dropped the news at Megacon that Tremor, a character from the beloved Secret Six, will be part of the cast. Leaving Megalopolis, her Kickstarter project with artist Jim Calafiore, more than tripled its goal. I’ve already added Red Sonja, the ongoing comic she’s writing for Dynamite, to my pull list.
But she also talked to us about what inspires those distinctive stories of hers, and the relationship between readers and writers. V. and I are always grateful for the opportunity to talk to creators we admire, but this interview occupies a special place in G3 history. We hope you enjoy it.
G3: How have you evolved as a writer since you began your career in comics, and what has surprised you along the way?
Gail Simone: It’s kind of more interesting to me the things that haven’t really changed. There’s sort of a cliché that the longer you stay a writer working for publishers, the less stubborn you get. If anything, I think I might have gotten more determined.
The thing that has had a big effect on my writing is meeting the readers, seeing what the audience is about. Once you meet the readers and see that the audience isn’t this tiny group we’ve always been told about, you can’t unsee that; you can’t just go back to writing the same endless stream of white, straight characters forever. It’s dishonest, it’s archaic.
That sounds unbearably sanctimonious, I’m sure. But for me, it’s true. I think about the readers I meet at cons and signings a great deal. I have been given this opportunity, and I would like to leave comics at least a little better than I found it.
G3: At your panel, you talked about how you’re writing Red Sonja as a strong, barbarian warrior who makes her own decisions. What are some of the challenges she’s going to be up against, and are there certain characteristics that set your Red Sonja apart from her predecessors?
GS: Sonja, to me, has a couple of the challenges that Wonder Woman carries, in that she is often written as this kind of cold, distant creature. There is a real tendency in many writers to write female badasses without the character flaws that make other such characters so compelling.
So my Sonja drinks, she carouses, she is a bit vain about her abilities, all these wonderful human creaks and cracks. I love that. But if you give her any shit, she will put an end to you, and I love that even more.
In issue two of this book, Sonja has to do something she’s never had to do, and it KILLS her, it just rips her heart out. That’s something I try to do: Find what the core is, and stab it. I want to see my characters work for it.
G3: What can you tell us about the supporting cast, especially her nemesis, Dark Annisia?
GS: Well, Dark Annisia hates Sonja’s guts for a very modern reason. This isn’t something they could have really done in the old Conan Marvel comics, not explicitly. And that’s all I’m saying.
But it’s fun for Sonja to face someone who is every bit the death dealer that Sonja is.
Fun for ME, I mean.
G3: Anyone who has read your work knows that you can go to some delightfully dark and unexpected places. Where do you get your ideas, and are there certain kinds of stories that you prefer to tell?
GS: I talk about this a lot. I have never had a story problem that a nice brisk walk with my greyhound didn’t solve. There’s inspiration in everything, every goddamned thing, it feels, sometimes. I have created characters based on strangers I passed in the street. I’ve created plots by reading from my library of history books. It’s everywhere. It’s an abundance. The key is execution, I think.
As for stories, almost all my favorite stories I’ve written are about identity. The search for it, the definition of it, the desire to change it, that’s what fascinates me about humanity. We all want to be seen one way, we behave in another, and how we are actually perceived is another thing again. It’s endless. It’s my well that never dries up.
GS: What are some of the ways you plan to explore the themes of power and injustice in The Movement. Now that the cat is out of the bag about Tremor, can you give us an idea of the role she will play in the series?
G3: Tremor is a Bengali woman, an asexual, who is tremendously powerful. She has the ability to create seismic vibrations in anything she touches, from a shiver to an Earthquake. Her place in The Movement is a bit of a mystery at first, actually. But she’s second-in-command.
The Movement isn’t meant to be a screed; it’s a superhero adventure book. But damn, we live in a real world with real conflict, I feel like readers are going to get a bit sick of threats with no bearing on our real lives at all, eventually.
G3: Do you ever get tired of being asked to talk about the state of female comic book characters or of women in the industry? You’re always very gracious about addressing those topics, but it’s rare that male writers get those questions.
GS: It’s a bit exhausting, but I also feel that every time someone answers that question from the current generation of female writers, myself or Marjorie Liu or Kelly Sue, that smashes that brick wall just a little bit more. It makes more doorways for the next bunch to come through. So I feel like I can take it, for that result. It’s worth a bit of exhaustion and annoyance.
And to be fair, it usually is asked with sincerity. It’s something people are genuinely curious about. But I’ll be pretty delighted when that question is retired because it isn’t needed anymore.
Coming Wednesday: Gail on Leaving Megalopolis and the creator-reader relationship.