Conversing on Comics with Gail Simone

Gail Simone has one of the most personable and idiosyncratic voices in comics. It's why fans follow her in books like Batgirl, Birds of Prey and Secret Six, and it's how she broke into the comics industry from being a Comic Book Resources columnist. And 2013 is shaping up to be a big year for Simone with the launch of her creator-owned Leaving Megapolis with Jim Califoire, a new Red Sonja series at Dynamite and The Movement at DC Comics (which she spoke about at length Friday with Comic Book Resources), and continuing on her cathartic run on Batgirl.

I reached out to Simone following the Red Sonja announcement to talk to her about that new book, but also her career in general. Her off-again, on-again time on Batgirl has already been covered ad nauseum, and there's more to her story than that.

Chris Arrant: What are you working on today?

Gail Simone: The weird thing is, I work much faster and better when I am doing more projects. When I'm only doing one book, everything slows to a crawl, for some reason. So the days of working on only one project at a time are over, really.

I wrote some Red Sonja, some Batgirl, and a little bit of The Movement. I checked art for three different books, I worked on some stuff for Leaving Megapolis, the graphic novel I am doing with Jim Calafiore.

Oh, and I played the new Tomb Raider game a bit.

This interview came about after news broke that you were working with Dynamite on a new Red Sonja series launching this July. How’d you first come to learn about Red Sonja as a fan?

My memory on this is a little hazy. My town was remote, comics were scarce, so I got comics at garage sales and the like. I am almost sure the first Red Sonja I saw was a tattered old Frank Thorne issue. Frank drew women so sexy it ought to be illegal, but he did it without the porny poses, it was just a natural way of drawing, I don't think he could have helped it if he tried. All I know is that it was BEAUTIFUL.

I've talked about this a lot and it's vaguely pathetic, I know. But I was the only redhead in my school. Having comics characters like Sonja and Babs, that's, well, I can't really express how that helped.

Many writers, both inside and outside of comics, have brought their own take to Red Sonja. How do you see Red Sonja, and how do your stories grow out of that?

I love her, she's pretty electric as is. I would like to humanize her voice a tiny bit. I don't want her as a wisecracker, but I would like to see the humanity shine through. And there are some things in her story I'm personally pretty tired of, things like her dressing in the chain mail so men will look at her body and not her sword.

I understand that it's a explanation, but I don't think it's a necessary one at all. Let Sonja wear what she wants to wear. She's Red *&^%ing SONJA.

What do you feel are the key previous Red Sonja stories or depictions that most inform your take on the character?

I've been reading all the Dynamite stuff, I love the work of those writers: Mike Oeming, Mike Carey, Ron Marz, on and on. I haven't yet made it to a couple of the later volumes. But I'm just enjoying the badassery of these stories.

You’re best known for your at the Big Two, while some of my favorites of yours have been little gems with Bongo and Oni. This Red Sonja gig is your first major non-Big Two work in years – does it feel any different?

Oh, sure, absolutely. One of the fun things about my career is that I have often found myself on the scrappiest team. I was at Marvel when they were just coming out of bankruptcy and had a lot to prove, and I was exclusive at DC when they were the number two publisher and THEY had a lot to prove.

I like that position. I like fighting to make things happen, I like to strive. I picked books that would challenge me, and we didn't always emerge with a knockout punch, but I would rather do that than coast on some book trying not to break it. I say, let's risk it.

Dynamite is fun for me...I looked at their character list earlier tonight and I thought, man, I'm glad a company that CARES about these characters has the Shadow, has the Green Hornet, has all these wonderful toys. Because at a bigger company, they can easily get lost or shuffled to one side.

Also this year you’ve got Leaving Megapolis with Jim Califiore, a comic project you raised money on (very) successfully on Kickstarter. It was originally going to come out last month but you two are expanding the book somewhat – so when can people expect this to come out?

The plan is late March, I think. The response was so huge that we upgraded the book. It went from 80 pages black and white to 120 pages, hardback cover, with a TON of extras. It is an overwhelming work but very, very beautiful and terrifying. The scale did go up considerably.

It's a labor of love. We got the colorist that Jim and I think is the best in the business, Jason Wright, and it is just inexplicably gorgeous.

For people that didn’t take part in the Kickstarter drive, is there a way for them to read Leaving Megapolis?

We have worked out a digital agreement after a span of time, and a bunch of publishers want to publish it. I suspect it will be without the extra material, but that is still to be decided. We want the early adopters to have something precious and valuable for their support.

2013 looks like a year of change for you; you continue to work at DC, but you’re spreading your wings so to speak doing outside work such as Red Sonja and Leaving Megapolis. How does it feel to be Gail Simone in 2013 as opposed to your previous years where you primarily worked for one company?

That tale isn't completely told yet, but I shall say no more about it.

I want to make it clear that I love working at DC. These characters are right in my heart, and I have friends and collaborators that have been life-altering for me. I'm not leaving DC. I'm doing Batgirl, The Movement, AND special projects there.

But when the weird news came that I was off Batgirl, I was just flooded with offers to do books I really cared about -- licensed stuff and creator-owned, for some publishers I really admired.

It makes each workday kind of wonderful, if I may be so corny for a moment. But it's true.

And the Dynamite people have been absolutely lovely to me. They made it very clear how important this was to them, and how valued I am there, and you can't beat the peers working there; Mark Waid, Matt Wagner, Garth Ennis, Jae Lee, Ron Marz, and so many more. The quality is there and that is always going to be the No.1 priority for me.

Justice League Dark #7

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