ECCC12: Simone on "Batgirl" and Diversity

Gail Simone, writer of DC Comics' "Batgirl" and past properties including "Birds of Prey" and " Secret Six," sat down with Dark Horse Comics Associate Editor Rachel Edidin before a packed house of enthusiastic and devoted fans yesterday in Seattle. Simone spent the bulk of her one hour "Spotlight" panel at Emerald City Comicon directly addressing audience questions. The conversation ranged over past and current work, the role of inspiration, and the pursuit of diversity in comic books.

Simone began by briefly discussing the transition of Barbara Gordon's character through DC Comics' New 52 initiative.

"I have been a fan of Barbara Gordon from the time I was a very little girl," Simone told her fans. "She was a cool character with red hair and didn't take crap from anybody. She was smart, and that was the first time I ever really felt that I identified with a character, personally."

Simone said she was asked numerous times by DC about bringing Barbara Gordon out of her wheel chair prior to the New 52, but she always declined.

I didn't know how to do it," the writer said. "I definitely thought it would be a disservice to the character and to readers to have her just all of a sudden appear out of the chair, walking like she was before she was shot in the spine through some comic-magic-voodoo-time-warp type of situation." With the reboot, Simone felt she could bring Barabara back to the role of Batgirl in a meaningful way, as a character overcoming trauma.

"To me, her character, the stuff that's important about Barbara Gordon, is still there," Simone said. "With 'Batgirl,' we're definitely exploring the Gordon family tree a lot, and I think it's a very important part of Gotham City -- there's some rotten fruit on that tree, and there's a lot of stuff going on in there." Simone hinted at some big villains looming in the near future, stemming from the "Night of the Owls" crossover, and a new post-"Night of the Owls" villain Simone described as Barbara Gordon's nemesis.

Simone was asked several questions centered on the depth and richness of her characters. "Anytime I write a character it takes me a certain amount of time thinking about that character and what they were like when they were born, what their family was, what the defining moments of their life were," Simone said. "Even though it may not be there on the page for the reader to see, I know it so that I can figure out how they're going to react in different situations.

"Wonder woman is the toughest character I've ever written, probably by miles," she continued. "I'd written Superman as well, but Wonder Woman is a whole other level -- I spent eight months between saying yes to writing "Wonder Woman" and writing the first words on the page. I needed the research, I needed to find a tone, I needed to find a voice."

Many members of the audience expressed a deep personal connection to Simone's work. One audience member, sounding close to tears, stood at the microphone and told Simone, "Thank you for changing my life."

"Hopefully in a good way," Simone responded, with good-natured laughter.

"In a good way," the woman said. "You're getting a lot of 'Secret Six' love, and as a lesbian, Scandal and Knockout and Leanna were the best thing to ever happen to my comic book reading. What made you decide to take that chance with Scandal, and what made them let you run with it?"

"My whole thing, ever since I started writing comics, was to try to get diversity into mainstream comics, because we have a very diverse audience," Simoone responded. "With Scandal, I felt that it was important to know her as a character or person, before revealing that, so she wouldn't just be a lesbian character."

"I felt that it was important for readers to have their own reaction when it was revealed," she continued. "I really wanted her to be a whole character and this was just an aspect of her character."

Where does Simone get her story ideas, and rich characterization? "They come from everywhere," the writer said. "Being a hairdresser, hearing a lot of people's deepest secrets."

Simone offered some hints at upcoming projects, including an upcoming, as yet unannounced graphic ovel with Ethan Van Sciver, that is, Simone said, "literally the best work of Ethan's life." Simone is also working on some young adult work, not necessarily in comics, and hinted at future projects involving the character of Cassandra Kane.

Stay tuned to CBR News for more coverage of Emerald City Comicon.

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