Kiss from a Rose: Simone talks DC's 'Rose & Thorn'

Cover by Adam Hughes.

You may think you know Gail Simone, but later this year you'll be seeing a decidedly different side of the writer. Sure, your familiar with her work and style from books like Marvel's "Agent X" or the current "Birds of Prey" from DC Comics, but that's only one side of the writer's personality. Simone will be exploring another side of her writing personae in a revival of a character featuring a split personality. This December will see the release of the first issue of the six-part miniseries "Rose & Thorn" from DC Comics, the story of a young woman who's got a mindful of problems you wouldn't wish on anyone. CBR News caught up with Simone to learn a bit more about this series.

"Rose & Thorn is a story of an extremely troubled young girl, and a cure that's possibly worse than the disease," Simone told CBR News on Saturday. "For all the good therapy and medications can do (and there are millions who have benefited from such treatment), in the wrong hands, they're as dangerous as physical abuse and arsenic. We touch on a lot of serious issues, such as the ever-increasing warehousing of disturbed kids in frankly inappropriate facilities with overwhelmed staffs.

"The truth is, if we ever get costumed crime-fighters in the real world, the odds are that they're much more likely to come from a mental health facility than from Krypton.

"This is still an action-oriented suspense thriller...it just has a different landscape than the usual superhero stuff."

The series is based on characters from DC's silver age and Simone tells us that this series is an "an extrapolation of her early days." The star is Rhosyn Forrest, the troubled woman with multiple personalities, and her unscrupulous therapist who clearly doesn't have his patients best interests at heart.

"Rhosyn has a condition similar to a Multiple Personality Disorder or Disassociative Identity Disorder, but with some critical differences that will be revealed as the story unfolds," said Simone. "Rose is a girl who has had most of the fight pushed out of her, and has difficulty coping with the real world, yet her other personality, Thorn, has a tremendous rage and unpredictability. Thorn does the things we might want to do, but lack the will or courage. Revenge to Thorn is not only a compulsion, but a joy. I think everyone's felt how seductive being bad is at one time or another, and Thorn has few more restraints to hold her back.

"Once that genie is uncorked, it's hard to put her back in the lamp."

The multiple personalities of Rhosyn manifest when she witnesses the murder of her policeman father. This event throws Rhosyn into a rage which results in her being sent for treatment. This is how she meets up with the psychiatrist who attempts a radical new therapy that triggers the split in her psyche. The split creates the personas of Rose, a sweet young woman trying to move on from the tragedy, and Thorn, a highly-volatile woman who seeks to avenge her father's death. In each subsequent issue we find the characters battling the psychiatrist, the organized crime gang known as The 100, the Metropolis PD and even each other.

"Rhosyn's therapist, Dr. Chritlow, is a man of hidden motivations, who puts troubled girls through a process that, at the very least, is unethical, and possibly much worse," continued Simone. "The question is, is he doing it for good reasons, or for personal gain? Anyone who has dealt with a family member in crisis knows the options are often limited and unpleasant.

"I did a great deal of research on this subject, and it's very close to my heart. Some of the most successful treatments with these kids are among the most controversial and often, disturbing to contemplate. Almost everyone either has a troubled teen in their family, or knows someone who does -- It doesn't mean every town is a potential Columbine, but it's certainly a growing population we have to address."

The impetus to get "Rose & Thorn" back in print came from Simone's editor, Mike Carlin.

"Mike Carlin is a long-time Rose and Thorn fan...he really cares about the characters, and has been looking for the right approach for quite some time, I gather. I've always wanted to work with him, and he suggested I pitch for R&T.

"He sent me the original stories, and while time has passed some of the concepts by, the core of the series is quite remarkable; A young woman split literally in half, with one personality getting all the anger and violence. Thorn has good reason to hate the mob, and what she hates, she destroys."

Don't think that "Rose & Thorn" is just an update on the classic "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," as Simone tells us that "Dr. Jekyll had it relatively easy in comparison." Simone also tells CBR News that her work on "Rose & Thorn" is in many ways the last thing fans would expect from the writer.

"One of the best things about working with Mike is that he makes you stretch and reach. I told him I wanted my next project to be straight, without the humor that's been part of most of my work to date. Fortunately, he was thinking the same thing, hence 'Rose & Thorn.'

"Not only is it different from 'Birds of Prey' or 'Agent X,' I think it's different from any current book in the DC or Marvel universes. It's got a lot of action and emotion, but the subject matter is grim, at times, rewarding at others. We're very proud of it."

Simone is joined on the series by Brazillian artist Adriana Melo who's done work for Marvel and Dark Horse on books like "Fantastic Four Unplugged" and "Star Wars." Melo is joined on this project by inker by Dan Green. Covers for the series will be provided by Adam Hughes.

"Mike had been looking, and when we saw [Adriana's] samples, we were really stunned. She draws lovely women, great action scenes, and intensely emotional faces. It's a cliché, but she's going to be much in demand after this, I'll wager.

"On top of that, we won the cover lottery with Adam Hughes, who just this past year received both the Harvey and Eisner awards for best cover artist. You can't do any better than that.

"I hope people give the book a shot...it's going to be a very surprising read."

When talking with Adriana Melo about "Rose & Thorn" it's quite evident she's excited about working on the book.

"First of all: I loved Rose," Melo told CBR News, "the way all the problems came over her, and how hurt and fragile she is...shy in one moment... and then, when she is Thorn, she can be 100% dangerous, sexy and go straight over to taking what she wants

"I loved drawing so many different scenes, in one single book. Usually, when you work with heroes, they are all so brave, so strong, so powerful -- so it's great to find a character that is as fragile, delicate and feminine as Rose is.

"So in one book. I have Rose, crying, smiling, feeling lonely and in the same book, I have Thorn, kicking butts, using high heels, and leather clothes, acting so aggressive and having one only purpose in mind; find the guys that killed her/Rose's parents. It's amazing."

The first issue of "Rose & Thorn" hits comic shops December 17th. It's 32 pages and carries a $2.95 cover price.

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