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SDCC: Simone Shares "Secret Six's" Secrets, Talks Creator-Owned Projects

SPOILER WARNING: The following interview contains discussions of upcoming storylines and revelations in DC Comics' "Secret Six."

Writer Gail Simone has long been a DC Comics staple, from the "Birds of Prey" run that established her as a voice for women in comics to her cult classic "Secret Six" series. Now, Simone has returned once more to her beloved team of misfits and miscreants with an almost all-new cast (excepting Catman and Black Alice) and the reintroduction of a fan favorite character in Ralph Dibney, aka the Elongated Man.

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Beyond the world of the DCU, the writer has taken the dive into creator-owned series, with a recently announced Vertigo series titled "Clean Room" and an Image Comics series called "Crosswind."Simone spoke with CBR News at Comic-Con International about her plans for "Secret Six" and the newly revealed Mr. Dibney what she has cooking on the creator-owned front and how her career has grown.

CBR News: Let's start with "Secret Six" #3. At the end of the last issue, we got two big reveals: Big Shot's name and the appearance of the Riddler. Is Mr. Dibney who we think he is?

Gail Simone: I believe probably so.

Is there a Sue Dibney in this incarnation?

We need to keep reading to find that out. It's too big of a secret to reveal at this point.

This is the first time Ralph has appeared in the New 52. What was behind the decision to bring him into "Secret Six?" Did you have to fight to use the character?

We took a long time -- it's kind of a bit more of a complicated answer than just yes or no -- but we knew (I mean myself and editorial and the publishers) took quite a bit of time figuring out who the new team and the new cast was going to be. When we started talking about Elongated Man and bringing him back into the DCU, I said, "Well, we don't want to reveal that right away. Let's have some fun with this, because nobody's seen him for a really long time." So then we started thinking about him going deep undercover and creating this new self for him, and what that would be like, and what form it would take. And then, when Dale did the designs, we were like, "This is perfect." I've actually grown to love Big Shot so much that I don't want him to change!

Whose idea was the cover for "Secret Six" #3, and how did that develop?

I've been saying for a while, "Wait till you get to the issue with weird sex on the couch!" It was really fun writing that scene, so much that Dale just said, "Oh, we've got to put that on the cover." Honestly, if I'm truthful, the censored circle got a little bigger with each editorial round. I actually think that's it's a little more disturbing now then when it was showing more, but that's just me. My imagination takes it places.

What plans do you have for the Riddler in this book?

We're going to find out who's pulling the strings, who and why all these characters were thrown together, and what they need to do and what they're expected to do now.

Were there any other characters you've wanted to use in the series that haven't made it in yet? Can we expect to see any other familiar faces any time soon?

Like I said earlier, we went back and forth quite a bit on who the main cast was going to be. I think that we -- because lots of new books were coming up in the DCU, there were certain things we didn't want to repeat or take away from another book. But I was really happy with the final cast, especially -- I really felt that Strix is such an amazing character, she deserved to be in the book and think she fits really well in the Secret Six. And Black Alice as well, and the New 52 Ventriloquist also fits. We saw her in "Batgirl" when I was writing "Batgirl," but there was a lot more to explore with her character, so we really wanted to include that. We will probably maybe see more cast members. I don't want to reveal too much.

Can you tell me a little about Porcelain.

Porcelain is something that I created from the ground up, so I'm quite excited about her character arc, about the Porcelain character and people getting to know who she is -- or who he is -- as time goes on.

From Oracle to Batgirl, you've written Barbara Gordon for very many years. Have you been keeping up with the most recent incarnation of Batgirl?

I only have read the new team's first issue all the way through. I absolutely adore the art, I love the what they're doing, and I think it was time for a tonal change. I've been saying that for a while with Batgirl, so I just think it's fantastic.

It was just announced that you've got a Vertigo book called "Clean Room" with Jon Davis-Hunt coming out this October. What can you share about that?

It's a new series called "Clean Room," which is a book that has two female main characters. One is Astrid, who has a global self-help organization; she's a motivational speaker, and she has lots of self-help books and things on the market, and a huge, expensive fancy office in Chicago. Way below this office, in a hermetically sealed room, is a room called the Clean Room, where she takes people and -- if you end up in the Clean Room, she will own you forever. She knows all your secrets, and if you get of out the Clean Room, you will not be the same as when you went in.

Then we have this other character, Chloe, whose fiance was a huge follower of Astrid. He read her books and went to her motivational speeches and everything. Chloe comes home one night, and -- in their new apartment -- he's blown his brains out, and Astrid's book is laying open on the table. Now, Chloe is a journalist, and she decides that she wants to figure out what is going on with this organization, who Astrid is, why this would cause her fiance to kill himself. It becomes such that Astrid knows that Chloe is the only person in the world that can take her down, because she's a journalist who has nothing to lose, so she's going to go after it.

That begins the conflict in the story. It's kind of like Tony Robbins meets "The Exorcist" and "American Horror Story." It's a psychological horror story where we're exploring people who want to control your money, your vote, your obedience -- all of that, and Astrid has that kind of power. That's basically where the book starts out.

What makes Davis-Hunt right for this story?

I was talking with Shelly [Bond] about getting artists for this project and she sent me just tons and tons and tons of comic books, and she had tabs on them: "Check this panel out," "This is what I like." Stacks like you wouldn't believe! I went through all of them, she sent tons of PDFs, we went through them and then -- when I looked at Jon Davis-Hunt's art -- I was like, "Oh, that's interesting!"

He's a video game designer and not necessarily a comic book artist. We sent a description of a few of the characters out to several of our top choices and, when Jon's came in, even though they weren't exactly like the descriptions were -- they were so amazing that I immediately fell in love and knew that other people were going to fall in love with it, too. He's just absolutely perfect for this book, and when people see this book, they're going to just be blown away. It's very powerful.

In addition to your first Vertigo series, you've got another creator-driven story coming out through Image -- "Crosswind," with artist Cat Staggs. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe this is your first announced creator-owned series in a while. What spurred you pursue not one, but two original series?

I actually have three! One is "Leaving Megolopolis," which started out as a Kickstarter project, and now is being published through Dark Horse. The first volume is available through Dark Horse, and Jim and I are working on the second one. So that's creator-owned!

And then Vertigo is creator-owned, along with Warner Bros. and DC. And "Crosswind" is at Image, and it's creator-owned by Cat Staggs. I was thinking about it this morning, because I had a feeling that people were going to start asking that type of stuff because it's a definite shift in kind of what my career has been up to this point. I feel like when I started out, I wanted to show that we could have female-led books -- a team of females that would go on missions and get things done and not fight and squabble and talk about boyfriends, and have meaning in the DCU and be successful enough that it could be an ongoing title. Then I wanted to prove that a female writer could write "Superman," or the "All-New Atom," or the "Justice League," so I did those kinds of things -- "Deadpool," which is probably the most testosterone-driven character that you could think of. I wanted to show that these things could be done and they could be successful. Then, I spent the last year or so showing that single female-led books could be successful, starting with "Batgirl" and "Red Sonja," and was shown that that could happen, and now there's lots of them out there and that's amazing.

Now I'm interested in telling things that are aren't out there already, that are different, that are exploring different corners of our culture, different genres and things like that, and really get into that aspect of writing and creating from the ground up.

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