Simone Rallies the 99% for "The Movement"

First announced back in February, this spring DC Comics and writer Gail Simone are bringing a brand new superhero team to the New 52 targeting greed, corruption and grassroots super-villainy in "The Movement."

Writing a team of brand new and existing DC characters applying an Occupy credo to crime fighting, Simone is joined on art by Freddie Williams II. While there are not direct story ties, "The Movement" was heavily promoted alongside Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani's revival of the 1970's "Green Team: Boy Millionaires" with the new "The Green Team: Teen Trillionaires," series representing the 1% while "The Movement" represents the 99%.

Describing the series as "what would happen if a group like the Teen Titans or the X-Men were created today," Simone spoke with Comic Book Resources about the upcoming book, her inspiration and what DC characters readers will see populating the pages of "The Movement."

CBR News: What gave you the initial idea for "The Movement?" Was it sparked entirely by the Occupy protests, or were there other factors involved?

Art by Freddie Williams II

Gail Simone: I have this feeling that a lot of the best adventure fiction is based on the idea of standing up for the little guy against oppressive forces. If you go back and look at Zorro, or the Shadow, or the Lone Ranger, you can pretty quickly see that that idea of a masked protector pre-dates comics entirely.

There's something very powerful about that, and it's completely non-partisan. The idea of someone laying their life on the line for others is a big part of why I read superhero comics, and yet, even in some really popular books, I feel like that theme has been lost a little -- there's a bloodthirstiness to a lot of books and you can't always see why these characters are heroes, or even admirable anymore.

This book isn't about the Occupy movement, it's a superhero adventure story. But at its heart it's about young, poor people, who normally would be without power in society, who actually manage to fight back, not for themselves, but for others who are powerless.

They mess up. They lack experience and wisdom. But they're trying.

What is "The Movement" about? Is this your traditional superhero team, or will this be much more political and left-leaning?

It's a question of what you call "political."  Most comics, the villainy is pretty safe and comfortable.  Our idea is to touch on some things that are really happening, see what happens when you put superpowers in those stories.

I wouldn't say it's left-leaning, that sounds pretty simplistic. But I always think back about how Superman used to fight against slumlords and things like "Green Lantern/Green Arrow" dealing with teen drug addiction. It seems weird if we don't at least touch on these social issues that our teenagers are growing up with in 2013.

There has been some speculation on what characters will appear in the series, especially in light of comments that a benched DC character will be part of the book. Who is in "The Movement?" Is it all DC characters readers may be familiar, or are there new characters you're creating for this?

It's mostly new characters, but a couple might have subtle ties to the DCU at large. I am absolutely in love with the core cast, I think they're fresh and thrilling and unlike the characters in any other comic.

Art by Freddie Williams II

That said, sharp-eyed readers have already spotted two familiar characters; Katharsis, the brutal avenger from the popular Knightfall arc in "Batgirl," and Tremor, a wonderful badass character who appeared in the pre-[New] 52 "Secret Six."

It's a cast of favorites for me; I haven't had this much fun with a cast since the Secret Six!

When "The Movement" was first announced you spoke about the concept, adding that what really fascinated you was the idea of a "repulsive" hacktivist group being able to organize and gain power. Does that fear come into play in "The Movement?"

Yeah, absolutely. It's clear that protest in the days of the Internet has changed, and the idea of an anonymous group of hacktivists with their own idea of social justice is something we've seen take serious root. And they can be tremendously powerful, they can make information a weapon.

The question in my mind is, what happens if there's a group like that, with that kind of anonymity and reach, and they stand for ideals we absolutely find grotesque? What if there's a group that is, say for example, white supremacist, or committed to violence against other Americans, using the same tactics?

Again, I think a lot of villainy in comics is pretty inbred at this point, I'm interested to see some new obstacles, some new nightmares. I want comics to grow and evolve, we can't do that just writing the same things over and over.

From all you've said about the book, you're clearly dealing with some very interesting and very complex ideas in "The Movement." To your mind, what makes superhero comics a good place to tackle these big ideas, versus an indie book or any other type of media?

All of those places are a good place to tackle this stuff!

I like allegory, I love fantasy. What I hate is being preached at, being sermonized to, in genre fiction. I always feel if you have to make your point by having superheroes give weepy speeches, you've probably done your job badly, as a writer.

Art by Freddie Williams II

Again, my thinking is, what would happen if a group like the Teen Titans or the X-Men were created today? These groups were created for the kids of fifty years ago. Most of the readership wasn't even alive then, and as much as I love both those groups, I think a teen hero book today should look and feel different, should feel like something from today's world.

Similarly, there's a very fine line between entertainment media being inspired by real world political events, and just using movements for face value. How do you strike that balance between writing an entertaining story and making sure that it still treats those big political ideas it is inspired by seriously?

Oh, I think we can do better than just paying lip service to this stuff. For me, it's still about fascinating characters doing extraordinary things. On the one hand, a book like, say, "Birds of Prey," is about female empowerment, sure. But when you're reading it, it's just (hopefully) a ripping yarn about kickass characters you really care about, doing amazing things and just generally being awesome.

I love writing team books and I am wild about this team, that's the fun of it.

Speaking of teams, I have to say, this is one of the happiest, most creatively fulfilling teams I've ever worked with. The editors are awesome, Joey Cavalieri and Kyle Andrukiewicz, they're always adding some cool new bit and are a joy to work with. Then we have covers by my much beloved Amanda Conner, whom I've wanted to work with for a decade, now, with interiors by Freddie Williams II, who is just astonishing us with his vision of the city every issue. You've never seen work like this from Freddie before, it's gritty and yet the fantasy element is all over it.

I am really, really happy.

I hope people try this book. It's new, it's got the DCU all over and up inside of it, it's full of little mysteries and intrigues that will make DC readers smile, and some characters I love will be showing up soon.  This book is part of the future of the DC Universe, and it's a very different world. I love that.

Finally, I know amid all the speculation of what the book is about, you and your fans took to Twitter with the hashtag #madeupmovementfacts. Care to share any of your favorites?

HA! I'd forgotten about that. When the book was announced, it was immediately trounced by some weirdoes on a bunch of political websites (left and right), which is fair enough, but as they didn't have any facts yet to go on (just a tiny bit of copy and one promotional image), they promptly made up goofy facts to be mad about. Which I guess shows you how low the standards for this stuff have become.

So I made up a hashtag about fake facts about the book, and a couple of my favorites were:

Starman Morrison‏ (@GeekyGeekyWays): For every issue of The Movement that is sold, .50 cents will be donated to a fund to launch Paris Hilton into space.

Travis McClain, Esq. (‏@TravisSMcClain): Pope Benedict's resignation was forced by the revealing of certain facts in @GailSimone's forthcoming book #MOVEMENT. #madeupmovementfacts

Joe Caramagna (‏@JoeCaramagna): The inciting incident of The Movement is the consumption of a bran muffin. @GailSimone #madeupmovementfacts

Adam Chmelka (‏@AdamChmelka): @GailSimone's upcoming Movement comic is a touching coming-of-age story about a teenage Adolf Hitler. #madeupmovementfacts

I don't know, they made me laugh at the time!

"The Movement" begins May 1.

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