Between her tenure on “Red Sonja,” her cult classic “Sinister Six” series and her fan-favorite stint on “Birds of Prey,” it may seem to those looking in that Gail Simone has been there, done that and seen it all. However, with “Swords of Sorrow,” her multi-title crossover that unites the women of Dynamite Entertainment, the seasoned writer is testing some new waters — and she couldn’t be more excited about it.
Simone spoke with CBR News about the project, which debuts Wednesday of this week and unites not only female characters but female creators as well for the publisher’s first-ever initiative of this kind. Starring a host of characters, from Red Sonja and Dejah Thoris to Jungle Girl and Irene Adler, Simone’s concept for the event is a novel one, and over the course of our discussion, she shared what it was like to work with such a wide breadth of iconic personalities, what her fellow writers brought to the event and how the crossover will affect the characters long after it’s finished.
CBR News: You’ve spent a lot of time with Red Sonja over the past few years. What was it about Vampirella, Dejah Thoris and Lady Rawhide that intrigued you enough to develop this story? Did the crossover help you discover any new favorites?
Gail Simone: Oh, man, I’ve been a fan of pulp heroines forever.
â€¨The great thing about doing this book is that you get your preconceptions smashed. There are a few characters, like Jungle Girl, that I had really thought of as simply just eye candy — kind of a stuffed-fur bikini — but then you get in there and there’s a real character. I know people who felt the same way about Red Sonja; they couldn’t get past the flesh to get to the meat, as it were.
â€¨But Red Sonja is an amazing character, one of my favorites ever. Every time I get to write her, I’m simply delighted. Doing the characters I didn’t know that well is a bit like archeology; you dig past the dust to get to the treasure, and it’s always rewarding.
â€¨This is what’s fun about this, and why no other company could do this book. We have nearly every kind of pulp heroine represented. Miss Fury came from very early comic strips, Kato’s heritage is in radio adventure, Masquerade is from comics, Red Sonja and Dejah Thoris are descended from pulp adventure novels, Jennifer Blood is from modern crime comics, Pantha and Vampirella come from black and white comics magazines. The Chaos women are from the 90s “bad girl” craze. Irene Adler is from adventure literature. I mean, we really are representing a spectrum that even DC and Marvel can’t match, and that’s absolutely thrilling to me.
I have likened it to making your “Star Wars” action figures fight the Justice League action figures. It’s just sheer, manic fun.
Writers like Nancy A. Collins, G. Willow Wilson and Marguerite BennettÂ are teaming with you on this book. What was the general reaction like when you pitched the idea to them? How closely did you work with them on the tie-ins?
The core concept for this crossover that was in my head was a simple question: What if the pulp eras had always been as inclusive of women creators and characters as the comics industry is currently becoming? I found this hypothetical tremendously exciting. Imagine if, alongside the Shadow and the Spider, we had had masked women crimefighters who were just as popular, with a wider audience and more female creators? Imagine if comics had always known there was a female audience out there that loved adventure stories. I mean, there were decades where that was just not the case.
So I looked out at all the newest female writers out there, those specializing in adventure stories, real two-fisted pulp stuff. I just cherry-picked the best of them, and asked. They all said yes, thank god — they jumped right on board!
We have Marguerite Bennett, who is currently killing it on “Angela: Asgard’s Assassin” and writes deeply suspenseful stuff; G. Willow Wilson, who is redefining mainstream comics with “Ms. Marvel”; Nancy Collins, whom I personally dragged back into comics because I adore her horror stuff; Mikki Kendall, acclaimed science fiction writer and activist doing her first comics work; Leah Moore, who does the best “Sherlock Holmes” comics ever done; Emma Beeby, the first female writer of “Judge Dredd” in history; Mairghread Scott, who is nailing everything she does, including “Transformers”; and a real favorite of mine, Erica Schultz, who is going to be huge and has been doing things like “Revenge” for Marvel and her creator-owned “M3.”
Everyone brought something different. Nancy gave us a terrifying horror story, Willow envisioned a hilarious romp, Erica brought espionage to the table and Leah Moore gave us an incredibly convincing Victorian mystery/adventure tale. I just laughed and gasped through each of the stories. These women can write like bandits. Marguerite’s Sonja is one of my favorite takes ever. It’s just too fun and too snarky.
What does artist Sergio Davila bring to the book that makes him right for this story?
Well, part of it is what he doesn’t bring, which is a lot of baggage that would undercut the story. These characters, in Sergio’s hands, aren’t just pillowy sex cookies — they’re people. They look different from each other. They have great body language. They are still beautiful to look at — he’s just got a phenomenal way with men and women — but they also feel tough and dangerous, which is crucial.
â€¨I love working with him. He goes out of his way to make every page as good as possible, and we have these wonderful emails to make sure each element is visually powerful.
Dynamite has been great. They gave me lots of choices for artists and, once I saw Sergio’s work on “Legenderry,” that was it, no questions asked.
You called the crossover a “world-hopping” event. What brings all these ladies together?
A name you all know, but not in this way.
Someone had his heart broken, and he has never gotten over it. Now, he has the power to remake everything into a world he likes, where people suffer as he does.
It sounds far-fetched, but that really is the mantra of a lot of despots.
It’s an old comic book tradition for heroes to clash in a misunderstanding during their first encounter. Can we expect something like that in “Swords of Sorrow,” or is there a sort of mutual respect right off the bat with these characters? How would you describe their interactions?
We follow tradition.
Seriously, who wants to see Jennifer Blood hunt Vampirella and not give her a hard time? These characters were specifically chosen for their potential friction. Red Sonja hates royalty, and Dejah Thoris is very much a princess. Kato hates criminals, and Miss Fury is a thief.
It’s different from when, say, two superheroes fight. These women have good reason not to like each other.
Are there any characters you wanted to use that didn’t make it into the book?
Very few. I’m a little bummed we couldn’t get Xena or the Bionic Woman.
However, there are still some surprises!
After writing so many Dynamite characters in this event, are there any other characters besides Red Sonja that you’d like to return to when all is said and done?
I can’t say much about that. I will say, when “Swords of Sorrow” is all done — some of these characters might have experienced a huge change.
The funnest story element is that every one of the main characters is gifted with an ebony blade — a sword of sorrow — and many of the characters may be keeping those blades after this story is over.
If they survive, of course!
“Swords of Sorrow” #1 arrives Wednesday, May 6.
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