Simone Unleashes "Birds of Prey" 2.0

While "Brightest Day" literally brings a dozen DCU heroes and villains back from the dead for exciting brand new adventures, a fan favorite title also enjoyed a rebirth as DC Comics released "Birds of Prey" #1 earlier this week.

Wunderscribe Gail Simone ("Wonder Women," "Secret Six") and superstar artist Ed Benes ("Justice League of America," "Green Lantern") reteam on the title after collaborating on Simone's first four arcs of "Birds of Prey" Vol. 1: "Of Like Minds," "Sensei & Student," "Between Dark & Dawn" and "The Battle Within."

Simone ran with the title for another three years after Benes' departure- all told she wrote 52 issues of the first volume - before handing off to a string of writers that included Sean McKeever and Tony Bedard. The title was cancelled in 2009, less than two years after Simone left the book.

But that was then and this is now.

Simone and Benes are reinventing "Birds of Prey," with some familiar faces: Oracle, Black Canary, Huntress and Lady Blackhawk. And there are some new kids on the block too, namely Hawk and Dove.

Simone told CBR News that adding a superstud like Hawk adds a new complexity to the team dynamic - for reasons both obvious and not so obvious - and also shared which major Bat-villain joins the fray. Here's a hint: This bird can't fly.

CBR News: How did your return to these characters come about? Was it your pitch or was DC anxious to get the Birds back in your capable hands?

Gail Simone: No, I'd actively avoided even thinking about it. Some of my best friends had crashed and burned when returning to books they had had popular runs on in the past and I could definitely understand that. But Geoff Johns reminded me that I still had stories I wanted to tell and he pointed out that it was important to have a book like "Birds of Prey" out there for people who may not always follow "Iron Man," or "Superman" or whatever, but still like formidable women kicking ass, if that makes sense.

In terms of the first arc, where do we pick up with Oracle, Black Canary, Huntress and Lady Blackhawk? Will there be ties back to your first run with the characters and plot threads that you'll be able to complete?

There's a moment where one of the Birds shows how much she missed the rest of the team that I think is very telling. But it's more like, "Okay, why did we ever split up?" than bitter recriminations. I think it's very clear by the end of the issue that the Birds are most definitely back. Ed draws the book like he never left and it just looks amazing. 

Black Canary, especially, has been front and center, most recently chairing the Justice League of America. What brings her back to the fold?

People who need help are all she's ever about. When she's written as selfish and vain, I think that's not Black Canary at all.

Can you share any details about the first arc? Which villain or villains will they face?

Well, the Penguin's in it, but his role is tough to summarize. Let's just say he's completely messed up. There's a new villain, one we're all pretty crazy about. And there are a lot of twists along the way. The Birds find themselves on everyone's bad side. 

Have Oracle, Black Canary, Huntress and Lady Blackhawk changed as characters since you last worked with them? 

Oh, sure, there's been a lot under the bridge, some great stories and some not-so-great stories. Lots of people write these characters well, it's not like I have a "No Trespassing" sign on them. I like when they interact with the rest of the DCU and two of my favorite authors have already contacted me about some very cool connections between their books and "Birds of Prey." That's a marked change from the previous run where we never knew what other books were doing. 

Hawk and Dove, Hawk specifically, bring a healthy new dynamic to the team. What do you love about these two new characters?

People think of Hawk as just a dick, or a Wolverine clone and I don't see it that way at all. I think he's two different soldiers - he's one thing in costume and another when he's in the quiet of his own mind. Dove, I'm also crazy about. She is so fresh and positive, a very nice balance to the blood and misery that so many comics seem to wallow in. 

How do Oracle, Black Canary, Huntress and Lady Blackhawk respond to their new teammates?

"Birds of Prey" enjoyed a nice reputation at DC for polishing up characters that had a bit of rust on them, so that was always fun, bringing in a new character to see what we could see. That's not really the case here. Hawk and Dove are already interesting and "Brightest Day" just made them better. It's more a matter of exploring their depth a bit more, because we have the real estate to do so. Geoff and Peter [Tomasi] already gave us a great foundation.

While this is a new beginning, you're working with a familiar partner in crime in Ed Benes. What does Ed bring to a project and why do you two connect so well?

I just think his art is lovely and sexy. I know some people will get offended, but I'm in Spain right now, after the amazing Barcelona Comics Festival and it's rooms full of art that is like this, a bit spicier, a bit more sexy. Ed loves the women he draws and I don't feel the hate and humiliation from his work that I get from some cheesecake artists. 

And he draws the hottest guys - no one ever drew Savant and Creote like Ed, so it's a bit of beefcake, too. But mainly, I just love the way he tells a story. I never, ever have to have stuff redrawn with Ed. He doesn't speak much English, we've never met and yet we always seem to be on the same page. And he loves and missed the Birds and working together with me. It's lovely.

"Birds of Prey" #1 takes flight May 12.

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