Interviews

We Won't Be Sorry: An Interview with Gail Simone

By Michael Bailey

[Date: May 23, 2005]

Gail Simone You really have to respect any comic book writer that spends her free time searching for Big Foot with her husband.

I'm not kidding. In doing the research for this interview I re-read Beau Smith's "Busted Knuckles" column on Silver Bullet Comic Books where he spoke with Gail Simone in his "Five Manly Question With ..." series. I can't be sure if he was joking or not, but he reveals at the end that Gail keeps all kinds of equipment in the back of her SUV for weekend trips with her husband to find stuff in the woods. Apparently the legendary Sasquatch is among the stuff they look for.

Even if Mr. Smith was kidding Gail Simone is one of the most original voices to enter the comic book field in the last five years. My first exposure to her writing was in "You'll All Be Sorry" a column at Comic Book Resources that ran from October of 1999 to October of 2001, with a brief return engagement in 2003. The first column I caught was her version of what the commentary track for the 1997 BATMAN AND ROBIN movie would have been like. It was funny. Really funny, especially the George Clooney portions of the "commentary". "You'll All Be Sorry" was the type of column that gave you the impression that the writer not only had a wicked sense of humor but also a love for the comic book medium.

A few years later I encountered her writing again in the pages of BIRDS OF PREY. To be honest I was almost ready to drop the book, which was a shame because BIRDS OF PREY was one of the comics I put at the top of the reading stack when I would pick up my weekly fix. In one story-arc, titled "Sensei and Student" she took a book that I was putting serious thought into giving up on and put it right back at the top of the stack again. Gail seems to understand what makes Barbara Gordon, Black Canary, the Huntress, Lady Blackhawk (yeah, I said Lady Blackhawk) and Wildcat tick. In additions to exploring other comic book genres within the super-hero medium she combines character, tough-guy (or gal, in this case) dialogue, comic book history and action in a seamless package that makes you realize that, the failed WB series notwithstanding, this concept could make a very good live action television series or movie.

In addition to BIRDS OF PREY she took the relatively unknown ROSE AND THORN character and turned it into a six-issue psychological thriller mixed with an organized crime drama. It was her first trip to Metropolis, but it wasn't her last. Recently she has taken over ACTION COMICS, with art by John Byrne and Nelson, and is writing the IFNINITE CRISIS prelude VILLAINS UNITED with art by Dale Eaglesham and Wade Von Grawbadger.

In addition to those mentioned above, Gail Simone has also written THE SIMPSONS for Bongo Comics, GUS BEEZER, DEADPOOL and AGENT X for Marvel Comics and KILLER PRINCESSES for Oni Press.

I also discovered she has a desire to write not only Mary Marvel but the whole Marvel Family as well. If DC was smart, which they seem to be lately, they should give her the chance to do so.

From my limited correspondence with Gail (and I call her Gail because Ms. Simone seems too formal) she comes off as a very bright and energetic writer who has a passion for comics that puts most fanboys to shame. If her first issue of ACTION COMICS is any indication, she seems to understand Superman and his cast of characters as much as she understands the Birds of Prey.

My only hope is that if she and her husband are successful in finding Big Foot that she will still find time to write the occasional comic book script. Though how could writing comics compare to finding Big Foot?

And with that I present thirteen questions with Gail Simone.

The Interview:

Q: What are your work habits (as in where do you write and what type of atmosphere do you like to write in)?

A: I have a home office, and sometimes, I schedule time to work like anyone else might, but mostly, I end up working at night when there are no distractions. My office is a gargantuan stockpile of comics and Trade Paperbacks, and could really use a couple hours of the fire hose.

Q: How much time do you spend on research for your writing? I ask this because I noticed the medical lingo in a recent issue of BIRDS OF PREY and I was curious as to how much of your work day goes into research?

A: It doesn't break down that way, but I do like to get these things right. For one, I don't have the steel trap memory for comics history that, say, a Mark Waid or Kurt Busiek does, so I have to do a lot of reading and research when new characters are used. But also, I like to keep a ton of books (and expert acquaintances) around for just such a thing. It can be a very easy part of the job, or a hugely demanding part. On a book like Villains United, it's a great consumer of time.

Q: How did you go from being a hair stylist (hair dresser, salon technician, whatever the PC term for the work) to writing comics?

A: Heh. Any of those are fine. It's an odd story.

I'd written some joke things (that were pretty mean and uncalled for) for friends on the internet, just snarky things about comics, and those got passed around on message boards. Some weirdo took credit for them, since I hadn't signed them, so I had to do another to show I was the one who wrote them.

That led to me getting a column at comicbookresources.com, where I had to learn to be funny without being pointlessly obnoxious. The column was a huge favorite of editors and creators, and the wonderful Scott Shaw! talked me into submitting stories to Bongo comics, which I did. That led to Marvel and writing Deadpool, and eventually, DC and Birds of Prey.

Q: How long have you been reading comics and back in your fan days what books did you like to read?

A: The truth is, as a kid, there was no comic I WOULDN'T read. I'd read horror, romance, superhero, humor, western, war, whatever. I just loved the form. Still do.

Q: Has turning from a fan to professional writer changed how you read comics?

A: Sure, it does make me more analytical. But a great comic, like, say, New Frontiers, makes me forget all the structure questions.

Action Comics #827 Q: What is it about Superman that makes him an interesting prospect to write?

A: I've had this talk a lot with other pros, and I've often heard that he's hard to make interesting, and I SO don't agree. It's our familiarity, our comfort with Superman, that makes us feel that way.

He's the last alien from a doomed planet. He can fly and burn steel with his eyes. He's an investigative reporter. He has two identities. He has amazing friends and family, and he's the number one superhero in his or any other universe. You tell me he's not interesting, and I say, "what in the world is WRONG with you?"

Q: You mentioned in an interview with Newsarama that you felt that Superman was "dead sexy". What makes Superman dead sexy?

A: Oh, I don't know, dark-haired, blue-eyed hunk with abs you could grate cheese on, and oh, yes, he can fly you to dinner in Hong Kong if you get a date with him. Maybe that's part of it. :)

Q: Some of the past Superman writers have expressed a certain disdain for Lois Lane. How do you feel about Lois, her relationship with Clark and her place in Superman's life?

A: This is one of my problems with the stories in the past... it makes no sense to me that Superman would be interested in whiny, witchy women. Why, with his mother as an example, would he want that?

Lois is a prototypical feisty, brave, intelligent woman, full of love for her husband. Some writers have interpreted her sheer force of will as petulant sniping, which I don't think is Lois at all. She loves Clark, she loves Kal-El, she loves Superman. And I want to show why she deserves his love in return.

Q: What about the other supporting characters like Jimmy Olsen and Perry White? Are you going to be playing with them at all?

A: Lots. We're going to be doing a LOT of Planet stories. This is a great cast, one of the best ever created for comics, period.

We've gotten a terrific, surprising response to our first issue, so that's great news. A great many folks say they're picking up the book for the first time in ages, and that's just exciting. I really want to deliver a book that's got a big impact every issue - whether it's just a fun free-for-all battle issue, or a more character-driven one. Hopefully, we'll be able to do that!

Q: What villains are you looking forward to using in your tenure on the book?

A: Well, early on, we have Darkseid, Shrapnel, Dr. Psycho, Black Adam, obviously Dr. Polaris, and several new villains. He's going to face a great DC horror villain, and if it works out, a great Superman villain who has never appeared in the book. I'll leave that one vague. ;)

Q: Regarding Brainiac's recent appearance in BIRDS OF PREY; did you know you would be writing ACTION at the time and are the changes you are putting Barbara through going to be tied into the upcoming arc that is crossing through the Superman titles and WONDER WOMAN?

A: No, absolutely not. It was coincidence that fit together nicely.

Q: Speaking of that arc, how was it working with the other writers and artists in telling a story that went through several titles?

A: Oh, just fine... Greg is a long-time friend, and Mark V. is every inch the total professional.

As for working with John, let me say for the record that it's been a COMPLETE JOY. John is enthusiastic, gracious, supportive, and has turned in some pages that made me gasp. He knows more about page composition than I'll know if I do this job the rest of my life, and we're lucky to have him.

Q: Turning to Lex Luthor, who seems to be set to play a major role in VILLAINS UNITED, what do you think of him as a character? What makes him tick? Do you think he is Superman's most dangerous enemy and, if so, why?

A: Luthor's a great character, because he really is strongest, where Superman is weakest - he's a master of guile and cunning. Those are, if you will, his superpowers, and those are Superman's blind spots.

The other terrific thing about Luthor is that Superman's destruction isn't enough for him. He wants Superman to fall, to fail, to be humiliated and forgotten. He wants to remove the essence of greatness from Superman. That's a loftier and much more difficult goal than making a robot to smash him.

The best Luthor stories are the ones that remind you that he's not a raving psychotic, like the Joker. That his rage is much deeper and more subtle. I love the guy BECAUSE he's unpredictable.

By the way, let me finish up by thanking everyone involved with this site, the best Superman resource on the web, period!


Interviews

Introduction

The Superman Homepage has had the pleasure of interviewing various Superman Comic Book creative people about their work.

Question and Answer Interviews:

Interviews/Articles:

Krypton Club Interviews:

Lois When “Lois & Clark” started production in 1993, there was an obvious relationship between the comic book people and the Hollywood people.

A trade paperback “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman”, was published, with Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher on the cover. It included reprints of comic book stories that were the inspiration for “Lois & Clark”, helping to define the characters. Comic's included are: The Story of the Century (Man of Steel miniseries #2), Tears for Titano (Superman Annual #1), Metropolis - 900 mi (in SUP #9), The Name Game (SUP #11), Lois Lane (in ACT #600), Headhunter (AOS #445), Homeless for the Holidays (AOS #462), The Limits of Power (AOS #466), and Survival (ACT #665).

A number of comic book writers and artists had roles as extras in the episode “I'm Looking Through You” (Season one, episode 4). Their presence was immortilized in the Sky Trading Card #34.

Craig Byrne, president of the online “Lois & Clark” fanclub The Krypton Club, carried out a series of interviews with comic book writers. The interviews are reprinted with permission of the Krypton Club.

Check the Television section of this website for some “Lois & Clark” Interviews conducted by The Krypton Club.