It’s impossible to talk about female comic creators without featuring one of the most influential women in the business today: Gail Simone. Active in the industry for the better part of two decades, Simone has done more for the depiction of women in comics than any other writer in the mainstream. In light of the announcement earlier this week that she’ll be heading up a new release of Red Sonja for Dynamite, let’s take a look back at just what makes Gail Simone so awesome, and why we should be excited about her work.
Simone first arrived on the comic scene in the late 90s, after taking issue with Ron Marz’s Green Lantern #54, in which the title character’s girlfriend is killed and stuffed into a refrigerator as a plot device. Coming to the realization that female characters in comics were often subjected to violence for the sake of male character advancement, Simone began the site Women in Refrigerators; a page which maintained an ongoing list of instances that saw women in comics facing violence because of their gender (like rape, or miscarriage), or for the sake of their male counterparts’ plotlines.
Women in Refrigerators quickly went viral and Simone gained the attention of many influential players in the comic community. Moving on to write a column at Comic Book Resources and Sunday strips for The Simpsons, Simone was tapped by Marvel to head a run on Deadpool. Creative differences eventually led to Simone’s jump over to DC, beginning what would become (in my opinion) some of Simone’s greatest work: Birds of Prey.
Beginning with issue #56 in 2003, Simone brought together the all-female team of Oracle, Black Canary, The Huntress, and Lady Blackhawk, for the most kick-ass run of Birds of Prey basically ever to exist in the DC canon. Simone’s Birds of Prey worked because of how multi-dimensional and real the women on the team felt when she wrote them. Too often, female superheroes are either sexy OR smart OR tough OR girly – when in reality, women are a combination of all of these qualities and, of course, many more. Simone writes Babs, Dinah, Helena, and Zinda as layered women who can kick ass when they need to but can also talk their way out of a fight; who have complex relationships with each other that you really care about; who are foils for each other, but also friends.
Though Simone says that departing Birds of Prey was one of the hardest things she’s ever done, she moved on to become the longest-running female writer of Wonder Woman and in 2011, helmed the DC New 52 re-launch of Batgirl, starring post-chair Barbara Gordon. Bringing her signature realism to Gordon’s character, the title quickly became one of the New 52’s top-sellers, reaching the fourth-place spot on the New York Times hardcover graphic novels best-seller list. It makes sense, then, that fans were outraged when last December, Simone was fired from the title via an e-mail from her new editor. After unprecedented fan dissent, DC reinstated Simone to the title just a few weeks later. As it should be.
In the past month, Simone has announced she will be working on a new DC title, The Movement (out on May 1st) which will deal with Occupy Wall Street and the plight of the ninety-nine percent; and, as previously mentioned, on a brand-new run of Red Sonja for Dynamite. When questioned about taking on an iconic (but often overtly sexual) character like Red Sonja, Simone said, “[she’s] a fiery redhead who takes shit from no one. Yes, I want to write that!” On a more serious note, Simone added:
“Let’s face it, for a period of decades, most female characters in comics were not designed to attract female readers. They were designed to attract male readers. That left us females who loved comics to sort of appropriate these characters for ourselves. And we did. But out of that pool, some characters refused to just be pin-ups and sex objects. Some captured the imaginations of young girls, and they survived when the others fell into disinterest and disuse. For me, there’s something incredibly appealing of a weary, terrifying Red Sonja under a blood red sun, holding a bloody sword over the bodies of her enemies. That isn’t about bikinis, and it’s the soul of the character.”
Now that you love her as much as we do, you can find Simone being hilarious and awesome on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. And if you haven’t already, go pick up a copy of Birds of Prey – trust us, you won’t be sorry.