I’ve been doing a 30 Days of DC comics over at tumblr. Today happened to be favourite writer, and it also happened to be my favourite writer’s birthday. It started to get a bit long and I thought there wasn’t a better way to kick off my posting here at Girls Read Comics than to post about the rather brilliant Gail Simone.
There are all sorts of facts I could give you about Gail, but those are easily found by typing her name into wikipedia or google. I could tell you that she’s written Deadpool, and Wonder Woman, that she’s worked for Marvel, DC, Wildstorm, etc. But I’d rather talk about her as a writer and why I love the books she’s written so damn much.
BIRDS OF PREY
The second DC book I ever read was written by Gail – Birds Of Prey. A book about (at the time) three kick ass women who operated in and outside of the few cities that most in the DC universe seemed to inhabit. I was hooked. The book was intelligent, funny, non-exploitative and at times very tongue in cheek. It dealt with unreal situations and yet Oracle, Black Canary, and Huntress stayed human throughout it all.
Things got tough for them, seriously crazily tough, and yet they always managed to come back together and would laugh at the strangest times. In a way, it wasn’t unlike reality, the offbeat humour and poking fun at themselves and those they knew a coping mechanism. It was like they saw the moments they had to be normal and happy and grasped them. That they saw what they did as being necessary but also a bit absurd, and they made fun of themselves before someone else could. Their humour slipped into adult as you’d expect it to with a group of women who’d seen and done so much, and yet it wasn’t ever lewd. Good writing there, definitely.
Simone wasn’t afraid of shying away from emotional situations either. One of the hardest scenes I’ve ever read was an early scene where Dinah and Babs subjected Helena to a good round of undeserved slut-shaming. Ill-advised and something they felt horrible for after, it was a scene I’d seen played out in my own life. Helena’s righteous indignation and the way she told them off was brilliant and made me wish I’d had the courage to do the same at some points. Amidst all this superheroing were two girls taking a shot at another, something that’s dealt with every day. Yet it didn’t feel out of place or wrong. It felt good to see it, and see it dealt with how it was.
It wasn’t their only problem. It couldn’t be. Sometimes they broke my heart. Sometimes they made me laugh. But in the end, Gail managed to write a team of strong, flawed women and make them friends. More than that she made them real, and hearing she was coming back to Birds of Prey and relaunching was one of my greatest comic moments ever, right after the resurrection of Kitty Pryde. (anyone who knows me, will get how that was the hugest event of the year for me, thanks)
Onto a book that’s quite a bit different than Birds of Prey (at least, on the surface). Here’s an idea. Take six d-class villains – some of whom had been written off into obscurity and some of whom Simone created – and write a miniseries about them. Have that miniseries be successful enough to see them in another miniseries, a Birds of Prey arc, and finally their own (now 20-odd issue) series. Make that series dark, make the humour more adult, make all of the characters seriously screwed up and flawed. Have them work as mercenaries, some of them hunting for redemption even if they won’t admit it and others totally comfortable with their own depravity. Add a bit of absurdity and what do you get? You get one of the most consistent and best comic series out there.
It’s hard to pick panels that will give a feel for this series, both the humour and the darkness. This is a book about people who aren’t nice, but are amazingly human. They’re mercenaries, and their missions are often rife with violence. But it’s not a bloody book full of gore and grossness. Simone does more with the implication of violence and off-panel happenings than a lot of writers. If anything, it leaves more to the imagination and strengthens the impact of the scenes. Anyone can have an artist add in more gore, it takes more talent to keep it off screen and have it still inspire a nearly visceral reaction.
Honestly, I don’t think this is the book that’s for everyone. But I do think it’s brilliantly written and that everyone should give it a go and try it. You never know, you might like it.
There are a couple of Wildstorm titles I could talk about here, and I do love Welcome to Tranquility a whole heap, but reading Simone’s Gen-13 recently made me love the title and these characters all over again.
I read the original Gen-13. In fact, I likely have my originals somewhere in a box back in Canada. I loved it at first, and eventually… Eventually it got a bit over the top for my tastes. Simone’s re-launch of Gen-13 brought back my affection for these kids all over again.
How many times has it been done? Kids with some sort of genetic mutation against the world? In the world of comics, that’s not an unusual story. The telling of this one was. Again, the injection of reality into the impossible situation was what resounded. The moments of almost-absurdity, the humour, the kids trying to figure out their lives in a way that was very true to life, whilst dealing with all these changes? The story took a step away from whatever I expected, and surprised me. That alone is worth a lot.
The other bits
There are things I don’t have the knowledge or experience to talk about. I can’t really comment on her run in Wonder Woman (except to say I loved it) as I’ve not read much of WW in my past (something that I am in the process of correcting). There are things that are worth mentioning, like the fact that Simone has created some amazing characters in her time, including quite a number of LGB characters. I could talk about how she deals with Oracle’s disability so well, or about her old column You’ll All Be Sorry. I could mention Women in Refrigerators, or her critiques on the comic industry, or on how she interacts still with the people who read her comics, and comes across as a fan herself a lot of the time. I think I’ve said all I need to say here, in fact, I’ve likely said more than any person had the patience to read.
Happy Birthday Gail. There are many reasons you’re my favourite writer in comics these days (and there’s some stiff competition out there) and these are a few. Don’t stop being awesome!