It’s hard to find a more eclectic writer in mainstream comics than Gail Simone. From seminal runs on Wonder Woman and Batgirl to creating expansive sword and sandal staples like Conan and Red Sonya, Simone has done it all. We were lucky enough to chat with her at the DC booth this year at San Diego Comic-Con, where she looked back on an epic career and told us about her brand new DC/Dynamite crossover with Aaron Lopresti, Wonder Woman/Conan.
Gaining notability for her revolutionary trope-defining website Women in Refrigerators–which explores all of the women who were killed, maimed, or sexually assaulted to further an emotional arc of a male character–Gail was surprisingly never aiming for a career in comics. “I was a hairdresser at the time,” Simone told Nerdist. “I wasn’t in the industry. I was just a reader and a fan. I realized I wasn’t reading as many comics and people were asking me online why I thought that was. So we put up a list of women who’d been maimed, depowered, and raped in comics. The story was no longer about them, just about the men who’d go off into the sunset.” According to Simone, “It made a lot of people angry.”
The website did lead to other creative ventures. “I went on to have a parody column online that satirized pop culture,” she said. “It would have a Galactus blog, or it would rework a song with comics-related lyrics that were really funny. But I’ve always been really proactive talking about the state of the industry. That was my dream, actually. Not that I could work in the industry, but that we could open it up so it wouldn’t be so closed off.”
Simone began her comics-writing career doing humor stories for The Simpsons at Bongo Comics, but quickly moved on to Deadpool and Agent X at Marvel, followed by DC’s Birds of Prey, which became a landmark book. “It was three really strong female characters who didn’t fight with each other or talk about each other behind their backs,” she said. “They actually went on missions and got shit done, and that’s the stuff I like to write about. I like to bring characters that have different backgrounds, who’re from different walks of life that we don’t usually see in mainstream comics.”
Telling important landscape-changing stories has allowed Simone to see how that very industry has changed. “What I’ve seen in the last decade is, at conventions, we’ve gone from about 20% women and 80% male attendance to around 50/50,” Simone said. “I think a lot of that comes from commentators online, along with people writing different stories that have really incredible three-dimensional female characters that people want to follow and know more about.”
One of Simone’s favorite things about this change in demographics is the establishment of women collectively enjoying comics publicly. “The greatest thing that I love to see is that now we have groups of girls who come together, who enjoy these things just as much as men, if not more,” she said. “And they really get into it, into the craft of it, and it becomes this group. I love to see how they celebrate the fandoms.”
Her newest project sees Simone returning to one of the books she’s best known for, Wonder Woman. But this time the Themysciran princess isn’t alone. “It’s so exciting,” she said. “Wonder Woman is one of my favorite characters and I didn’t want to write her for quite a long time. I was asked a few times and I said no. Then I wrote her for one scene in Birds of Prey and I realized: This is fun. Then later, in a six issue Justice League series, I realized I really did love writing her. I was asked to write the book and I said, ‘Yes, please. Let me at that.'”
Simone continued, “I’ve loved every minute of it, being able to get back in with her and Conan. I love swords and sorcery so this is like a complete dream.”
Bringing together two sides of her work was something that immediately clicked for Simone. “Some people were asking why isn’t it a Conan/Batman crossover or a Conan/Superman crossover,” she said. “But to me, this makes so much more sense. It’s really exciting because this is the first time Conan has met a DC character, which is great because I love mixing worlds a little bit, it’s just really fun. A lot of people don’t realize that Conan [is] also super intelligent. Wonder Woman–she’s a great warrior and she’s strong, but she’s also super intelligent as well. So it’s a good mix. There’s immediate conflict there and camaraderie even if it’s reluctant.”
Most of all, the driving force was the need to weave an incredible story that would be enjoyed by both of the iconic hero’s fans. “I just wanted to tell a really great story [where] if you’re just familiar with Conan it would be a great Conan story, and the same with Wonder Woman–it’s a great Wonder Woman story,” Simone explained. “But if you put them together then it’s just this really great, fun story.”
Are you excited for this inspired crossover? Confused that Conan has a comic and isn’t just some buff Schwarzenegger movie? Just excited to see Diana kicking some more butt? Let us know in the comments!
Images: DC, Dynamite