I know what you're all thinking. Some of you are wondering who is this Gail Simone and when did she piss in Dan Traeger's Cheerios. Others of you are wondering how I could possibly hate one of the nicest comics writers on the planet, and some of you Bendis fans are cheering me on to a frenzy of Gail-bashing goodness. Well…
Okay, you got me. I really don't hate Gail Simone. I just used that as an intro to sucker you all in here. In point of fact, aside from a somewhat unhealthy obsession with fish nipples, the color purple (that's the color, not the Spielberg movie), Disney stuff, and Canadians, she has always seemed quite congenial to me.
I have been told that, on occasion, she eats live kittens and that she killed and ate an Internet journalist to get her Villains United gig, but the source is highly suspect. Gail is in point of fact, one of the nicest writers I've ever met.
What makes Gail unique is that she started her writing career on the Internet, and she still takes great pains to maintain a strong Internet presence. Over the years I have been lucky enough to correspond with her. Sometimes at length, other times just a quick, "Hey, nice article," but it's always nice to hear from her. For the record, Gail Simone is endlessly patient with her fans and eternally graceful to her detractors. She's funny, waaaaaay too self-effacing, and if it weren't for that whole Internet journalist incident, she'd have long since been nominated for sainthood.
So, my children, we gather here today in this small, overly cramped side room in the largest convention center in the world, to sing hosannas to the stunning creative talent that is the great and terrible Gail Simone. Beer and kittens are optional.
Gail Simone announced her presence on the Internet with the authority of a born superhero fan who had the intestinal fortitude to ask a question that disturbingly, no one had really asked before. It was discussed in hushed whispers at the local comics store and pondered over by the occasional casual reader of comics, but it was never discussed out in the open and definitely never brought up in front of the potentially limitless audience of the Internet.
The springboard was a Green Lantern story by the great Ron Marz, wherein the hero's girlfriend ends up dead and stuffed into his refrigerator. Gail posited the question, "Why?" To paraphrase, "Why is it that comic book women always seem to end up raped, humiliated, folded, spindled, and mutilated in a wide variety of strange and interesting ways?"
The answers she got to that simple question run the gauntlet from the simply asinine, "As regards the female characters thing, I'm afraid I think it's giving male creators a bum deal." The list does read pretty shocking at first until you think of everything the male heroes have gone through, too, in terms of deaths/mutilations/etc." to the downright disturbing, "Well, I think part of the problem for female characters is that, since our readership is dominated by males, they aren't perceived as having the same economic viability as many male characters." The whole sordid story is hosted for anyone who wants it at Unheard Taunts, among other places. It's called “Women in Refrigerators,” and it's one of the most important essays ever written about the culture surrounding comics.
The next time the amazing Ms Simone crops up is with her ongoing column for Comic Book Resources called, ”You'll All Be Sorry”, or YABS in the common Internet parlance. With “You'll All Be Sorry,” Gail got the opportunity to prove that not only did she have a master's grasp of impressionistic writing, but that she also had some remarkably professional comedic chops. YABS became an Internet darling and proved implicitly that Gail Simone could competently skewer every writer, artist, journalist, and fan on the planet, from her dead accurate parodies of icons like Frank Miller and Mark Millar, to easier targets like Dave Sim and John Byrne.
My personal favorite is her spot-on parody of Planetary, wherein the three major players unearth the remnants of a certain modern stone-age family. It's written in near perfect Warren Ellis style, and it's absolutely hilarious. The “You'll All Be Sorry” archives are located on Comic Book Resources, and they're well worth a read or two, or three, or 20.
At the gentle urging of Scott Shaw (I suspect something involving a flamethrower, wet spaghetti noodles, and a rusty ice pick), Gail submitted a script to Bongo Comics. The script in question was for their Simpsons line, and a writing career was born. Gail's work for Bongo Comics is a testament to just how strong her writing skills really are. The most difficult aspect of writing a comic based on a popular cartoon is that you do it without the benefit of the voice actors.
The readers come to the comic with a pre-set notion of how the characters sound. This requires letter-perfect dialogue from the writer and plotting that doesn't seem out of character to the audience. Gail succeeded admirably well with both these aspects, while still remaining consistently funny. Stand-outs from Gail's tenure at Bongo include: "Maximum Bart!" from Bart Simpson #2, "Battle of the Boy Bands" from Bart Simpson #3, and "Tales From The Kwik-E-Mart" from Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror #8 (which will make you think twice about your beloved breakfast cereal mascot. *shudder*)
Her next project was a three-issue mini-series for Oni Comics called Killer Princesses. Coupled with the phenomenal writer/artist Lea Hernandez, it was a perfect match. The synergy between these two creators is obvious on every page of this comic. To this day, there has yet to be an artist that Gail has worked with that has complimented her writing style as well as Ms Hernandez. Killer Princesses is a wild action movie on paper that oozes with black humor. If you think of the Charlie's Angels movies (if they had a creative production team), then smack yourself upside the head with a gold brick wrapped in a slice of X-Men, you've about got it.
One of Gail's fans from her YABS days happened to be Joe Quesada, who obviously knows talent when he sees it. As Marvel Comics editor in chief, he extended her the offer of taking over their floundering Deadpool title. Gail jumped in with both feet, bringing Deadpool a relevant hipness and a return to black humor not seen since his Joe Kelley days. Five issues into her run, Deadpool was cancelled out from under her and she was asked to re-imagine the book from scratch. The result was Agent X, which was fun, but it wasn't the same Deadpool goodness. Gail left the series after seven issues over "creative differences" with the editor of the series.
I'm sure there's some juicy dish there somewhere, but Gail has been nothing but gracious about it in public. Though she would return a year later for three issues to wrap up the series which died in her absence, Gail would eventually sign an exclusive contract with DC, and to date she has yet to do anything more for Marvel.
Shortly before she jumped ship to DC, Gail created The Marvelous Adventures of Gus Beezer. Gus was Peter Parker's nephew, and though he had no super powers, his imagination was good enough. Gus Beezer debuted in a series of three one-shot issues, and though it was geared towards younger kids, it still benefited from Gail's multi-layered scripting, which worked equally as well for adults. Gus would receive one final one shot before his creator defected to the competition. Any further adventures will probably be directed by much less skilled hands.
This brings us to Birds of Prey. Gail took over the BoP series with issue #56. She followed the footsteps of Master action series writer Chuck Dixon. With an extremely tough act to follow, and tons of negative press surrounding the horribly inept Birds of Prey television series, Gail slammed into the comic series full force with a story that set the Birds against a criminal mastermind that captured the Black Canary, got the better of Oracle, and nearly defeated The Huntress.
Gail's run on Birds of Prey proved to be immensely popular, and she continues her work on the series to this day. Now coming into her fourth year on the series, she continues to deliver consistently excellent stories, occasionally shaking up the status quo, and always maintaining her exceptional sense of humor.
My absolute favorite story is her arc from #62-#65. Black Canary returns to China to visit her old Sensi who is dying. Unfortunately, Sensi also instructed master assassin Lady Shiva. Mayhem ensues when Canary and Shiva form an uneasy alliance when they discover their Sensi has been murdered. The story brings together all the great elements from Hong Kong action films and establishes Black Canary as one of the pre-eminent martial artists in the DC universe.
Gail was actually confronted at San Diego con this year by a fan who asked, “If Black Canary is the number three martial artist in the DC universe, who is number one and two?” Gail gave the standard dodgy answer, but I'll go out on a pretty safe limb here and say one and two are Batman and Wildcat, in that order.
Gail's other work for DC has included stellar runs on Legion of Super Heroes, Justice League Classified, her Rose and Thorn mini-series, a fabulous run on Action Comics, and two issues of Teen Titans, which marked the controversial return of artist (and I use the term loosely) Rob Lifeld.
She shows no sign of slowing down this year, writing the Villians United part of DC's big crossover event, and its spin-off series, Secret Six. She's also starting work on the All New Atom series with her Action Comics artist John Byrne, and she's kick starting Gen 13 for the Wildstorm imprint.
Nearly all of Gail's work for Bongo and DC has been collected in Trade Paperback form and may be found everywhere from Amazon.com to Borders and Barnes & Noble, and even better from your local comics store. Her Marvel work is a bit harder to get, but with a little digging you can easily turn it up.
Gail Simone has established herself as a brilliant and funny writer with an already impressive comics resume. The best part of all this is that she'll only get better as time goes on. By the time she's been at this as long as Alan Moore or Frank Miller, she'll have long since established herself as their equal in the megastar pantheon of comics writers.
Personally, I think she belongs there now, but I'm giving the rest of comics fandom a chance to catch up. They've got a lot of great reads to go through and we probably shouldn't disturb them while they're deciding on legendary status. If you want more Gail Simone goodness on the net check out The Gail Simone Index, Gail Simone's Blog: Bloodstains On The Looking Glass, and The Gail Simone Wikki.