Wonder Women

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Later this year, writer Gail Simone will be ending her popular run on DC’s Birds of Prey and moving on to the premiere heroine in comics, Wonder Woman. Broken Frontier spoke with Ms. Simone about her thoughts on the Birds and her new assignment.

BROKEN FRONTIER: Hi Gail. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us.

GAIL SIMONE: Hello to the Broken Frontier columnists and readers. I think it's one of the smartest comic review and commentary sites covering the mainstream stuff.

BF: With the confirmation that you’re the new Wonder Woman writer, it was clear that you needed to free up some of your schedule. What contributed to the decision that Birds of Prey would be the series you let go?

GS: That's a tough one, really tough. I guess I'd have to chalk it up to that nagging feeling that lives in my head that doesn't always explain itself to me. One thing is that all my other books are still quite new and need to have that foundation, you know? I hate the idea of readers investing in a new book, when it's so much easier to go with a proven property, and then leaving them dry. I felt that BOP was a solid book before me, and will still be one after.

But the other factor is that I like all my books to be very different, and a lot of what I use BOP to say, I can say as well or better in Wonder Woman. Gen13, that commentary on youth, that doesn't translate to Diana, if that makes sense. But the themes of powerful women, in particular, I can say that beautifully with Diana's character.

BF: Having written 50+ issues of BOP, do you feel you’ve accomplished everything you set out to do?

GS: Oh, yeah, I think so. The grand design, really, was to show a wide variety of female characters that were not the same two personality templates, and I think we did that.  Misfit isn't Black Alice isn't Oracle isn't Canary isn't Barda isn't Huntress, on and on. But as a second goal, I wanted to re-establish Black Canary as something dangerous, something beyond Green Arrow's wet blanket girlfriend. I think the success of that is shown in the fact that now everyone wants to use her in their own books. Still, I'd happily write BOP for another five years, I love the characters so much. But honestly, when I found out Sean [McKeever] would likely be the replacement, I felt a lot easier about it, though it's still sort of a heartbreaker.

BF: You’ve mentioned in the past that Black Canary was perhaps your favorite character on the team. Did her departure from the book play any role in your decision to move on as well?

GS: Yeah, possibly, a little. My thinking was, we're losing the most fun element in the book, which was Canary, so what I wanted to show was that the book could still thrive. And it's fun to see Oracle vexed with agents who are not as good a fit without Dinah.

BF: But to some extent, the book just wasn't the same without Dinah?

GS: Well, no, because I think Canary was our Fonzie. That was always my thinking, and I think that's why people responded to her. I treated her like an A-lister and the more we did that, the more others did as well. But that said, I've had a ball writing Barda and Hawkgirl and all these others. I think it's actually on a creative high right now.

It's pretty sad to say goodbye to Nicola [Scott], at least for now--she and I just had a tremendous time and I think she's one of the finest artists yet on a book with a great artistic legacy.


BF: In your opinion, how have the core members changed since the early days of your run?

GS: Well, to be blunt, I always found the Huntress a great character, but I felt she'd been ill-used, except by Greg Rucka and a few others. They had made her so one-dimensionally bitchy and faux-edgy, and it just seemed a waste. I wanted to show her having some inner strength that goes beyond just rage. Canary, I think we re-established her as the chick who will ride a motorcycle over your ass if you deserve it. And with Oracle, I think we showed her as sort of a more rounded personality. She was headed towards being an omnipotent info-jock, almost. Not in BOP, but in other books. And I'm proud of bringing back Lady Blackhawk, whom I just adore (thank you, Beau Smith, for your great and inspiring work on her in Guy Gardner: Warrior!). Actually, this is the benefit of a long-term commitment to a book, you can really make changes organic.

BF: Lady Blackhawk has been a joy to read. She's one of my favorites now.

GS: Glad to hear it. I love the Blackhawks to pieces.

BF: With books like Birds of Prey setting an example, do you think the role of women in comics has improved or are we still struggling with the "Women in Refrigerators" syndrome to an extent [in which women are abused or damaged for dramatic purposes]?

GS: Both.  There will always be tired ideas that get brought back, because, let's face it, in some commercial short-term sense, they do work. And a lot of even the top guy writers in comics seem to be most comfortable writing women if they're damaged and broken, in some way. I get that, but that's a cliché of its own now, and I have to say I've really lost interest in it being so utterly commonplace. On the other hand, I think there's a lot to be hopeful for...lots of writers now make a much greater effort to show a wider spectrum of female characters, and I think the explosion of female editors, critics, bloggers, reviewers, writers, artists and webcomickers is going to really make a monster difference. I think the revolution is actually happening while we're sitting here bitching about it not happening yet. And I think the companies that don't adapt are going to go the way of the dino.

BF: Moving on to Wonder Woman, being offered this book obviously means a great deal to you. Were you completely surprised by the offer or had you suspected that DC might go this direction (as many readers did)?

GS: That's an interesting question. Okay, this is a bit complicated.  On the one hand, I'm pretty thrilled that DC hasn't typecast me. They put me on Action Comics, Villains United, Justice League and the like, rather than always thinking of me for every project that ends with the word "girl." And I'm appreciative of that, and particularly, early on, I turned down a lot of stuff because I didn't want to be typecast. At the same time, whenever these high profile heroine books would come up, I'd always kind of wonder why my name never seemed to come up, to the best of my knowledge. I mean, I like Supergirl, I love the idea of Batwoman...so clearly, I'm a complete hypocrite who wants it to have it both ways.

With Diana, it's funny...when it looked like Allan [Heinberg] wouldn't be able to do the launch, for the first time ever I actually emailed Dan [DiDio] and put my name up for the book. I never do that. I've been fortunate enough to be busy enough without doing that gauntlet thing so far, anyway. But in this case, I really felt, if Allan couldn't do it, I'd like to be considered. But, of course, Allan was able to come aboard for the relaunch, and I put it out of my mind, though Dan was great about it. Then in New York at my first visit to the DC offices, he sprung the offer on me and I have to say, I had no clue. I didn't see it coming at all. Not a clue. I think, honestly, the readers spoke on this one. People have been sending emails and petitions and it's really been quite remarkable.

BF: What to you is essential to the character of Wonder Woman? What can the series absolutely not do without?

GS: Just Diana, and her inner core.  Honestly, I do believe we could put her in gym clothes and the Wonder Woman still shines through, with proper care. I think, the WONDER part is what I most want to see right now. I think she should be performing miraculous things, both small and large. What I can do without for a while is seeing her being manipulated by everyone constantly. I don't see Diana that way.

BF: Will you be continuing the secret agent angle started by Allan Heinberg and Jodi Picoult?

GS: Yes, I think that can be really, really cool. I understand some skepticism, but I think if people give us a chance, we are going to make some converts, I hope.

BF: Yes, in theory, it's a great concept but the Diana Prince identity does take a bit of a leap of faith, much like Clark Kent and his glasses.

GS: I don't want to minimize your point there, but I always feel a little sad to think such a small thing could affect the enjoyment of a series. And I hasten to add, history is full of magnificent imposters who fooled most everyone around them.    

BF: The impulse of many new writers on Wonder Woman is to try and completely reinvent the character and series, a source of frustration to many fans. Why do you think this affects Diana more than the other members of DC’s "Trinity?"

GS: I think people bring their own baggage to Diana a little more than to the other two. Superman and Batman don't particularly represent masculinity, but even to the non-comics-reading public, Wonder Woman is a massively powerful feminist symbol. And everyone defines that differently. My goal here is to tell the most powerful and eye-popping stories I can tell, and let the strength of Diana's ACTIONS carry the message.

BF: Part of that constant reinvention is frequent changes in Diana’s supporting cast. Will we be seeing faces from the past during your run? New characters? A little of both?

GS: Both, however, I want to stress the title of this book is Wonder Woman, and I don't want her to be just one of an ensemble cast. Some really, really cool new villains are coming as well...we've been talking about this, my editor and I, and it really does feel like the main problem is we have too much good stuff to get to. I'm having a blast.

BF: What, in a nutshell, can readers expect of your take on the Amazing Amazon?

GS: I don't want to give too much away at this time, but we really plan to crank up the volume considerably. There's a lot more action and humor than you might expect, but we also plan to show that side of Diana that's all about loyalty and compassion. I just have a tremendous feeling of joy about her, and where we're taking the book. It won't be dull, that I promise.

BF: Finally, just to tie things together, while much of the DCU has taken on a somewhat dark and grim tone of late, your work on BOP and other series often has a lighter touch and a note of hope. Is this a conscious approach or simply a side effect of the kinds of stories you enjoy telling?

GS: It's a simple matter of being a contrarian. Honestly, it's no more complicated than that. I like to do the opposite of whatever is most popular at any particular time. When brighter, funnier comics come back in full force, I can promise you I'll be all about the grim and dreary.

Gail Simone’s run on Wonder Woman begins with issue #13.

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