Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gail Simone, A Starfish and Lots of Laughs

Without a doubt, one should consider an afternoon quite normal Absolutely Bizarre when one finds herself conducting an interview while sitting next to a purple supervillain starfish.

A mind-boggling scene that can hardly happen anywhere else on the Red Dot Island other than at the STGCC.

DC comics creator Gail Simone, who happened to be the interview subject, was a riot of colours that day with her cheery demeanor, colourful blouse and trademark red hair. It was fortunate that she had not been brain-sucked by that pesky starfish (whose name is Starro, BTW). For while Gail sat on the couch fielding questions, Starro's nasty eye stared at her hungrily the entire time.

Meanwhile, Red Dot Diva had her invisible but very powerful Echinodermic-Deflector Shield up. So she was quite, quite safe during the interview. In any case, no way will an alien starfish be allowed to disrupt a crucial interview with Red Dot Diva's SQUEE #1.

Gail began by sharing how her website "Women in Refrigerators", and later, a fun parody column called "You'll All Be Sorry", were both started out as amusement. These proved popular with readers and were then circulated around the internet. And that was how she got noticed and asked to write for comics companies, including Bongo Comics, Marvel and DC.

Red Dot Diva enquired if she found it difficult to break into the predominantly male crowd when she started writing comics professionally.

Gail responded, "I didn't find it too difficult. I don't try to fit into a crowd anyway. Maybe that was a good thing because it did not affect me. A lot of male creators were very supportive in the beginning.. .. Just down the line, the support came from men. And I never felt uncomfortable, or like, I wasn't getting work because I was a woman."

An interesting observation as Red Dot Diva feel that women in many parts of Asia still battle against being seen or perceived differently, probably due to a deeply-ingrained cultural mindset.

The interview then shifted its focus to two of Gail's popular comic series - "Birds of Prey" and "Secret Six". Both of which consist of very interesting and unique women comic characters.

Red Dot Diva: About "Birds of Prey", which of the characters do you connect most with? Do you see a bit of yourself in all of them, or none at all?

Gail: I'm absolutely like none of them and yet there are parts of them that I am like them. With Barbara Gordon, it's kinda obvious. She's a bookworm and she has red hair... and when I was growing up, she was Batgirl and I really identified with her.

Because growing up, I was the only person in my school with red hair. I got teased a lot, and all the stories that I was reading, the women or girls with red hair would be the ugly stepmother, the wicked witch... the nerdy friend that everyone made fun of.

And so, when I first saw Barbara Gorden, Batgirl, I was like Wow.... there *are* characters that are cool and have red hair that no everyone stereotypes as. So I have deep place in my heart for her character.

Black Canary, I think, she's got that sarcastic wit that I tend to have at times. And Huntress is kinda unpredictable, and I have a bit of that too.

Red Dot Diva: About "Birds of Prey" and the artists that draw them - because the characters are women and superheroes, they are wearing these tight revealing costumes ( -- at which Red Dot Diva made gestures of boobage, with snickering erupting from the group --) and look very voluptuous. When you started out you were battling stereotypes of women in the comics, but in the end when they were drawn, they were drawn rather stereotypically as well. Isn't this incongruent with what you are trying to convey?

Gail: First of all, I don't have the problem with sexy female hero-type. But I don't want them to be all exactly the same. I don't want them to have all the same female body-shape, the same hair colour, the same attitude. I want them to be their own well-rounded personalities and be their own people.

I don't have a problem with Black Canary being really beautiful, really sexy, strong woman. Or the Huntress. And I think, for Barbara Gordon all the more important that she is. She was very beautiful as Batgirl and we don't want to make her less beautiful now that she's in a wheelchair.

Red Dot Diva mentioned that she was glad to note that there have also been more diversity in terms of races and different beliefs in recent publications.

Gail: We created a Bengali hero in "Secret Six". And then I have characters Black Alice and Misfit - who is younger, and especially in Misfit's case, she is not "sexually arrived" yet. Then I have older female characters in my "Welcome To Tranquility" series. And the sheriff in that series is an African-American woman.

To me, it is important that we do accomplish that (diversity). We want to include our readership especially with the computer age and digital age, it's no longer insular.

Red Dot Diva: I have a Twitter friend, Pam, who is curious to know how "Batman Inc." will affect Oracle and "Birds of Prey" in new upcoming storylines?

Gail: I'm actually very excited about it. Because "Birds of Prey" has always kinda travelled worldwide, and so we have a set up now that Batman needs her just as much as she may ever need him. Oracle is basically the 911-operator at the DCU, so she's gonna have a huge role in that. But she still controls the "Birds of Prey" and they are still going to go on their own missions.

In the midst of the interview, Red Dot Diva managed to secure a shout-out for her friend, Justin. Gail laughed heartedly at the request and offered a very amiable, "Hey Justin." Red Dot Diva is sure that this audio clip is going send Justin floating in the geek-clouds for quite awhile!

Red Dot Diva: Justin has a question. He asks: How did you come up with the twisted stuff that Rag Doll says? ( -- more laughter from the group -- )

Gail: I wish I had some juicy wierd story to tell about that but it's just a matter of what pops into my head sometimes when I'm sitting in my office and I wonder, 'What would be the most bizarre thing that could happen right now in the middle of the scene?' And I go through a few things like 'I ^%$# a butterfly'... that's pretty weird. It's fun and anything kinda goes. And I like doing that.

Sometimes it's nice to get out of the comfort zone for the readers as well as for myself. I guess I'm just twisted. Somewhere back in the back of my brain.

Gail's husband Scott, who had been sitting in for awhile, affirmed her twistedness that is existing in the front of her brain as well. And everyone started laughing once more.

From there, the interview got progressively more chipper, especially so when Red Dot Diva posed Gail the next question. Starro chuckled with approval as well.

Red Dot Diva: Why do the "Secret Six" remain together despite their jobs often falling apart and not getting paid?

Gail: (-- in the midst of loud gusty laughter -- ) I think.. because underneath it all they kinda like each other even though they don't want to admit it. Who else are they gonna hang out with?

While being in awe of Gail's enviable multi-tasking skills by being on Twitter, Tumblr and writing at the same time, Red Dot Diva also wondered how Gail stays emotionally strong when she seems to be constantly ragged on on Twitter.

Gail: Anytime... someone has strong opinions about anything, there's gonna be a certain amount of people who are going to rag on you. Something happened online, I was upset and I think ... someone blamed me for something I didn't do and that upset me. Dan DiDio told me, the longer you are in this business, and the more people gonna know your name, the more it is going to happen -just expect it. So he planted that in my head a long time ago, and I have learnt how to deal with it.

You *do* have to have a thick-skin and I know a lot of writers cannot take that and stay away from it. And I totally understand that because it can be hard. But I believe in free speech and I believe that people can say their opinions so long as they do it in a civil manner and not attack me personally .

Well, it's definitely of Red Dot Diva's opinion that it is impossible to not chat about writing during an interview with Gail.

Gail stressed that she chooses to write stories that are interesting and dynamic rather than something that is gender-specific. She felt that one cannot assume or "target" a particular audience all the time. For instance, "Secret Six" is one of the most violent, testosterone-filled, inappropriate mainstream comic series that DC publishes, but it surprisingly has a considerable number of young teenagers and women of all ages who are fans and readers.

Gail revealed that she has also dabbled in all sorts of genres and writing styles including teleplays, screenplays and video games.. and she liked them all. "If it is the right format for that story, I'm going to give it a try," she said.

And finally, to that "geek girl" question Red Dot Diva always asks, Gail firmly declared, "What's not to like??!"

Red Dot Diva definitely agrees. True dat, Gail. True dat!


Special thanks to fellow-blogger and fan of various pop-culture things - Justin Barlow, as well as Twitter pal and comic reader, Pam for contributing some questions.

And a shoutout to Sarah Coldheart, who made her entertaining debut star-ring as an {{evil}} intergalactic invertebrate.


  1. It was such a delight meeting you. You are hilarious...never stop writing!


    Gail Simone

  2. Loved this interview! .... answered the question I had - grinned, enjoyed, laughed while reading it ... just wonderful! Thank you for this =) Sheindie

  3. In interviews with Gail when talking about the Birds of Prey, it always seems Huntress is an afterthought to her. She'll go into gushing detail about Black Canary and Oracle, and then throw Huntress as if she's a side dish. It's really disappointing because it seeps into her writing of the character too. If she's not that passionate about a character that's suppose to be an important part of the book, she should take her out and let someone else write her.

    I rarely enjoy interviews with this writer when it comes to her book. I don't know why I keep reading them. I guess its because I want to see that she cares for the Huntress character in the way many fans do but I continue to be disappointed.

  4. Great interview! THanks for sharing.