Few people have shaped the future of the comics industry like Gail Simone.
In the late ’90s, Simone first broke onto the comics scene as a critic. She coined the phrase “women in refrigerators” with a blog detailing a laundry list of the female characters in comics that had been killed, raped, or injured after she noticed many of her favorite female characters met a grisly demise. Later she got the opportunity to start writing The Simpsons comics, which opened the door for her later work on big Marvel and DC franchises.
Her own portrayal of female characters in comics such as Birds of Prey, Wonder Woman, Batgirl, and Red Sonja broke the mold when it came to handling female characters comics. They were flawed, complicated, and their strength wasn’t merely physical. They didn’t fit any particular stereotypes and tropes from the past.
“To put all female characters on a pedestal of goodness gets old,” she said at a recent New York Comic Con panel on female fandom.
But aside from her work—she’s currently writing Red Sonja, rebooting Secret Six in December, and launching Clean Room next year—she’s also one of the most visible women in comics online. She (along with Captain Marvel writer Kelly Sue DeConnick) have often taken to Twitter to push discussion about women in comics and women reading comics to an active and passionate fanbase, often with the use of witty hashtags. Female fans don’t exist? Of course they do, and they always have. Finding it difficult to find a support system while getting started in the comic book industry? She started one.
“I once had Darkseid and Superman in a boxing ring, using gloves made out of the skulls of giant demon dogs. I love that stuff.”
Simone recently told The Kernel about her strangest comic plots, her superhero alter ego, and how to improve the representation of women in the comic book industry.
I think it was “Scrunchie,” because I once fell asleep with a scrunchie wrapped around my wrist a couple times and it cut off the blood to my hand, so my hand swelled up and looked grotesque for a bit.
Earliest memory of the Internet:
I vaguely remember a message board and being completely unsure of how to use it. I did find a message board on comics, and the people there were lovely—I would not be in comics now without that.
“Jif” or “gif”:
Choosy mothers choose Jif. But I am not choosy, so gif.
Favorite bizarre Wikipedia entry:
I keep finding weird, untrue stuff on my own. One talked about a feud I supposedly had with one of my dearest friends when we’ve never had a cross word between us.
If the Internet didn’t exist:
I wouldn’t drink so much tea, for sure.
Probably Comixology, for reading comics. But I love Talisman and Abalone and Monument Valley for games.
Must-follow on Twitter:
Favorite social network:
I probably use Twitter the most, but I love Tumblr as well for cosplay and art images.
The Web would be better if:
If people remembered there are human beings on the other side. Being right rarely justifies being mean.
“The audience is now more female-skewing than it’s been in decades—it’s up to publishers to catch up.”
The Internet in five years:
Made mostly of cheese.
The weirdest storyline you’ve ever written:
I once had Darkseid and Superman in a boxing ring, using gloves made out of the skulls of giant demon dogs. I love that stuff.
I also gave Hitler a jetpack.
What superhero are you most like and why?
Probably Oracle, who sits in front of a computer all day and controls the lives of others.
What comic or franchise made you realize you wanted to be a writer?
It might have been Nancy Collins’ SWAMP THING when I was just a kid.
How is social media changing how you interact with fans?
I live in the boonies, very far from civilization. There would be very little interaction at all without it.
What can be done to improve representation of women in the comics industry, both for the creators and the characters? Do you see any signs things are getting better?
The signs can’t be avoided. The audience is now more female-skewing than it’s been in decades—it’s up to publishers to catch up. And the way they do that is by realizing that the books need a facelift, and some thought about how to appeal to this huge new audience.
What was the most unexpected or surprising response to one of your projects?
I think I was most surprised that people have been so supportive of Clean Room, which is unlike anything I’ve done before. People seem to have been waiting for me to take this step for a long time, and the first issue isn’t even out yet.
Illustration by J. Longo