We’re kicking off our C2E2 2014 coverage with a spotlight panel on Gail Simone. Presented by Dark Horse, the panel is an intimate affair with Simone and Dark Horse editor Scott Allie, as she talks about her new series for them, Tomb Raider, set in the world of the rebooted video game series, as well as her other books in the past, present, and maybe future! Tune in at 1:30pm CDT for our live coverage of the panel.
Dark Horse Presents: Gail Simone
Gail Simone has been making waves since her arrival on the comics scene with a column on Comic Book Resources. Since then, she has written some of the most iconic runs on such titles as Birds of Prey, Batgirl, Red Sonja and, most recently, Tomb Raider for Dark Horse. In honor of this new ongoing, and the collection of her Kickstarter-funded Leaving Megalopolis series, Dark Horse Editor-in-Chief, Scott Allie, leads a career-spanning discussion on one of comics' most accomplished writers.
Gail Simone started the panel by telling her "really weird origin story." She was a hairdresser, and wanted to find something that was more for herself.
"I loved writing but hadn't done it in awhile. I started doing these parody columns that were just poking fun at the industry I loved." She had a "secret identity" with her writing, while working at the salon too.
Simone said that being a woman was not her first concern when she started out. "It was more that I was from a small town in Oregon, and didn't live in New York!" She did, however, think about wanting to write a comic that "anyone could like, not just men."
The writer said she likes to mentor new creators as much as she can. "It's not so much I'll read your script, give you an art critique." Instead, she likes to tell people, honestly, about the difficulty of coming into the industry and working, and encouraging them to break through the difficulties.
Simone talked a bit about some of the specific difficulties for women in comics, who constantly get harrassed and get "horrifying" emails and letters and comments, just for working in the industry, calling for change.
Simone's original graphic novel with Jim Calafiore, Leaving Megalopolis, is going to be reprinted by Dark Horse Comics after its successful self-published first run. She said the project could have only been an original project - it just wouldn't have worked with established characters.
"This was the first Kickstarter I've done, and we enjoyed it a lot, I'm really proud of how it came out." She thanked fans for their support of the project and was amazed by what they were able to do.
With that, Allie opened the floor to fan questions.
The first fan road on the back of the Kickstarter talk, and asked why a pair of already established and popular creators would use it. Simone said, simply, "to have total control. I think Kickstarter has room for everything, it's not just about 'is this a project that will get made without it.' It's about creative control."
Simone said her process changes from project to project.
"For DC they have a stricter process that I have to do something in. But for a lot of projects, I really don't like to write in order! Sometimes I'll have a specific scene that I know really well and I'll write that first. Or sometimes I'll start at the end and get back to the beginning," the writer said.
Simone says she "hates Marvel Style" plotting first, then getting the drawn issue back and doing dialogue. She much prefers full script and "pretty much insists" that she do her work that way. "Too much stuff gets missed if it's not a full script."
She does like to talk to artists "up front about what gets them excited," and what they like to draw. An artist "usually does one comic book a month, and it's really important to me that they're enjoying it."
The next fan asked about Simone's push for diverse characters, whether it be racially, differently abled, or LGBT.
"A lot of times people don't see their world reflected, so they don't find the story interesting," when the industry focuses too much on "young, white, beautiful people." Simone said that her family taught her the strong message of "you don't judge people based on who they are inside."
She absolutely did try, when she started writing, to make female characters that were strong and weren't there just to get "cut up," but felt that initially she was actually too selfish. She saw a diverse audience at conventions, and wanted to make more characters along those lines.
Simone called for more diverse creators to come into the industry, as well, "writing from their own perspective."
A fan asked about the differences from publisher to publisher.
"There are some subtle differences from company to company, but I try to treat any job I have as if it's the biggest summer blockbuster ever. The characters I'm writing right now are such a joy to work with, to do a character like Lara Croft in Tomb Raider and doing Red Sonja - it's fun. I right now am doing those two and Batgirl, and they're three strong female characters that are completely different from each other, and they all kick ass in their own way. So don't ever tell me that all female characters have to be the same, 'cause that's horse shit."
Simone was offered Tomb Raider before she played the new game, and turned it down - then she played the game and got "really excited about her character," and called Dark Horse asking if it was still available.
Red Sonja, meanwhile, was a fun challenge to make a character who is just this "airbrushed on the side of an 80s van" kind of character, and make her a real barbarian, who is "smelly and violent and horny."
While Simone did grow up with some of the classic characters, she admits she does "not have a great memory for trivia," so she consults friends and co-workers "and I have the internet as well" for reference.
Simone credits Calafiore for the business end of their kickstarter project, and said she's thrilled Dark Horse is putting the book out wide. "We're building a world really with the Leaving Megalopolis property," and the pair plan a second volume.
Simone likes to "add more to" already established characters, and never finds it intimidating.
A Red Sonja fan thanked Simone for the take on the character and being "relentlessly and unapologetically metal."
As for her internet presence, which is frequently irreverent, she tries "not to give too much power to the anonymous hate," rather than give it any power. "I respect other people's opinions, but I have to draw the line about just saying horrible things about other people. Or my doggies."
Asked about her opinion on female superheroes coming to film, Simone said, "I think a Wonder Woman movie would be great, a Batgirl movie would be great... but here's the truth and my opinion. The entertainment industry is still largely run by men. Sometimes things are packaged to what they think women want but will still keep the male audience. By the time it runs through the thirty people that it needs to go through to get to screen, it loses its strenght, loses its power. We need people from a position of power to realize that people of all genders can relate to a female character! We need a strong vision that doesn't have those extra filters watering it down."
Simone cited TV shows like Buffy, Lost Girl, and Scandal as showing good, unique visions of strong female leads.
Simone's own work on TV like JLU, she says was "incredibly lucky" and cites people like Bruce Timm and Dwayne McDuffie as being really instrumental in bringing her in and making it work.
Asked about characters she’d like to tell stories with, Simone name-dropped Mary Marvel “and the rest of the marvel family,” Storm of the X-Men, and said there are others. However, she really wants to start focusing more on creator-owned characters and stories for awhile.
Simone teased that she has a couple of new projects coming in October, but couldn’t say anything about those yet, and that closed out the panel.