Comic-Con 2013 Exclusive: Gail Simone on ‘Tomb Raider,’ ‘Red Sonja,’ ‘Batgirl’ & More
Few writers in comics today have the rabid fan base that Gail Simone has – their vocal power helped get her reinstated on Batgirl a few days after DC tried to fire her, and she's still going strong with the adventures of Barbara Gordon at DC, along with her new hotness, The Movement, which focuses on a mismatched band of young superhumans trying to figure out how to fight against the corruption of Coral City. This past weekend at the San Diego Comic-Con, though, she also announced a new project – she'll be helming a new Tomb Raider series with Dark Horse, and that's in addition to her rejuvenation of Red Sonja at Dynamite.
She was gracious enough to speak with me about all four of these projects in the waning hours of a long, grueling convention, and for a longtime Secret Six fan like myself, it was one of the highlights of the event.
CRAVE ONLINE: You've just announced that you're going to be writing a new Tomb Raider series with Dark Horse. It's a bridge between the last video game and its sequel, correct?
GAIL SIMONE: Well, we're not really talking about what's coming after. What I'm doing is the story of Lara after she gets off the island, so directly after the first video game. We take her off the island. She does some globetrotting. This time, she's following some bread crumbs to try to find some answers to some serious questions she's starting to ask.
CRAVE ONLINE: So you don't have a mandate to attach it to the next game – you get to go wherever you want with it?
SIMONE: Well, it's going to be Lara Croft canon, and we're working with Crystal Dynamics with the story and everything, but we really don't know and can't talk about what's coming after yet.
CRAVE ONLINE: How much freedom do you have with the story, then?
SIMONE: I've just turned in an outline and started on the first script, and the outline is for 12 issues. Everybody seems to really like the story over the course of the year. So I think it's going to be a lot of freedom. They want to stick with the Lara Croft they have created for this first game. So we'll see some characters in the comic books that are in that first game as well.
CRAVE ONLINE: And I hear you're a bit of an archaeology geek as well, and you want to bring that to bear in this.
SIMONE: Yes, I'm a huge history, archaeology and anthropology nut, and a strong female character nut. So this is like putting it all together for me. I'm really excited. It gives me a chance to do a lot of research to talk to some very interesting people, and I get to put it into this wonderful story as she's traveling around the world. So I'm excited. This really is a dream project for me, because it incorporates all the things that I'm interested in.
CRAVE ONLINE: That's fantastic. One of the other things that you're doing that I'm really excited about is The Movement, because I was a big Secret Six fan, and this feels like it has the best chance of capturing that particular twisted energy.
SIMONE: Yeah, I think so. I think that readers of Secret Six will like The Movement. It's a younger group, but it's a young group of pissed off teenagers with superpowers who don't agree with each other, but somehow join together for a common cause.
CRAVE ONLINE: Although they're still trying to figure out how to approach that cause.
SIMONE: Exactly. There are some lovely, vibrant characters who are interesting. We've gotten to see some cosplayers here from The Movement here at the convention – we've seen Vengeance Moth and Virtue, and someone made a really lovely Mouse doll, and now I have my very own Mouse hat, as well. It's very exciting.
CRAVE ONLINE: Is Vengeance Moth really the Killer Moth in any way?
SIMONE: Ah, no. (laughs)
CRAVE ONLINE: I didn't think so, but I thought I'd ask. One of the things that I'm enjoying is how it taps into this visceral anger people have about social injustice and abuse of authority. How difficult is it to write a book dealing with these social issues without being preachy?
SIMONE: This book is not about my personal political beliefs, from the beginning. The way that you tell these kinds of stories without being preachy is that you have three-dimensional, well-rounded characters and you put them in situations, and then they react in certain ways to the situation they're in, to the people they're with or rising up against, and because the members of this Movement don't all necessarily agree with each other politically or even on how things should be accomplished – some are pacifists, some are violent. That is not going to end up being preachy at all, because as a reader, you're going to look at that and see the plusses and minuses of each choice they make.
CRAVE ONLINE: Right. A.) They don't always do the right thing and B.) they don't even really know what the right thing is most of the time.
SIMONE: Exactly. A lot of them are simply reacting to the extreme feeling of injustice that I think a lot of us have experienced in our lives, but these kids have super powers and the ability to social-network and gather large groups of peoople and really get some things done that they feel need to be done.
CRAVE ONLINE: This is a book of all brand-new characters in an industry often dependent on franchise names. How well do you have to define these characters before you even start telling stories with them, or do you have the ability to wing it for a while and find out more about the characters as you write them?
SIMONE: We basically have little pages of what these characters are, what they're about, their viewpoints, and then the artist designs the look for the characters. In these beginning documents, we also talk about the atmosphere of the city, the things that are going on, the types of stories that are going to be told. The next step is to get a little bit more detail and things like that. There's a tremendous amount of freedom with this book, which I'm really excited about.
CRAVE ONLINE: Aside from the cosplay, how has the response been?
SIMONE: It's one of those books that, when people like it and grab onto it, they seem to be completely immersed in it, excited to buy it and identifying with these characters. That's what we want to see and that's kind of what we need for something that's brand new. We need people to love it so much that they can't stop talking about it, which we like. It's not for everyone, and that's okay.
CRAVE ONLINE: Moving on to Batgirl, she's going through a really rough time right now. I really like that she's taken off the Bat-symbol because she had to make a call to cross the line and kill her brother, James Jr., and she doesn't feel she's worthy of it.
SIMONE: And it's also a matter of thinking that if her father sees Batgirl, it's going to be so painful for him and she doesn't want to be responsible for that.
CRAVE ONLINE: So, if she's distancing herself from the mantle of Batgirl, does that open the door for someone else to pick it up?
SIMONE: We can't really give away too much story, but I think fighting crime is at the core of Barbara's being and I don't know that she's going to be able to stop doing that for long. We'll see how it goes – right now, Commissioner Gordon is hunting Batgirl, and we'll have to see how that turns out.
CRAVE ONLINE: Do you think the fact that James Jr. has turned up alive in the pages of Suicide Squad undercuts the angst you've got Barbara going through right now, or does it just heighten the drama because the readers know James is still alive, but she doesn't?
SIMONE: She doesn't know, Commissioner Gordon doesn't know, and as long as the reader knows that they don't know, I don't think they conflict with each other too much.
CRAVE ONLINE: I also want to touch on Red Sonja – I just finally got to read your first issue and really enjoyed it. I thought 'wow, this is really fun and really badass.'
SIMONE: Well, you can't have Red Sonja and not be badass, come on.
CRAVE ONLINE: Yeah, I guess she kind of defines badass. But admittedly, I wasn't all that familiar with the character before this, so I'm wondering if you're tweaking her origin at all, or are you defining one?
SIMONE: The origin is being retweaked a little bit. There are a few things about her origin that I don't think are very suitable for today's audience, for one thing. I don't want her or the readers to ever feel like she's a carnival prize for someone to win, for instance. She's just a very heart-on-her-sleeve, quick to react, bawdy, dirty-joke-telling, drink-a-little-too-much, chop-your-head-off or go-after-the-monster kind of character.
CRAVE ONLINE: So is this an ongoing, or do you have an endpoint planned for your run?
SIMONE: This is an ongoing. I'm definitely doing 12 issues, and I've got that all planned out. It's really fun and exciting. I think each issue is better than the last issue, and Walter Geovani is knocking it out of the park. We've got some new characters coming in. It's a lot of fun.
CRAVE ONLINE: I did really like the setup of King Dimath as the only king that's ever shown anyone any mercy. I thought 'yep, that's usually how kings roll.'
SIMONE: And the origin of Dark Anissia and Red Sonja together, that's going to play a big role in these upcoming stories, how each of them came out of that experience.
CRAVE ONLINE: Are we going to see more about how they got into that experience, or does that not matter so much?
SIMONE: I think it matters more how they came out of it.
CRAVE ONLINE: And then there's the anthology you're doing, Legends of Red Sonja, where you've got a whole slew of amazing female creative talent together to contribute stories and artwork, which speaks to your staggering drawing power.
SIMONE: The thing about that is that we've got quite a few stories turned in already, and they're amazing. These women put their A-game on and every one that I've read so far, I'm just jumping up and down ecstatic. I know the audience is going to love it because they are amazing stories. I'm just doing the connective tissue and the overall story. It's working beautifully – plus we get to have separate artists do the separate stories, since they are completely distinct from each other.
CRAVE ONLINE: Which creators are doing the most wildly divergent stories?
SIMONE: They all are in their own ways. They're all different and they're taking different aspects of Red Sonja for different tales. It's really fun, because these women who did all the beautiful covers for the Red Sonja comic and these female writers who are writing the stories just embrace and love her character so much that, all of a sudden, you realize there are a lot of closeted female Red Sonja fans. It's quite exciting to see what they come up with and how excited they are to participate.
CRAVE ONLINE: That's one thing I noticed is that it seems kind of sudden, this explosion of Red Sonja love. Where has it been? Did it take you to kick open the doors and proclaim 'Yes, Red Sonja is awesome!'?
SIMONE: (laughs) I don't know, but she is awesome. So I'm okay with that. There is a lot of great Red Sonja cosplay here this year, too.