Exclusive Interview: Gail Simone Talks Red Sonja, Women In Comics, Batgirl and More


[[wysiwyg_imageupload:6553:]]What artist Barry Windsor-Smith was to creator-owned comics in the 1970s, writer Gail Simone is to strong, powerful, women-driven comics nowadays. Once known for penning DC’s Birds of Prey, in the world of the New 52 she became identified with the extraordinary changes in the life of Barbara Gordon in Batgirl.

Now this prolific author is hitting Dynamite Entertainment, putting her stamp on one of the most famous female warriors of all time: Red Sonja!

Cosmic Book News Managing Editor Byron Brewer sat exclusively for a pint of ale and blood pie with the scribe Simone, unlocking the secrets of her success and what is in store for readers of Red Sonja.

CBN: How did this marriage of strong female character and known powerful female character writer come about?

Gail Simone: Just a fortunate confluence of events, really. It’s not really a secret in the industry that I love barbarian comics. I love the sword and sorcery genre, and several publishers have been after me to write Conan or other barbarians in the past.

But until recently, I had been under a long and fruitful exclusive with a single publisher and outside projects weren’t possible. When my exclusive ended, a bunch of publishers kindly and generously offered me pretty much any project I wanted to do, and the first thing that really hit me, that just slapped me upside the head, was Red Sonja.

It just seemed a natural. I jumped on it.

CBN: Your Batgirl was critically acclaimed in DC’s New 52. What do you think you can bring to this classic character?

Gail Simone: Well, I’m still on Batgirl, so I get to keep writing my two favorite redheads!

With Red Sonja, it sounds a bit odd, but I’m hoping to modernize her concept a bit. We don’t plan to get rid of any of the great stuff, the loincloths and giant serpents and the wonderful Howard setting. But female badassery has evolved a bit. I want to make her even more terrifying as a warrior, but at the same time, I want to show that she has flaws. She’s not a perfect ice queen.

CBN: Robert Howard’s Sonja was very different than Roy Thomas’ at Marvel. Who is your biggest influence?

Gail Simone: The Red Sonja that exists now is a mix of Howard’s wonderful mood, tone and setting, and the comic book She-Devil with a Sword we have all grown up reading. People are often surprised to realize how much of the Sonja we know was invented by Thomas and the writers that followed him.

It’s a great balance, I love the Thomas character and I love the Howard landscape. No reason to favor one over the other.

CBN: You had been hinting in your social media you would soon be handling a female iconic character. Many people were surprised with the announcement that it was Red Sonja. What challenges are now ahead for both heroine and writer?

Gail Simone: Probably the same challenges that are attached to any project, every reader has a comics budget and each new book is measured carefully.

All I can say about that is, I think people know I put my heart into the books I write. I never want readers to feel they didn’t get their money’s worth, I want them to have a story that makes them feel, that moves and thrills them. That’s the fun of comics, for me.

We are putting our all into Red Sonja. The story is exciting and new, the art, by the wonderful Walter Geovani, is spectacular, and as a bonus, we have a raft of covers by the leading female artists in the industry. You WILL get your money’s worth!

CBN: There seems an upswing all across comics to give females a lead in their own titles, and yet so many have failed to hold that title over history. What can be done in the comics market about this?

Gail Simone: There are many reasons, but I have to say, I personally haven’t really had that problem. Birds of Prey, Wonder Woman and Batgirl have all been very successful under my watch and the trade collections are still in great demand even years later.

People want adventure comics to be bold and funny and thrilling and sexy and smart, regardless of the gender of the lead character.

CBN: What will artist Walter Geovani bring to the table? Are you a fan of his work?

Gail Simone: I am, good lord, I so am. Walter slaves over these wonderful, small details. It allows me room to tell a sweeping epic with armies and fortresses because I know he will put it all on the page. On top of that, he’s an outstanding character designer, and that’s a rarer skill not all artists have.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:6554:]]CBN: Any new big-bads coming into Sonja’s life?

Gail Simone: Lots. Watch out for Dark Annisia. ([Geovani’s] design for Dark Annisia is just absolutely stunning.) We aren’t using previous villains for a while, we want new readers to be on equal footing and we want long-time readers to have surprises, too.

CBN: What will make your Sonja different from other comics interpretations?

Gail Simone: My Sonja isn’t a distant paragon. She drinks too much, she carouses, she dances on tables, she’s lusty and quick to anger when called upon. She’s impetuous and impolite and good LORD I dearly love her.

I hope people give it a try, it’s one of the most purely entertaining books I have ever worked on.

CBN: Any other projects, present or future, you would like to promote?

Gail Simone: I am still doing Batgirl every month, which I love; major events taking place with issue #19! And The Movement is my new DC team book with Freddie Williams II, it’s a ton of fun.

I also am finishing work on my Kickstarter project with Jim Calafiore, Leaving Megalopolis, and my secret project with the brilliant Ethan Van Sciver. There maybe one or two more secret projects around the corner, as well.

Cosmic Book News would like to thank Gail Simone for speaking with us during a busy convention season as well as Nick Barrucci and Josh Green of Dynamite Entertainment for helping make this interview possible.

Dynamite’s new Red Sonja series is set to launch in July.