While I was experiencing sensory overload at New York Comic Con, I had the luck of speaking with Gail Simone. We briefly discussed the Valkyries (“thanks for doing what you do, you guys are great!”), and what it’s like being a retailer (I love my job, and it is at times full of challenges), before our conversation turned to people new to comics.
LC: One of the first things I wanted to ask you is what you would recommend to new readers? Like, is there anything that you’re currently reading that you’d recommend?
GS: Well – laughs – for me, it is all about what people are interested in. You don’t want to recommend a horror comic book if someone doesn’t like that genre, but I think there’s some really great things that appeal to wide audiences like Saga, then we’ve got Lumberjanes, a good “entry-level/reading your first comic” type of story. There’s so much out there and there’s gonna be something they like based on what they’re watching on television or playing. With that, you’ll get the greatest success – someone else enjoying comics.
LC: That’s true! I love that feeling when you recommend something to someone, only for them to come back and ask for MORE. Speaking of fans, what’s your favorite fan response to something you’ve written?
GS: There’s been a couple of really cool things, and some of them center around cosplay. One of them is I was at FCBD in New Hampshire, and they had the Batcycle there, and we’re doing some photo ops and stuff, so I get on the bike, and all of a sudden I’m surrounded by all of these lovely, talented ladies dressed as female characters that I’ve written, so it was really amazing to feel and see that type of support and celebration. It was one of the happiest days and really stood out in my mind.
LC: What about on the negative side of things? I’m sure you’ve seen your share of criticism.
GS: You know, I had someone stand in line once and he comes up and says, “I don’t know you, I’ve never read any of your work, but I can tell from what my roommate says, that you hate men.” I was just kinda like, oh, okay, I didn’t know that, but thank you for telling me, so you know sometimes stuff like that happens, but it’s not very often anymore.
LC: That sounds….like a lot of energy to waste. – laughs-
GS: Yeah! -laughs- No kidding!
LC: Switching subjects here, I just read Red Sonja…at my store, we have Ladies Night, and it was one of our recommendation books with Black Widow, and I want to know if writing her affects your life for a little while, for example, after you get through writing an issue, are you in that warrior sort of mindset, with your voice raised, arms in the air, -barbaric yell- wielding pens/utensils as a sword?
GS: -laughs- When I’m sitting down to write Red Sonja, it goes kinda like this, because I love her character so much, and I love having the opportunity to bring new sensibility to her, so I’ll sit down and say, okay, I’m only going to have time to write a couple of pages in between doing these other projects, and I look up, and it’s twelve pages later! It’s that kind of thing. I get so lost in the story and what’s going on with her and how badass she is. I just completely lose track of time, which is unusual for me. I watch the clock a lot.
LC: I can only imagine. I’m sure it helps switching gears, especially since you have so many, varied projects going on.
GS: Yes! That’s why I like having so many different ones, in tone and style from each other, because if I was writing the same thing, it’d be so boring to me. Getting to exercise my horror side, or my funny side, or the more heroic side, it’s what I love about writing comics, to have that variety.
LC: Totally makes sense! Growing up, I read some of my dad’s Robert E. Howard books, and had my first brush with Red Sonja that way, and I just want to thank you for doing the reboot of her rape origins into something with more meaning. Strong characters do not have to stem from rape.
GS: Yeaaaah, that’s kind of a trope.
LC: An annoying one.
GS: It doesn’t really read very well in this day and age, and it was one of the conditions of me writing the character. We needed to lose that, and that she couldn’t sex with anyone unless she bested them in battle. That takes away a lot of choices, and to me, it’s not the way to prove her strength.
At this point, our time was running out, so I steered our conversation to the most important question of all.
LC: The fact that you’re a gamer is pretty widespread, is a Red Sonja game something you’d like to see come to fruition?
GS: Can you IMAGINE!? A game in that WORLD?
LC: YES. YOU COULD BE A TOTAL BADASS AND WORK YOUR WAY FROM THE BOTTOM AS THIS RAD WARRIOR.
GS: Especially if they had Smell-o-Rama, cause one thing I love about writing barbarian stuff is that it’s all in the dirt, and in the mud, and in all the elements, and it’s completely grounded, the opposite of superhero stuff. It’d be a blast, and I’d play the hell out of that!
Our time at an end, I bid goodbye to Gail, and made a beeline for the Dark Horse merch line as there was an Avatar: The Last Airbender item with my name on it. Many thanks to the great guys at Dark Horse and Gail herself for taking the time to speak with me!