Interview: Gail Simone Unleashes RED SONJA

redsonja1Gail Simone (Birds of Prey, Secret Six, Batgirl) is one of the biggest names in comics today. Initially making waves by discussing gender inequality in the depiction of violence towards female characters on her website project Women in Refrigerators (WiR), Simone went on to script comic books based on The Simpsons for Bongo Comics and eventually broke into the big leagues by writing Marvel Comics’ Deadpool. Her work on DC Comics’ Secret Six has been critically acclaimed, receiving two GLAAD Media Award nominations for Outstanding Comic Book and the fair and accurate representation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender characters (Simone has since been described as the Lady GaGa of comic books). Simone’s Batgirl also frequently ranks as the best-selling female solo ongoing title in the comic marketplace. Today, Simone talks about writing for one of the industry’s most iconic female archetypes: RED SONJA!

J. Skyler: How were you approached about launching a new series for Red Sonja, and how has working with Dynamite Comics been after being exclusive for so long?

Gail Simone: I’ve talked about this some…it’s an odd feeling mostly because I’ve been exclusive with one company for so long that I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to have this many options. I loved being at DC, I still love being at DC. But it meant that for eight years, people would offer really fun opportunities and I would have to turn them down time and again.

That was all fine, that’s what I signed on for. But just a look through Dynamite’s catalog alone… characters like Red Sonja, the Shadow, the Green Hornet, those are all actual books I could write now. Characters I love, that’s the big reason to do this job for me.

Dynamite has been after me to work for them for a long time, always very respectfully.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoy working with them. You have an idea, they take it seriously, they get excited, and they implement it the next day. That is much, much harder to do at DC or Marvel. Again, love DC. But it’s fun to propose a wild idea and have it happen the very next day, which has already happened several times with Dynamite. They really respect the creator’s input.

rsv2-01-cov-buscema-subscriptionJS: You’ve stated before that Batgirl was the character that prompted your love of comic books. When did Red Sonja catch your interest and what has Red Sonja meant to you in the past as a reader?

GS: Red Sonja was sort of advanced comics for me… when I started reading comics, I was very in tune with DC’s style of shorter, done-in-one stories of characters who were relatively together emotionally. The first Sonja comics I read, they were angrier, the art was wilder, the stories were more untamed.

I got hooked on that right away. My heart is still deep in the DC Universe, but the wild side of Sonja is something that hit me like a sledgehammer. That’s the Sonja I want to write.

JS: Pre-announcement, you teased that you were taking on one of comic’s most iconic heroines. What is it for you that places Red Sonja among the female elite of the industry?

GS: I think it’s a matter of the archetype. There are many in comics, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Hulk, Spider-man, characters who get imitated, but not equaled. No one’s beat Spidey for the teen angst hero, and lord knows we have all tried.

But who was the female asskicker before Sonja? The female barbarian, the one who cuts the demon’s head off and gets drunk that same night? That archetype, that spawned a thousand imitators, most of them not a tenth as interesting as the original. I love Xena. Sonja did it first.

JS: You’ve weaved fantasy scenarios into almost every book you’ve written, from Wonder Woman to Secret Six and beyond. What is it you love about writing directly in the “sword and sorcery” genre?

It’s true, I am shameful. I love this stuff, always have. The deep, deep pulp stuff, I will always love it. And I stick it in comics where it doesn’t even belong because I love it so much.

Now it’s the real thing.

To me, it’s like a great Western or samurai epic. There’s a mythic quality, something primal, black hats and white hats. That kind of storytelling, it’s very raw. You can say things about the human spirit that are hard to say with modern cities and characters.

I like the rocky, dusty battlefield, the smell of coppery blood on a sword, the flap of demon wings, all that stuff is incredibly evocative for me. Everything feels relevant, like their story means something to how we live our own lives, with far fewer layers of routine and authority and civilization.

redsonjavariantJS: What is your approach to writing a character whose premise is in an archaic setting? Is it more or less difficult than writing for a character in a modern timeline, particularly in relation to the social framework/inequities of the time?

GS: I don’t think it’s any more difficult… the trick is not to let Robert E. Howard do ALL the hard work. It’s easy enough, when writing Star Trek or Conan or whatever, to just have your characters do a travelogue through settings someone else explored years ago. I think the twist is to bring something to it, to bring some fresh perspective to Cimmeria and the like.

Difficult, but rewarding.

Also, I have a fabulous artist in Walter Geovani, he’s amazing, and he makes the backgrounds feel real and fleshed out.

JS: What will you be bringing to Red Sonja that has never been seen before?

GS: This Sonja likes a bit of fun. She likes half-naked people, she likes a good scrap, she likes to eat beef off the spit, and she likes to drink til she passes out.

This is not a well-behaved Sonja.

Gail Simone begins her run on the relaunched Red Sonja ongoing series with July’s issue #1 from Dynamite Comics. You can also find adventures from Simone monthly on the comic shelf in Batgirl and The Movement ongoing series.

 

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