The Internet hand-wringing was set to overdrive when it was announced writer Gail Simone had been summarily dismissed from Batgirl. By email, no less. Virtually every comics news site and blog chimed in, usually followed by a flurry of reader comments. However, freelance creators are let go from comics all of the time. Sure there’s usually disappointment, and it’s never good when someone loses her job. But what made this the event of the week?
There’s a history to this that adds an extra layer of emotion.
Simone is a well-liked creator with a spirited fan base, and she has described Batgirl as a dream job for her. This is the character that hooked her into comics. This is the character she’s always wanted to write. Her dream came true, and now it’s being taken away. So any human being with at least an average level of empathy is going to feel like this is an unfortunate turn of events for her. This was also largely unexpected, as the series was performing well; Batgirl #14 was No. 17 on Diamond Comic Distributors’ November sales chart with an estimated 77,468 copies, although previous issues sold in the 40,ooo to 50,000 range. That’s where some shock and indignation comes in. It seems like an unfair decision (although it is of course fully within DC Comics’ rights to hire and fire whoever it wants).
Even as fans react to Sunday’s announcement that Gail Simone will no longer be writing Batgirl, word has trickled out that recently appointed Justice League Dark co-writer Ray Fawkes will fill in on a two-part story arc beginning in March.
The news arrives courtesy of DC Comics’ Batman Group solicitations for March (via The Outhousers), which appear to have leaked a little early on Newsarama:
Written by RAY FAWKES
Art and cover by DANIEL SAMPERE and VICENTE CIFUENTES
On sale MARCH 13 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
• The first of two issues by guest writer Ray Fawkes!
• Batgirl must face the man who sold her out to The Joker during “DEATH OF THE FAMILY”…her own brother, James Gordon, Jr.
• Can Barbara help him, or will this conflict be the final nail in her family’s coffin?
Best known for his such books as Mnemovore, Apocalipstix and Possessions, Fawkes joins Jeff Lemire in February as co-writer of Justice League Dark.
Gail Simone, the writer of Batgirl since the comic was rebooted as part of DC Comics’ New 52 relaunch, said on Twitter today that she will no longer be writing the title.
“On Wednesday of last week, new Batgirl editor Brian Cunningham informed me by email that I was no longer the writer of Batgirl,” Simone said. “It is baffling and sad, I will probably have a statement later today or maybe tomorrow. But I want to give huge, huge thanks to the other creators in the bat-offices, and editors Bobbie Chase and @yourpallsmitty, champions all. And the biggest thank you of all to you guys for supporting this book so hugely and making it a commercial and critical success. I honestly don’t have the words right now to thank you all. I’m pretty choked up and it’s all gratitude, not bitterness. I am very proud of what we accomplished with Batgirl and it was an honor to get to write Barbara Gordon again. Love that dame.”
Simone has a long history with the character. In addition to writing the New 52 relaunch title that saw Barbara Gordon back in the familiar tights, Simone also wrote the character for years in Birds of Prey before the relaunch, back when Gordon was the wheelchair-bound Oracle. No word yet on what issue will be Simone’s last; presumably it will be issue #17, which was solicited for February. March solicitations I believe are due to be released tomorrow.
This also leaves Simone without a project in the DCU; she was the co-writer of Fury of Firestorm until issue #7, when Joe Harris replaced her on the title. She and her Secret Six collaborator Jim Calafiore are working together on a creator-owned project called Leaving Megalopolis, which had a successful Kickstarter campaign earlier this year.
On Facebook the other day, Gail Simone re-opened an old discussion with the following thoughts:
So, Superman. Why do people think he’s boring? I love that dude. AMAZING supporting cast, fantastic origin, wonderful powerset. He can tell stories of journalism, science fiction, fantasy, crime and straight superheroics. He flies like a rocket and he punches like the Hulk. He was the last survivor of a doomed planet. His enemies include geniuses, aliens, and cyborgs.
How is it anyone can think he’s boring?
She’s got a point. There’s a lot built into the Superman concept that seems like food for an endless variety of stories. So why is “Superman is boring” as widely accepted a meme as “Aquaman is lame”?
As you might expect, lots of Simone’s Facebook friends commented with their own opinions, including some other comics professionals. Here’s a sampling:
Adding to such recent revivals as Strange Adventures, Ghosts and Young Romance, Vertigo will publish the science-fiction anthology Time Warp #1 in March. Although the announcement at MTV Geek doesn’t specify that the title is a one-shot, all of the previous ones have been.
The issue will feature stories by the likes of Damon Lindelof, Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt, Toby Litt, Mark Buckingham, Dan Abnett, Peter Milligan, Ray Fawkes, Simon Spurrier, Gail Simone, Rafael Albuquerque and Tom Fowler, with covers by Eduardo Risso (in full below) and Jae Lee.
Time Warp doesn’t have quite the august history that such titles as Young Romance and Strange Adventures have: Debuting in 1979 amid the renewed popularity of science fiction, and in the wake of the DC Implosion, the anthology lasted just five issues. However, it featured an impressive lineup of talent, including Steve Ditko, Curt Swan, Jim Aparo, Paul Levitz, Gil Kane, Arnold Drake and Denny O’Neil.
Every week, hard as it may be to believe, I try honestly to offer something I think might interest the larger group of DC Domics superhero readers. However, this week I am invoking a personal privilege. For one thing, with Halloween on a Wednesday (when I usually end up writing these essays), the holiday will more than likely take priority.
The main reason, though, is that today is my birthday, and as you might have guessed from the headline, this year is my 43rd birthday. Therefore, this week I have pulled together an especially memorable DC story and/or issue from each of those years, 1969 through 2012. (Note: They may not always line up with the actual year, but just for simplicity’s sake, all dates are cover dates.) These aren’t necessarily the best or most noteworthy stories of their particular years, but they’ve stuck with me. Besides, while I’ve read a lot of comics from a lot of sources, for whatever reason DC has been the constant. Maybe when I’m 50 I’ll have something more comprehensive.
* * *
Comics | Ahead of Joe Quesada’s appearance tonight on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, and the debut Wednesday of Uncanny Avengers, Marvel unpacks its Marvel NOW! initiative for the national press. “This ain’t a reboot, we’re simply hitting the refresh button. ‘Marvel NOW!’ simply offers a line-wide entry-point into the Marvel Universe that you’re already reading about,” Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso says. Tom Brevoort, senior vice president of publishing, calls it “a game of musical chairs” for creators, who will be switched around to make things interesting. [The Associated Press]
Creators | Writer Gail Simone discusses the coming battle between Batgirl and Knightfall in Batgirl #13, as well as the impending return of The Joker: “The Joker is really the Elvis of comic-book villains. There’s no one with his primal star power, there’s no one else anywhere who has sent more chills up the spines of readers, because there genuinely is something terrifying about him.” [USA Today]
Because it’s the first week of the New 52 Year Two, the time has come to review where I stand at the end of Year One. It also happens to be the week I’m away on a bidness trip, unable to react to whatever dern-fool thing DC did on Wednesday.
That would probably take a back seat anyway, because I’m a little curious myself to look back at these books. In terms of reading habits, it’s been a rather funky year. Some weeks I wouldn’t have time to read everything I bought, and sometimes that meant books just dropped off my radar. I caught up with a few of these, but a few I just didn’t miss — which, of course, is never a good thing.
You’ll remember that last year I bought all 52 first issues, and talked about each as September proceeded. Of those which remain, I am reading 27: Action Comics, All-Star Western, Animal Man, Aquaman, Batgirl, Batman, Batman & Robin, Batwing, Batwoman, Blue Beetle, Catwoman, DC Universe Presents, Demon Knights, Detective Comics, Firestorm, Flash, Frankenstein, Green Lantern, GL Corps, I, Vampire, Justice League, Justice League Dark, Stormwatch, Supergirl, Superman, Swamp Thing and Wonder Woman.
Additionally, I was reading six titles that have since been canceled: Blackhawks, JLI, Men of War, OMAC, Resurrection Man and Static Shock. For a while I also read Grifter, Red Lanterns, and Superboy. Filling in some of those holes are second-wave titles Batman Incorporated, Earth 2, Worlds’ Finest and Dial H.
To keep your eyes as glaze-free as possible, this will be a two-part survey. Today we’ll look at the Superman and Batman families, the “historical” titles, the main-line Justice League books, and a few others.
I can’t deny the appeal of crowdfunding. I’ve contributed to a handful of projects, including the Stripped documentary, the new Steve Rude sketchbook and a guide to Star Wars’ domestic filming locations. I’m also planning to pledge to Leaving Megalopolis, the new graphic novel by Gail Simone and Jim Calafiore.
Like many of you, I’m predisposed to like Simone and Calafiore’s work based on their issues of Secret Six. I also enjoyed the way Simone and her collaborators brought a little town of superheroes to life in Welcome to Tranquility. Heck, I just like Simone’s writing generally, and as it’s within my budget, I don’t mind spending the money.
However, while responding to Tom Spurgeon’s call for crowdfunding thoughts, I had a crazy idea: What if a license fee were part of the crowdfunding proposal? In other words, what if one item in a project’s budget were earmarked for licensing particular characters from DC or Marvel?
While there is a fine line between stupid and clever, I’m not sure upon which side this post lies. That’s probably not so good — but it hasn’t stopped me yet. …
Gail Simone and Jim Calafiore, who were the creative team on the final arc of DC Comics’ Secret Six, are back at work on Leaving Megalopolis, a standalone graphic novel they’re funding funding Kickstarter. Here’s the tease:
IGN.COM called the final issue of Secret Six, “the best single comic issue of 2011,” and in this dark ride of a story, we go even wilder! LEAVING MEGALOPOLIS is a journey, by two professional creators, with no holds barred and no limits imposed. Our groundbreaking work on SECRET SIX was only the beginning. If you thought that was dark…
The finished graphic novel will include an introduction by Mark Waid and an extra prose story by Simone.
A brief indulgence before we get started: July 14 marked eight years since I started blogging about comics on my own little website, the now-dormant Comics Ate My Brain. Since one of my first posts was called “Robin Problems,” it’s a happy coincidence that this week we return to the original superhero-sidekick identity.
Although I’m not always happy with DC Comics as a company, I have a lot of empathy for the people who work on superhero comics, especially those who populate convention panels. Regardless of how we think they’re doing their jobs, those are still their jobs, and I wouldn’t want to go to work every morning facing a steady torrent of criticism from my customers. (We lawyers get more than enough workplace second-guessing as it is.) It also can’t be easy traveling around having to face one’s critics in person.
That said, if the alternative-fuels industry could harness avoidable fan outrage, DC Comics would be the new OPEC. Once again demonstrating a knack for how not to behave, its panelists practically laughed off legitimate questions about switching out fan-favorite Bat-protege Stephanie Brown for the “more iconic” Barbara Gordon.
After those original accounts appeared online (on Friday the 13th, no less), more details emerged to help explain just who did what. It’s still a situation where DC higher-ups asked to remove Stephanie (which, it can’t be said enough, is really asking for trouble); but apparently the series’ writer got to choose her replacement. Don’t worry, we’ll get into all the nuances.
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? This week our special guest is artist Ivan Anaya, one of the winners of the winner of the Skullkickers Tavern Tales Contest. He’ll join the other winner, writer Aubrey Sitterson, on a story for Skullkickers #18.
To see what Ivan and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Video games | Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai has revealed a video game will be released later this year for smartphones, tablets and personal computers based on his long-running historical action-fantasy comic. Called Usagi Yojimbo: Way of the Ronin, it’s not the first video game to feature the samurai rabbit: Samurai Warrior: The Battles of Usagi Yojimbo debuted in 1987 for Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC. Expect more details next month at Comic-Con International in San Diego. [Facebook]
Conventions | Organizers of the Denver Comic Con anticipate that this weekend’s show was their second-largest ever. Batgirl writer Gail Simone praised the show, noting it sold out Friday and Saturday: “Sheesh, both Friday and Saturday completely sold out, the place was packed. There are tons of interesting guests, lots of great panels, and a real emphasis on diversity. The attendees have huge percentages of females, there’s more cosplayers here than any con this size I have been to, and very welcome indeed, there are lots and lots of kids.” [Denver Post]
A few weeks ago, Gail Simone posted something on Tumblr that shamed me:
I love Barbara Gordon so much.
I love her as Oracle, I love her as Batgirl, I love her in Year One, I love her in the cartoons, I love Babs cosplayers…
…I just freaking love her, all right?”
There is no doubt in my mind that this is true. Last year, when the New 52 was announced and changes were rolling in, Simone was one of the few creators who listened to fans’ complaints against changes and maybe mourned a little with them as Oracle went back on the shelf and Batgirl returned. She has been steadfast in the development of Barbara Gordon for a long time now (man, since around 2003), and there is simply no doubt in my mind that she really loves that character.
And how wonderful is that? That a creator can love all incarnations of her favorite character, even the ones she has nothing to do with? Yeah, Simone has a lot of control on how we see Barbara Gordon, but there are so many mediums where that character is there but she is not. But with every incarnation comes another chance to see that Barbara Gordon in a new light and with fresh eyes.
How come I couldn’t say the same?
It would be easy, and probably utterly predictable, for me to launch into an all-out rant about the origins of the New-52 Wonder Woman. In fact, because I found Kelly Thompson’s arguments fairly persuasive, that may still happen. However, I am more inclined to agree with Ragnell that the latest round of Amazonian revelations doesn’t quite square with what we’ve already been told, not just in Wonder Woman but in Justice League too. Therefore, there’s a chance that Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang are trying (with the best of intentions, naturally) to be provocative, ginning up interest in the book before the real story comes out.
Make no mistake, I understand completely Kelly’s argument that this version of Wonder Woman undercuts DC’s most venerable feminist institution. Even if the account in WW #7 is squarely contradicted, the insinuation is still pretty harmful. Either way, this is not the “old” Wonder Woman. Accordingly, this may simply be a new Wonder Woman, as different in origin as Hal Jordan was from Alan Scott; and her history may be the brutally-simple solution to the decades-old issue of “what to do with Wonder Woman.”
* * *