INTERVIEW: Gail Simone Guides 'Blockbuster Update' of Red Sonja, Vampirella and Dejah Thoris
“I dislike the phrase ‘strong female character.’ Perhaps it began as a way to applaud the few realistic and complex female characters among the flat ones that merely play a role (mother, love interest, damsel in distress) in a hero’s story. But we never hear ‘strong male character’ because that idea is default. Almost as if the idea that a female character could be strong is so unusual, so unexpected, that it’s noteworthy. It’s also become a way to justify that lack of female characters in stories. ‘Yeah, there’s only one female character in this show/comic/book, but she’s STRONG!’ Variety, diversity, complexity are more important than ‘strength,’ whatever that word means.”
— Shannon Hale, co-creator of the graphic novel Rapunzel’s Revenge and author of the novel Dangerous and the children’s book Princess in Black, in an interview before her appearance at Salt Lake Comic Con. Growing up, Hale was a fan of the Wonder Woman television series, but she never read comics because, she says, “I thought they weren’t for girls and simply didn’t have access to them.”
“We always listen to fans’ concerns so we can do better by them. We want everyone — the widest breadth of fans — to feel welcome to read Spider-Woman. We apologize — I apologize — for the mixed messaging that this variant caused.
And that’s what this cover is. It’s a limited edition variant that is aimed at collectors. While we would not have published this as the main cover to the book, we were comfortable publishing this as a variant that represented one artist’s vision of the character — a world-renowned artist whose oeuvre is well-known to us, and to collectors. It is not the official cover for the issue. It is a collector’s item that is set aside or special ordered by completists — and it doesn’t reflect the sensibility or tone of the series any more than the Skottie Young variant or Rocket and Groot Spider-Woman variants. If you open up the book, you’ll see that this series has everything in common with recent launches we’ve done, like Black Widow and Ms. Marvel and She-Hulk and Captain Marvel. It’s about the adventures of two women that have complete agency over their lives, and that are defined by what they do, not how they look.
We’re far from perfect, but we’re trying. It’s been a priority for me as EIC to make our line and our publishing team more inclusive. We’re at an industry high of around 30 percent female in editorial group, about 20 percent of our line is comics starring women, and our Senior Manager of Talent, Jeanine Schaefer, actively looks to bring more female writers and artists into the fold each month. In fact, very soon we’ll be announcing new series and creators that I’m very excited about.”
– Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso, addressing criticism of the Milo Manara variant cover for Spider-Woman #1, in this week’s “Axel-in-Charge” on CBR
“If you want to know my opinion on Milo Manara’s Spider-woman cover, I’m going to have to disappoint you and say I feel super divided on it. I love Milo Manara!! It’s a variant cover…so it’s sort of an erotica variant! Of course, I’d also like to see Katie Cook do her own version…that’d make Marvel’s choice seem a little less like a systemic problem. And yes, it’s all a different story with context, but without context, it is a bit jarring and I don’t negate that because the Internet really changes our experience these days. And the image itself does remind me a lot of images by artists I DON’T respect…I wish it looked more characteristically Manara instead of a Greg Horn illustration (sorry, Greg Horn! (Not that you care!)). Again, all that said, it’s Milo Manara and if anybody should be able to do things how he wants, it should be him.
“That’s not my point. My point is, it’s not an easy thing to evaluate or explain what is okay and what’s not. Some sexy drawings of women I can get behind, some I can’t. Some of that’s context. But a lot of it is what seemed like a weird intuition that I couldn’t really pinpoint, until recently.
“The word that changes everything for me is ‘personhood.’ Does this woman seem like a person? Do they have life breathed into them? A personality? Or are they an object? Do they feel manufactured or repetitive? Would guys who like this appreciate that I am a living, breathing woman? Or would they complain I talk too much?”
–Rocket Girl artist Amy Reeder, responding to the controversy around erotic comic artist Milo Manara’s variant cover for Spider-Woman #1. She goes on to give examples of women portrayed with and without “personhood” in a long and thoughtful post. Manara has also responded to the controversy.
“The Dark Knight series is all from Batman’s point of view. But if you look at Dark Knight 2, you’ll see a Superman who’s much calmer than the one in the first Dark Knight. Batman and Superman are dead opposites. I love Superman. Do I love Batman more? They’re not people. They’re only lines on paper.”
“Everyone’s like, ‘He’s so powerful, I can’t relate to him.’ Are you kidding me? He’s the most relatable character ever. He grew up on a farm, he doesn’t have a lot of friends, feels isolated, he can’t tell everybody what his secrets are. He’s a great character. He feels overlooked — who hasn’t felt overlooked, or wanted to connect with people? All social media is, is people wanting to connect with other people. That’s all it is. Because people long to connect with other people. And Superman is the embodiment of that. He’s more relevant now than ever.”
“Why has it endured? Because you, sir, can be Batman — you hang out with me, and you’ll see. All you have to do is be crazy enough to fight crime 24/7, right?”
“Life With Archie presents a possible future for the character, and this issue is a fitting end to that story. Archie dies as he lived – a hero, representing the best in all of us. The fact that he’s saving Kevin, the most important new character in Archie lore since Archie, Betty & Veronica, Jughead and Reggie – is a metaphor for the rebirth this company has experienced over the last five years. This is truly a new Archie Comics: unafraid, daring, progressive and on the cusp of greatness.”
— Archie Comics Co-CEO Jon Goldwater, in a statement about Life With Archie #36, in which Archie Andrews sacrifices himself to save Kevin Keller, the openly gay military veteran newly elected to the U.S. Senate on a gun-control platform
“On the Internet, sometimes what appears to be an explosion is really just a fart. The accusations are totally without merit. A handful of people who have it in for Rick started a witch hunt against him, claiming he had written a scene in Captain America #22 that portrayed the Falcon engaging in what amounted to statutory rape. They used social media to spread the word, and we got some angry emails — about 90 percent which came from people who stated right out the gate that hadn’t even read the issue, but were incensed by what they’d heard Rick had written.
Let me be clear: An attack on Rick’s integrity is an attack on Marvel’s integrity. We would never publish a scene that had one of our super heroes engage in such an act. Jet Black is a 23-year-old woman. She was a pre-teen at the start of Rick’s run, but since that time, the book has jumped forward 13 years in the future, and Jet — along with Steve and Ian — has aged 13 years. In Captain America #22, it is explicitly stated that Jet is 23, and she is rendered [by artist Carlos Pacheco] as a fully adult woman. Jet Black is a 23-year-old woman. End of story.”
– Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso, talking with Comic Book Resources about the social-media firestorm that followed the release of Captain America #22
“Everyone who’s ever written Captain America has wanted to bring Bucky back, and I was the first person who arrived at a time where they were willing to … The whole thing when Bucky died was a ret-con that Stan Lee did because he didn’t like sidekicks, and Jack Kirby went along with it because he thought it was this great way to add tragedy to Captain America […] But honestly, when I got the book, I was asked, ‘What would you want to do?’ and I said, ‘Well, I have this idea about how to bring back Bucky, where he is like a really cool bad guy who’s actually an adult.’ And Joe Quesada said, ‘Oh, that’s really interesting, because we just this big summit where we were arguing over whether we could bring back Bucky or not, because Captain America is not selling.’
I was working on a thing with Gene Colan years later — his last comic that he ever did; he drew Captain America, he co-created the Falcon — and I asked him, ‘How come you guys never brought Bucky back?’ And he said, ‘Oh, y’know, we were doing this story where Bucky came back and he turned out to be a robot, and I asked Stan, “Why don’t we have it be the real Bucky?” and he said, “Aw, sales aren’t low enough yet.”‘ Stan was always OK with [resurrecting Bucky], because he always left the door open — like when Bucky died, they always put the word ‘supposedly’ in there, so I felt like the door was left open. I got a lot of flak for it at the time, because it was a ret-con, but I also tried really hard to make sure the ret-con worked with the actual con, if that makes sense.”
– Ed Brubaker, in a wide-ranging discussion that touches upon his Captain America run, his collaborations with Sean Phillips and Steve Epting, and the five-year deal he and Phillips signed with Image Comics
“If you want to put politics in your own comic, go ahead, that’s a great thing. But to put it in mainstream superhero comics and use them as a platform for your own political views is something we object to. And we object to it from both ends. We don’t think these characters should be used for anyone’s point of views even if they agree with us. When I wrote these characters, I didn’t have them present my political views or any political views at all other than their own that are part of their character. Such as Batman is anti-gun. I wrote a lot of anti-gun speeches for Batman that were well-justified and compassionate. I am not personally anti-gun or anti-Second Amendment, but that’s the character. You don’t write it different than what’s established. That was basically our premise, that these were iconic characters shared by generation after generation and should be pretty much just left alone as good guys and bad guys.”
“Speaking specifically of that particular cover, we always list the writers’ credits on the cover, and he scripted that issue. No one is denying Bill’s massive contributions to the DC mythology — not just Batman. It’s never been our take that it was only Bob Kane. But the credit by Bob Kane, that’s a very specific thing, and has been around since the creation of Batman, over 75 years ago. It’s hard to talk about this publicly other than, we love what Bill Finger has contributed to the mythology, and we’ve always acknowledged and compensated him and his estate for that work.”
– DC Comics Co-Publisher Jim Lee, addressing Bill Finger’s credit on the cover of the upcoming Detective Comics #27 Special Edition, and renewed discussion of the late writer’s role as the co-creator of Batman
“Two centuries. I would love to see what kind of foil or hologram Dan DiDio could put on a book in the year 2214.”
— Superman writer Geoff Johns, responding to a question in his Reddit AMA thread about how long, in an ideal world, would his run on the series be. Other highlights from the Q&A can be found at Comic Book Resources.
“I think worrying about the life and death of superheroes is pretty meaningless. The search for ‘importance’ by the superhero comic audience is a problem, a disease. The only thing that’s important is story. If it’s a good story, it’s important and meaningful. Saying ‘I’ll bet he’ll be back within a week’ is to proudly affirm that you know Kermit is just a puppet.”
– Wolverine writer Paul Cornell, addressing a Comic Book Resources reader’s question about the often-temporary nature of superhero deaths
“Regarding single issue sales: they are incredibly important to a lot of Image creators. On Rocket Girl, it’s by far the biggest chunk (of course, we don’t have a tpb yet). And every reader counts. A few thousand copies can make or break a series. If Rocket Girl dips into the 8000s, we’ll start thinking about when to wrap it up. If it stays above 12,000 we can do it forever. At 12,000 copies I can make as much writing Rocket Girl as Hulk; Amy Reeder can make as much penciling/inking/coloring as she would on Batwoman. 8000 vs 12,000 is a significant difference in percentage, but it’s not a huge amount of readers. A lot of Image creators are in the same boat, albeit their individual line might be a bit higher or lower. Certainly collected editions and digital and ancillary media/merchandise contribute as well. But a lot of making creator-owned work is down to financing: and single issues have the biggest impact on cash flow – and the only impact on cash flow for almost a full year when you take into account early production to ‘get ahead’ as well as solicitation.”
— Rocket Girl writer Brandon Montclare, commenting on The Beat’s monthly analysis of indie-comics sales, and the ensuing discussion
“I felt a lot of pressure taking on this icon and knowing that Wonder Woman means so much to so many people. When I’m drawing her, I try to think about what that character is and make sure that I am paying respect to what other people feel about her. I’m trying to draw a character; I’m trying to draw a living, breathing person and make them feel as alive as I can to the reader. It’s funny when people come up to me and say they really like the way I draw her. They appreciate that she’s not oversexualized. That’s really a decision that an artist has to make — and it’s a lot of decisions. It’s not just, ‘Hey, whoops, my pen slipped and she’s suddenly too sexy.’ You’ve got to draw that thong bikini, you’ve got to draw those big boobs and all that stuff. I feel like we have to check ourselves and say, ‘Well, is this really accomplishing telling the story that we want to tell?'”
– artist Cliff Chiang, talking with CBR TV about developing his take on DC’s Wonder Woman