Friday 30 November 2012

Lashings' Icons: Gail Simone

JenniPosted by Jenni

Welcome to the first post in a series of irregular Lashings posts about people we think are awesome. Whether they're an activist, an artist, or a little-known historical figure, we ove them, and we'd like to introduce them to you. So, without any further ado, let's take a look at our first icon - Gail Simone, a comic book writer.
This week, I'm going to talk about one of my favorite people. Gail Simone is a comic-book writer, who has worked for Marvel and DC, as well as helping out on smaller independent projects like Womanthology. Why is she an icon of mine? Well, let's take a look through the things she's done, shall we? (Most things discussed in this blog entry will have links at the bottom of the post for clarification).

Gail Simone first came to the attention of the comic book industry through her website, Women in Refrigerators. This website detailed events in which female comic book characters were violently attacked because of their gender (often using rape or miscarriage to drive the point home) or whose attacks were plot devices to strengthen a male character. It's still live, and can be found here: The term 'Women in Refrigerators' is now incredibly well-known, and used to describe acts of this kind, not only in comic books, but in fiction in general. From this, she went on to have her own column, and this eventually led to her work at Marvel. From Marvel, she moved on to DC, and this is where I'll start focusing.

Some of you might remember a previous post I've done, which involved DC comics, and not in an entirely positive light ( In this case, I'm going to highlight the works written by Gail Simone, and why exactly both her writing them (and DC publishing them!) gives me hope for comics in general. let's start with a run she's very well known for - Birds of Prey. Birds of Prey was an all-female team, and notably, featured Oracle - Barbara Gordon (aka, the original Batgirl) after having been paralysed from the waist down, and being in a wheelchair. As far as I am aware, this makes her the first (prominent and mainstream) disabled superhero at DC to have her own regular comic. Not only that, but she avoids the trope some writers fall into when writing about superheroes who are disabled - giving them a 'compensatory' power (ie Daredevils blindness translating into a different form of 'sight'), by being like all of the Batman heroes - having no superpowers, and getting by own her own abilities.

(Those of you who keep up on comics might be aware that thanks to DC's New 52, Oracle once again Batgirl, and is no longer disabled. Gail Simone is at the reins of this new Batgirl, and has also expressed disappointment in DC's decision to remove Oracle.)

She's also written Wonder Woman, brought back Catman (and confirmed him as bisexual, though unfortunately, after the series he was in ended) and, what I really want to talk about, wrote Secret Six.

Secret Six is a team that originally existed in the 60s and 80s as a team of covert operatives, and was brought back in 2005. This time, it was a team of villains who undertook missions of dubious moral ground. During its run it featured a variety of characters, including the aforementioned Catman. I won't detail all of them, but it also includes Bane! The main characters of interest, however, are Scandal Savage, Knockout and Jeanette. Scandal and Knockout (both women) are in a relationship. Which, due to some weird comic occurances involving death/resurrection, etc etc, eventually evolves into a polygamous relationship between Scandal, Knockout and a woman named Liana. Jeanette is also bisexual, though, due to her relationship with Deadshot (a male member of the team), this was often forgotten by fans. It's canon textually, as she also had a relationship with Scandal at one point.

So there's the background on why I think she's a brilliant person, simply for the characters she written for DC. However, that's not the only reason I like her. In order to get to grips with why I consider her an icon, we should take a look at her blog, since many of the reasons are on there.

Firstly, there was a recent issue with an artist called Tony Harris. He's pretty well-known, and on his facebook posted a rant about 'fake geek girls' and criticised cosplayers (people who dress up as characters, often to conventions). Gail Simone's response? Announce the day as Cosplay Appreciation Day, and compliment lots and lots of cosplayers.

The real reason I have so much respect for her, however, is that she knows how and when to apologise. If someone calls her out, or comments on a language choice, she doesn't say "Well, I'm sorry I offended you" or "Oh, I didn't mean it." She takes the criticism, apologies thoroughly and then attempts to avoid the same mistake. Whilst I'm aware that this shouldn't be such a big deal, it's very rare to see someone willing to have discussions or take criticism on these things, particularly through the form of a public blog. For some examples of this, see the bottom of the post.

Add on to this the fact she calls out people in her own industry and tries to open up discussion on those topics, and how she discusses how to be a fan of problematic things, and we see we have someone who is not just taking their own comics and trying to improve them, but who is tackling the industry in general.

Now, this post is already turning somewhat into a fangirl session, but, before I wrap it up, there's a few more posts I think are worth directing your attention to (once again, links below). She discusses in detail why she chose to have a poly trio in Secret Six, and on writing an Asian character. Notably, she points out her own failings - consistently making her Asian characters martial artists - and then goes on about how she tried to fix that. Not only that, but she has openly stated she intends to work a trans* character into the DC canon - and intends on ensuring it is done well. 

Finally, she is also aware of one very important thing - that, even though she is a great ally, and tries very hard to represent as many people as she can, this shouldn't be about allies.

In conclusion then? Gail Simone is awesome. In all seriousness though, if you're at all interested in comic books, I would highly recommend checking her out. Or even if you're just interested in the changing world of representation in visual media, because her blog is both lovely and interesting


To find out more about Gail Simone, please do explore the following links:

Links related to this post:
Opening discussion in the industry



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