Red Sonja is a character that kicks butt. Gail Simone is a writer that knows how to write characters that kick butt. It's a perfect pairing. But what else goes into writing Red Sonja's latest series? Writer Jeff Parker talked to Gail to find out what goes on in writing this monthly series.
STORY-STABBING WITH GAIL SLAYMONE
JEFF PARKER: Okay, in the interests of keeping people awake and mixing things up, I want to have a nice brief discussion that gives RED SONJA readers a peek into the mind of who’s setting the course for her mayhem. And that’s mainly because I don’t want to hear what you have planned, I want to find that out when I get there- no spoilers!
So right off the top lets change the dynamic of these things by talking about the person who usually gets bumped to the last paragraph, the artist. You’re working with Walter Geovani, and he clearly knows what he’s doing. How’s that collaboration coming along?
GAIL SIMONE: You've been doing this a good while, you know that thing that happens when you have the RIGHT artist on the RIGHT project, and you are a little bit afraid to breathe wrong, or you will mess up the perfection?
That's how I feel with Walter Geovani. He's just been so incredibly gracious and kind and helpful and supportive. We just love working together, he loves my scripts and I adore his art, and we bring out the best in each other, I think.
He draws this powerful, sulky Sonja, she's full of emotion and charm, and that liberates me to write a Sonja who laughs and gets drunk and propositions dirty bog people for love.
I have been fortunate enough to work with some of the greatest living comics artists, you know, people like Byrne, Perez, Golden, Timm, Garcia Lopez, on and on. I have been fortunate enough to be lifted up by people like that for a long time. But there are some artists who just feel almost like they are in my brain, when we work together, they know what I am asking for even if I forget to put it it into words, people like Nicola Scott, Jim Calafiore, Fernando Pasarin, those people. And Walter was in that group by issue one. He's just made the book a pleasure to write and be part of.
JP: Yeah, you really have been teaming with art powerhouses- good strategy, Simone!
I really like how accessible the stories are and that she often causes her own problems. Uncouth heroes are simply a blast, aren’t they? I’m guessing the barbaric nature opens up a lot of opportunity that crime fighting heroes tend to restrict.
GS: Oh, yeah, I loved reading a Red Sonja who was icy and regal, that's good fun. But I love WRITING a Red Sonja who burps and gets drunk and hits on innocent passersby and is just a menace in general.
I have had a bit of this in characters before, in BIRDS OF PREY and SECRET SIX, but there's a lovely disconnect when people meet Sonja, expecting a queen, and they instead get this dangerous creature who needs a bath and some mouthwash and hot coffee.
JP: It makes it entertaining even in what are considered the ‘quiet’ scenes.
I have a theory that in the few minutes after Esteban Maroto sketched the first rough of RJ’s scale mail bikini, hundreds of cosplayers sat bolt upright across the world, sensing a new purpose in life. How often are you meeting real-life Sonjas at conventions?
GS: Absolutely all the time, but I haven't really been to a bunch of large conventions since it was announced I would be doing the book.
She's one of the great iconic cosplays, absolutely.
The thing that I kept finding out over and over was that a lot of women were fans of Red Sonja, but didn't read her comic. I mean, this is true, my mother didn't bat an eye when I told here I was writing Superman. But when I said I was writing Red Sonja, she freaked right the hell out.
She LOVES Red Sonja. But for whatever reason, the comics were just never a priority for her. And I found this over and over again.
We asked all these amazing female artists to draw covers and they were all huge fans of the character, but very few had read the comics in years, despite top people writing them, I mean really great writers like Mike Oeming and Eric Trautmann and Mike Carey. That made no sense to me.
Here we had one of the THE most beloved female icons, and darn few females were reading it.
When I did BIRDS OF PREY, I was delighted that we found that girls liked the book and talked about it, but boys liked it, too, no one felt alienated or unwelcome.
That's been my goal with Sonja.
JP: I think you’ve achieved that, I can imagine all kinds of readers getting into it.
One last observation- Sonja’s a journeying adventurer, and lately so are you, you barely seem to be in the States anymore. Travel often charges up a writer’s batteries and kicks up fresh ideas, so I’m assuming that is going through the roof with you!
GS: I do love to travel, and I love talking to readers in new cities and countries. This is painfully corny and will only get me mocked, but I really, deeply and embarrassingly love comics. I love the medium, I love the art, I love creating them, I love being around people who are excited by them. I just enjoy spreading that gospel.
I went to a store signing in Belfast a couple years ago, kind of short notice, and we got there late...when I arrived, there was no one in the store and my heart broke a little. I thought no one came. But the guy behind the counter said, no, they're all upstairs...it was a two-story shop. So I go upstairs and the place is packed to the rafters, SRO, and I just had this happy little feeling...I felt immediately connected to these people even though I had never been to Northern Ireland before, and they couldn't have been more welcoming and lovely. They brought presents, one couple brought these amazing cupcakes, and they wore Batgirl t-shirts, and brought up every obscure comic for me to sign.
In this city of so much art and music and history, that I quite likely would never have experienced as a hairdresser, these people chose comics to love and to care about. So there's that instant bond, that wonderful connected feeling, and it happens in Singapore, it happens in Spain, it happens in Norway, it happens all over the U.K., language doesn't matter, borders don't matter, it's just a bunch of people who love this ridiculous, impossible art form, so we're all a ridiculous, impossible family. That's my favorite thing in the world, that's why I go.
JP: Okay, there’s no topping that! Thanks Gail.