As many readers may already realise, Gail Simone is a favourite of most of us at GRCT. She’s definitely a favourite of mine. On top of being a hugely talented writer, Gail is sweet, funny, and mad in all the right ways. She stands up for things she believes in and she speaks her mind. She makes has a great sense of humour and loves (and tells) a dark storyline. She has a way of combining humour with the serious things in life that just works and never seems trite.
Gail builds characters and stories. Plot is important but characterisation isn’t sacrificed for it. She and I don’t always agree on things, but I respect her thoughts and viewpoints so much. I love that she engages with fans, and I’ve seen her at any number of conventions chatting with people, offering advice to those who want to get into the business and being generally awesome. She’s one of the kindest, most generous people I know, and I really wanted to put something up for her birthday.
The first Gail book I ever read was Gen 13. I didn’t even realise it was her til years later. I remember reading the first Gen 13, it came out when I was in high school and a massive comic book fan. I loved the characters, especially Rainmaker, but after a while the book felt to me like it just lost it. When it was relaunched with Gail writing and Alvin Lee/Talent Caldwell on art it just worked for me. Their background made sense, the characters made sense and I loved it.
Of course, Gen 13 introduced me to Welcome to Tranquility. A retirement town of Superheros? It’s a great concept, and it’s something that anyone who’s ever read superhero comics wonders. Where do they go when they get old? How do they live? How do they support themselves? It’s a great community and a great book. It delighted me when I first read it, and it delighted me when there was a new series recently.
It was years before I picked up another her books. Not for any reason other than I wasn’t reading comics for a while. A friend told me to pick up Secret Six as I would love everything about it. I was told it was dark and funny all at the same time. I picked up the first few issues and immediately fell in love. Not only for the irreverent humour or the darkness, but for all of it. I loved that it was about these irredeemable characters who needed redemption but didn’t think they wanted or needed it. From there I picked up the two earlier miniseries. And from there…
From there came Birds of Prey. I’d already had a friend telling me that it was a book I would read and love. Had only I listened earlier! Canary! Huntress! ORACLE! These are characters I wish I’d discovered earlier. I found myself needing to read Batgirl Year One, and Huntress Year One and all sorts of Dinah books just so I could have more of these characters. And then Gail introduced the wise cracking smart ass of Zinda. Oh man. Oh Maaaaaaan. How I love thee, let me count the ways. I think the thing that was most important to me about Birds of Prey was how fleshed out the characters were. They were real people, there were fights and disagreements, but there were also brilliant and healthy friendships.
Dinah was one of the first people that Helena really let in, and even after Babs screwed up that friendship remained important. But even that – the fact that Barbara Gordon couldn’t control everything and that there were cracks because of that? The fact that these women had hard times but stood by each other. Oh my goodness was it something that I needed to see in comics. I needed to see these relationships and that they could kick ass and back each other, and then at the end of it they could order chinese, tell stories and laugh and have a hug. Because there is nothing wrong with that. They were, at the core, normal women. For the first time in my entire comic reading life, Gail gave me that. Four women who were friends and who were extraordinary but who were also exceedingly normal. They loved, fought, and got frustrated, but were there for each other.
I think, however, the favourite Birds of Prey scene I have is this, and there’s a matching scene also in BoP written by Devin Grayson from Dick’s PoV. Alone or together, they’re both beautiful, and every time make me cry.
Of course - and unlike many – the very last book of Gail’s I ever read was Wonder Woman. I’ll be honest. I grew up a Marvel girl. I knew Wonder Woman obviously, but the books I’d picked up had been confusing. Hers weren’t. They dealt with the mythology of Diana, and told a great story. It was those books that made me seek out many other Wonder Woman books. She’s since become one of my favourite characters, but I don’t think I would have given her the chance otherwise.
It’s for all of these things and more that I do love Gail. A great writer, a good person, and most importantly, a brilliant friend who believes in me and has supported me through so much. Thank you Gail, and I hope we know each other for many more years and through many more birthdays.