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Gail Simone a "strong, female voice in comics"
[February 13, 2013]

Gail Simone a "strong, female voice in comics"

GREENSBORO, Feb 13, 2013 (News & Record - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- A young pregnant woman and her husband approached star comics writer Gail Simone during her signing at Acme Comics on Lawndale Drive last Saturday with a special request: Would Simone sign the first issue of her "Batgirl" comic for their unborn daughter, Lilly "That was great," Simone said. "I've written marriage proposals on comics before. I had a woman come to get books signed for her daughter, who wouldn't be there. She put me on the phone with her. I loved it." For Simone, signings and conventions are a chance to connect with fans. As a former hairdresser who's naturally social, she sometimes feels a little isolated by the writer's life of working alone in an office most days, staring at a computer screen.

"We write comics months in advance," said Simone after a long day signing comics and meeting scores of eager fans. "So getting to actually talk with the people who are reading them and get feedback -- what's effecting them, what isn't -- I like that." Making connections with fans is one of Simone's favorite parts of the business.

Before she was one of the most highly visible women in comics, Simone was the creator of the website "Women in Refrigerators." The site chronicled the use of women in comics largely as damsels in distress or the victims of grisly murders that male heroes must avenge.

Since breaking into comics, Simone says her greatest joy has been helming books with strong female characters.

"I wanted to prove female characters in comics had more value than just being the wife, the girlfriend, the wet blanket, being abused," Simone said.

Her fans -- male and female -- says she's done the job with acclaimed runs on "Wonder Woman," "Secret Six," the all-female team book "Birds of Prey" and currently with "Batgirl" -- all from DC Comics.

They crowded the Acme shop last Saturday to thank her.

"When you read a real woman actually writing real women, you realize how rare that is in the other books you're reading," said Adrianne Arruza, 26, who came from Winston-Salem. "It sounds weird, but that's so nice." Simone met fans who told her that she helped them get out of abusive relationships or that her characters persuaded them to decide against suicide.

"All the bashing I get for being a strong female voice in comics -- those comments really make it worth it," Simone said.

When the company re-launched all of its books with new first issues last year, Simone was given a huge task.

Take Barbara Gordon, the first Batgirl, from the wheelchair to which she was consigned by the Joker in the 1980s to a walking, jumping, butt-kicking crimefighter.

It was a job for which Simone was ready. She'd felt a connection to Barbara Gordon since she was six, watching Batgirl on syndicated reruns of the 1960s "Batman" TV show.

"I had red hair and my mother had red hair," Simone said. "But no one else I knew had red hair. And I was teased, called names. Then there's Batgirl. She has red hair. And she's a hero." Simone and Batgirl were nearly separated last year. A new editor took over the book and summarily fired her via e-mail.

The book was selling well and getting good press, so Simone wasn't sure what happened.

Legions of her fans felt the same way. They bombarded DC with complaints.

Shortly thereafter, Simone told her more than 32,000 Twitter followers that DC was keeping her on the book.

"That was a big moment," said Melissa Colton, 22, who drove from Raleigh to meet Simone. "She could have really gone nuts when she was fired and thrown a fit. But she didn't do that. She was all class. And fans went to bat for her.

"We really feel like she's one of us." Contact Joe Killian at 373-7023.

___ (c)2013 the News & Record (Greensboro, N.C.) Visit the News & Record (Greensboro, N.C.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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