Chat Cave: Batgirl Loses Gail Simone

Gail Simone announced on Sunday (via twitter and tumblr) that she had been let go from her position as the writer for Batgirl in the New 52. We’ve got opinions about this one. Welcome to the Chat Cave.

Shelby: I have a hard time processing the reasoning behind letting Simone go. Batgirl is one of the strongest titles in the New 52 lineup. Not indie-good-with-a-small-but-fierce-following, actually good. Barbara Gordon is on my list of fictional characters I want to meet IRL for a reason; Simone has crafted a voice for Babs that is both strong and doubtful, confident and flawed in the ways we all are. She’s one of the most realistic characters in the DCU, which says a lot considering she occupies a world where reanimated ninja zombie assassins are commonplace. Simone has produced some extremely high quality work on this title, and I have a hard time believing the numbers don’t reflect that.

Also concerning to me is now DC has only TWO female writers on regular titles. One is Ann Nocenti, better known around the Retcon Punch offices as “the second writer to butcher Catwoman.” Nocenti picked up right where Judd Winnick left off by writing a shallow, unintelligent character interested only in providing opportunities for the artist to draw her in some state of undress. Happily, the other gal in the DC bullpen is Christy Marx; we love her work on Sword of Sorcery, but that’s a title I can see not having the kind of numbers it needs to stay on the roster. Women are already grossly under-represented in this industry; according to Tim Hanley at Bleeding Cool, in September of this year 3.6 percent of the writers at DC were women. Out of 661 credited creators (that’s all credited roles on all issues), 595 of them were men.  Does this mean DC needs to start hiring token women to balance things out and better represent the female voice? Of course not. Does it mean it’s a poorly thought-out plan to fire one of their strongest, most talented writers who also happens to be female?

Critical arguments aside, I’m just really bummed out by the whole thing. Batgirl is one of my most anticipated books every month; sure, whoever comes in next could certainly do a fantastic job on this title, but it won’t be the Babs I have grown to love. Simone has made something special, and there’s no replicating it. When I interviewed Simone last year at C2E2, it was pretty obvious that she loves this character, and that love shows through her work. Gail, if you’re reading this, we love you times a thousand, and we’ve all got your back no matter what!

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Patrick: Primarily, I’m also feeling profoundly bummed. Batgirl isn’t my favorite comic series right now, but Simone’s run on this book helped establish Retcon Punch as something Drew and I wanted to pursue. Modern RP readers might not know this, but Drew and I used to just tack features called “Patrick and Drew and the New 52” on to our own personal blogs. Gail Simone provided us with out first-ever twitter-assisted blockbuster post. It was the first time our thoughtful approach was acknowledged by members of the creative community. It was validation that what we were doing had any value at all.

But Simone wasn’t making a statement about the kind of coverage she preferred – she was just engaging in the fan community. Because she’s awesome at that. This whole thing is so baffling for precisely that reason: Gail Simone is a beloved figure in DC’s writer-stable. She’s go good at engaging the audience that it almost shouldn’t matter how well she writes or how well her books sell. But she does write well and Batgirl routinely out-sells series that are not seeing creative shake-ups. So what’s the fucking deal? If the Guardians of the Universe had fired Gail Simone, there’d be a write-up where I’d mention that their motivations seem pointlessly evil. So I’m convinced there’s more to this story, but I suspect we’ll never get it.

Also, how shitty is it that Simone was tasked with one of the more thankless tasks of the reboot, only to be let go once she re-normalized Babs out-of-the-chair? It makes that assignment feel much more manipulative in retrospect. “How do we make Oracle fans (and Steph Brown fans) accept the fact that Babs is Batgirl again?” “Just have Gail Simone write it.”

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Drew: I’m frustrated at literally everything about this announcement. Emotionally, I couldn’t be more upset — I love both Simone AND Simone’s Barbara Gordon. Professionally, I’m appalled that Simone was let go by email, and that she had to confirm the rumors herself. Objectively, this just makes no fucking sense. In November, Batgirl was the fourth best-selling title for DC in numbers, and the seventh biggest earner in dollars (for floppies).

In short, I’m pissed and confused. Nobody has offered any reasons for her departure, leaving me to want to vilify editor Brian Cunningham for firing her, or at DC for bringing him in just to do the deed (by email!). Of course, Simone has been far too gracious to pin the blame on anyone, emphasizing that this is all part of the business. It certainly makes me like her more, but it doesn’t leave me with a place to put my anger, so that anger has turned to fear.

I’m not afraid for Simone — she’s too talented and well-loved to not land on her feet, even if having Babs taken away stings (and you can bet your ass I’ll follow her wherever she goes) — but I really don’t know what’s going to happen to Batgirl without her. I have all kinds of crazy suspicions in my head about how, if it wasn’t numbers, it must be because they didn’t like what she’s doing with the character WHICH IS INSANE. If the stewards of this title are so misguided as to want to remove such a competent, caring, insightful writer, I’m not sure I can trust any of their subsequent decisions. I suppose time will tell.

51 comments on “Chat Cave: Batgirl Loses Gail Simone

  1. I’m glad I didn’t have to write first on this one — I probably would have burned through my word count just typing “NO” over and over again.

  2. This news made me incredibly sad. Hearing how Gail was fired made me angry. I’m pissed that she was treated so poorly, for inexplicable reasons, and that we’ll never get to see the (already written) plot of how Barbara Gordon was able to get out of the wheelchair.

    Has anyone read replacement/fill-in writer Ray Fawkes’ “One Soul”? I haven’t myself (just put it on hold at my local library) but I’ve seen a lot of rave reviews. I probably will continue to read Batgirl, at least for a few issues after the 2 Fawkes ones, but haven’t quite made up my mind about it.

    • I have not read any of Fawkes’ work, but I have also only heard good things. I’m going to try to check out One Soul before his Batgirl issues come out.

      As for whether I’m going to follow the series after those two issues… that depends entirely on those issues. Our pull list is getting unwieldy at this point, and even the “okay” titles are starting to get the boot if they don’t tie in to some kind of event (Red Hood, your days are numbered). There is the moral component to consider here: is there any value in sending the message — slight though it may be — that I won’t buy this series any more because of the shitty political ass-hattery that got Simone fired?

  3. It’s really frustrating because, on the one hand, I want to stop supporting this company for continually making poor and downright sexist decisions, but on the other hand, I don’t want to stop supporting the creators and characters that I know and love. I feel trapped. And here I thought the whole point of comics was to escape.

    • When Simone was tweeting about other projects on the horizon on Monday, she said:

      “Have also have heard from the higher ups at DC and they have been very kind and have made it clear that things went awry and want other projects from me. So it is going to be a very different year, but things are going to work out, I am convinced. New challenges.”

      While I’m glad that she has plenty of offers on the table AND to hear that not everybody at DC has lost their mind, “things went awry” sounds like a load of bull. What could that possibly mean? That she received that email accidentally? What “things”? Did the “things going awry” include putting together a solicit for a fill-in writer? Pretending like this was an accident nobody could undo is such spineless behavior on DCs part, and serves to throw Cunningham under the bus more than even Simone was willing to do. I’m sure this was authorized by higher-ups at DC, or Cunningham would also be looking for a new job.

      • I think “things went awry” probably means that the Bat-family editors are entitled to their own decision making without interference, but other editors at the company think its a bad move and would happily taker her under their wing for non-Batman titles

        • But that decision had to be cleared by somebody higher-up, right? Like, why not move her to another title like they’ve done so often with other writer changes? Couldn’t they have at least ASKED the other editors if they’d like to make an offer before telling her she’s off Batgirl?

        • Wouldn’t we still be upset though? Like if they moved her back to Birds of Prey, we’d demand to know why she was taken off this one specific book. And we frustrating don’t have any information (not that I’m suggesting that WE are owed anything – writing and firings are personal decisions and business decisions, and it’s not anyone’s job over there to make sure I understand them).

        • Oh, we’d definitely be upset, but I think we’d also be less upset. Moving her would just seem like fucking with a good thing, but canning her with no plan in place (by email!) indicates that they don’t really value Simone like they should. At least a move could be pitched as “we want/need you on this title now,” while this feels WAY more like “we want/need you OFF this title now.”

        • Plus, then we’d be ensured more New 52 written by Simone, instead of vague promises of DC being excited to work with her in the future. I’ve interviewed at Disney enough times to know not to get excited about statements like that.

      • I still feel like the “fired by email” reduction of this is probably inaccurate – at least incomplete. Obviously, this is all conjecture, but Cunningham was a new editor, right? Maybe he didn’t understand protocol and just made the rookie mistake of informing Simone by email. Maybe he knew what was happening and decided to fill her in before she got official word. She’s still in communication with DC, so it’s not like they shut her out completely.

        • I think the fact that she was informed by email lends credence to Mogos suspicions below. She had worked with Cunningham for a few issues, and I suspect there had been some amount of friction between them about something. I keep imagining dramatic scenes where she’s threatened to do something against her principles or she gets fired, and she insists that whatever it is shouldn’t be done, but I hope that’s just in my head. I’d like it to be a much simpler (though still enraging) business decision.

    • You took the words right out of my mouth. By the way, the comic book with Stephanie Brown as Robin we were talking about yesterday was Detective Comics # 796. I read it again, and I think it’s a perfect stand-alone issue. It is a perfect combination of story and action, it pleasantly focuses on Bruce’s ethic and way of thinking, it has a very enjoyable atmosphere and, the icing on the cake, the cover is drawn by Tim Sale.

        • Great choice! I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
          Also, this could be a new section of Retcon Punch. You usually review Marvel, DC and indie current comics: from time to time, you could review also an old single issue, so that your readers can buy it on Comixology and discover a gem nobody remembers about. And if they already own it, they can read it again with more attention after your recommendation. Thank you for your reply! : )

  4. I didn’t really have space to get into this in my entry, but Simone’s run on Batgirl has a lot of personal significance to me. I’m sure the story of a young twenty-something finding her confidence is compelling for a lot of people, but the way Simone writes it, I always feel like it was written just for me. Loosing the magic that happens when the right writer is working with the right character is perhaps the biggest tragedy in all this — Simone may never write another character so perfectly suited to addressing those issues, and Batgirl may never be written by someone so adept at addressing them. I’m going to miss the hell out of their pairing, even if neither Batgirl nor Simone is going anywhere.

    • Back when patrickehlers.com was still active, I did a year-end list of by Top 10 cultural experiences of the year. Those first 4 issues of Batgirl were on there. It was the only comic on the list, which now seems like a personal time capsule of a time just before I discovered what comics could really mean to me. She had some good company (in the forms of Jeff Lemire, Scott Snyder, Francis Manapul, Brian Buccaletto and Brian Azzarello), but Gail Simone played an enormous role in welcoming us to this life-style and this community.

  5. Yep, all of your sentiments above stand for me as well. I suspect she was let go because of “editorial pushback”, meaning she was vocal about certain mandates she was forced to comply with; we all know this lady’s personality pretty well, as well as how she’s handled her termination as Batgirl writer, so we can safely assume she wasn’t being unprofessional in any way – I think she probably just disagreed with some of the decision-making and wasn’t afraid to make that known.

    I post regularly on her Jinxworld forum, and the only tidbit of insight is in the form of this back-and-forth:

    Jinxworld Poster: Gail, were you not putting enough women in refridgerators for editorial?

    Gail: Funny you should mention that.

    That’s all that was said, and I’m sure Gail’s professionality and good manner is what will end up leaving it at that, but that implies a whole lot. My best guess is that editorial either wanted her to kill of Babs’ roomie or Babs Sr. during DoTF and Gail wouldn’t comply.

    • Yeah, the thought that they pushed her out so they can do things with Babs Simone didn’t agree with OR because Simone wanted to do things with Babs DC didn’t agree with is really distressing to me. This is a writer who REALLY understands this character, and I trust her instincts entirely. I’m wary of any developments that caused friction here.

      That said, I don’t want to assume too much — maybe DC just thought they could maintain comparable sales with a lesser-known (i.e. cheaper) writer. It’s still skeezy, but has fewer implications as far as dubious creative decisions go. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what develops in Batgirl.

      • I hadn’t considered that, Mogo, but it makes a ton of sense. We saw in Red Hood how DotF is starting to throw girls in to throw girls into refrigerators already. It bothers me to think that the editorial differences of opinion would cause DC to let her go and not just work it out. The real issue is that I’d rather have her guiding influence over the publisher than most of the other voices at DC (excepting maybe Snyder, who seems to have a solid pull over the Bat-books).

  6. Is it possible that there’s some less-sinister political reason she was taken off Batgirl? Like maybe they promised the title to someone else? Also, is it clear to anyone else whether Fawkes was always going to guest writer for two issues? ONE MORE QUESTION: we don’t know who’s going to write her going forward yet, do we? I nominate Shelby.

    • I really want to believe they just wanted a writer with less name recognition who they could just pay less. It’s shitty that that’s the least evil scenario.

      • But that underestimates just how much Simone’s name sells that book. We could go back to the ol’ Liefeld v. Snyder debate, but Batgirl — as a character — shouldn’t really be selling at the top of the chart by default. She’s a second string character. But Gail Simone is a must-read writer.

        • I mean, those November numbers might be a little misleading (DotF crossover and all), but Batgirl is still perennially on the top 100 list (and amongst the top 50% of DCs titles). I honestly don’t know enough about any of the business of this, but it seems possible that DC thought they could get similar numbers with a different writer.

          This may tie into a bigger problem DC has with fixing shit that aint broken in the first place.

        • So far, the whole Death of the Family thing has been sort of a let down, Hellblazer is ending, Snyder is moving off of Swamp Thing, and now taking Simone off Batgirl? DC is bumming me out….

          If anything, the New 52 butchering of some of my favorite characters has reinforced my inclination to follow comic writers rather than comic characters. I’m with you, Gail Simone is a must-read writer and I’ll be following her onto whatever project she takes up next. And I don’t want to suggest that Fawkes is going to butcher Batgirl–but even if he writes a great Batgirl, I think I am going to feel some post-Simone resentment toward the title for a while.

        • Yeah, I want to give Fawkes a fair shot at it; it’s certainly not his fault he’s following in the steps of someone with a ferocious fan base.

        • I know what you mean, Simone had just been on the book long enough to start thickening her continuity into something really interesting – the James Jr subplot has finally came forward and then Knightfall has now assembled the various rogues from the first 10 issues to work together. I expected things to really start coming together in a big way right after this crossover (and Batgirl has been the star of the DoTF tie-ins, in my eyes). Now she’s gone. WTF.

  7. In the shower this morning, I was comparing this firing to the Dan Harmon firing on Community, but came to the conclusion that this is so much shittier. Community’s unique voice almost certainly originates at Harmon, but TV is such a cooperative medium that I think the new show runners will be able to emulate it pretty well (especially with all the cast and crew in place), but if Babs doesn’t sound like Babs, the whole thing falls apart.

    Additionally, Harmon is notoriously hard to work with. He turns in scripts late, he drinks (a lot), he can be combative. I’m sure a lot of that leads to the kind of awesome shit we’ve seen in the first three seasons, but it doesn’t erase the fact that it’s a job, and if someone’s making your job unpleasant, maybe it’s time to let them go. But Simone? She’s such a sweetheart! She’s like the anti-Harmon in this respect.

    • I don’t know if I like this analogy. Sure, Simone has been instrumental in Batgirl in the New 52, but she didn’t create the character, and at the end of the day, we always knew a new writer was going to take over for her someday — that’s just how comics work. Harmon, on the other hand, could have reasonably expected to be the only show runner Community ever had.

      • Except that losing show runners is plenty common in TV. The actually rarity in the Community story is that a show with such low rating was kept on the air for 4 years (and hopefully for the obligatory SIX SEASONS AND A MOVIE).

  8. Also, why is it that the female writers (who are so few to begin with) only get to write female characters at DC? I understand the impulse to give a female character a female writer (though, if I examine that line of logic too much, I hate it too), but I’d love to see Simone (or Marx or Amanda Conner) write any male character. They’d absolutely own it.

    • Agreed. I think Nocenti has proved that being a woman does not automatically mean you can write female characters well. And there are certainly male writers who write women well; I would cite Lemire’s Abby and Vaughn’s Alana.

        • Actually the zero issue was written by Jud Winnick, it’s just credited incorrectly on the cover, likely because the issue falls squarely in the middle of Nocenti’s run on the title. She picks up around issue 7 or 9 (too lazy to check my boxes, sigh) and at that point proceeds to run the title squarely into the ground; as far as I know she’s still on the book, but luckily Lemire will be taking over as of issue 17 (and I’ll be re-subscribing, coincidentally.)

    • Indeed! But are we still getting those 2 fill-in issues from Ray Fawkes? Nothing against him personally, but I hope her run remains unbroken. Great news, though. Great, great news for all creative talent at DC, really. Hell, I wonder if she could get away with bringing Spoiler back now.

      • It looks like we will be getting those fill-ins from Fawkes, which means Simone has to toss out the four scripts she had already submitted (though she says she might rework some of the plots for issues down the road). I think that makes it clear that this whole hubbub was related to something in those issues that Cunningham didn’t like.

        • Seems a shame, but I thought this might be the case based on the time it would take to produce new art anyway. Major bummer.

        • I picked up Fawkes’ One Soul after the announcement and it’s a fucking trip. I cannot begin to fathom how his work with a largely experimental, 200 page exploration of birth, life, and death will translate to, y’know, a superhero comic. REGARDLESS, the dude has earned my trust. Worst possible case scenario is that is two issues will be provocative but insubstantial (and there will be an absence makes the heart grow fonder sort of thing that happened with Higgins’ break from Nightwing). Ain’t nothing wrong with mixin’ it up, is all I’m saying.

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