It came out on Sunday evening that Gail Simone was no longer on DC’s Batgirl comic starring Barbara Gordon, the character she helped define for a decade. The DC 52 reboot/vamp had its share of detractors and supporters before the first issue hit the stands. And while returning Barbara Gordon to the iconic role of Batgirl was one of the more controversial decisions, in the hands of writer Gail Simone the book flourished. No longer Oracle, Barbara Gordon was still a multi-dimensional character, battling the demons of her past while struggling to return to the identity she once held. An intelligent, capable and tough woman and great hero still.
In September of 2011 Batgirl #1 debuted at #12 on the charts. Ahead of Wonder Woman, Catwoman and Supergirl. Ahead of Avengers, X-Men and Spider-Man. It maintained its dominance for the next 14 months with the most recent sales information showing it ranked #36 in November of 2012. Ahead of Wolverine, Captain America, Hulk and Iron Man. And still ahead of any other comic featuring a female lead. Keep in mind one of the acclaimed recent relaunches featuring a female lead, Captain Marvel, debuted at #42 and quickly settled into the bottom of the top 100 a couple months later. Years ago one of the most popular creative teams in comics, Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev, led Spider-Woman to a #45 debut for her first issue and the title quickly fell toward the bottom of the top 100.
Sorry about the stats 101 lesson but the point here is that not even a popular character or hit creative team is enough to guarantee comic book success. And female centric titles tend to have an even tougher time in the market. Under Gail Simone, Batgirl succeeded beyond expectations.
GrayHaven Comics would not be where it is today without Gail Simone’s help. Three years ago, our first issue of the self-published anthology The Gathering was completed and for sale. The fact that a group of us on Brian Bendis’ Jinxworld forums put together the book piqued Gail’s curiosity and she asked for a copy. She thought it was a cool idea and wanted to check it out. A short time later she put out not simply a review but a multi-post critique and analysis of the entire issue. She told me what worked and she told me what didn’t and in a private message to me volunteered herself for a story if I would be okay with it. If I would be okay with it? I immediately gave her the go ahead to write a short for our second issue (Despair) and she requested that she be paired not with a professional artist she’d been accustomed to working with but with another up and coming creator because our goal was always to spotlight new talent. So she had another board member, Cassandra James, illustrate her story. Cassandra went on to illustrate shorts in The Gathering for Sterling Gates, and recently did work on Valentine from Image Comics. Gail also introduced other pros, like Sterling, to our company and concept.
She stepped up again and offered professional critiques of comic stories or scripts from writers as a Kickstarter reward for us. This even encouraged other pros to offer the same and we reached a personal record in funding. Gail did the same for Womanthology’s Kickstarter. She’s that type of person. Always offering advice. Always giving support. Never asking for anything in return.
Do you know how difficult it is to get someone to buy your comic book? Look at a top team like Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev again having difficulty getting people to buy Spider-Woman or Moon Knight. Look at Grant Morrison who has a hundred thousand people buy his Superman or Batman and less than half that buying his creator owned stuff. Creator Owned Heroes, an anthology published by name creators recently announced cancelation.
Now imagine being a no name creator trying to sell your black and white anthology featuring other no name creators. With issue #2 of The Gathering we were able to say, ‘and in this issue, a special short by Gail Simone’ and the undecided checked us out. And stayed. The story, the Kickstarter help, and the review all helped get The Gathering and GrayHaven on the radar. Pro creators were interested. Comic Reviewers wanted a copy. The book sold. We won’t be challenging X-Men #1 records anytime soon but we are able to sustain our pace and even grow. And by growing we were able to give over one hundred new creators a place where they could get their work published.
Word spreads. Buzz increases. Three years later we’ve put out 16 issues of The Gathering, a few mini-series and are preparing to launch several new self-contained series. 2013 will be our biggest year ever. 2014 looks to blow that out of the water. Without Gail’s support early on it’s very likely that The Gathering would have been a once a year project, not the quickly growing entity it is now.
Gail Simone didn’t just help me out with GrayHaven. She didn’t just give Cassandra a boost with her pairing on issue 2. By extension of her efforts she’s responsible for helping give every one of those hundred plus creators a chance at a bigger spotlight being shown on their dream.
As of issue sixteen, Gail departs from her acclaimed run on Batgirl. While I’m sorely disappointed by this decision and equally appalled by the way she was informed, I wish her the best moving forward. More than anything, I want her to be happy doing what she loves. So whether it’s another project at DC, or something at Marvel or a creator owned project I will be there putting out my money and giving her 100% support. It’s the least I can do. And I hope you all do the same.