Gail Simone first got known as the Women in Refrigerators curator, a Web site about how women get abused and murdered in comics. Heavy stuff. She then became a comic book columnist, and soon got hired to write actual books. Since then, Gail Simone has written a lot of comics. A lot of very good comics. And one, Clean Room (published via Vertigo), is the kind of comic that could make a career—if she didn’t already have one. It’s one of the most complex titles in her vast portfolio, and it has a level of emotional depth and resonance that most creators can only aspire to. In recognition of that great book, I thought I’d tell you ten Gail Simone comics you ought to read.
So, these are my favorite Gail Simone stories. Let’s do it!
10. Double Date (Justice League Unlimited season two, episode 19) (2005)
OK, for my first entry, I’m cheating. This is a cartoon, not a comic, but it’s so damn good. Huntress goes rogue and tries to get Question to help her kill a bad guy (he was a very, very bad guy), and Black Canary and Green Arrow try to stop her. First of all, yeah, a cartoon had that mature a theme. That’s how great JLU was. Second, this was such a great script, such a great episode. It shows how well Simone can write different kinds of characters, different genders and personalities, and give each their own, unique, “real-sounding” voice.
The rest are comics. I promise.
9. Secret Six #1-6 (2006)
The second miniseries about this motley crew of cast-offs and layabouts was illustrated by Brad Walker. The team was united under Simone’s hand in the “Villains United” event and miniseries (see below), and this was their firstouting in a story all their own. In it, they take on Vandal Savage in a mission led by his daughter. Read more about it here starting tomorrow.
8. Welcome to Tranquility #1-12 (2008) (Wildstorm)
Simone’s original work about a town of old and retired superheroes and villains, and the sheriff responsible for keeping the peace between them. Very cool concept, perfectly executed, with art by Neil Googe.
7. Birds of Prey #56-68 (2003)
It’s hard to break up Simone’s BoP run because it all kind of flows together. Her Secret Six stuff did, too—it’s one of the ways she’s more gifted than most comic book writers: Her characters develop and change, gradually, and she’s happy to let a story unfold in what feels like real time. She started by introducing a new team in issue #56 and stayed through issue #90, and was at least partly responsible for creating hordes of Huntress fans in the process. This book also showed one of her gifts to be writing “team” books. Lots of authors are better at “single-hero” stories, and writing a group is hard.
In her first arc, Simone introduced the new team and then seamless went into the “Sensei And Student” storyline, in which Black Canary seeks revenge for the murder of her sensei. Great stories, all drawn by Ed Benes.
6. Villains United (2005) (DC)
An “event tie in” miniseries that was way, way, WAY better than the event it linked to (Infinite Crisis). A group of “villains,” many of whom would become part of the Secret Six, come together to reject a plan by Lex Luthor to basically form a huge supervillain mafia and instead work independent of anyone. This of course means they have to fight the new, Luthor-led super villain union. Artists Dale Eaglesham does some of his best work, and we get to see Simone’s initial takes on guys like Deadshot and Catman. We also see how well she can create truly creepy characters, like Ragdoll. An incredible story that led to her multi-volume, epic run on Secret Six. Read more about it here tomorrow.
5. Deadpool #65-69 (2002) (Marvel)
Gail Simone killed Deadpool. By which I mean, she had the last word on Deadpool Volume 1, which was cancelled pretty much as soon as she came on board and replaced by Cable/Deadpool. Damn shame, because her take on the character was refreshing and novel: Deadpool becomes a millionaire mercenary and gets two female sidekicks, Sandi and Outlaw. Terrific run, cut short too quickly.
4. Leaving Megalopolis (2014) (Dark Horse)
Simone and her Secret Six collaborator J Calafiore team up for an original graphic novel (funded through Kickstarter!) about a team of very familiar(ish) superhero tropes who turn evil and want to kill every person in the town of Megalopolis. But the anagrams of Superman, Flash, etc., aren’t the stars here. That’s a tale we’ve seen before, in books like The Boys and Irredeemable. No, this story is about a police officer who tries to save an unlikely band of surivors by getting them out of the city before they’re killed by the renegade heroes. A powerful, adult-oriented story.
3. Secret Six #19-22 (2009)
The terrible and dark storyline where Catman’s son is taken and instead of giving the kidnappers what they want, Catman tells them that he will find them and kill them, and will assume his son is no longer alive. It’s very, very dark and brutal—kind of like if Batman were out for revenge instead of justice. Read more about it here tomorrow.
2. Clean Room (2016) (Vertigo)
What is Clean Room about? That’s not an easy question to answer. What if there were an alien invasion, and nobody knew? What if demons are real, and they’re occupying everyone around us, all the time, invisible to all but the most trained and gifted people? In short, what if everything you used to get paranoid about smoking pot was true?
Clean Room is one of my favorite current comics, and Gail Simone is knocking it out of the park—this screams to be made into a TV series.
1. Secret Six #1-7, 31-33 (2008)
Collected in the trade paperback “Unhinged” are the first seven issues of the first “regular series” for Gail Simone’s collection of villains. (Previous to this were two miniseries: Villains United in 2005 and Secret Six in 2006. Knowing that she would have more time to spread out and tell and extended narrative, Simone took her time introducing the new cast of characters, which consisted of existing folks like Deadshot and Catman, very surprising new takes on old characters like Bane, and original characters like Rag Doll (created by Simone in Villains United) and a strange, leatherclad woman named Jeanette. As the story proceeds, we get the narrative device that will hold this entire series together: A Get Out Of Hell Free card.
Then, much later, in #s 31-33, we finally see this storyline come to its logical end, as one of the characters uses the card to save someone she loves—only to be betrayed. Love and betrayal are the common theme for all of Simone’s work with the Six—and it’s great. Issues #1-7 were drawn by Nicola Scott, an incredible artist, and #31-33 were wonderfully illustrated by Jim Calafiore. Read more about it here tomorrow.