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Old 01-24-2007, 05:10 PM   #1
MattBrady
 
THE SIMONE FILES I: BIRDS OF PREY - UPDATED

If you last picked up DCís Birds of Prey say, just prior to Infinite Crisis or at the start of the seriesí ďOne Year LaterĒ issues, or heck Ė if youíve never picked it up, issues #100-up feel like a brand new series.

Sure Ė Oracle (Barbara Gordon) is still there, calling the shots, and the Huntress is around, but Black Canary is gone, and the team is made up of Big Barda, Judomaster, Manhunter, and Gypsy, with more promised in the wings. Currently, the team is on a mission which involved rescuing a mob bossí daughter (Tabby) from a Mexican prison. While the old Birds may have done it with stealth and guile, not alerting anyone until they were miles away, this version Ė not so much. The prisonís a wreck, and Manhunter is still there, fighting alongside Gypsy.

On top of that, Spy Smasher is hunting Oracle with a unique weapon Ė Lois Lane. Oh Ė and thereís this teleporting kid called Misfit around, who dresses in a Batgirl outfit.

Intrigued? Scratching your head at least?

Over the coming days, weíre going to be talking to Birds of Prey writer Gail Simone about all of her projects, so to kick the miniseries of interviews off, we sat down with her to talk some BoP.

Newsarama: Let's start with looking at the team as it changed around with issue #100. First off, why? You had a good thing going with Canary, Huntress and Oracle as the core - why go and change it? Were fans getting restless, had you just written all you could with them...what?

Gail Simone: Itís interesting...Iím with those who feel that the greatest strength of Bird of Prey has been that itís something unusual in Hollywood and darn near unheard of in comics -- a female buddy book. More than that, itís a book with female leads that has managed to appeal to both guys and girls, so itís always a bit of a risk to screw with that, even temporarily.

But ongoing comics are like music, in a way...you have to have movement, you have to have those unexpected crescendos and key changes, or eventually, itís just death for the reader.

It was strongly felt at DC that, mostly due to Birds of Prey Iím told, the Canary had become an interesting and powerful enough character to stand a bit more on her own, to take more of a center stage role. So while sheís my favorite character of all, I adore her enough to know that thatís a positive thing, for her to go from Ollieís wet blanket to more of a key player in the DCU.

As Iíve said elsewhere, the first forty-five issues or so of my BoP run are actually one big long story--Black Canary Rising. We started with her at her lowest point, and took her to where I think she can, say, kick ass hugely in Bradís JLA and itís natural, itís organic and believable. That was always the goal.

Am I glad sheís gone? I wouldnít say that at all--I miss her a lot, and so does Babs. But I have to admit itís certainly thrown the book into overdrive, and Iím loving seeing Babs try to fill Dinahís role with a variety of characters with their own agendas and problems.

So, while itís sad to see Dinah go, and I hope itís not permanent, itís a joy to write Barda and Manhunter, and I think weíre going to see a deep focus on Huntress, as well. Thatís good times!

NRAMA: That said, as your characters have pretty much said in the series, with the team as it is now, it's a completely different dynamic than it was when Canary was there. Comparatively speaking, how much of a change is it for you to write? Like a completely new book? Ground level the same, and all the new floors have to be re-built?

GS: Thatís the worst analogy ever. I feel like Iím on This Old House.

NRAMA: Talk Bob, talkÖ

GS: [laughs] The thing is, the dynamic is now fiery. The team is a group of individuals, quite unlike the friendship between Dinah, Helena and Babs. And any team with Barda on it automatically has a certain bull in a China shop tremble, and I love that.

Plus, remember, this is something the readers have asked for for years, a rotating team of agents. At the moment, Babs is mostly focusing on female agents, but soon, we will have the first full-blown member - man, I should rethink that phrase - who has boy parts. Itís a nice switch-up, and we couldnít really make it happen with the old roster being so complete in itself.



NRAMA: What were you, as the writer looking for in constructing a team?

GS: Characters who test Babsí patience, really. Whatís more fun than a control freak like Babs working with an agent like Barda, who thinks throwing cars is perfectly subtle?

And the fun thing is, the line-up is going to be very fluid for a while...some characters get a brighter spotlight, while some are a bit more of a cipher. But if you have a favorite DC female, itís now possible for her to show up in the book in a significant way, and I think thatís really entertaining.

NRAMA: Speaking of that - you work in a shared universe - were there any difficulties in assembling the team you wanted? Some of your candidates had already been spoken for, but, for example, was anyone laying claims on Barda, with the New Gods material coming up? Speaking just for you, as the creator again, did anyone just miss out from making the cut?

GS: Actually, Barda was Danís choice. Bop has had a bit of a reputation for restoring some luster to characters that might have been out of the spotlight for a little bit. Iíd love to see Wonder Woman, Power Girl and Supergirl at least appear...weíre talking about all of that. And Iím hoping to see Mary Marvel in the book, if events in Shazam make that possible.

Really, itís been pretty easy...Marc Andreykoís been hugely supportive of Manhunterís appearances in BoP, and thatís made her inclusion all the more delightful.

NRAMA: Speaking of other female characters, with the introduction of Spy Smasher into the storyline, you changed the tone of the book significantly - that is, putting a constant cat and mouse element in there - on top of what you had done with the Calculator and Babs.

Why'd you wait until #100 to make all these changes? It seems like the start of One Year Later would've been a more natural place, rather than have the changes from OYL, and then the changes again...

GS: Again, the first OYL story was important to show how close to the cliff Dinah was willing to go. Nothing mattered to me as much as finishing that story before Dinah became unavailable to us for whatever reason. I felt, and still feel, that it shows Dinah as a different beast entirely from any other comics heroine.

As for Spy Smasher, I felt the DCU needed a Jack Bauer. In these early issues, she looks like a pointed allegory to the abuse of powers by the government, but she doesnít see it that way, and sheís a lot more complex than that. Itíd be a cheat to simply make her evil and completely hate-able, I think. Sheís got some levels. And she knows Babsí weaknesses.

I like her. Sheís very very dark.

NRAMA: Continuing with the change/shared universe theme - is it a correct assumption to say that Dinah is moving to Star City? Are you handing her and Sin over to the Green Arrow team, or are you going to be in charge of them while they're there, regardless of their likely supporting cast roles in the Green Arrow book?

GS: To be honest, Iím a little bit out of the loop on that. I was offered the opportunity to write or co-write those stories, but I felt it would have meant leaving Bop to free up the schedule, and thatís not something I seem to be able to do at this point. I just enjoy the book too much.

So while theyíve kept me informed quite graciously on some major beats, I donít really know all the details.

NRAMA: Moving into the current storyline with the team - why is Spy Smasher so eager to shut the Birds down?

GS: We talk about her rivalry with Babs a little bit in issue #103, but even above their competitive natures, there is a perfectly valid and honest ideological difference of opinion there. Babs believes what sheís doing is necessary, Katarina believes what Babs is doing is treason. They actually like each other, but like brothers fighting on opposite sides of the civil war, the distance between them is so vast and clearly drawn that they canít even hope to reconcile. They were friends; their ideals make them bitter enemies.

NRAMA: Okay Ė and just to touch on details from the rest of the story - Manhunter was supposed to leave the prison, but opted to stay behind?

GS: Exactly right, Manhunter used Babsí mission as a distraction for her own mission, authorized by the D.E.O.

And, can I just say that Nicola Scott draws a damn amazing Manhunter? Yikes.

NRAMA: Misfit - have there been - as she seems to suggest, more meetings between her and Barbara, albeit off camera? At first, Barbara seemed pretty unreceptive to the idea of having her around, and by issue #102Öwhat changed?

GS: I think that assuming she has Babsí approval would be a mistake. But here we have possibly the most powerful teleporter in comics, and where she wants to go, she can go. But Babs is awfully smart and awfully sneaky, so pulling her pigtails is never the wisest plan.

NRAMA: What else can be said about Misfit? As, again, your characters pointed out for you, she's similar in ways to Black Alice, who just showed up...what purpose does she serve for the stories you're looking to tell?

GS: Sheís similar in age only, really. If you put the two together, theyíd probably kill each other. They couldnít be more different in attitude. How else are they even slightly similar?

But there should always be a place in the DCU for an annoyingly enthusiastic teleporter, and Ambush Bug seems to mostly be hiding, despite 52, so...

A more fair answer is that I find it really rewarding to have such a range of female personalities in the book. I get tired of reading comics and seeing the same damaged, mopey females over and over. I understand it, and it might be done brilliantly, but I like to see more of a gamut, from mopey to endlessly goofy.

NRAMA: Okay - we got that Spy Smasher tipped Lois to Barbara and Oracle...but why was Lois being such a...let's not get sexist here, but a mean, annoying, relentless media person? Was she actually looking to "out" Barbara as Oracle? If not, what was the purpose of the lunch? After all, going home would be kinda rough if she helped put the Birds behind bars....Mr. Lois Lane might not be thrilled with that idea...

GS: This issue was probably the most controversial issue of Bop since the legendary ďWhy the hell did Helena sleep with Josh?Ē issue, but I stand by it. I think the problem is, the reader knows that Babsí heart is pure, so we donít think anything bad can come of her having Lois on her tail. But I think thatís a serious misjudgment of how completely badass and terrifying Lois can be to anyone who has a secret. You have to remember, Lois doesnít use Clark as a crutch, and she doesnít particularly consort with most of his JLA friends. An incredibly high-ranking governmental official sent Lois a tip that a master hacker actually used her skills to bring down a senator, not to mention the world-building and personal spying that Oracle does every morning after doing the dishes. Lois is, I think, the best, most dogged, most determined and fearless reporter in the DCU, and Babsí behavior, from the outside, looks like a very big story indeed.

However, Lois is, as the story says, no oneís pawn, and while fishing, sometimes with bait and sometimes with dynamite, Lois confirmed what sheíd suspected all along, that Spy Smasher was trying to play her against Oracle.

A lot of folks said, well, Clark knows Oracleís identity. But thereís really almost no evidence to support that at all, and I maintain that Lois would still do the follow-up, because sheís a professional. No one gets a complete free pass just because they might know Superman casually. I maintain that that simply isnít Lois. She really is almost the living spirit of the free press, or at least thatís how I see her, which is why I am fricking crazy about that character. Sheís not a pundit, sheís not a talk show host. Sheís a reporter.

NRAMA: But still Ė this is all getting very personal. What's at the root of the Spy Smasher/Oracle animosity?

GS: There is no enemy like a former friend, itís just that simple.

NRAMA: How in the holy heck did Oracle get a shot of Lois and Clark kissing? Um - that kinda takes her step beyond observant into just plain creepy...

GS: Well, this is intricate, but remember, Babs now has control of the twelve super-satellites that Luthor had built in secret when he was President. Theyíre quite beyond what our current technology and political climate would allow. And yes, Babs is a darling person, but ORACLE is one scary bitch sometimes.



NRAMA: Fair enough. Moving ahead - for #103...where are things headed? Manhunter is in a Mexican prison, the field operatives are on the hunt for some vicious agents of Spy Smasher who've taken Tabby, and what - Oracle has to put all the pieces together again?

GS: There is some question over whether or not the agents who have Tabby are straight or bent, but yeah, Oracleís in a tight spot. Over this arc and the next one, weíre going to see something no one ever thought theyíd see in Birds of Prey, I think, and it affects Oracle directly and massively.

After that, I just want to say to anyone who has dropped the book for any reason, or if they havenít yet tried it, Iím telling you, climb aboard with issue #104. Thereís enough crazy stuff in this arc for a year of most books. Trust me on this...#104. First, the Secret Six guest star, almost like a JLA/JSA team-up where the two teams hate each other. This leads to possibly the most insane battle the book has ever had. Itís worth it for Barda vs. Knockout alone. Zinda and Spy Smasher have it out over who is the better pilot. A member of the Six has some lust for a Bird of Prey. Two much-loved female characters who have never had a real role in BoP appear, one joining the Birds, one joining the Six. Fights in the snow in Russia, a fight between a motorcyclist and a flyer, and someone who truly deserves it gets the *&^^% kicked out of them. Vodka is consumed, Scandal wears a tux, Ragdollís jacket is ruined, and all manner of bad behavior is exhibited by both teams, thank god.

And those arenít even the big event of the first issue of the arc.

Iím just saying. #104 is a great time to get on board. This arc has the velocity of a bullet train with jet engines attached. Issue #104, burn that into your brain. I kid you not. This story has so much stuff in it there may not even be room for eggs.

NRAMA: Obviously, BoP is the DC property you've been on the longest, and are arguably most associated with, out of all your work. First off - what keeps you on the book? We see creators all the time who run out of stories, or want to move on after relatively short stints...you've been on Birds of Prey for what...four years in June. What has its hooks in you about the characters?

GS: Truthfully, itís just sheer love of the characters, and a stingy, mean little desire on my part to keep my grubby mitts on them at all times forever. Dinah leaving opened up a thousand doors for the book, and while I do hope she returns at some point, in the meantime, the book is re-inventing itself into more of a Mission: Impossible thing, only with better hair and less Scientology.

I think the Boppers tend not to apologize, and I feel the same way about the book. The characters donít apologize for being asskickers, nor for being smart, nor for being sexy, nor for being sexual, for that matter. There are always going to be some people who find that not to their taste, but at the same time, BoP regularly brings in people who donít otherwise read mainstream comics, a whole audience that may not pick up any other superhero titles, and I love that niche, that little area between good taste and utter shamelessness.

On top of that, we have great editors in Mike Carlin and Tom Palmer, Jr., lots of support from DC, and more than anything else, a hot new art team featuring Doug Hazelwood on inks, the always great Hi-Fi on colors, and Nicola Scott on pencils. Nicola became something of an internet sensation with her unbelievable sketches of great DC heroines, and it was just a matter of time before someone got lucky and snatched her up, and we were those lucky people, this time out.

She brings a vitality and love of superheroines thatís just undeniable, and sheís completely reinvigorated the bookís visuals. She just kicks ass, and Iím delighted to work with her.

Maybe you should interview herÖ

NRAMA: Maybe you should interview herÖ

GS: Maybe I will.

NRAMA: But that said - is this the book they'll have to pull out of your cold, dead fingers?

GS: Iím sure some day theyíll drag me away, kicking and screaming. But Dan DiDio strongly believes in the book and what it brings to the DCU. There are a hundred books with a grim dark {yawn} avenging hero with a score to settle and {snooze} a past heís trying to {snore} overcome....zzzzzzzzzzzzz. BoP isnít that book and never will be, and that makes it really a pleasure to have been a part of. I get tremendous freedom to tell the stories I want to tell with little interference...itís a bit of a dream gig.

NRAMA: Alright Ė wrapping things upÖbroad strokes - where are things going in the coming year? How stable is the team as it stands? How long will Spy Smasher keep this up, and how far will she go? What will become of Misfit? Take it, Gail...

GS: This is a long interview. I canít believe weíre doing five of these. Whose idea was this? What the hell is going on? These arenít my pants! SWEET CHRISTMAS!

First, DC says I can announce something pretty cool. Theyíve asked and Iíve accepted an extension on my exclusive agreement, which makes me really happy. I have a fierce love for each of the projects Iím working on, and I canít imagine having the freedom I have here at any other company.

Thanks to all the Bop readers who have made it such a consistent seller for so long, and thanks even more to those who have shared the book with their comic-skeptic friends.

NRAMA: And that broad strokes teasing?

GS: #104.

Iím just saying.
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Old 01-24-2007, 05:33 PM   #2
Ye Olde Iowa
 
I have said it before and I will say it until I can't say it anymore, Gail is simply amazing and this interview is proof why. Seriously, I can't even count how many times I've recommended her books to people and I've yet to speak with anyone who was less than satisfied. I'm incredibly glad to see that she extended her exclusivity with DC because, seriously, I can't imagine anyone writing BoP or Gen13 or anything involving the Secret Six without royally screwing up all of the greatness she has brought to these books.
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Old 01-24-2007, 05:37 PM   #3
Marc Andreyko
 
what's not to love about gail? and, if i can't write a monthly Manhunter book, there's NO ONE i'd rather entrust Kate to that the multi-talented Ms. Simone.


marc
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Old 01-24-2007, 05:38 PM   #4
Michael K. Willis
 
I'm certainly not against change but, that said, I was worried that this book might go off the rails after Canary left for the JLofA...but I needn't have worried since it sounds like that there's much delightful BOP goodness in the offing (Barda vs. Knockout?!? SWEET CHRISTMAS, indeed! )

I'm digging Barda and Manhunter on the team and Lois and Spymaster getting all up in Babs' business. Zinda continues to be one of my favorites and Huntress has grown on me more than I once thought she could.

All that and the Secret Six, too? Rock on, Ms. Simone!!
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Old 01-24-2007, 05:42 PM   #5
kilroy
 
YES I want to thank you Gail for making BOP one of the only bat titles that has stayed on track since the original Bat Universe team left so many years ago. The book just keeps getting better. And while Im heart broken that manhunter was canceled AGAIN !( ^&%$ DAN) The way you wrote her Kate was........ Marc would be proud (And why hasnt Marc bene given another DC TITLE to write Dan! some books did not come out of IC and OYL for the better) AND PLEASE KEEP NICOLA ON THIS BOOK FOR A LONGER TIME THEN THE LAST FEW ARTIST. SHE IS AMAZING and if she ever does leave, get the cover artits to replace her. Another great addition to the bOp team

Last edited by kilroy : 01-24-2007 at 10:31 PM.
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Old 01-24-2007, 05:43 PM   #6
3r41n14c
 
Ungh

I was in love with the original team. It seems like OYL destroyed a lot of the progress made in many of the team books, especially BoP.
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Old 01-24-2007, 05:47 PM   #7
Ye Olde Iowa
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Andreyko
what's not to love about gail? and, if i can't write a monthly Manhunter book, there's NO ONE i'd rather entrust Kate to that the multi-talented Ms. Simone.


marc

I totally second that. While it's still absolutely horrible to see Manhunter being canceled again, having Gail take the reigns with the character certainly softens the blow (which, by the way, thanks for creating and kicking so much ass on the Manhunter book Marc!).
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Old 01-24-2007, 05:52 PM   #8
Layters
 
Seriously i was dealing with the cancelation expecting you to anounce an ongoing team book featuring Kate. Love Gail but I need my Andreyko fix goddamit. Seiously you and Sean Mckeever are the only two writers I know that are deserving of writer superstar staus that havent got it yet. Seriously u guys should hang. Stay away from the gym showers though. In Joke ask Sean.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Andreyko
what's not to love about gail? and, if i can't write a monthly Manhunter book, there's NO ONE i'd rather entrust Kate to that the multi-talented Ms. Simone.


marc
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Old 01-24-2007, 05:56 PM   #9
swoodey
 
I loves me some ass kicking Gail BoP goodness.
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Old 01-24-2007, 05:57 PM   #10
Nathan Jewell
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MattBrady

GS: At the moment, Babs is mostly focusing on female agents, but soon, we will have the first full-blown member - man, I should rethink that phrase - who has boy parts.


Seeing as how Deadshot belongs in the suicide squad book and really isnt the do-gooder type, I think we will be seeing Catman's full-blown member, err, as a full-blown member.

However, if he does, then I really hope we get a number of cameo apperances from Deadshot. I love that character.
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Old 01-24-2007, 06:12 PM   #11
ShadoJakk
 
Gail does some of the best interviews i have ever read. Her work on BoP,Secret Six and Welcome to Tranquility is outstanding,and worth ever penny i spend. She is also something that is getting rarer to comics: She is a FAN first,Comic Pro Second. And she listens to both of those when creating the work she does.

Just don't offer her a Dr. Pepper.


Night Swordsman.
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Old 01-24-2007, 06:20 PM   #12
Disco Cookie
 
Gail is such a great writer. BOP has been a consistently excellent read ever since she took over the title. And at last I understand why OYL jumped the way it did in this title.

And what a nice piece of kudos from Marc Andreyko, proving that Mr Andreyko is not only one superb writer, but he's all class.
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Old 01-24-2007, 06:22 PM   #13
STL
 
I used to think this was one of those T&A books. But I picked up a cheap trade, the Battle Within, and I found out how wrong I was. This is an incredibly fun little book about character development and friendship. I've been picking it up monthly ever since and hunting down back issues.

Love this book - despite how different the cast fews now without Black Canary.
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Old 01-24-2007, 06:24 PM   #14
Lucifer
 
How did I miss all this @ 100? Big Barda, Manhunter, Bulleteer!

I hope Gail handles the Nightwing/Oracle mystery...I just have more faith in her writing than Wolfmans.

And please more Secret Six!...it's 1 of 3 books (Wonder Woman, Manhunter) that my girlfriend reads as soon as I get home from the comic shop.
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Old 01-24-2007, 06:33 PM   #15
BillReed
 
Two words, Gail:

Lady. Cop.

(For membership.)

(Parentheses don't count.)
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Old 01-24-2007, 06:39 PM   #16
gwangung
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by STL
I used to think this was one of those T&A books. But I picked up a cheap trade, the Battle Within, and I found out how wrong I was. This is an incredibly fun little book about character development and friendship. I've been picking it up monthly ever since and hunting down back issues.

Love this book - despite how different the cast fews now without Black Canary.

I think it's a good thing. It allows for a different kind of group and reduces stagnation. And it was done in an organic, character based way which worked for me.

And I think it's a good thing to take steps to fight against the stylization that rabid fandom tends to encourage. The group isn't becoming an embalmed version of itself, and the group nature of the book is a nature way to avoid that.
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Old 01-24-2007, 06:43 PM   #17
bsmith
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by BillReed
Two words, Gail:

Lady. Cop.

(For membership.)

(Parentheses don't count.)

Awesome!

On a more (presumably) serious note, THE BULLETEER's appearance in the title was too short - let's give her a shot at full-time membership!

Bsmith
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Old 01-24-2007, 06:44 PM   #18
Xero
 
Really hoping that Marc gets a book soon. As always Gail is a fun interview and one of the best writers in the business.

Here's hoping Velvet Tiger shows up soon.
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Old 01-24-2007, 06:47 PM   #19
Disco Cookie
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bsmith
THE BULLETEER's appearance in the title was too short - let's give her a shot at full-time membership!

Very much agreed. Her appearance in 52 was also too transitory - Gail, we know you'll treat Bulleteer right!
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Old 01-24-2007, 06:49 PM   #20
Bobby Nash
 
BOP is consistently one of my favorite titles each month. Keep up the good work, Gail.

Bobby
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Old 01-24-2007, 06:56 PM   #21
chbryan
 
There's just such a great sensibility in Gail Simone's writing -- sense of character, sense of place, sense of humor, sense of adventure -- which is surprisingly unusual in a lot of superhero books these days.

As to BoP, I'll tend to prefer characters on the lower-powered side -- Manhunter is a great addition, and Gail is about the only writer other than Marc Andreyko who can do justice to Ms. Kate. Judomaster fits in well, too, but for the luv-a-God have someone redesign that costume. Barda seems an odd chioce, especially visually, but if anyone can make her fit in, it's our Gail.

Male members? Whether full-blown or merely fluffed, I hope it's not a long member . . . ship. I love that this title has an all-female cast.
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Old 01-24-2007, 07:05 PM   #22
RDFozz
 
Given that Gail says she was given some idea of where Dinah was headed, it'll be interesting to see how the current situation is reconciled.

I mean, Dinah left the Birds because she thought her adopted child deserved a full-time parent, who wasn't constantly risking her life. So, how does this jibe with joining the JLA, exactly?
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Old 01-24-2007, 07:05 PM   #23
spacekicker
 
Holy wow

Bop + Secret Six....*drools*

Now here's to hoping that DC will figure it out and give Secret Six their own series!!!

Gail, you are the queen!

spacekicker
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Old 01-24-2007, 07:07 PM   #24
TheGrayHulk
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Andreyko
what's not to love about gail? and, if i can't write a monthly Manhunter book, there's NO ONE i'd rather entrust Kate to that the multi-talented Ms. Simone.


marc

I just want to say to Mr Andreyko that I started reading Birds of Prey with #100 because Kate was in it and I'm reading the book now mainly because I want to see more of her.

PS: When are we going to see an All Star Wonder Woman written by Gail? Come on, Didio, wise up!
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Old 01-24-2007, 07:07 PM   #25
Gail Simone
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Andreyko
what's not to love about gail? and, if i can't write a monthly Manhunter book, there's NO ONE i'd rather entrust Kate to that the multi-talented Ms. Simone.


marc


Marc, you're a sweetie and a gracious guy, but everyone knows you're the writer for Kate, period. I'm just trying to completely rip you off---I mean, write an homage to your wonderful character. And if I have to shave my head to do it, SO BE IT!

Gail
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