If you follow Gail Simone on Twitter (or anywhere else) you know she’s not shy about expressing her opinions, sometimes sarcastically, sometimes not. She’s a creator who’s very vocal with her fans so while her many tweets yesterday did not come as a surprise, the content of one of them did. DC Comics has told her she is no longer writing Batgirl.
This was my first thought after reading Simone’s tweet.
On Wednesday of last week, new Batgirl editor Brian Cunningham informed me by email that I was no longer the writer of Batgirl.
— GailSimone (@GailSimone) December 9, 2012
And then the internet exploded.
While getting fired is never a happy experience, getting fired when your work has led to a hugely successful run for your company is that much worse. This is not one of those instances where a title has a great deal of critical acclaim but not the financial success to back it up. Batgirl has been DC’s top-selling female-led title in the New 52, sells consistently better than the majority of DC’s line, not to mention the first collected graphic novel of the book landed at #4 on the NY Times hardcover graphic books best-seller list this year. It’s one thing to switch up creative teams when a book is faltering but Batgirl was anything but, so why the change?
Anything we can put forth is purely speculation and at this point, there are way too many directions to go in as far as reasoning goes, so I won’t get into it. What we do know is Simone had an exclusive contract with DC (which recently expired) and now that she’s been taken off Batgirl, she no longer has an ongoing title at the company (for the first time since the early 2000s I believe). The only project we have her connected with at DC is the previously discussed Time Warp anthology from Vertigo.
Also important to note is not only has Simone been removed from the title, it seems her plans for the character and title might never see the light of day. She replied to a question on Tumblr about seeing Batgirl’s recovery from paralysis, “Sadly, the new editor nixed everything we had planned. I think it’s very likely that will still be covered, but it will not be in the way we had been building to, which I am very sad about. And those issues are already written, but will not be published, I gather.” And as for the transgender character she was creating for the book, “I think it’s very unlikely that thread will be followed up on in Batgirl, sadly. The worst thing about this is all the beautiful things we had set up will likely not happen, as new editors and creative teams understandably want to forge their own trail.”
Besides being personally upset Simone will no longer be writing the title (and knowing a lot of others are too), the other issue here is what this looks like. DC is not alone in remaining silent when it comes to creator controversies. When we reported on Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn’s superhero sex list, we expected a comment from Marvel/Disney but never saw one. Other companies frantically put out official statements when something with the potential to upset customers goes public but that hasn’t been my experience with comic publishers. Perhaps they’re worried about legal ramifications or getting into he said/she said territory but in the age of social networking, responses are not only expected, they’re demanded. Clear and easy communication with companies via Facebook, Twitter and the like have given fans and customers the ability to express their concerns and have not just the company, but the world see it.
Graeme McMillan writes about what will probably be the biggest issue with the revelation:
For one thing, there’s the way it looks, from a PR standpoint; coming less than a week after Karen Berger stepped down as Executive Editor and SVP at DC, it revives memories (and discussion) of DC’s perceived sexism both in terms of those working at the publisher (Berger and Simone were not only the most high-profile women within the company, for awhile Simone was the only female creator working on an ongoing title at the company, remember) and the output of the publisher (Last week also saw the debut of this cover, reminding people of just how naked Starfire is these days).
Without Simone, Anne Nocenti and Christy Marx are the only woman writing ongoing titles at DC while Cat Staggs is doing covers for their Smallville digital series. While Simone may not be placing any blame publicly and is, in fact, being quite gracious about her time writing Batgirl, not everyone is staying so neutral. Important to remember is something Simone pointed out after the announcement:
Guys, I’m hearing that people are getting personal nasty emails about this Batgirl thing. PLEASE don’t do that. — GailSimone (@GailSimone) December 10, 2012
That seems to be a trend in comic controversies. Tempers flare and people use the internet as if it’s a trash can, throwing out obscene statements that could easily get them arrested. It’s ok to be angry, it’s not ok to send death threats.
But it’s fans and creators who are making the noise online on behalf of Simone, airing grievances, and raising legitimate concerns. Most are just simply confused by the decision, they’ve seen the publisher make what they believe are odd choices in the past, but this one seems to take the cake.
Simone wrote on Tumblr:
I want to thank DC for giving me the opportunity to write Barbara. When the new52 was announced, I was terrified that telling early stories of Barbara would mean completely invalidating her story as a disabled icon. We tried our best never to forget that, even when putting her back in the suit.
Very few writers are ever lucky enough to get to work in the bat-offices, it’s a rare honor and thrill and I absolutely loved it and will miss it terribly.
Are we worried about Simone landing on her feet? No, she’s already working on her creator-owned title with Jim Calafiore, Leaving Megalopolis, which they hosted a hugely successful Kickstarter for, and we’re pretty sure her name alone gets her in the door of many venues. But what now? Not for Simone, but for Barbara Gordon.
Simone’s run is expected to end with the finale of the “Death in the Family” crossover event and word is there was going to be a fill-in writer that may take over the title. No word on who that actually is yet but you can expect a huge fan backlash no matter the name. Many will drop the title on principle alone. We have to remember, Simone was the sole reason a lot of readers even picked up the New 52 in the first place, myself included.
It’s doubtful we’ll hear anything official from DC Comics on this decision, at least until they announce the new writer. Until then, we’re scratching our heads.