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Waiting For Tommy XXXVI
By Richard Johnston
Okay, yes, yes, I know you lot were expecting a Waiting For Tommy with Chris Claremont, but he's a busy man, got far more important things to attend to than the likes of little old me.

Thankfully Birds Of Prey/Agent X/Gus Beezer/Simpsons writer, Gail Simone was on hand on AOL's instant messenger to chat. So I decided to make a good opener.

RICHARD JONSTON: So, Chris, what did you think of X-Men 2 then?

GAIL: I liked the bits where Storm was naked. Or maybe that was Monster's Ball. Was Wolverine in Monster's Ball?

RICHARD: Yes. Definitely. It's a collector's item now. Sorry, sorry, um. Who are you again?

GAIL: Gail Simone. Some of my best-known non-work does not include a legendary run on the X-Men, and I also didn't create the cult -avourite Sovereign Seven. You might have enjoyed one of my many novels I didn't write, as well.

RICHARD: Are you as good as you used to be?

GAIL: I'm confused even by the part of this interview that I understand.

RICHARD: Oh you should have read the Joe Quesada interview. Actually, no you probably shouldn't have. No one should. Hang on, you did that Gus Beezer thing didn't you?

GAIL: Yes, I did that Gus Beezer thing...that was very close to the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, doing a kids' book. Something I've gotten to do a bit with Bongo's Bart Simpson book, but this was my first chance to create all the characters from scratch.

The thing I've discovered is that in this career, I'm a complete contrarian. If the conventional wisdom says it's a bad market to do kids' books, then I want to do kids' books RIGHT NOW. Even though it's riskier, I think the rewards are greater. In the history of comics, the turning points were all against conventional wisdom... team books don't sell, horror comics don't sell, etc.

RICHARD: Even if the name bore a resemblance to a certain British weekly kids comic that ran for half a century...

GAIL: Yeah, and THANKS FOR POINTING THAT OUT AFTER THE BOOK CAME OUT, RICH! I'd never heard of the comic Beezer, but I was aware that 'beezer' is English slang. But there's no actual character called Beezer previously, is there?

RICHARD: Um... no. Any idea how many kids bought it, or had it bought for them - as opposed to very big kids indeed, storing it in long boxes next to their copies of Gusset Girls from Eros Comix?

GAIL: It wasn't a big seller overall in the direct market, we know that much, but a lot of stores did very well with it, much better than expected. The thing is, you can't have customers without the appropriate product. You can't invent a kids' market overnight, and many stores just don't have that many kids in the client base at this point. You need more books like Gus, Herobear and the Kid, Zoom's Academy, Leave It To Chance, the Archie line...you need all of them to have a wide enough selection of choices to appeal to kids.

A perfect example is the Sonic The Hedgehog books. These books have this extremely in-depth continuity that has very little to do with the video games, as far as I can see, and yet the audience that buys them--they're completely hooked. They have to have every issue. They do fansites. That's a serious achievement, one that the major companies are having a hard time duplicating. But why not try? Sales figures aren't the only reason to do a book. They're crucial, sure, but some things are worth attempting even knowing they're not going to make Wizard's top ten list. Everyone involved in Gus gave it their best effort... we felt it was worthwhile.

RICHARD: Mmm. Did you have visions of thousands of forty-year old large men in just their pants sitting down and reading Gus? Did that interfere with your creative vision at all?

GAIL: No. First, I'm dead sick of the myth of all readers being perpetual stay-at-home, masturbating, middle-aged white guys. My experience at the San Diego convention was that (and I'm sure this is heresy) for the most part, the readers were cooler than we people on the other side of the table. I think a big portion of the fan-bashing that goes on is just simple self-loathing. Second, if a 40 year old guy reads Pogo or Peanuts or yes, Calvin and Hobbes, we don't really think anything strange about it, nor should we. Why liking comic strip-style books is somehow shameful, but liking Green Punch Man isn't doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

And finally, we DID receive a great deal of mail from Marvel readers who shared the Gus books with their families, maybe the first comic books they'd ever felt they could do that with. That's worth doing. We have teachers using them in classrooms. Dyslexic kids wanting to read them on their own when reading for pleasure is pretty rare.

RICHARD: Bizarrely, I used to refer to the stereotype of *thirty* year-old large men in their pants. until I turned thirty. Now they're all forty. Forty, I tell you. There was talk that Marvel was kicking off a young kids' comic line. Did anything happen there, to your knowledge? Is Gus a comic book John The Baptist?

GAIL: I'm not sure what else they have planned, but I hope they do more. It looks like we'll be doing more Gus, for one thing. But I highly recommend the Mini-Marvel comics, which are funny and charming. I know they do hope to be doing more things for a wider market, which Gus was originally intended for.

RICHARD: What's the likelihood of Gus being exposed more to that market?

GAIL: Pretty dang good, if all goes as planned.

RICHARD: Would this be a wonderful opportunity to reveal those plans?

GAIL: It would, but the exact nature of the plan is still a'borning, so anything I told you would likely be wrong. But Marvel has been great about this book. They let us do the book we intended, and the few suggestions they made added a great deal. I have to say again that I'm crazy about the Jason Lethcoe art. He really made the book and no amount of credit is enough.

I also have to say, I talked to a lot of retailers who took a chance and ordered Gus very heavily. I can't thank them enough, either.

RICHARD: No argument here on Jason. I'll steal him when your back's turned. So have Marvel always been great about the books you've worked on, allowing you to do what you intended?

GAIL: You're a trickster demon, Rich.

RICHARD: What? Did I mention Agent X? Not me. I'm just talking off the top of my head.

GAIL: I had problems with one editor. It obviously became a big pain in the butt for everyone involved, including him, and I have to take my share of the blame for that. I don't want to pretend it didn't happen, because it led to me leaving a book I thought was just starting to really cook, but on the other hand, it's in the past, and I'm sure we all learned from it. But to focus on that one thing is to ignore the fact that the other editors I worked with at Marvel were fantastic to me, and very supportive. It's just an isolated thing, happens to everyone in this business on both sides of the editor/creator line at some point.

Pages: 1 | 2 | 3 Continued Here...

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