Gail Simone and Cat Staggs at New York Comic Con 2017 by ComicsVerse

ComicsVerse had the absolute pleasure of talking with acclaimed comics creators Gail Simone and Cat Staggs at this year’s New York Comic Con! For your convenience, you can read the transcript below or watch the video on YouTube or iTunes!

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ComicsVerse: You’re watching ComicsVerse, covering NYCC 2017. My name is Kay, and I am with my friend and work associate Rachel. We’re here to interview a very talented team behind CROSSWIND. Cat Staggs, a beautiful artist, and also, of course, Gail Simone, the creator of Women in Refrigerators concept.

So how are you guys doing today?

Gail Simone: It’s been an amazing…

Cat Staggs: Fantastic.

Gail Simone: Yeah, it’s been an amazing weekend. We’ve been really talking a lot about CROSSWIND and getting a lot of copies of the book into people’s hands that didn’t pick it up at the store, so I’m completely excited about that. It’s been great.

Cat Staggs: Yeah, it’s been absolutely a madhouse. We’re just, practically like this all day, which is great. More eyes on the book is all we want.

Gail Simone: Exactly.

ComicsVerse: Yeah, so I think before the interview, we kind of got a sense that you guys are at least friendly with each other or very…

Cat Staggs: Yes.

ComicsVerse: Very friendly and get along very well. How did this project come about, and how does your kind of understanding and friendship benefit the project that you’re working on together?

Gail Simone: Cat and I wanted to work together actually for quite a few years. Every time we’d go by each other at the cons we’re like, “We got to work together someday, we got to work together someday,” but the scheduling and things didn’t align. I had this idea about CROSSWIND and I was talking to Cat and I didn’t know at the time that she’s a huge fan of crime fiction. So I was like, “Oh my god, this has got to be the one, this has got to be the thing that we do.”

Cat Staggs: Yeah, sure enough. As soon as she said “crime book,” I was like, “Yes. I don’t care what else is involved. Yes.” But also, just to finally have the schedules come together, God, it was such a great, great timing.

ComicsVerse: Yeah, I think that going off of kind of how you guys were friendly and obviously friends beforehand and had wanted to work together. At least for you Gail, I think that it’s been evident in your work for like DEADPOOL and other works, that you kind of have a sense of fun in your storytelling, which is invaluable in the comic book industry I believe. Do you think that that’s like a conscious decision that you make, or is it kind of your own personality that comes through in your writing?

Gail Simone: It’s both because sometimes I think certain situations really benefit from kind of lightening the mood or making a joke about it because otherwise, we can just keep sinking lower and lower and lower. I also think, in terms of storytelling, I prefer stories that have a roller coaster of emotions.

And I think if you just are hitting the same note over and over and over and over through a whole story, it loses its impact, so sometimes you just need to take a break. I think too, and Cat might argue with me on this, but I think art-wise you need to, too. You need to have quiet moments and moments that aren’t quite so full-on in order for those full-on moments to have the impact.

Crosswind by Gail Simone and Cat Staggs
Image courtesy of Image Comics.

ComicsVerse: Well, I think to carry on, yeah, exactly. Since, obviously, illustration is a little bit of a different art form, do feel that you try to bring a comedic element to…Like because there are comedic moments in CROSSWIND. Do you feel like you bring that or is it kind of an organic thing that happens?

Cat Staggs: I try to bring it. Hopefully, it’s coming across. Like Gail was saying, she has incredible timing. Her jokes hit at some of the most tense moments, and it gives a chance for the reader to catch their breath, and then we get right back into it. I try to have that same thing happen in the art, whether it be just like a quick expression on someone’s face or just something in the background or whatever. Just something to break the tension for just that split second so we can get back into it. It’s really important.

I mean, I think you can’t have really great tension without really good little bite of humor in there because everybody needs that. We can’t just go full on like a freight train, it’s exhausting. You need a…Even if it’s just a split second to catch your breath, it’s really important to the storytelling.

ComicsVerse: I believe in one issue of CROSSWIND, you were talking about a panelist and a creator named Charles Battersby, who’s a transcreator, I think. I was kind of wondering how your conversation with him, or getting his perspective on it changed how you went into storytelling for CROSSWIND because of the body swapping trove and then how the trans community is portrayed in comics and how you wanted to be mindful of that. How did you both actually kind of change or alter the way you approached this story?

Gail Simone: Well, what I always wanted to make clear, so it took a while to figure out the exact wording, but I wanted it to be clear that this was not a body swapping story that was just about gender. This is a body swapping story that’s about entire lives and personalities are switched. The body stuff is just part of it. That was very important with CROSSWIND that we understand that we’ve got people who are leading completely different lives from each other. One is in an abusive relationship and gets no respect from anyone at all. And the other one gets all the respect and demands all the respect that you can give a person.

That is one of the main themes of this particular story arc is what do you do with that? How does that change a person? How does that change your place in the world and how you view yourself and others when…Because you are reflected in other people’s eyes that deal with you, and so if you’re getting respect, then how do you respond back? If you’re not getting respect, do you just keep sinking lower and lower into yourself?

Then if you’re in a totally different situation, would you try to stay the same or would you change it? It’s just about those types of things. It’s about smoking and not smoking. It’s about gaining confidence or not gaining confidence, so it’s not just about the bodies.

Cat Staggs: Yeah, and I hesitate to say the main characters aren’t necessarily in the same position as a trans man or woman would be in because these people, they’re not, it’s not that they want to be male or female, they’re just thrown into it. There is another character that is actually trans in the book. I think the crux of your question more applies to that particular character and how they are portrayed. The two main characters, while dealing with having to all of a sudden pretend to be a man, they’re literally pretending.

I think it’s closer to a VICTOR, VICTORIA-type situation, where they’re pretending to be a man, and then pretending to be a woman to try not to get caught, and still figure out what’s going on. It’s a different kind of situation than a trans-man or -woman would be facing. Yeah, I think Gail’s doing a fantastic job of making that delineation. Our trans-character is, she’s fantastic.

Gail Simone: She kicks ass.

Cat Staggs: Yeah, she’s a bit of a firecracker. I really like her a lot.

ComicsVerse: I think that that definitely comes through, and as a fan, I’m very excited to see where that all goes. I’m going to turn it over to Rachel.

ComicsVerse: I remember in the introduction to the collected volume of SWORDS OF SORROW that you did a few years ago with Dynamite Entertainment, Gail, you discussed the importance of working with women creators and getting as many female voices as possible in comics. Now that you’re both female creators working together on a comic that you own, how important is it to continue to have female voices and perspectives in comics?

Gail Simone: It’s just extremely important. One of the reasons that, when I did work with Dynamite on RED SONJA and then we went into SWORDS OF SORROW, is because whenever I would request female artists or request female writers to work with, I’d always get the answer, “Well, there just aren’t any available. We don’t have enough, we can’t find anybody,” and so I sat down and I made a list and gave it to Dynamite.

They made the calls, and everyone accepted the call. One couldn’t do it the first time around, and then she did it the second time around. It was a long list and I’m like, “Bam. Don’t tell me this anymore. They’re out there, they’re talented, they want to do the work, they can do the work. Let’s go.”

Cat Staggs: Yeah. I think technically that was the first time we really worked together because I did a cover for one of your RED SONJAs.

Gail Simone: Right.

Cat Staggs: Yeah, I always tell people it’s like, people seemed to act like women just showed up, and all of a sudden we’re here to take all the jobs. It’s like, “We’ve been here the whole time, we’ve been in the room the whole time. It’s not our fault that you just noticed we’re here.”

I mean, we’re here, we’re ready to work, we tell good stories. People are fantastic at drawing, fantastic at writing. It’s just, 51 percent of the population needs to have representation and a voice. If people can just get over that part, we can all have really great stories.

Gail Simone: The point is to have a level playing field.

Cat Staggs: Right.

Gail Simone: So that if you are whatever you are, male, female, non-binary, wherever you’re from, whatever the situation is, that when you bring your portfolio or you want to discuss a story, that you’re going to be listened to equally as you would someone who doesn’t fit into those other categories per se. It’s just to have a level playing field and to be heard and listened to and considered. That’s the important part.

Cat Staggs: There’s a reason that women of the world literally let out a collective sob when WONDER WOMAN came out, because we finally had our representation on screen that was a complete character. It wasn’t just a background, sidekick superhero. I can’t stress representation more. It’s such a huge, huge thing we all need. Anyway you can get it, whether it’s male, female, gay, straight, black, white, Asian. Anything you can get, we all need that representation, because we’re all here, so…

Gail Simone: Well, and we need stories from different perspectives. Who wants to keep reading the same type of story or the same basic story over and over, same characters over and over? Boring.

Cat Staggs: Yeah, yeah.

ComicsVerse: You both worked with licensed characters and licensed products before, what with both of you at DC but also with Marvel and Dynamite for Gail, and with IDW for you, Cat. With CROSSWIND, you both own these characters and these stories. What are the challenges and rewards of having creator-owned comic?

Gail Simone: Well, the rewards are huge because this is something that we created together that we’re extremely proud of, and it’s out in the world now, and we’re getting feedback, and we love that. I wouldn’t say it’s a drawback, but we have to do more behind the scenes than we’re used to doing. Because when you work for licensed characters, they’ve got whole staff members that deal with the lettering and the proofreading, and all these kinds of things, and what kind of paper it’s going to be on, and that type of stuff. We have to make these decisions behind the scenes that we normally don’t.

I actually enjoy that to a certain extent, so I’m liking having the control over how it’s marketed, what’s said, the wording that’s used, all of those things. Then Cat, she’s got control over the physical art that gets shown.

Cat Staggs: Yeah, it’s also really nice, while I would draw Wonder Woman any given Sunday, it’s nice to have characters that aren’t coming with 70 years of baggage that you have to make sure you don’t deviate from. I mean, these guys we developed from inception and we can do whatever we want them because there’s no history that we have to make sure we don’t cross. That’s the freedom of the characters and the world that they’re in, it’s really refreshing. From a creative, it’s inspiring, basically. I’m creating this world, I can do whatever I want in it.

Gail Simone: I absolutely adore that Cat is finally creating her own characters, their look, the design. She’s doing interiors, which she hasn’t done too much before. Before the CROSSWIND number one came out, I was just, every day I was like, “I cannot wait for people to see this, because they have not seen this side of Cat.” It’s just genius, so it was amazing to finally get it out and say, “Yes, we made this thing and look.”

Cat Staggs: “I can draw pictures.”

Crosswind by Gail Simone and Cat Staggs
Image courtesy of Image Comics.

ComicsVerse: Last question. What do you think comics can do, and what should comics do as a medium?

Gail Simone: It’s just kind of an open question because I think that comics should be ahead of everyone, ahead of all mediums because we don’t have to…We’re only limited by the imagination and the people who are creating the product. We don’t have to have a big, huge movie budget. We don’t have to have years and years of writing a novel before it gets out.

We just need to think about that too, because you don’t have to keep doing what’s been done before. We have other platforms now, other ways for material to get read, so I really, I’m looking forward to seeing how people are going to tell their stories and get their stories out now and in the future because it just seems so unlimited by technology and materials and how we talk to people and get them to try the material.

Cat Staggs: I think, and then to piggyback on that, I think with the access people have on the Internet now, it’s probably one of the most wide-open platforms to get your stories out there.

Gail Simone: Exactly. You do not have to get published by the big, mainstream publisher, which they don’t take unsolicited submissions anyway for the most part.

Cat Staggs: Right, and you don’t have to, I mean, like even with TV and movies, you can’t just throw it up somewhere. I mean, you can kind of do a web series on YouTube, but that even in itself is a little bit limited. With comics, you can slap it up anywhere and even on YouTube, you can just make a little video with it. You have so many different ways to get that up and get it in front of eyes, and you tack on conventions and other ways of self-publishing. I mean, people can self-publish on Amazon. I mean, that’s a massive audience.

Gail Simone: Yeah, exactly.

Cat Staggs: Yeah, it’s probably one of the best exposure for anybody trying to make new stories and keep making new stories, just make the comic.

Gail Simone: Yeah, and you could figure out how to get people to see it now.

Cat Staggs: Yeah.

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2 Comments

  1. Rachel Davis

    Rachel Davis

    November 4, 2017 at 1:21 pm

    Loved interviewing with my partner in crime. One badass duo with another badass duo. <3

    Reply

  2. Rob Hernandez

    Rob Hernandez

    November 4, 2017 at 1:16 pm

    Image❤️

    Reply

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