MARK WAID: You now know more about these legendary comics characters than I do, and that’s saying something. How daunting was the research on this project?
GAIL SIMONE: It was incredibly daunting. We've spoken of this a lot, Mark, but I was raised in the boonies on a farm, and access to the source material of many of these characters was just something I never had. My knowledge of comics is pretty deep, but there are huge gaps, and my knowledge of some of the other media these characters appeared in is a lot more spotty. So that was indeed a daunting task.
But the research did turn out to be one of the most fun aspects, in the end. I kept finding out all these amazing things--I had no idea Miss Fury was such a trailblazing character; an anti-hero, by a female creator, that inspired many characters to follow, that started in the Golden Age, not in comics but in comic strips? I had no knowledge of any of that. It was a joy to include her, I felt a real connection to her creator, Tarpe Mills. I mean, here was a kick-ass woman adventurer, created, written and drawn by a woman, in 1941 ... it's kind of astounding that in 2015 we are still having a conversation about women creating comics and comics featuring women. 1941!
And then several of these characters, I had sort of misjudged. I looked at Jungle Girl and just thought, "Ah, a cheesecake Sheena rip-off," but then reading the book, you find these interesting themes and ideas, and the character of Jana herself is really charismatic and charming.
So all of this was a lot of discovery. I've said it before, but the most exciting thing for me is how we are bringing in ass-kicking women from all forms of adventure media fiction: comic strips, radio drama, black and white horror magazines, adventure literature, pulp fiction, comic books, and more. I even like that the “bad girl” period of comics is represented in the Chaos characters.
We put all the toys in the bag and shook them up, and that was a metric HELLton of work, but it was also very much a dream job, just ridiculously fun. Dejah Thoris getting on Red Sonja's nerves while Jennifer Blood shoots at Kato, it was just all too fun.
MW: Have the characters surprised you in any way as you’ve gone along?
GS: Yeah, I ended up really enjoying writing all of them. I thought I would have some favorites, like Red Sonja (of course), but what happened is almost every character showed their voice, even with limited panel space. It was as fun to write Black Sparrow and Lady Zorro as it was to write Dejah Thoris and Vampirella, whom I was a lot more familiar with.
Great characters want to be known, I think. And someone poured their heart into each of these characters, I am delighted to give them a chance to shine. I've said this a lot, I've had a lot of assignments, this might be the most pure fun I've had. If I want to put a dinosaur in, or a robot, I can do that, it just has to make sense. Also, I have to say, I had a lot of preconceptions about the Chaos characters, but a couple of them have really started to speak to me.
MW: Which of them has been your favorite to write? Which one has a voice that’s been hardest to grasp?
GS: Any chance I get to write Red Sonja, I am delighted, but what's fun in this book is who she is interacting with. Sonja hates royals, so she has an instant dislike of Dejah Thoris. And she has almost a big sister relationship with Jana, the Jungle Girl. All of that's a blast. It took a bit to find a voice for Masquerade, I was sort of faking it with her for a bit, but I think I came around to her.
One of the nicest things about this crossover is, I got to have a bunch of amazing writers writing fun tie-in books. I went and chose some of my favorite writers who were doing new things with female characters. People like Marguerite Bennett, Nancy Collins, G.Willow Wilson, Mikki Kendall, Mairghread Scott, Emma Beeby, Erica Schultz, and Leah Moore, just all writers whose stuff I love to read. So some of the characters get a little more panel time in those books, as well.
MW: What has artist Sergio Davila brought to the book?
GS: Just an inhuman level of dedication and commitment. Here's a guy, and he's being asked to do a book with several main characters and a couple dozen supporting characters, and he just never skimps, he never takes the shortcut. I have asked for pages with all the characters, and he draws it. I asked for him to draw a huge map of the new fantasy world created in the story, and he drew it. I can ask for ninjas or Martians or gorillas, he draws it all, and draws it beautifully. I feel very lucky to have him. Dynamite gave me a long list of potential artists, and for me, it was Sergio, hands down. I adore the guy. He also draws the women with dignity. They're beautiful, but they're fun and flawed and they're not just there to be drooled on. It's lovely.
MW: Fill in the blank: “Readers who like ______________ will really dig Swords of Sorrow!”
GS: Funnel cakes!
Or, gorgeous and dangerous women, 1940's radio dramas, science fiction, swords and sorcery, high adventure, cheap laughs, lightning-fast Martian dogs, gun-toting pulp crime fighters, snarky vampire queens, jungle adventures, it's all in there. We have been called the “best event book of the summer” by a LOT of critics, I'm very proud of that, but above all, we're having a party and we want you to be invited!
Check out the preview for the rest of issue #4 below!