There's some new and exciting things coming to Vertigo. One of them includes Gail Simone's first Vertigo series, CLEAN ROOM. With art by Jonathan Davis-Hunt (2000AD) and covers by Jenny Frison, Gail is ready to delve into a tale of psychological terror.
When we heard what the premise of this new series was, we jumped at the chance to ask Gail some questions about it.
COMIC VINE: The premise for CLEAN ROOM is both intriguing and creepy. What was the inspiration behind the concept?
GAIL SIMONE: It’s a question of what’s scary right now. I’m not afraid of vampires, no one is really afraid of vampires anymore, they’re the stuff of cartoons and bad romance novels. What’s scary to me at this point is the loss of control. Think of the power we give, the information we share with people who do not have our best interests at heart.
Some of these people, these people who offer help and advice to people in emotional need, they have no qualifications, no measure of success that can be seen. We make fun of tent revivalist faith healers, and then go buy some kale shake made of bee farts that drives out our imaginary toxins…what's the difference at that point?
I’ve always been fascinated by this. Why do we believe extraordinary claims without extraordinary proof?
And worse yet, what if we scoff at this stuff, and it all turns out to be true?
The basic story is a self-help guru named Astrid Mueller runs an organization that believes sinister things are controlling our world, and that only she can see the strings. But she's managed to get a journalist named Chloe angry, and Chloe has nothing to lose. These people operate partially on fear.
But Chloe is not afraid. She has nothing left to be afraid of.
CV: How did you decide that Vertigo was the right place for this story?
GAIL: There was a time when Vertigo was publishing the only comics I wanted to buy. After talking with Shelly Bond, my fabulous editor, and hearing her vision for a renewed sense of wonder in the imprint, I wanted in. I could have taken this elsewhere, but Vertigo called it to them, somehow.
CV: At what point did Jonathan Davis-Hunt become part of the project?
GAIL: That’s the amazing thing, and why we felt this book had a destiny to it.
We looked at dozens of artists, big name people you would know well. But we didn't get the feel we wanted, something that was charming and real-world, but with a terrifying fantasy to it. That’s not easy stuff.
Jon is relatively new to comics, he was making big money doing video games, but he came aboard and just destroyed every page, every character. Every change he made was an improvement. I couldn't love him more if he was made of butterscotch.
We saw his pages and just said, THIS IS THE GUY.
CV: Has seeing his art changed anything in the tone or story you had originally planned?
GAIL: Oh, yeah, you quickly learn what your artist is capable of. Jon allows me to write anything, no matter how subtle, because he will draw it. But also, he has a thirst for horrifying imagery, so we are busy supplying him nightmares.
The funniest thing was, I specifically asked for Astrid not to be a redhead, because I have a bit of a reputation for that, as you may know. But when Jon turned in the designs, he said, “I really felt she should be a redhead.”
He was right, too, dammit.
CV: How would you describe the characters Astrid and Chloe?
GAIL: Astrid is darn near unknowable, and untouchable, in that way that major CEOs are not QUITE like the rest of us. They are today’s royal families, and nothing we do will ever make them see us as their equal. She's dangerous and smart.
Chloe is a small-time, small-town reporter, who had a tragedy happen and feels her life is over anyway, so she decides to take down the monster.
CV: How much of the story do you have mapped out so far?
GAIL: Pretty close to twelve issues, we are well ahead.
CV: Do you find yourself in a different mindset when working on this book compared to your others?
GAIL: Oh, yeah, it's dark and unsettling. My editor literally reads some pages with her fingers covering her eyes. We deliberately put in a bunch of actual nightmares, and they gave us all some new ones.
CV: What’s your favorite thing so far about CLEAN ROOM?
GAIL: Well, the art is a revelation. But additionally, there is no other book like this out there right now. And we're all very proud of that.
CLEAN ROOM #1 is on sale October 21. Be sure to let your comic shop know you need a copy!