It is, in many ways, hard to consider the many ways in which Gail Simone being fired off Batgirl via email last week seems like a mistake, isn’t it?
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).
For another, there’s the simple idea of Who could replace Gail on the book? Anyone who follows Gail can tell that she adored working on Batgirl and Barbara Gordon as a character; there was an excitement and passion that was evident and, I think, it was reflected in the sales figures for the book; that Batgirl was such a consistently good performer for DC had less to do with fandom’s hunger for Batgirl, I believe, and far more to do with the readership’s response to the work Simone was putting in not just in writing the series, but promoting it (and the New 52 as a whole). I have no idea who new editor Brian Cunningham has in mind to replace her, but I’ll be very surprised if there’s not a drop in excitement around the book no matter what as a result of this move.
This means that Simone doesn’t have an ongoing DC title for the first time since mid-2003, which feels pretty massive in and of itself; in the last nine years, she has been one of the most vocal DC creators and one of the few DC creators to consistently discuss (and defend) DC’s occasionally-confusing/confounding decisions. It’s hard not to read Cunningham’s decision as an abandonment by the publisher of the creator, and that again seems like a terrible move, publicity-wise, no matter what you think of Simone as a writer. It also – almost by proxy – adds Simone to the long list of once-loyal creators DC has lost in the last few years, from Greg Rucka through Grant Morrison, and draws attention to the fact that DC’s bench of high-profile writing talent is beginning to look a little bare these days.
Presuming, of course, that Simone stays off Batgirl longterm – Surely I’m not the only person who gets a “Mark Waid fired off Fantastic Four” vibe from all this? – the best thing DC could do now would be to publicly embrace Simone and try and repair the relationship by whatever means necessary. Otherwise… Well, Marvel should really be reaching out about now and seeing if Paul Cornell could be just the first New 52 writer they could pull over for a Marvel NOW! book…