"As of Wednesday of last week, I was informed by an email from my new editor that I am no longer the writer of Batgirl."
That's what Gail Simone revealed this weekend on social media like Twitter and Tumblr. She did it with her trademark grace and good humor, while still admitting how much this hurts her, given how closely she's been associated with Barbara Gordon, from her time making Oracle and the Birds of Prey vital to her efforts with the re-abled version of her in the New 52.
"I cannot express my disappointment at this," she admitted. "I think everyone is aware how important Barbara Gordon is to me, and how important it is to me that her stories be told with respect and care, both for the character and the readers. We tried our very best to do that, and it was an honor to write Barbara for these many years."
"I want to thank DC for giving me the opportunity to write Barbara," she added, graciously. "When the new52 was announced, I was terrified that telling early stories of Barbara would mean completely invalidating her story as a disabled icon. We tried our best never to forget that, even when putting her back in the suit. Very few writers are ever lucky enough to get to work in the bat-offices, it’s a rare honor and thrill and I absolutely loved it and will miss it terribly. I am probably sounding a little bit maudlin right now, as I feel a genuine sense of loss. This wasn’t just another assignment to me."
Simone is very much a fan favorite writer, and her support has been vociferous in the wake of this news not only from her devotees, but other creators at DC as well. We're not sure of the reasons exactly why she was let go, but the final exchange in that Bleeding Cool link is cryptic enough to be unsettling. Mike Nelson jokes that maybe she hadn't put enough women in refrigerators, noting the phrase she coined when arguing against the repetitive abuse of women just as motivations for male heroes, and Simone's reponse was "Funny you should say that."
The new editor who emailed her to let her know she'd been fired, one Brian Cunningham, apparently isn't a fan (or is conveying the wishes of others who aren't fans) of the "recovery arc" that Simone had planned to reveal how the New 52 version of Barbara Gordon emerged from being disabled to taking up the cowl again. "Sadly, the new editor nixed everything we had planned," she stated. "I think it’s very likely that will still be covered, but it will not be in the way we had been building to, which I am very sad about. And those issues are already written, but will not be published, I gather." She'll be finishing out the "Death of the Family" arc currently in progress as her last issue, #16.
There has been noise made in the past that the big corporate comics companies don't like it when any one writer becomes too well associated with any one character, as that apparently makes them less marketable to new readers if they feel like they have too much history to catch up on, and that was said to be part of the reasoning why Simone wasn't allowed to continue Birds of Prey in the New 52. However, Simone's work on Batgirl was a sales success, so aside from editorial malarkey (and much has been made about the current state of DC Editorial, given Rob Liefeld pitching a fit when he left and other writers lodging complaints as well), the reasoning behind this move is unclear. But there's something weird behind the scenes at DC about Batgirl as a concept – their apparent antipathy against all other forms of Batgirl – particularly the much-missed Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown has been so thorough that it's hard NOT to think there's some kind of personal grudge at work against those two characters.
While we here at Crave Online have been hot and cold about her New 52 run – to me, it seemed like she was never entirely sold on de-Oracle-izing Barbara Gordon given her status as a disabled icon (or perhaps we just weren't sold on it), and couldn't always find the right beats that didn't ring like she was trying to make the best of what was editorially forced upon her. While there were some very cool moments in her Batgirl, perhaps DC thought she was focusing too much on trying to find the balance between maintaining what went before with de-aging her and making her a "fresh, new character" or what-have-you. Less old, more new. And maybe more refrigerators.
I'm also still mad that Simone's Secret Six got cancelled, as it was my favorite DC book going before the big reboot, and I was determined to follow Batgirl out of loyalty to her at first, convinced she'd figure out a way to make it work. This current Joker arc seems to have brought out some of the best in Simone, and sadly, it will also be the last with the character she's become so well-known for.
She certainly won't be out of work for long – she's too big a name for that now, and her creator-owned stuff would certainly be strong. She's also worked for Marvel before, complete with a memorable run on Deadpool that gave us Agent X, so that's entirely possible as well now that she's been inexplicably shown the door at DC. It's just the end of an era, and it's just sad, frustrating and indicative of lamentable chaos behind the scenes at Warner Bros. Comics Division.
We may know more on Monday. Stay tuned.