Bleeding Cool broke the story yesterday that Gail Simone was off of Batgirl, and it was soon confirmed by Gail Simone. Last Wednesday, editor Brian Cunningham told Simone that she was no longer the writer of Batgirl (by email, no less… classy), and the story that’s starting to emerge isn’t so great. Her removal may be retroactive, starting with February’s already solicited Batgirl #17. In fact, Simone indicated on her website that she’s written several issues that will now go unused.
The big question, of course, is why. Presumably editorial wanted Simone to do something she didn’t want to do, and so she was removed. Editorial dictating stories at DC has come up pretty regularly lately from creators departing the company. But we don’t know for sure what happened. What we do know is that in terms of selling comics, this was a very sketchy decision on DC’s part.
Before DC relaunched their entire line, the last issue of Bryan Q. Miller’s Batgirl sold 22,695 copies for 106th spot on the sales charts. Let’s take a look at the series’ sales numbers since the book relaunched with Simone at the helm:
First off, of the 14 issues of Batgirl released so far, only ONE has sold less than DOUBLE what the previous series ended on. On the sales charts, the lowest the book has been is 38th, 68 spots higher than where the previous series ended. These are remarkably good numbers.
Second, the series has stabilized very well. All of the New 52 books started out big and dropped off over the following months, but Batgirl quickly leveled off in a very strong range. The series was helped by a couple of crossovers, but regardless the book has been solidly above 40,000 units sold with several months over 50,000. Since the relaunch, the series has averaged sales of 54,113 copies per issue for a sales chart average of 28th. The numbers have been strong and consistent.
Almost all of this can be attributed to Gail Simone. She has a very dedicated fanbase, more so than most of DC’s creators. Even her lowest selling pre-DCnU books sold consistently if not massively. Furthermore, Barbara Gordon returning as Batgirl was met with a lot of trepidation, but readers trusted Simone to handle it because of her history with the character. Under any other writer, this huge change could have been a disaster. Simone legitimized the move, and it worked out well for DC. Along with the strong sales, the book has been a big critical success as well.
But now Simone is gone, and I expect that a lot of readers will leave with her. I don’t know what it was that editorial and Simone couldn’t agree on, but I sincerely doubt that it’s so interesting and exciting that it’ll bring in enough new readers to overcome the inevitable exodus they’ll get from FIRING Gail Simone. People aren’t just going to drop the book. They’re going to drop it angrily, and they’re not going to come back. I just don’t see how this move was worth it.
Simone has written Barbara Gordon for so long that firing her from Batgirl would be like firing Karen Berger from Vertigo. Oh wait… DC did that. Let me try another one. It would be like firing Neil Gaiman from Sandman. DC may own her, but Barbara is Simone’s character. No other writer has the pedigree and the trust of the audience to write her like Simone does, especially with the story of the sensitive issue of Barbara’s recovery still untold. I don’t know what plans DC has for the character, but they can’t be worth the removal of Gail Simone if they want people to read the series.
So yeah, I don’t know what DC is thinking. From any sort of business standpoint it makes NO sense. Unless they’ve got Suzanne Collins or some such coming in to write Batgirl, their sales are going to be screwed. And they have (another) army of angry fans to deal with now. It’s bad enough they’ve alienated all of the Stephanie Brown fans, but now they’ve got to go after the Barbara Gordon fans too? It’s ludicrous. The book was selling strongly and doing great for the company. It will do so no longer without Simone. I just don’t see the upside for them, as a publishing company trying to amass dollars.
I’m not sure whether to hope that Simone has some other books soon to be announced by DC or to hope that she doesn’t and that she can go work at another company that will treat her with some respect. Whatever happens, Simone will do well. She has legions of loyal fans, and they’ll follow her to wherever she goes next. I wish her the best of luck, even though she won’t need it. She certainly deserves far better than an unceremonious firing from a book she singlehandedly made a success.
Maybe DC wanted Simone to write a series of minis called Before The Killing Joke. That’s my new theory…