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Birds of Prey - The Gail Simone Years.

By Dave McEvoy

In 2003, DC newcomer Gail Simone took over from Chuck Dixon as the writer for “Birds of Prey”, an all girl super hero comic starring Barbara “Oracle” Gordon and Black Canary. She decided to add Huntress to the team and the combination of these three characters and Simone’s flare for mixing drama with wit and action resulted in her 5 year run being one of the finest of the decade.

Birds of Prey

Let’s be honest, strong women have not been given a fair hand in the entertainment world. For most writers a powerful woman either means an ultra cold bitch (Katherine Janeway) or just a guy with boobs (anything with Michelle Rodriguez). So whenever an exception to this rule comes along it’s a real treat. Ellen Ripley or Jadzia Dax ect.

Comic books are hardly guilt free. Lord knows Frank Miller has a hard time writing any female character that isn’t a prostitute. And the less said about Lois Lane’s tantrums in the 70’s the better. I guess they figured it was a better alternative than just using women as victims. But, sadly, that still happened too. A lot. Even in the supposedly more progressive modern era women were still kidnapped, tortured and murdered in mainstream super hero adventures. This led to Gail Simone setting up “Women in Refrigerators”, a website named after a gruesome event in Green Lantern #54 and pointing out how many times the murder of women is used as a plot point in comics. This website actually caused the industry to stop and think about it’s actions and while things aren’t perfect, (Identity Crisis still hurts) a hell of a lot has changed and, hopefully, will stay that way.

This change is due in no small part to Simone’s “Birds of Prey”. Her run on the title from issues 56 to 108 breaks all the previous rules regarding female super heroes and actually dares to make them into, wait for it, human beings! Many members of the group come and go but the core line up consists of super hacker and former Batgirl Oracle, Black Canary, a reserve member (and soon to be chairman) of the Justice League and Huntress, a Gotham vigilante who has no qualms about punishing criminals. These three unique individuals share laughs, argue, talk nonsense and eat take out food while remaining very loyal to each other throughout. Simone has an uncanny ability to insert simple throwaway words and phrases we all use every day into her dialogue and it never seems forced and never drags the story down. There is real human drama involved and has the reader worrying not only if they will survive their next fight, but if they will remain friends after their last bitter argument.

All this drama and human relationship does not get in the way of the action. Every issue has some sort of fight, chase or rescue. Even wheelchair bound Oracle has a scrap or two. (She was trained by Batman after all). All these thrilling scenes are peppered with clever lines that manipulate the villains during their pummelling. That is what makes Birds of Prey such a great title. These are women who don’t talk their way out of trouble because they can’t fight or don’t fight their way out of trouble because they can’t talk. They do both when required, making for strong and powerful heroes for both male and female readers.

Gail Simone left the title in 2007, a move which she described as “agony”. The series continued but never reached the same level of success or recognition as it had before and was cancelled less than two years later. It just wasn’t the same. Chuck Dixon may have started it but Birds of Prey was Gail Simone’s comic.

Or should I say “is”. In May of this year Birds of Prey vol. 2 was launched with Simone once again at the helm. Whether the series will reach the same level of success remains to be seen but her return is more than welcome. It’s fitting that it is launched under the “Brightest Day” banner as the future does indeed look bright for these Birds.

“The characters don't apologize for being ass kickers, nor for being smart, nor for being sexy, nor for being sexual, for that matter. There are always going to be some people who find that not to their taste, but at the same time, BoP regularly brings in people who don't otherwise read mainstream comics, a whole audience that may not pick up any other superhero titles, and I love that niche, that little area between good taste and utter shamelessness”-

Gail Simone

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