While writer Gail Simone has had many highly-regarded comic book runs, one of the titles with which she’s most closely associated is Birds of Prey. Editor Jordan B. Gorfinkel may have created the title, first written by Chuck Dixon, but having penned over 50 issues of her own, Simone remains the definitive Birds writer in the hearts of many fans. Despite being one of the film adaptation’s most vocal cheerleaders, citing “hundreds of posts” praising it, a small handful of tweets critiquing one “sizable gripe” with the movie appear to have set off a feeding frenzy of “clickbait headlines.”
In a Facebook post on Monday, following the opening weekend of the since-retitled Birds of Prey and the Fantabuous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn directed by Cathy Yan, Simone penned a lengthy Facebook post to set the record straight.
The thread in question is worth reading for its own sake, especially for fans curious about the many differences between the mostly-mute Cassandra Cain (formerly known as Batgirl, among other titles, and currently called Orphan) of DC Comics, and the talkative one portrayed by actress Ella Jay Basco as conceived by screenwriter Christina Hodson, fighting alongside Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. Yet it’s also worth noting that Simone is remarkably even-handed in comparison to the sensationalist framing offered by outlets like CinemaBlend. She even assured fans that she “had a blast and will probably see it eleventy times.”
While Simone name-checked several “websites that should know better,” in researching this piece we noticed that when it came to this particular manufactured drama, the clickbait rabbit hole went even further than expected. Even NME, better known these days for snarky music reviews in the British tabloid tradition, ran their own version of the story.
That Simone claims to be blacklisting each of the many publications that exaggerated her “sizable gripe” with Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey speaks to how far the clickbait-outrage cycle appears to have gone.
Despite comic book IPs arguably being more visible now than ever thanks to a seemingly endless supply of adaptations in film, TV, and more, comics themselves remain rather niche. Comic book creators, even those as popular and respected as Gail Simone, are still largely responsible for promoting their own work, which often means cooperating with the kind of sites she called out in her Facebook post for interviews, previews, and other coverage.
Of course, Simone’s impressive legacy speaks for itself at this point, and she’s certainly earned the right to be selective about which outlets she grants access. Her reputation, and career, will be fine, but journalists in geek media spaces may want to ask themselves how sustainable their drama-sowing strategies are in the the long run.