When Dynamite announced that acclaimed writer Gail Simone would be overseeing the reboot of the classic female characters that are the core of its line (see “Dynamite Reboots Female Characters”), it was one of the most-viewed articles we’ve ever done on the company. With characters that have been around for decades and Simone’s work on Red Sonja and the crossover event Swords of Sorrow (see “Dynamite’s All-Female Crossover Event”) driving interest, we wanted to know more about the plans for changing the characters, the process for doing so, and the reasons for the changes that are being made.  We caught up with Simone, who was kind enough to share her thoughts on overseeing this redevelopment of the characters.

Can you describe the process for redesigning these characters?  What roles did the two of you take?
For my part, Nicola was my first and only choice to redesign these characters. We’re not fooling around, I take this stuff very seriously. It’s not some side-gig to add to my resume, these are classic character created by TITANS of adventure fiction. It can’t be done lightly. We don’t want something that looks like, you know, a mullet and some leg pouches, we want something that speaks to the characters.

I came up with rough new character directions, outlines for the new writers to work with and reshape, and then we gave the ideas to Nicola, and fine-tuned them with the owners of the characters. I have to say, it was a lovely experience, everyone wanted to get this just right.

What role, if any, did the publisher have in the strategy for the redesigns?
Dynamite has a pretty great philosophy, which is hire the right people and then get out of the way. They knew our passion for the project, they were a huge help in connecting the owners of the characters to us, but it was all a positive, creative experience. Everyone involved was both serious and open-minded.

Are the changes to the characters being explained with a narrative in their new series, or are they starting their new storylines as if they’d always been that way?
Each of the three characters in the Monster Makeover has a new story arc that keeps their character intact, but takes them to a completely new place. There are reasons, in story, for what they are wearing.  And we have Frank Barbiere, Kate Leth, and Marguerite Bennett writing the tales. They are going to be KICKASS.

Why were some characters changed more than others (for example, based on appearance, the changes to Vampirella appear to be the most dramatic)? 
Yes, and no. Vamipirella is the classic costume I have the most fondness for (although I like them all). So in her case, we have a story where she has reason to still wear the classic costume in ONE persona, while wearing something a little less flimsy when getting down to business. Her story is completely modern…it’s funny, sexy, and scary.  She becomes a bit of a YouTube sensation for all the wrong reasons.

Red Sonja, everyone knows my love for her. And I have no problem with the chain mail bikini except that it hasn’t really changed in decades and that makes it a little difficult for readers to know which stories are new, and for retailers to promote new stories. To me, her classic look fit the Marvel barbarian mythos that Conan as we think of him now came from. But we wanted to bring in elements from her earlier designs, AND give her a look and a visual pop that feels fresh and dangerous. Her biggest additional element is a hooded cloak…when it’s up, she could be any female warrior, but when she pulls it down, and exposes the most famous hair in Hyrkania, it’s like, oh man, RED SONJA IS HERE. It’s like Clark Kent pulling his shirt open, or Wolverine popping his claws, it’s that cool.

And Dejah, see, Edgar Rice Burroughs was my first big adventure fiction addiction. I love those books. And I don’t care that the Martians are supposed to be mostly naked. But the way it was usually executed in the comics did tend to overshadow all other elements.  So in this story, Dejah puts herself into exile…she goes from the palace of Helium to the outskirts of her empire, living incognito as a nameless soldier in the worst part of her world. It’s completely exciting, even if you’ve never read a John Carter story in your life. I dearly love it.

All of the costumes are more modest than the ones they replace, covering more skin.  Why?
Oh, lots of reasons, certainly economic reality that their classic looks needed a bit of freshening up for retailers and for the changing audience. But nobody was sitting around thinking, let’s cover up their shameful navels…that’s not how any of us think, really.

It’s also tied into an oddball, somewhat dated idea of what a younger audience thinks is sexy. These characters were designed at a time when these outfits were as far as you could push that envelope, really, and as such, they are anchored a bit to those eras, which we think is a bit unfair. If they look like they were created two days ago, then everyone gets to love what WE love about them…their great stories, their fabulous personalities, their incredible adventures, and yes, they are still sexy as ****!

Who do you see as the audience for the characters before the redesigns, and how do you hope that changes as a result of the new looks?
This is the thing that is hard for some to admit, and that’s that the audience for these books was mostly a hardcore fanbase. We love those people, but we also want new people to love the characters as much as we do. You can say, “oh, just tell great stories and it won’t matter,” but that’s not actually true. They’ve had top names on these books, I mean, a-list talent, and it doesn’t always move the needle.

Part of the reason we had such success with Red Sonja and Swords of Sorrow is we presented the characters in way that allowed new readers to jump on board.

I do NOT want to wash away what makes these characters great. I would have nothing to do with any project that changed their core characters in that way. My passion is always, can I make the readers love these characters as much as I do?

In any case, that’s the goal!