GAIL SIMONE'S first major contribution to comics wasn't creation, but necessary criticism. In 1999, she co-founded the website Women in Refrigerators, named for the infamous scene where the Green Lantern finds his dead girlfriend shoved into said kitchen appliance. Women in Refrigerators responded to this trope, common in mainstream comics, in which female characters are killed, abused, or otherwise disposed of as a way to motivate male characters.
Simone eventually started writing a regular column for the prominent comics site Comic Book Resources, and for years worked for DC Comics on titles like Batgirl, Wonder Woman, Action Comics, and most notably, Birds of Prey, DC's all-female super team. In late 2012, Simone's exclusive relationship with DC took a turn for the rocky when she was fired from her work on Batgirl. Though ultimately rehired, she's since embarked on two large non-DC projects.
The most high profile of these is her reboot of Red Sonja, the barbarian heroine loosely based on a character by Conan creator Robert E. Howard. Perhaps best known as a terrible 1985 movie, Sonja is a tricky one to get right. She's a badass, sword-carrying fantasy adventurer, who's burdened with one of the most mockable character designs in all of comics: She wears a chainmail bikini. Simone manages, mostly, to avoid cheesecake, which might sound like faint praise, but seriously, chainmail bikini. Simone's version of Sonja is an archetypical adventuring barbarian who likes to get drunk and kill people and, incidentally, sports the world's most uncomfortable-looking Underoos.
On Friday, Simone will be at Powell's promoting Leaving Megalopolis, an original graphic novel about superheroes who decide they're done with good and that evil looks like fun. In 2012, she and artist Jim Calafiore ran a Kickstarter for Megalopolis that punched through its initial goal of $34,000 to raise more than $117,000, and the book's been published by Portland's own—okay, Milwaukie's own—Dark Horse Comics.
With both Red Sonja and Leaving Megalopolis, Simone is moving out of the sometimes-restrictive world of cape comics and into the broader landscape of niche genre fiction and creator-owned characters. In all of her ventures, though, she has taken women out of the refrigerator and put them squarely in the middle of the action.