By Beau Smith
Every week here at the Flying Fist Ranch is an adventure. I mean that in the most literal sense. Ya never know what’s gonna happen, who’s gonna show up or where I’m gonna be headed. This week was no different.
As most of ya know I’ve been dedicatin’ the last few weeks to my very popular Five Manly Questions With? feature. It’s goin’ pretty good and it’s taken me to some very interestin’ places where I’ve talked to some pretty entertainin’ people. This week is no different.
Yet it was.
I usually know what to expect when I make these trips speak manly words with some of the comic book industry’s more colorful creators. This week I never saw the punch comin’.
The punch came from Gail Simone.
If ya read comic books then you know who Gail Simone is. She’s written lots of cool comics that you just gotta read. Some of the books that you’ll find her name attached to are: Birds Of Prey, Killer Princesses, Deadpool, Agent X, Gus Beezer, Rose and Thorn, The Simpsons as well as writing regular columns on the subject of comic books. The lady is everywhere and you should be real glad she is. Gail has a huge following of crazed comic book cult worshipers. I’m surprised that they haven’t joined together to build her a pyramid or website in which all may bow down to her womanly ways?I guess they’re workin’ on it. In the mean time you can read and learn more about Gail at her column You’ll Be Sorry. It’s at http://www.comicbookresources.com
I should be getting’ back to business here. As most of ya know, I live in a small town. The kind ya have to push the cattle out of the way to drive down the one road that’s paved. Every time I fly outta here I almost always have to make multiple connections. This week I was headed to the great northwest? Oregon to be exact. Now I’m not talkin’ about one of the big cities in Oregon. Nope. I’m talkin’ about a place that is a lot like my hometown. Small. I spent the good part of the day shovin’ my way past morons in the terminals with cellphones attached to their big ol’ ears, dodgin’ those golf carts that try to run ya over as they haul old people up and down the concourse, and havin’ to give the dick eye to goofballs that try to force small talk on me as I wait for my plane. Trust me? that ain’t a healthy thing to do.
It was late when I got into Oregon. The last leg of my flight was with an old bush pilot in a Ford Tri-Motor. I got there and there was Gail waitin’ for me in a souped up 4X4 SUV that almost made me wanna trade my own in when I got home. Now her’s wasn’t some soccer mom vehicle. Nope. It was the real deal. One that got used, and used a lot. I remembered that Gail was trained in the art of hairdressing. I guess that they don’t go for those pink May Kay cadillacs up here.
This was the first time I had ever met Gail. I gotta say, she is as lovely as legend has it. One thing you could tell right off the bat? she has smart eyes. The kind that see through any donkey dump you may try and fling her way. The kind of smart that is attached to a razor wit and she ain’t afraid to cut ya with it if ya get outta line. I liked that.
She told me that we could hit this little diner that she hung out at from time to time. I said that was great. I climbed in her SUV and we headed out into the windy night. It was good that she had an industrial brush guard on the front of the vehicle. We crossed over a few dirt roads before we got back on the highway. Gail shifted gears like she had been drivin’ an 18-wheeler all her life. Who knows? she may have at one time. I noticed all sorts of equipment in the back. It was obvious it wasn’t the tools of the trade for writin’ or hairdressing. I asked her what all that stuff was. Gail just gave me a wry smile and told me she would fill me in on it later.
Most of the road conversation was spent talkin’ about the comic book business. We compared notes on who was good folks in comics and who was a knob. We agreed on most of the people in question. I liked that.
Turns out we both have a great fondness for underrated comic book characters in both the DC Universe as well as that of Marvel Comics. She knew her stuff. Nothin’ this old dog could pull out that she didn’t know about. I liked that.
We came off the main road and into the gravel lot of the diner. There were various sorts of transportation there in the lot. I could see some logging trucks as well as trucks that were used in fishing work. Went with the area. We entered the place and right off the bat I could smell some mighty fine home cookin’. The kind that makes ya glad you don’t live in New York City. The place was filled with lumberjacks, fishermen and a few old guys that were talkin’ everything from politics to old dogs. Most everybody there nodded to Gail and knew her by name. There was an air of respect in their tone. I liked that.
We grabbed a booth down by the lunch counter. The waitress came by and gave me a menu. She asked Gail if she wanted the usual. Gail nodded yes and asked how her kids were. I knew then that this must be one of the places where Gail comes to write. Unlike those knot head wannabe writers that think they have to go to Starbucks and act like what they think a writer should act like. You guys out there know who you are. You know to avoid me if ya see a shovel in my hand.
While we waited for the food I hauled out my recorder and notebook. She smiled and asked me if that was for her answers to my Five Manly Questions? I said “Yes ma’am.” It was time to get down to business. I figured that Gail was gonna have some real interestin’ answers to lay on me. I was right. I liked that.
Here’s how it went:
Beau: Gail? gotta ask ya? What annoyin’ celebrity would ya like to smack in the head with a shovel or crush with a heavy kitchen appliance?
Gail: If I don’t get a chance to say this elsewhere, let me get it in here. I LOVED Guy Gardner: Warrior when you wrote that book. That was a fantastic series and a big influence, and bless you for making comics that had a unique voice. Okay, moving on…Oh, my God, that’s a long list, that shovel thing.
First, let me say that I don’t begrudge a ‘celebrity’ giving their opinion or even being an activist. These are still citizens, and anyone ELSE who achieves a position of influence is certainly not told to sit down and shut up. However, I don’t get our culture of celebrity at all. We have so many people famous for, essentially, just being famous? I think it’s weird how we exalt them, and how many of them simply believe they deserve it.
Why is it that the average person can name a thousand sitcom actors, but not a single scientist? That’s just messed up. Anyway, to answer your question? you could line up the entire political punditocracy and I’d gladly be the girl at the head of the line giving them all high-speed Shovel Smacks. I find nothing in our political discourse as disturbing as the power these lying idiots wield, and it’s completely non-partisan. If you get your news and opinions from a Rush Limbaugh or a Michael Savage, or on the other end, a Mike Malloy or James Carville, then please head to the end of the line so I can smack you in the head as well (it would be a smack out of love and concern). These people are not your friends. They’re disgusted with the public’s gullibility even as they use it to get rich. Not that long ago, they were all considered wacko extremists. Now they’re the voices and faces of our parties, and isn’t THAT a shovel-worthy offense? It’d be a long but satisfying day of smackery, and in the end, maybe we could again have representatives we can be proud of in the media and I find it odd that we take our political cues from blowhards we’d avoid like the plague at a cocktail party.
Beau: I see that you really thought that one out, Gail. Remind me to call you in if I ever think of doin’ some premeditated murder. I like people that got a plan. Okay? Next question. Other than your own manly husband, name some of the sexiest manly men on the planet.
Gail: You know, this is kind of a funny one. My husband is this 6’3″ guy with great hair, and we’re so in love even after years of marriage that every day together really is a pleasure. I’m definitely mated for life. We just lucked out our first time around. This career move has meant a lot of changes for me, and he’s just never complained, never been anything but supportive. He’s also fiercely protective. I worry about anyone being rude to me at a convention with him around, because he’ll absolutely not stand for it. But when I think of sexy celebrities, it’s not necessarily about the way a guy looks–it’s more about integrity, kindness, creativity. Those things?corny as it sounds, they make me weak. I can’t find a guy attractive if he’s ugly inside.
That’s why, looks aside, Bob Geldolf is a thousand times sexier than some airhead soap star. If you’re just talking sheer physical charisma, Chow Yun Fat has it. John Cusack, Antonio Banderas and like half the planet, I’ve had a crush on Johnny Depp since 21 Jump Street. Basically the same list Kurt Busiek would give you.
Kidding. Hey, wait? you sure this is a comics interview? It’s getting dangerously Entertainment Tonight-ish, for such a manly forum. Oh, and I have to say, I can’t help it, I think Conan O’Brian’s cute. I know that’s insane, but he makes me smile.
Beau: Yeah, it might be getting’ a little Entertainment Tonight-ish? I guess? but I’ve never really heard anything they talk about on that show. I watch it with the mute button on and just stare at Mary Hart’s legs. So I guess you’re askin’ the wrong guy. Next manly question?Name some manly movies that every real woman should see to appreciate a real man.
Gail: Oh, jeez, I don’t know. Steel Magnolias, Yentl, and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.
Hmmm. Let me think. The truth is, I love a good sweaty action movie. Die Hard is just a terrific film, with a formula so simple it’s amazing they blew it with II and III. I have a great fondness for Con Air (even though it’s pretty dumb) simply because it’s so unapologetic about Nick Cage’s character having such a concrete sense of right and wrong. Escape From Alcatraz, The Unforgiven, Tombstone, Replacement Killers, Predator, any movie where one guy (or girl) stands up for what’s right against overwhelming odds, I’m there. Ooh, and Bruce Lee in Enter The Dragon.
If you read my comics, I’ve been criticized occasionally for making my fight scenes too brutal. There are a lot of people who really don’t want to see Black Canary fighting that hard, or getting broken bones and bloody noses. They want sort of sterile, graceful kicks where the villain is painlessly knocked out.
What’s weird is that it’s rare anyone is killed in my fight scenes, whereas in Wolverine or Punisher, the death count may be in the dozens. But I believe a fight SHOULD be intense and a little bit dirty. Black Canary, in my mind, is one of the baddest badasses in DCU history. She does the great majority of her dirty work with her fists and the soles of her feet, against wide numbers of much bigger and stronger opponents. So when she throws down, brother, SOMEONE’s gonna get hurt. I love writing action sequences? I was stunned to find out a lot of writers just leave fight scenes to the artist. To me, a huge amount of character work can be carried by those scenes.
In Birds of Prey, I’ve got this guideline in my mind, that every character fights differently, not just in style but in personality. For instance, while Black Canary is ten times the hand to hand fighter that Huntress is, if you shot Canary in the head a couple times, she’d probably go down. With Huntress, you’d better use every bullet in your gun, and it might not be a bad idea to reload a couple times.
I got way off the subject. I’m failing as a manly woman.
[With all this manly talk about chicks fightin’ I was on the edge of the booth seat and feelin’ all squirmy.]
I’m just used to talkin’ to guy comic book creators that grunt and nod when I ask em’ a question over two lines. I’m lovin’ this. Since we’re on the subject of fightin’. Here’s your next question and it’s a fight question. Kick em’ in the crotch or hit em’ with your purse?
Gail: Neither, Beau. I’ve had quite a bit of self-defense training and one of the first things they teach you is that guys protect their crotches. What you do is, you walk with your car keys in your hand, then you spread the keys so that a couple are sticking out between each finger of your clenched fist, so that when you hit the guy, he gets up bloody and blinded if he gets up at all.
Second choice, sideways downward kick to the knee or below, with enough force to smash his instep. Can’t attack if you can’t stand, and it doesn’t matter how strong you are, that’ll take you right out.
Last choice, threaten to sing Toby Keith songs.
Beau: [I nodded my head with approval at Gail’s answer, except maybe for the Tobey Keith remark. I’ve been teachin’ the sweet science of boxing for many years as well as bein’ on my share of bar room fights. The woman was speakin’ the truth. This was like talkin’ to an old boxin’ buddy of mine.]
Okay, kid. Name some of your upcoming real woman work in comics or entertainment that’ll make every real man readin’ this wanna go out and spend their cherished beer money on it. Please name the publisher too if need be.
Gail: This is rough, because I can’t announce much yet. I’m continuing to work on a book I feel blessed to have been given, Birds of Prey. It’s a weird thing, because when I was asked to pitch for it, I very nearly said no, for what seem like really stupid reasons to me now; I didn’t want to be typecast, I felt it was impossible to follow Chuck’s stellar run, and I felt it would be hard to wash the smell of the failed tv show off the book. But thankfully I was talked into it, and every issue gets more fun for me, to where I can’t imagine leaving it. Readers and critics and retailers have made it a book that continues to move upward when most books go the other way. Pretty wonderful.
I’ve completed a six-issue JLA arc, with art by two of my all-time favorites; Jose Garcia Lopez and Klaus Janson. That’s just a dream come true, and to me, the JLA is the Porsche of comics. It’s not a B-book. It’s an A-book. It’s THE A-book.
I’m still doing some Simpsons work for Bongo comics, including the first-ever Simpsons novel. I’ve finished a JLU episode for television that should be aired in a couple months. Most of the rest is still secret, but I will say, these will be huge launches, I think. I know I’ve been very fortunate these past couple years, but this year just blows my mind. Some of these things are dream projects for me as a reader, so I’m dying to get them in the hands of the readership. By the way, let me ask YOU a question?
[Beau: This really got my manly attention. This had never happened before.]
Gail: What’s the obsession with manliness on the internet anyway? Don’t you find the most manly guys tend to be the guys who talk about it the least? I grew up in a small town in Oregon, where most of the guys were loggers or fisherman, and they don’t do that kind of chest-thumping you see in other places, even when they’re drunk. But if you hassle them, they’ll snap you like a twig and use you for bait.
All the military guys in my family don’t boast about being manly, they simply ARE manly, in all the best senses of the word.
I know that there’s real-world tough, and internet tough, and the two don’t seem to be the same thing at all. I’ve read so much from these really loud ‘badass’ internet people, and then when you meet them, invariably, the quiet ones are big, real manly guys with families and firm handshakes, and the ones who prattle on and on about being manly seem to be a bit squidgy and furtive.
What’s that about, seriously?
Now, I’m going to say right out that I know you’re the exception, Beau. It’s not asskissing, it’s just the truth. I know you’re the exception because you are unfailingly generous, supportive and polite. Someone clearly raised you right, and when you say you could kick someone’s ass, I believe it.
But don’t you feel real manliness is often misrepresented on the internet, by guys who probably don’t know that to be a MANLY MAN means having some integrity, some strength of will and character, some generosity of spirit, and above all, a sense of right and wrong? I see a lot of bullying on the internet, quite possibly by people who were victims of bullying themselves in the real world, and I think it’s just? well, sad.
I like manly men. I won’t tolerate male bashing of any kind, ever. I’ve always been surrounded by guys who were full of that kind of integrity and strength. Maybe that’s why I like writing superhero comics just fine, and don’t feel the slightest need to apologize for writing about heroic (if flawed) people doing courageous things. Black Canary is hugely inspired by the heroic men in her life, and so have I always been. Men rock.
Beau: [After I could see that Gail was done talkin’ I smiled. Not a smile that was brought on by hearin’ somethin’ funny. Not a smile that was condescending. Nope. This was a smile of someone that has found a long lost brother in arms?in this case a sister. This was a smile of knowin’ you had met someone that that would have your back when ya needed it the most. I liked that.]
Gail, you are right about there bein’ a difference between internet manliness and real life manliness. Ever since the internet got started in full bloom I have been one that has been ticked off at the amount of cowards that have got on here and bullied, bitched, and brow beat others all the while hidin’ behind some cute, snarky screen name. I have always believed that if you’re man enough to make the statement, then be man enough to put your name beside it. If you can’t do that then don’t open your mouth or type that first word. I participate in quite a few of the message boards and forums about comic books here on the web. I always try and treat everybody with respect. All I want is the same in return. I’ve noticed that in person, say at a con, that no one ever comes up to the booth and spits venom like they do on the internet. There is no screen name of mommy’s skirt to hide behind then. And Gail?you are right about it bein’ sad. It’s sad on a lotta levels. The saddest is it puts a taint on the good folks that wanna get on the message boards and enjoy talkin’ about stuff they enjoy. I’ve found that they best thing to do when these knobs start this stuff is to ignore em’. They’re sadly lookin’ for attention. Attention they must not be getting’ in real life time.
My mom and dad raised me the very best they could. I had family around me that also gave me inspiration and examples on how to act. I try my best to live up to those guide lines that they have laid before me. I don’t mean to come off preachy, Gail, but these are things that I truly take serious. Family, friends and loyalty. These are things that mean a lot to me. That’s why the movie Tombstone means so much to me. It summed up and showed all the things that mean so much to me in my life. Family, friends, trust and loyalty. It also mirrored the way I feel when those things are abused or threatened.
Just recently I got an email from one of my readers of Busted Knuckles. He asked me what I thought bein’ a real man was. My answer came quickly. It’s the same answer my dad gave to me many years ago when I was a kid. A real man is a good father, a good husband, a good son and a good friend. A few simple words, but that’s what bein’ a real man is all about to me.
It’s true that some folks may see my website, my Busted Knuckles column or one of my interviews and think that I’m one of these chest thumpin’, knuckle draggin’, internet loudmouthin’ “real men”. It’s those folks that just don’t “get” what I’m doin’. All I’m doin’ is takin’ my real self and turnin’ up the volume so they can hear me correctly. Bein’ a real man has a fun side as well. I’m not talkin’ about that lame ass Maxim magazine-Frat Boy kinda fun. I’m talkin’ about sitiin’ at a table with some good friends, good food and cold beer and tradin’ manly conversation. That’s what I picture when I talk to folks on the internet and spew my manly words of semi-wisdom. In all my years of bein’ in the comic book business I can count on one hand the knuckleheads that better run when they see me comin’. I’d say that was pretty good for 17 years of doin’ this.
Now ya done it, Gail. Ya got me ramblin’. I gotta stop. You’ll have all my manly secrets spilled out before long.
Like a cue in well-written movie Gail’s cell phone went off. She answered it and I could see excitement move across her face.
“We’re on our way!” she said in an excited voice as she hung up.
Well, this had me wonderin’. The part about the “We”. Gail had the waitress put our food in a to go bag. She hurried me out of the booth and back into the SUV. “Get in, Beau. We’re going to have some fun?Oregon style!” She smiled and said. She spun gravel all about as we shot out of the lot. Gail then told me that they call was from her husband. It seems that on the weekends he and Gail sometimes go way out into the woods lookin’ for stuff.
“What kinda’ stuff?” I asked.
Gail smiled as she drove. “Bigfoot.” She said.
I laughed and figured she was makin’ an Oregon joke. Then she pointed her thumb towards the back of the SUV. Told me that all that equipment that I asked about earlier was stuff they used to hunt Bigfoot with. I asked her one more time if she was serious.
She just said “Yep.” I could see she meant business.
That’s when a big ass smile crawled across my face. I just wanted to make sure she was tellin’ the truth before I got all geared up.
“Let’s get goin’ then? we’re burnin’ daylight!” I said, rubbin’ my grubby little hands together.
Obviously I made it back, cause I’m writin’ this. I guess I’ll tell ya what happened some other time when we got more space.
I ain’t hard to find?
The Flying Fist Ranch
P.O. Box 706
Ceredo, WV. 25507
Prove your manhood by visiting Beau at the Flying Fists Forum!