From the superhero adventures and female bonding in "Birds of Prey" to the crazy antics of hired killers in "Agent X" and psychological introspection in the upcoming "Rose & Thorn" (which Simone spoke about recently with CBR News), this writer is making the most of her time at DC Comics and Marvel Comics. But it's the latter who'll be releasing a new one-shot based on one of her creations and Simone spoke to CBR News about the ins and outs of Gus Beezer.
"I always describe Gus as representative of the joy of comics that we all felt before getting cynical and crabby and responsible," says Simone of the main character of the popular one shots released earlier this year. "He's a young kid, sort of like Stan Lee's kid clone, who lives in a typical home in the Marvel Universe.
"Even though we handle it in a light way, from a kid's point of view, we do touch on what it'd be like to be neighbors with the Hulk, for example."
In December, fans will see the release of "Marvelous Adventures of Gus Beezer & Spider-Man," the second time these two characters have met and Simone explains the simple reason for Gus returning with good 'ol Webhead. "The most popular story we did by far was the Spider-Man issue, and this is a sequel of sorts. We will see both Dunbar and Gus's horrifying sister, Emily, as well as his friends from previous stories. But it's not necessary to have read those stories...it stands on its own, I think."
In the first Gus/Spidey meeting, readers saw young Beezer quite enamored with Spider-Man and even meeting Peter Parker, which made it only natural for the popular hero's secret I.D to play a role in this story. "Not only Peter and Spidey, but some other beloved and hated cast members, as well. Gus is actually distantly related to Peter, so it's a natural fit," explains Simone.
The writing in "Gus Beezer" has never been juvenile, but it's definitely aimed at a young audience and Simone explains the process of writing for that age group and that which she calls on for inspiration. "Oh, lots of things, but primarily, the joy I felt, and still feel sometimes, when a comic I've been dying to read is finally in my grubby paws. That's a feeling kids aren't ashamed of, and I love that.
"As for tone, 'Peanuts,' 'Calvin and Hobbes,' 'Little Nemo,' 'Groo,' many sources. I should also say that we had a lot of serious adult fans who have been begging for more Gus. It's not just kids."
But making Gus cool to kids isn't something most writers would find easy- after all, who can really define cool? "Gus Beezer has been thoroughly kid-tested, in fact," reveals Simone. "For one thing, I took copies to a class of 5th graders, and the results were wonderful. Don't let anyone say kids don't like comics, because they do almost instinctively.
"You have to be very honest, and the humor has to be very carefully-constructed, I think. There's a lot of gross-out humor for kids, which isn't so much my thing. I did have some experience writing for younger audiences because I've done a lot of stories for the 'Bart Simpson' comic, for the same audience. It's very, very rewarding to get mail from a young reader. Those are great days.
"We had stores that were so supportive. They had Gus Beezer coloring contests, or took photos of kids reading the book. It was actually moving. Everyone involved in the book really felt it was worthwhile."
Long time fans will remember "Star Comics," Marvel's kid oriented line of comics, and some might see the release of "Gus Beezer" as the company testing the waters for a brand new line of children's comics. "I think it's part of a cautious effort," hypothesizes Simone. "I'd like to see more Gus, of course, but the Mini-Marvels comics are great as well. Marvel's got a lot of talent that would love to do kid-appropriate books, I know. I'm all for that. Creators should put their time where their mouth is, if we actually want more kids and females reading comics.
"Of course, some people have been doing this for years, making great books like 'Zoom's Academy' and 'Herobear.'"
All this discussion does beg the question- will fans be seeing more Gus Beezer in the future? "Sales on the first three, in the direct market, weren't huge, except perhaps collectively," says Simone. "They all came out on the same day, for one thing. But many stores are understandably cautious...no one wants a box full of Wuzzles comics sitting in their back room. However, we did get responses from some stores that they couldn't keep Gus books on the stands. There was Hollywood interest the same week the books came out, although that wasn't one of the goals of the series when we conceived it.
"Between this issue and a hopeful collected edition, I think Gus is going to be more popular than anyone suspected."
Art on the first series was handled by Jason Lethcoe, but on this series fans will meet Japanese art studio Gurihiru. "By the time we worked out the deal for more issues, Jason unfortunately was under contract elsewhere and was unable to continue with the book he co-created," says Simone of the artistic change. "It's a sore blow, to be certain. He's still very interested in the book and has been around offering support all along.
"I'm told Joe Q personally picked his successor, and as usual, his artistic instincts are impeccable. From what I've seen, Gus fans will be very pleased, indeed. The art is by Gurihiru Studios, who have stepped in very nicely. Their Zabu is just a riot!"
No interview would be complete without a nice tease right at the end and Simone was more than happy to oblige.
"AND! In this issue, Zabu gets an ARCH-NEMESIS!"
Thanks to "Gus Beezer" series editor Teresa Focarile for her help with this story. CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland contributed to this story.
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