Gail Simone Aims High with "Completely Badass" "Tomb Raider"

Mon, February 17th, 2014 at 7:58am PST | Updated: February 17th, 2014 at 8:08am

Comic Books
Albert Ching, Managing Editor

With years of history and multiple interpretations across a variety of media, Lara Croft has a fair amount in common with classic comic book characters like Batgirl, Wonder Woman and Deadpool.

And as of this month, the adventure-having archeologist can add one more similarity to the list: She'll also be written by Gail Simone in an ongoing series, the new "Tomb Raider" book from Dark Horse Comics, illustrated by Nicolás Daniel Selma. For Simone, a self-professed avid gamer, it's a chance -- much like several of her past high-profile projects -- to write a character she loves. Eschewing any potential snobbery towards comic book adaptations of video games, Simone told CBR News that she feels fortunate to be working on a series inspired by the long-running and influential franchise, and its "completely badass" lead character.

"Tomb Raider" isn't new to comics, but this series is set in the continuity of the massively successful 2013 reboot game, and acts as the official continuation of that story -- Simone has been working closely with the game's writer, Rhianna Pratchett, and the development team at Square Enix.

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CBR News: Gail, you've made your enthusiasm for "Tomb Raider" clear, specifically the most recent video game. As a devoted gamer, what was it about the latest installment that caught your attention -- and convinced you it would work as a comic book?

EXCLUSIVE: The cover for "Tomb Raider" #5, illustrated by TR senior art director Brian Horton

Gail Simone: I do love video games, I am an avid gamer. But because I have a brutal writing and travel schedule, I often am more of a starter, than a finisher. Playing the new "Tomb Raider" game, I was immediately sucked in. The writing, the gameplay, the graphics, I just felt transported. I played it all the way through on the Xbox 360, went back and got all the collectibles, and then bought the game again for the PS4 and am having a great time my second time through. Me, I like the bow, and I go for headshots. The guns are for when I run out of arrows, I say.

One of the joys of this job for me has been the opportunity to turn my daydreams into stories featuring characters I love. Whether it's "The Simpsons," or "Batgirl," or "Deadpool," I really get tremendous joy out of trying to share that affection for the characters with readers. I like to try to bring the reader into the experience, to try to show something they don't know about these iconic figures.

Lara Croft belongs in that very special group of archetypes that are imitated endlessly, but never quite equaled. It's a pleasure to write her; she's just completely badass.

With any project like this, I imagine there's a balancing act between satisfying the hardcore fans of the existing property, and also keeping things accessible for people who may not have ever played one of the games, but are interested because of the creative team or simply because it looks cool on the shelf. How are you approaching that aspect?

The hardcore fan wants the same thing any reader wants -- they want a ripping good story that's told with sincerity and respect. We as an industry seem terrified of the serious reader, and I don't really get that. They're just passionate, is all.

I feel that because we are at such an early point in Lara's history, there isn't quite the crushing weight of backstory that might alienate casual readers.

At the same time, I'm blessed enough to have the game's writers and developers available to answer any questions, and they've been incredibly supportive. Rhianna Pratchett, the brilliant writer of the game, has given me tremendous little snippets that hint at wonderful things to come.

Nicolás Daniel Selma is on art -- I know he has prior "Tomb Raider" experience, but he's likely an unfamiliar name to most fans right now. What can you say about collaborating with him thus far, and how he's been able to bring this world to the page?

Nicolas is a delight to work with, and he's got that very wonderful line, he draws with an animator's eye, so everything feels like a perfectly chosen moment to convey character and action. Additionally, he's fantastic at setting, which is more essential in this book than any other comic I have ever worked on. We're lucky to have him.

Simone's "Tomb Raider" will take place around the globe

From Barbara Gordon to Wonder Woman to Red Sonja to Deadpool, you've written quite a few unique and colorful protagonists. What makes Lara Croft interesting to you? What are you able to say telling her stories that you might not have had the opportunity to do in other comics?

The thing I love best about working in the DC and Marvel universes is the shared continuity -- I am wild for that tapestry, and making connections, the more obscure the better.

Tomb Raider is the opposite -- Lara has some friends, but when she goes to do her thing, she goes alone, without backup, without support. There's a scene in the game where she climbs a radio tower, and it's strikingly suspenseful and beautiful, and it feels like she's the only person in the world except a disembodied voice on the radio. Those themes of isolation and self-reliance in the face of impossible tasks fit her beautifully.

What was the process like of developing the story for this series? How much consideration is given to the notion of telling a Lara Croft story that takes specific advantage of the comic book medium?

Quite a lot, the differences in medium are subtle and very interesting. In the game, there is a hyper-realism to the graphics that is quite different from comics, yet she can get shot 50 times and wait a bit, and be fine. I can't do that in the comic. I can't kill her and hit reset. The needs are different and fascinating.

Also, 12 issues of her crawling around on an island, I don't think that would translate. So we are telling a wider adventure with more settings, and some good hot familiar stuff for those paying attention!

I'm having a blast.

A major part of the series appears to be an element of globe-trotting, likely both real and fictional venues. Can you share some of the locales readers will see? And have you based any of it from your own experiences traveling the world appearing at conventions?

Absolutely -- Lara will be in several different countries in the first 12 issues, and I've enlisted a bunch of local friends in each one so that I don't end up embarrassing myself too much (I hope!). We don't want to give away too much, but Lara definitely has a pint of Guinness at one point.

Simone has signed on to "Tomb Raider" for the long haul

"Tomb Raider" is billed as an ongoing series -- are you making fairly long-term plans with the story?

Yeah, there are some surprises coming that I am excited about. It's fun to work so closely with the game designers, there is quite a bit of back and forth, and they have been very interested to hear my thoughts on the characters and their motivations. I feel like part of something wonderful in that way.

The first time I played TR as a kid, I was just stunned -- it was an adventure game where the lead was female, and did all the asskicking, and the risk-taking. It meant a lot to me, and it changed the landscape to a degree, it shifted the ground.

I just feel fortunate. Got a little choked up there for a second, sorry.

For people only peripherally familiar with the property, there may be some sense of skepticism about a "Tomb Raider" comic book -- both due to preconceived notion about the franchise, and the viability of video game-based comic books in general. What would you say in response to such a theoretical person?

I would guess that this theoretical person might not really be following either medium that closely, I guess. Some comic adaptations of video games have been massive, tremendous hits, written and drawn by some of the best in the industry. And they often bring in people who otherwise don't read comics.

And when the game wanted to give important backstory for the characters, they chose to do it in comics form, not animation or prose. The new Definitive edition has the "Tomb Raider: The Beginning" graphic novel included right on the disc, selectable from the main menu.

In this case, I literally am talking to the people making the game several times a week, I am throwing ideas back and forth with the upcoming sequel's writer. You just can't get more authentic than that.

It's Lara freaking Croft. I owe it to her to get it right, you know?

TAGS:  dark horse comics, tomb raider, gail simone, square enix, rhianna pratchett, nicolas daniel selma, brian horton

 
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