Louise Simonson Discusses Faith During This Election Season

This article was originally published at Comics Bulletin on October 31, 2016.

Faith Issue 5_Hillary Special_mock-up_v4.indd

Legendary comics writer and editor Louise “Weezie” Simonson’s work will be featured in the pages of Faith #5 on the Wednesday before Election Day in the United States. The timing of this issue and her inclusion is no accident. She’s written a ten-page story featuring presidential candidate Hillary Clinton having an adventure with the flying superhero Faith.

Chase Magnett spoke with the writer at New York Comic Con about this comic and the issues surrounding it. While the conversation itself was cheerful and filled with laughs, her message and the one contained in Faith #5 are incredibly important. Simonson is passionate about the characters she writes and the message this particular issue is meant to send: Vote.

If you are eligible to vote in the United States, please be sure to check your registration and voting place. The right to vote is important and valuable in local elections and national ones. If you need some convincing please take a look at the interview below.

Chase Magnett: Can you offer a little bit of background as to how you came to work on this unique Faithstory at Valiant?

Louise Simonson: They just called me up and asked if I would do it. I assume I had Jody [Houser]’s approval since she’s the regular writer. I suspect she was overcommitted and couldn’t do this ten-page story, so they asked me. I said, “Of course. I love Faith. Faith is a great book.”

Magnett: Do you think there’s a particular reason they went to you first with this story?

Simonson: Probably because I’m female. That helps. [laughter] I’ve been around a long time too.

Magnett: You’re also a woman who has had a significant impact on superhero comics. It’s possible to see your fingerprints all over Marvel Comics even today, and a lot of comics fans here [NYCC] hold a lot of respect for you.

Simonson: It’s wonderful that you think that I had an impact. It’s lovely to think that maybe I did. Occasionally, people come up and tell me that they read my comics when they were young and it made a difference in their life. I love hearing that. Sometimes I hear they were in a bad situation and it gave them somewhere to go and escape.Power Pack is very much like that, but there’s New Mutants and X-Factor, as well.

Magnett: When you were writing those comics or this Faith story, what’s at the forefront of your mind? Has that changed at all?

Simonson: To entertain myself. I am my first audience. It’s the same way you don’t tell a joke to somebody that you don’t think is funny. I don’t tell a story to people that I don’t think is a good story and doesn’t amuse me. In my own mind, I’m probably a precocious twelve-year old. So I’m writing for the precocious twelve-year old inside myself.

I was a typical kid, although I think twelve-year olds were younger back in the olden days. They were much less sophisticated than they are now, but I was also reading at a college level then. It’s that kid I’m writing for; I’m writing for the smart kid.

Magnett: With something like this story landing days before a very important election—and dealing with that election—are there other concerns that start to challenge that primary drive?

Simonson: That is a three- or four-fold project. First of all, you need to entertain or people aren’t going to want to look at the story. They’re going to hold their nose up, go yuck, and move to the next great story in the book that does entertain. I also wanted to encourage people to think about the world they want to inherit: that they want their children to grow up in and go to college in. I wanted to encourage people to drop their own vote in the bucket to help tip the world in the direction they want it to go in. I hope they all tip it in the direction I want it to go in, but even if they have a different idea, they should say what they want. That’s how you do it. You say what you want by voting.

What I would like people to take from this is just to vote. Make the effort to stop at the polls and push the button or pull the lever or figure out a hanging chad. If we get five people who wouldn’t have voted otherwise, who are encouraged by Faith, that would be really cool.

Magnett: It is nice that when there’s so much negativity surrounding the concept of voting and democracy, particularly in this election, to have a story that presents the act of voting in a positive light.

Simonson: I hope so. It’s important for people to think about the future, whether it’s one year from now or four or eight or fifty, and to turn the world in a positive direction. Because there is a lot of negativity.

Magnett: Looking at the message you’re presenting, have you always held this strong of an opinion about voting?

Simonson: Oh, absolutely. I vote in every election. I vote in local elections and larger elections. If you don’t like the way things are going and you haven’t voted, you can just shut up. [laughter] You need to get your voice out there.

Magnett: One thing I’m curious about is using Hilary Clinton, a public figure’s image, in this story. How delicately was her inclusion approached? Was the campaign contacted?

Simonson: I believe there are people in the campaign who are aware of it, but because she is a public figure I don’t believe we had to have any permission. I’ve written Hillary before and put words in Hillary’s mouth before in a Superman book during the “Death of Superman” storyline [editor’s note: the issue was Superman: Man of Steel #20]. This is my second chance at it. I’ve listened to some of her speeches and tried to capture her voice and her attitude.

I think in a lot of ways she has gotten a bum rap. I think a lot of the negatives laid upon her are politically motivated and not actually accurate. They don’t reflect the kind of person she is and the president she will be. I tried to put my own interpretation of what I think she is really like. She is essentially a character I’ve created because I don’t know her.

If I were to do you as a character, I would study you and look at the stuff you’ve written. Then I’d think, “Well, he might say this.” I might find a phrase that you use and throw that in. I would create you as a character and you would be a character in my mind. Hillary in Faith is my interpretation of Hillary Clinton.

Magnett: When you study someone like that you create a well-informed opinion. So when you are writing Hillary, what do you perceive to be the core of her character?

Simonson: She is that kid in your class who studied really, really hard and got all of the facts, then worried that she wasn’t going to make an A. She takes the test and thinks she failed, then gets it backs says, “Oh my god! A+! Best in the class! Wow!”

I think she is super, super smart, but has been up against so much negative publicity. A lot of it was politically motivated. Some of it was the press and some of it was stuff she brought on herself. I think she got burned with some of her early interactions with the press and it made her skittish, which made her back off from the press, which makes the press skeptical.

I understand from my niece who met her that one-on-one she is wonderful. She’s warm, she’s friendly, she remembers everybody’s first name and everything about them. She is very personable one-on-one, but not comfortable on stage. She is comfortable down with folks. I don’t think she’s a great politician, but I think she is going to be a great president.

Magnett: And what interests you about her manner of speech? What interested you in writing her in Faith?

Simonson: I looked at her speeches, but then I tried to make her say what I thought she would say if she read a comic, if she went on an adventure in which Faith participated. I fantasized about the way she would interact and the words she would use.

I hope she’s not mad if she reads it. I’ll be on Hillary’s “bad list” and she’ll be the president! I’ll be doomed. [laughter]

Magnett: On the other hand, if she reads it and likes it, you might get a pull quote from the President of the United States.

Simonson: I find that very unlikely. She has a lot of places to be and things to do.

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About chasemagnett

Chase is a mild-mannered finance guy by day and a raving comics fan by night. He has been reading comics for more than half of his life (all 23 years of it). After graduating from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln with degrees in Economics and English, he has continued to research comics while writing articles and reviews online. His favorite superhero is Superman and he'll accept no other answers. Don't ask about his favorite comic unless you're ready to spend a day discussing dozens of different titles.
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