BOOKS: John Reviews “You’ll All Be Sorry!” by Gail Simone

Cover to Youll All Be Sorry!

Cover to You'll All Be Sorry!

In an industry dominated by men, Gail Simone’s rise to success and acclaim has not been easy, but she has proven time and again that she can (and does) write comics just as well as any member of the “old boys’ club.”  This success, coupled with her desire to see the comics world become more female-friendly (especially within the stories themselves) could have gone to her head and made her feel righteous or self-important, but one of Mrs. Simone’s most endearing charms is her ability to laugh and poke fun, both at herself and at her fellow creators.  You’ll All Be Sorry is a collection of satire columns that form the earliest period of her “professional” career (when she was living a double life of hairdresser by day, comic blogger by night,) as well as several original never-before-published essays.  Interspersed throughout the book are “Condensed Comics Classics,” satirical single-paragraph synopses of famous comics written by their creators (because Mrs. Simone didn’t feel right making fun of her fellow creators’ work.)  These are similar in format to RinkWorks’ Book-a-minute and Movie-a-minute sites, and the creators show a remarkable sense of humor when summarizing their (in some cases) most successful works.  Gail contributes several of these for her own comics as well, the best of which is undoubtedly her single-line summary of Birds of Prey:

BLACK CANARY: Does this outfit make my ass look empowered?

Mrs. Simone’s columns are not typical blogger fare by any means: She provides various forms of satire, ranging from a parody of a comic book news site (or perhaps The Onion‘s website)  to a “lost” script for an issue of Punisher to several cringe-worthily bad “fan-fiction” pieces written by the fictional couple of Brendan Hockenberry and Fern Rosario-Hockenberry, and even “Conan and Hobbes,” a most unlikely team-up.  The frequent changes in format keep the book from ever getting stale, as well as make it easy to read in short stints (it’s ideal for reading while riding on mass transit.  Yay commuting!)  The only criticism I have is of the “fan-fiction” pieces, which succeed so perfectly in encapsulating everything wrong with most fan-fics that they’re absolutely painful to read, which I suppose is the point.

There is little artwork to speak of in YABS, but the collection of artists’ contributions (led by cover artist Scott Shaw) are spot-on and never interrupt the flow of the text.  The different formats each have their own unique visual style, accompanied by the best visual aids that MS Word/Publisher can provide (in a nod to the poor quality of self-published works.)  For example, the “Legends of the Batman and the Dark Outsiders” fan-fic is printed in white typeface on black paper, which helps to accentuate the darkness of the story (cripes, now I’m starting to sound like Brendan Hockenberry!)

It’s difficult for me to guage exactly how appealing this book would be to a non-fan, but my estimation is that roughly half the jokes are funnier if you have been following the comics industry for the past few years.  A gag headline like “Dan Jurgens to Die, Return with Longer Hair” will whiz right over the head of anyone who didn’t read the Return of Superman arc in Superman during the ’90s, but is highly amusing to those who did.  Conversely, I think everyone could appreciate the humor of “Freddie Prinze Jr. to write Spider-Man comic, writer J. Michael Straczynski to star in romantic comedy opposite Drew Barrymore.”  The most important running gags are that Battle Chasers is the Chinese Democracy of the comic book world, and that Rob Liefeld has serious difficulty drawing certain limbs (usually feet) and backgrounds.

Battle Chasers, stuck forever in development Hell.

Battle Chasers, stuck forever in development Hell.

Another example of why Rob Liefeld ruled (and ruined) the '90s.

Youngblood: Another example of why Rob Liefeld ruled (and ruined) the '90s.

You’ll All Be Sorry is chock-full of wit and witticism, and has plenty to offer to the casual comic reader, but you have to be a fairly ardent follower of the industry to get all the jokes.  It’s a great glimpse into the mind of one of comicdom’s most prominent female creators (be sure to check out her “How to make comics – with boobs and food” segment) and showcases her comedic talents wonderfully.  Even if you read nothing else, the mostly-true introduction tells the inspirational story of how Mrs. Simone made the transition from full-time hairdresser and part-time comic fan to the biggest female name on the Big Two’s rosters.

EDIT:  If you want a tastae of the book’s contents (remember, some sections are unique to the printed version,) you can read the original “You’ll All Be Sorry!” columns here, at CBR.

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