Body-swapping situations have evolved from a trope of science fiction and fantasy to a full-on genre. Gail Simone is well aware of this and she is taking all these conventions and beats and turning them on their heads with , “Crosswind.” Illustrated with a set square jaw by Cat Staggs, this new series released by Image finds a middle American housewife swapping bodies with a mid-level gangster hitman.
We had a chance to speak with Ms. Staggs and Ms. Simone about what they were trying for with “Crosswind,” what they hope to accomplish going forward, the form of the medium, and those dark alleyways they’re hoping to explore. . . .
First thing’s first: what’s “Crosswind” and what do each of you think it’s about?
Gail Simone: In our story, a smooth, respected hitman from Chicago ends up inexplicably in the body of a Seattle housewife, and neither has the tools to deal with it in any capacity.
Cat Staggs: “Crosswind” is a story of a man at the top of his game and a woman at the bottom of hers. Without warning their souls are switched and he wakes up in her body and she wakes up in his. We then deal with the fallout and their journey back to themselves.
GS: My advice is to take nothing for granted. Real life has a habit of devouring the status quo whole.
Can you tell us about how this book came to life? How did each of you come to be involved in the project and how did it end up at Image?
CS: Gail and I have wanted to work together for a while and projects never lined up. Finally the timing worked out. So when she asked if I would be interested in a creator owned book, I jumped at the chance.
GS:Image asked me to bring them a barnbuster book, and Cat was my dream artist. But she’d been producing such great, tasteful work on other books, I was genuinely concerned about asking her if this was something she’d like to take on. Fortunately, Cat’s got a wicked sense of humor, and has been wanting to do a crime book. The book is a mix of both of us, really, so it’s perverse and dark and awful and funny and I can’t tell you how delighted I am to get these horrible scenarios back in the mail, as visualized by Cat. She makes the awful look hot, somehow.
As far as I know, this is your first major series through Image. What new challenges did you find working here? What new freedoms? Has there been anything you’ve learned from working at the corporate superhero companies you’ve found to be helpful here?
CS: I think the biggest freedom is not being confined to an existing continuity, like you would with some superhero books. We are building our own world, our own history, our own characters. That has been the most fun for me. Challenges come from just getting the book out there. We have each taken on so many more roles other than writer and artist. We are directly involved in things like marketing and promotion as well as other steps in the production. Not something I have ever had to deal with personally, before. The team at IMAGE is top notch. They have been incredible.
GS: Yeah, I’ll second Cat’s words here about Image. I had the notion that we would have to do all of the sausage-making ourselves, and I’m not terribly good at that organizational stuff. But Image has it down. They’ve been incredibly supportive and helpful, and they love the book so they are constantly coming up with new ideas for how to put the message out there.
As for freedom, to be honest, I put a lot of content in superhero comics that doesn’t normally go in a mainstream book. So having NO borders is just asking for trouble, and I love that.
What’s your approach to creating this book? What’s the collaboration like between you two?
GS: It’s been amazing, I had some personal issues slow my output last year, but other than that, it’s been pretty flawless. Cat’s a wizard, she doesn’t need me gumming up the works. When I have a note, it’s like, “Can we change this guy’s shirt color?” because everything is so spot-on.Continued below
CS: It has been a pretty smooth collaboration. We both seem to fall on the same page the majority of the time. It has been really great. Gail is bringing some incredible material to this book and I am doing my best to create the visuals to match.
Gail, how has seeing Cat Staggs’s artwork changed your approach to the script? What sort of elements have developed simply from looking at her artwork?
GS: What happens with a great artist, one who really gets the story, is that it allows you to push the fences way, way back. This story literally would not work, would not be comprehensible, with an artist who could only draw stock characters in standard poses. It requires someone with a much better understanding of life drawing, of capturing non-bombast moments. When Cat brought in the first pages, it opened up the potential of what I could put on the page, and she’s nailed it every issue since.
Cat, what’s the first thing you think about when you’re blocking a scene? What sort of things has doing a series like “Crosswind” allowed you to do, like, what have you been able to draw that you never thought you’d get a chance to draw?
CS: Sexy scenes. This is the first time I have been able to draw things that make you blush. But seriously, I have been enjoying the intrigue and nuance of the story. I want to make sure I am choosing the best composition for the emotion I am trying to get across. Whether that be humor, anger, sadness.
GS: I just want to say that now that I know that Cat likes drawing the naughty stuff, I’m upping the naughty quotient 146%!
I’m a firm believer that no piece of art exists in a vacuum and that every work exists in the context of what’s come before it.
With that thought: Gail, what’s been on your mind since writing this? What stories, histories, etc. have you been researching for this book?
GS: Well, I am actually trying to avoid a lot of the tropes of most Freaky Friday scenarios. There’s always a bit of, “Oh, my god, I’m a guy and now I have to wear make-up and heels?” Like that’s worse than being shot in the head. The truth is, people have different burdens. We want to present something a little richer than that. But ultimately, it’s two humans who have never really looked outside themselves, and suddenly they are outside themselves. That’s fun drama, to me.
And Cat, similarly, what sort of imagery have you been trying to evoke for this? What have you also been looking at?
CS: I am a big fan of the crime genre. I usually have on some kind of procedural in the studio while I am working. I really enjoy the detective shows from BBC. They all have such a great atmosphere about them. There is always a dark undertone, visually. I feel like that may have made its way to the pages of Crosswind.
What you do see as the challenges or the benefits of doing a thriller like this in monthly installments versus a graphic novel?
CS: I think it gives us a chance to really play with the story. We get a chance to step back and breathe for a second and then get back to it.
GS: I love the serial format. I never want people to read a single issue of an ongoing story I wrote and have them not feel that it was worth their time, so I try to make sure each issue has meaning and value. In a story like this, it’s rife with cliffhangers, I feel like taking it in monthly chunks actually makes the story more fun, like a great weekly drama on television.
Would you be willing to share anything about the direction of the series? What sort of things are you looking forward to creating in the future? Is there an end point you’re working toward?
CS: I have said I think this is a suspenseful thrill ride of the human condition. We will get to see these characters pushed to their limits and beyond and find out if they have what it takes to survive that. I hope it is a world we can explore for a long time.Continued below
GS: My favorite stories are always “what if?” stories. I think we see a lot of the same tales over and over again, but my hope is always to take the reader somewhere they hadn’t really expected to go.
There’s a definite endpoint to this story . . . but is there an endpoint to the “Crosswind” universe? That’s yet to be seen.
“Crosswind” #1 hits shelves June 21. Here’s a preview.