Interview: ‘Crosswind’ Creators Gail Simone and Cat Staggs
The creators of the new body-swapping crime drama Crosswind, talk about murder, gender and why we all have a hit man inside us waiting to come out.
A slick and ruthless Chicago hitman.
A smart but downtrodden Seattle housewife.
When an inexplicable event strikes these two random strangers, their bodies, souls, and lives are switched—to potentially deadly effect
Gail Simone and Cat Staggs manage to breathe new life into the tired “body swap” sub-genre by zigging when everyone else zagged — emphasising drama and the human condition instead of humor and screwball comedy. Rather than giving us yet another take on Freaky Friday, Crosswind reads more like like one part Desperate Housewives and two parts The Departed.
Life is slowly wearing downtrodden housewife Juniper away to nothingness. She can’t get respect at the grocery store, teens in the neighborhood sexual harrass her and her jerkwad of a husband could care less about her problems and feelings — as long as she looks pretty on his arm and makes an incredible gourmet dinner for his boss.
Mafia hit man Carson appears to living out a James Bond influenced dream, with fast cars, a penthouse apartment and beautiful women at his beck and call. But his charmed life has a dark side. He was just forced to kill a friend that he knew was innocent, because if he disobeys orders even once, he will be the next one to die.
When Juniper and Carson suddenly and inexplicably trade bodies and lives, both will be faced with challenges they are utterly unprepared for as they try to survive while unravelling the mystery of why they swapped in the first place.
We recently talked with Gail and Cat about the new book. The first issue hit store shelves June 21st.
On the surface, the two protagonists could not seem more different: a ruthless hitman and a harried housewife. Which one do you identify with more?
Gail Simone: Wow, that’s a good question! At times, I’ve been both. I tried to be the ‘good daughter’ as a kid, it didn’t really work out as promised, and you end up subjugating your own happiness for amorphous responses that don’t really mean anything. So, that’s Juniper. But I have grown up to be more assertive and that’s been very Cason at times!
On another level, both Juniper and Cason are not in control of their lives at all, being manipulated by forces beyond their control. Are their more commonalities than a reader might first suspect?
Gail: Absolutely, you can be King of the World and still have to do things you don’t want to do, and lead a life you don’t want to lead. Both of them think the other has it easy. They’re both wrong.
Cat, The art is amazing. Can I ask what your process is?
Cat Staggs: Sure. When I get the script I try to layout as much of, if not, the entire issue if possible. I then gather any reference material I may need and start in on the pencils. I tend to draw the pages in order as much as possible. It helps me make the whole book a cohesive piece of art.
How difficult is it to balance the two storylines so that preparing for a dinner party feels like it has the same stakes as covering up a grizzly murder?
Gail: Ha! Well, readers are part of that. If the readers are invested, then a story where someone goes shopping can have the same page-turning impact as a large-scale battle. A lot of it is having faith in the readers. And people watch cooking competitions every day, maybe that’s the new fight scene. 🙂
This world is more grounded than the worlds of superheroes or Star Trek. Is it easier or more difficult to make the mundane visually engaging?
Cat: Sometimes it is more difficult. But I gladly accept the challenge. It feels much more intimate and relies on much more nuance to keep the reader’s interest without a hero swooping in and throwing a tank. I’m getting to do a little of both and the balance and pacing of Gail’s writing has made this project an absolute blast to work on.
I love the colors Were the muted palettes an intentional choice for storytelling purposes?
Cat: Thank you. Yes, they were. I am really trying to work the colors to fit their mood as well as the tone of their individual worlds. I am also using color for impact in some of the more intense scenes.
I can see pretty clearly how Cason will improve some aspects of Juniper’s life — she deals with a lot of people that need to be punched in the throat. Will part of the story revolve around the characters figuring out how to better the new lives they’ve been given?
Gail: I think it’s a matter of having skills the other doesn’t possess. I think of it like this, you know how people from New York City may never go see the Statue of Liberty? I live next to the tallest sand dunes on Earth, people travel from all over to see them, and I haven’t climbed one in years. We adapt to the life we have. Someone comes in with a new perspective and the tolerable becomes intolerable again, you know?
It looks like you are handling all of the art duties. What type of advantages does it bring when you get to ink and color your own work?
Cat: I am. I am really enjoying it. I guess the benefit would be to be able to get the vision I have in my head to the page.
This premise is also a great way to explore gender norms and societal expectations. Was that always part of the plan, or did it just come naturally as you wrote the story?
Gail: It’s definitely there, but there are plenty of downtrodden guys and plenty of uber-confident women. The story is much more about confidence and empathy than strict gender roles.
That said, it’s not like society doesn’t place unfair expectations on people of all genders…guys are mocked for expressing compassion, women are insulted for presenting confidence, it’s a weird goddamn society we have, and it’d be a lot nice if people just let people live their lives the way they want, as long as they’re not hurting anyone. Crosswind is a crime fantasy at heart, but it’s impossible NOT to face how different people’s life expectations are, when you walk in their shoes.