Comic book adaptations are notoriously hard to pull off. You have to create a movie that newcomers can understand, while still appealing to fans who’ve followed the series for years. Birds of Prey is no different -- and it looks like this time, even one of the comics’ writers has weighed in on what did and didn’t work. And she shared her one major gripe with how the film uses its characters.
To be fair, Gail Simone made it very clear that she has an “unusual pov” of the film, because she was “fiercely protective” of the characters when she was writing the series. She said she fought against any “off-model” portrayals of the Birds of Prey girls, even if they occurred in crossover issues. Gail Simmons said that she’s carried that protectiveness with her and, because of that, she understands when fans want adaptations to be like the comics.
She then revealed that when she saw some of the “initial stuff” from the Birds of Prey film, she was not thrilled -- because it didn’t feel like the series she loved so deeply. After delving into how difficult it can be to make a “comics-accurate” film -- because the series themselves can feel static, even when the characters are elastic -- she said she was grateful that the finished product was “more in line” with what she’d hoped for.
Gail Simone’s Twitter thread delved, in depth, into many of the grievances fans have expressed about Birds of Prey, including the exclusion of Barbara Gordon. But she also explained her own personal misgivings, including the character she felt was most different from their comic book counterparts:
All right, so, to the thing that does stand out, that I wish had gone another way? It’s not Barbara. The Birds of Prey can function with different line-ups. And she was never going to be in this film, it just wasn’t in the cards. It’s Cass. ... I have held back commenting on this, mostly, because I wanted to see for myself. But essentially, this Cassandra Cain is a new character. I like her, she’s fun to watch, the actress is adorable (Ella Jay Basco) is great in the role. But she bears no resemblance to Cass. I don’t think of it as an insult so much as a missed opportunity.
The writer made it clear that after years of writing Birds of Prey, and given the way Cassandra Cain has evolved over the years, she’d hoped to see more of the girl she loved in the film adaptation:
Like basically all of the Asian martial arts characters of that era at the big two (I do not exclude myself from this at all), there’s stuff in her early stores that reeks of exoticism and more. Fair enough. But she became so much more. She was also one of the first truly successful solo Asian heroes at either company. Her struggles with speech and reading and socialization were hugely meaningful to so many people. I love Cass dearly, and this is not a Cass I recognize. I think it was an easy fix, just give her a different name. It’s possible that they didn’t want another voiceless Asian flawless goddess assassin, and that’s perfectly fair, but it would have been the same movie character if they had named her Nancy Floogenbottom, not Cass.
Ultimately, though, Gail Simone conceded that even she had struggled to get Cassandra Cain right at first:
So that was my only major gripe. I love Cass, I think she’s very special and precious as a character. However not everyone writes her well and the first TWO times I wrote her, I messed it up completely (bugs me to this day).
And finally, Gail Simone addressed fan complaints about Black Canary’s costume and characterization in the Birds of Prey film. She made an intriguing point -- that not all comic book stories are good stories, that the girls in Birds of Prey have been subjected to poor characterization on the page as well:
Which leads me to my final point...And this is a big one. When we say, ‘that’s not Black Canary from the comics,’ well, okay, true. But it’s also cherry picking. We are comparing it only to the stories you liked best, the absolutely most memorable, top shelf stuff.
Ultimately, Gail Simone’s analysis of Birds of Prey is a necessary one, because it reveals how many factors go into making a successful adaptation -- and why it can be so hard to please everyone. Birds of Prey is in theaters now.