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Talking 'The Tattered Man, Booksmart, Trailblazer and the DC Relaunch' with Jimmy PalmiottiBy: Dustin Cabeal | Jun 14, 2011
It is not every day that I get to sit down with a creator that will one day be known as a Comic Legend! But that's what happened this weekend as I was able to send a ton of questions and follow questions to the one and only Jimmy Palmiotti one of the best inkers in comics, but also one half of the best writing teams in comics today as well. Jimmy has recently released a ton of creator owned and freelance work including: The Tattered Man, Time Bomb, Deathstroke and the Curse of the Ravager. So sit back, get a glass of water and read what's possibly our best interview for the site ever.
PA) Recently you released The Tattered Man, which had parts that seemed inspired by other comic characters, but at its core was a very serious story. What truly inspired this tale and are there plans to do either an ongoing series or more one-shots?
JP) We are waiting on the final numbers of books sold and downloads to see if it’s financially viable for us to pursue past the graphic novel. Initially the book did pretty good, but we have to hit a certain mark to first make our investment back and then have enough profit to decide if an ongoing would be something we could afford. People forget there are a ton of expenses that go into doing a book this size and quality. Justin and I make sure everyone is paid before we take a single dime for the work we have done. We have been talking about how to make it work overall and on a monthly basis, but it’s a plan we are waiting to unleash in 2012. These things take time. It makes no sense talking about a project till it’s all done.
PA) Also this past year you released Time Bomb, which was also centered around World War II, but in a much different way. Was this a general theme you were playing with?
JP) The TIME BOMB books were released by our good friends at RADICAL COMICS, and it was a fantastic experience for us on a number of levels. The World War 2 theme just happened to show up in these stories by coincidence. I do feel somewhat connected to that war because my dad fought in it, so I think it’s because of this connection I have read and researched so much about it. The actual stories in Tattered Man and Time Bomb couldn’t be different on every level.
PA) Especially recently you and Justin Gray have been doing more and more creator owned books, aside from giving more creative freedom, why the focus on creator owned material? What do you enjoy the most about working on your own projects?
JP) Working on our own projects gives us a ton of creative freedom. We love working for the comic companies, but at the end of the day…and especially at the end of my life, I would hate that the only work I have ever done was on other people’s creations. There is something so satisfying about being able to come up with an idea and put a team together to execute it. I have always been looking at the bigger picture of things since I first got into comics and even back then, in my third year in the business, I formed Event comics with Joe Quesada. I still think it’s the way to go for some creators, but not all. Trust me…for the most part, it’s a losing proposition unless something hits. What I have done so gracefully over the years is learn how to lose…how to fail at something and come back into the game with a lesson learned. Justin and I really come up with an idea or two a week…and having that much chaos in the brain is not a good thing. To be called a creator, you have to create. 2012 is going to be a real interesting year for us.
PA) When you do work with a writing partner, what’s the process like? Do you pitch ideas at each other or do you find one person tends to have the idea and the other helps nurture it along?
JP) We both come up with ideas, together and separate, and break them down into something that we are both happy with. We talk twice a day and bounce ideas back and forth like a virtual tennis match. We challenge each other and I think that’s partly why we get some really good stories going. We compete on a healthy level, and find the place where we are both satisfied with the end product. The great thing about a writing partner is that they can call “bullshit" on you just about any time and you got to step up. It’s a really enjoyable way to work.
PA) Your resume is filled with diversity when it comes to genres and characters. Is there a particular genre you enjoy working on more than the others?
JP) I enjoy working on all genres and really prefer, when doing my own thing, to aim at an adult reader…to try things that haven’t been done much before. I would really like to try to write a romantic graphic novel at some point, but such things don’t work well unless you a vampire or fantasy to it. I think when the time is right, there will be a place for it…but the next thing I have coming up with Amanda is a comedy with an adult slant to it…and seriously, there isn’t that much out there right now, so we shall see.
PA) As impressive as the characters and genres, is the amount of companies you have worked with and for. Is there particular company that you enjoy working with more? You can view this question more in the terms of creative freedoms if that prevents any backlash from fan boy’s you may receive.
JP) I enjoy working with anyone that has a respect for what I can bring to the table. I find that each company has its positives and negatives and have learned along the way to work with them and around them when I have to. DC comics have been my most loyal supporter for as long as I have been writing and for that I am always grateful. The very idea that soon Jonah Hex will be reaching issue 70 is a true testament of their faith in us as creators.
PA) Is there a character or story arc that you would like to be known for in the way that Alan Moore is for Watchmen, or Frank Miller for The Dark Knight Returns?
JP) Sure, 70 issues of Jonah Hex is one…12 issues of Monolith and Powergirl are another …a bunch of painkiller Jane books and so on. To be honest, I don’t think I have done that defining work of my career yet and I am really glad to say that. I think it’s coming…or better yet I would like to believe its coming. It’s what keeps me working so hard. I like to think that to someone out there, they hold a special place in their heart for something I have done, but that’s a lot to ask with so much great talent out there.
PA) When we will see a book that has your name in all three places on the cover (writer, artist, colorist), with a cover by you? And what would it be about? Please excuse me if this book already exists.
JP) It doesn’t…and as far as colorist, unless I start some classes, that’s not going to happen any time soon. I think I would like to do something sometime soon, but it’s one of those things where as an artist, I cannot stand to look at my work. Ask anyone around me, I just don’t like it and the idea of drawing an entire book, and I’d rather not. I have only drawn a few books ever…and to this day hate looking at them. Yeah…artists, we are all crazy. One day I will get my head in the right place and try.
PA) Moving into the other aspects of your career, you’re one of the few talents in comics that have worked as: a writer, penciller, inker, and cover artist. Which one do you enjoy the most or is just awesome being able to do all of them so well?
JP) Writing is my love right now, and freelance editing projects. These two things take up most of my day and I am pretty happy about that. If I were to ink anything, it would be something I’m really into…otherwise I have no interest. I have always been a storyteller in one way or another and even before comics when i was in the advertising business, this came in handy more than you would ever know. I think I am going to stick with writing till it bores me, which I don't see happening any time soon. Remember, Justin and I do more than write comics. Right now we are working on a video game and a TV script...and I still take an advertising gig now and again, mostly to pay the bills.
PA) When you ink, what do you use brushes, pens or a high tech program created by you? What would you recommend someone starting out as an inker to use?
JP) Let me start by saying no one should be coming into the business right now as an inker…because of digital inks and low pay, most artists are inking their own work and it’s going to be happening more and more. That said…I personally use a brush…old school all the way. Honest, learn to draw and inking should be part of that process. I used to ink Amanda's work, but even she felt the crunch of what we are paid and decide to ink her own work to make more money. The rates of comic artists has not kept up with the rest of the world.
PA) When you start inking a page, what’s your process? Do you start with the character and working in the background? Do you simply work left to right or vice versa?
JP) Character, middle ground and background. Simple as that. Left to right is usually the way since I need the ink to dry right away. Everyone works differently. I remember someone telling me to always start with the face and other rules, but i think they are personal choices.
PA) You’ve drawn an impressive amount of covers, is there one that you look at and want to redo?
JP) I really haven’t done that many at all and I am fine with that. In this house, Amanda Conner is the cover artist.
PA) There doesn’t seem to be any overlap when it comes to writing and drawing on a book. They seem separated intentionally, as if when writing you’d prefer not to have your art associated as much with the title. Am I reading into that too much or is it just on certain titles? I noticed that for Jonah Hex you only appear as a writer.
JP) I don’t draw any of my books and it’s rare I ink them, so it’s not a problem. I do edit the artists as much as I can if it’s needed. These days, most people really know what they are doing, so I worry less about that.
PA) I’m sure you’ve done a ton of interviews and I was wondering what is your least favorite question to be asked? But don’t tell us the answer to that hated question.
JP) I really don’t have one…but I prefer not to talk too much about the past and look to the future. I am not a big “memory lane” kind of interview. The past is done, time to move on.
PA) On Twitter recently you talked about the healthy changes you’ve made in your life over the past year or so, did this have anything to do with Ryan Reynolds being casted as Hal Jordon? I’m kidding. Seriously what’s inspired you to live healthier and how has it changed your creative habits when working?
JP) I felt at my age, I needed to get off my ass and get back in shape. Writing at a desk every day can take its toll and I took a good look at my diet and decided the two things I didn’t need in my life were French fries and soda…and I haven’t had either in over 5 months and I have lost 22 pounds and feel much better. I think it’s good when you can identify when something you do is not good for you and do something about it. I still feel for my friends that smoke…
PA) Flashpoint is a major event that is on everyone’s minds. This past week Deathstroke and The Curse of The Ravager released. The idea of Deathstroke as a pirate doesn’t actually come off that far-fetched and the first issue really showed Slade in a different light. What’s you’re take on the character for this book and how does he differ from his DCU counterpart?
JP) He is different because he is a pirate with a crew when the Deathstroke we know and love isn’t really a team player. As well…the settings are completely alien to the normal character so I had a bit of fun with it on this series and so far so good. I do wish it were more than 3 issues though. I do have a much bigger story to tell.
PA) If given the chance to explore Flashpoint Deathstroke again, could you elaborate on what you would do with the character? Are fans going to be upset that they only get three issues of this book and should be start a protest for a series called Tales from Flashpoint?
JP) Honest, I could have written an ongoing so easy on this book since I felt three issues was not enough time to truly explore all the ideas presented. There are a few scenes that I know play out pretty fast because of the limited page count. If DC called and offered me an ongoing on this, i would grab it in a heartbeat. There is a character Jenny Blitz that I introduce in the second issue that i know i could write an entire series only about her given the chance.
PA) Of course the big news this week has been DC’s re-launch. You and Justin Gray were announced for All-Star Western. The series, while using DC’s western characters, comes across very differently from your work on Jonah Hex. Is the story mainly focused in Gotham and what differences will we see in this version of Jonah Hex?
JP) Well, there isn’t a lot I am allowed to talk about yet, but I can tell you that this will be the same Jonah Hex people have been enjoying for a while and its set in a bigger city than he is used to. The main story is focused, as it always should be, on the man himself and how he deals with the new surroundings and the work in front of him. He is still the bounty hunter, but the surroundings are different and for us, really fun at this point. We looked at this as a challenge and really stepped up our game to try to deliver something you haven’t seen before.
PA) You’re also working with Moritat on the book, who’s hot off the heels of working on the Spirit. What’s it like working with him so far and what can you tell us about his style for this book since it’s very different from what he’s become known for? Also I understand if you can’t say much about this title yet?
JP) Moritat is kicking some major ass so far for us…the amount of research and work he is putting into this book will even shock the regular readers of his work on the Spirit. The great thing he has above most people is his storytelling is quite flawless and as far as style, he is experimenting on the book…you will get this right away when they start showing previews. Justin and I couldn’t be happier opening our e-mails each day and seeing the latest page
PA) Did you have to pitch this series or did DC come to you and Justin and tell you to go nuts on it?
JP) They pitched us the idea and we all talked about how we can not only make it work, but how we can have some fun and do things we haven’t seen Jonah do before. The amazing thing about Jonah himself is that after over 5 years writing him in his own book, we still have a million tales to tell and this new book is another page in the long history of the character.
PA) With Digital comics becoming more and more popular, will we see companies like Event Comics release an app of their material or distribute it though an existing apps? Or would you release creator owned books like Ash in a similar way? Personally I think it would be interesting to see the same companies come back and distribute their books digitally rather than re-branding it under a new company the way all of the Virgin Comics series have been.
JP) I have been talking to Joe and a few of the other people about that very thing recently. Personally I would like to re-launch some of the older titles in new series and at the same time create some sort of hub where someone could go for not only all my titles, but maybe create an app for each character so the search would be easier. There are a lot of great things happening in the digital market now with COMIXOLOGY and GRAPHICLY already featuring our Image work as well as our D.C. and Marvel comics. What’s most interesting to me is the idea that people outside of the U.S. can download the books the same day they come out and enjoy them in real time. When I do figure all of this out and find the right people to work with on this, it will be under the Paperfilms banner, not the Event Comics one since we stopped that many years ago. Paperfilms is the company owned by Amanda Conner, Justin and myself and the banner which all of our creator owned titles come under.
PA) With Paperfilms, currently I'd assume it’s just for yours, Amanda's and Justin's creator owned projects, but is there any plans in the future to bring on new talent and build the company and brand further?
JP) We consider guys like Paul Mounts and Bill Tortolini part of the group and as projects come in, there will always be more people involved. One of the projects I am working on right now for Paperfilms is co-writing a miniseries with Frank Tieri...one of the best writers marvel has working for them at the moment. Guys like frank have a great understanding what the reader wants to see in a book and I am having a blast working with him. Everyone in this group are friends and at the end of the day, that’s what we are about...friends working together to tell some great stories.
PA) Can you tell us about the graphic novel coming out this summer from Kickstart Comics called Booksmart?
JP) Booksmart is an 88 page graphic novel Justin and I wrote and Juan Santacruz illustrated. It’s basically a fish out of water story about an American girl who loses her memory while on a trip in Nepal and the adventure she has trying to figure out who she is and why she is even there in the first place. I was editing a bunch of books for Kickstart during their initial launch and Justin and I decided to pitch this idea to them and they loved it. It’s one of many of their graphic novels that have done…all of them aimed at an all age’s group of readers. It’s solicited this month and we are very happy with the way it came out. There is nothing like picking up a book and having a beginning, middle and an end. You can find more information here: http://kickstartcomics.com/
PA) You mentioned doing a lot of editing with Kickstart and I've noticed from the few books that I've had the time to read, that they're much smaller graphic novels. Is the goal with Booksmart and other Kickstart titles to be a series of books that are spread out over time?
JP) I think their plan is to put out a decent amount of graphic novels a year and so far they have been doing a pretty good job of it. I edited a total of seven of them and they are all out now. Their size and presentation are aimed at making them accessible to different markets.
PA) I know you said that you like to aim towards books for adults, but Booksmart is geared towards an all age crowd. Is there something still rewarding about creating something innocent that everyone can enjoy or did you have to trim back things from the story that would take it out of the all ages category?
JP) We follow the job and what the company’s needs are. My instinct is to go a little bit over the top but in the case of Booksmart, it was pretty easy and enjoyable to work on because we knew at one point these books might be shared with a parent and a child. That story works on a number of levels and we really had a blast working on it. The action and adventure inside the story are adult in nature...but not over the top. It’s a very grounded read.
PA) Can you also tell us a bit about Trailblazer? How is it different from your other Western work such as Jonah Hex? When is the book scheduled for release?
JP) Trailblazer comes out July 6th released both in stores and digitally at Comixology.com. It's totally different from Jonah Hex because it’s a science fiction based adventure that happens to be partly set in the old west. The basic story is about a hired killer that is forced out of hiding and has to go into a witness protection program that sends him back to the past. It’s something Justin and I came up with around 6 years ago and finally got together.
PA) Lastly, what do you see for the future of comics? Do you think that Brick and Mortar stores can continue to survive and even grow with the impending digital explosion? Are incentives like digital codes only purchased from the store an already passing fad or will it continue to balance the two parts of the business?
JP) Well, it’s a different world out there with so much social media, downloadable content and so on that it’s hard to keep up, but the creative store owners, the ones that are willing to take a long hard look at their business and clients and understand what they CAN deliver to them in their store are the ones that are going to survive. I honestly believe these stores can grow if they embrace the digital end because the idea is that we will be bringing new people into our business and eventually they will go out and seek the collections and paraphernalia involved with comics as well. Believe me, I have been in some stores that are just giving up…thinking doom and gloom is on the way for their business and I try talking them …telling them that the store has to evolve with the product. It’s amazing to me how some comic stores don’t carry comic art supplies, original art or try to create groups and events within their customer base. These are just some of the things that will keep the people coming back for more.
It’s going to be an interesting few years, that’s for sure. I am always interested in people’s opinions and feedback and welcome anyone to reach me at my twitter address @jpalmiotti and on Facebook at Paperfilms. I check these daily. I don’t have all the answers, but I think the future can be bright for comics if we embrace the art form and widen the audience.
We'd like to thank Jimmy for his time and wish him the best of luck on his future projects so be sure to support the upcoming Trailblazer, Booksmart, Flashpoint Deathstroke and All-Star Western in the near future.