Talking Comics with Tim: Jimmy Palmiotti
Much of this Jimmy Palmiotti email interview happened right before Friday’s announcement that Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Amanda Conner are saying goodbye to Power Girl once they finish issue 12. I could have reworked many of the Power Girl questions, but I chose to keep the remainder of Power Girl questions intact, as there’s still a few issues of the run (the focus of the discussion) and Palmiotti (as he always does) gave some great answers. Any interview with Palmiotti has to include his and Gray’s continuing work on Jonah Hex, of course. Finally, Palmiotti often has some creator-owned work set to release, and this time around it’s his and Gray’s collaboration with artist Giancarlo Caracuzzo on Random Acts of Violence, a 72-page graphic novella (published by Image and set to be released on April 28, 2010). I always enjoy the chance to interview Jimmy, and this go around proved no different.
Tim O’Shea: Can you divulge some more details about Power Girl 12 — and from a writer’s standpoint, how enjoyable/bittersweet is it to get to this 12th (and final one for the team) issue, where you get to (as the solicits put it) “All the pieces of the puzzle come together…”? As a creative team did you accomplish a great deal of what you had wanted to do in the 12 issues?
Jimmy Palmiotti: We all knew that issue 12 was going to be Amanda’s last issue on the book for a while but we didn’t know just how much her work and Power Girl became one for us. As we got closer to the deadline to find another artist, Justin and I started really thinking about how it would be next to impossible to find a replacement and even if we did, how it would be difficult to write a book like this for someone else…so we just figured it was time to move on, be a real team and all of us leave the book for the next crew to take on. That said, we know who the new writer is, are excited about who it is and have fed them the scripts and even asked if there was anything we could do with the book to leave it in a place where they need it and so on. Fans of the title will be happy that the book does not skip a beat and will be pretty excited with what the title has in store. Leaving the book is a hard thing to do, especially since we gave it our heart and soul and Amanda , Paul and John put so much into each and every page … but at the same time we look back at the 12 issues and are really proud of the work we have done and how we built on to Power Girl’s legacy.
Let’s just say the last 3 issues are going to be remembered as the best in the run and we couldn’t be happier with all the support we have been given by our editors Brian and Mike and the rest of the D.C. crew. it was a dream gig on all levels. I don’t think I ever laughed as hard or had more fun on any title.
O’Shea: So much of the appeal to me with Power Girl is the visual comedy that Amanda is able to work into scenes. How do you all hash out script-wise that it’s a good spot for Amanda to take the scene in such a manner?
Palmiotti: Justin and I dig into the story and these spots naturally appear in the order of things. We do have a lot of times where we know that having Amanda actually illustrating the story are we able to do these kind of set ups and deliveries and at times get away with things we would never do in another book.. Honest, we couldn’t do the book the same without her and her way of making even the slightest silly thing seem goofy and charming all at once. She has done more than any writer ever could with the character because her Power Girl is so expressive and the reaction to the world around her is just so genuine and skillfully executed in each panel. There have been a number of times in the past year where she adds a panel or two because she feels the delivery of a scene would be better and , like all the artists we work with, we feel the books are a collaboration, so we roll with it. As usual, they are better than anything we would have thought of. .
O’Shea: Chad Nevitt’s review of issue 9 included the following conclusion: “This is a fun, entertaining issue of “Power Girl” that reminds me of a Spider-Man comic if you ignore Kara’s lack of romantic problems. Her personal life is a mess and her superhero life isn’t much better. To anyone who claims to hate the overly violent and darker superhero comics out there: this is the book for you.” Two things–are you pleased to hear that description of a complicated personal and heroic life for Karen? Also, have you set out to do Power Girl as the opposite to much of the grim and gritty that many comics endure?
Palmiotti: What we set out to do was take a character that most people write way too simply and make her feel like a real person that you, the reader, would care about. We were lucky to have the 4 issues of JSA CLASSIFIED that Amanda and I did with Geoff to build from. In just 4 issues he took the character and created a superhero Amanda and I not only fell in love with, but actually cared about. When Justin and I were approached, there wasn’t a doubt in our mind we were going to build on what Geoff did and try our best to give Power Girl her own supporting characters and a life. It was a goal of ours to make it easy for the next team that was going to come on the book …we were responsible for the foundation of the character. As far as grim and gritty goes…it didn’t make sense to just continue down that road as it has been in the jsa books. When we got Amanda involved, we knew we had the opportunity to do something different and classic at the same time. Only time will tell, but the reviews have been glowing…so that’s nice.
O’Shea: Essentially from the start of your Power Girl series, I was struck how the cops and firefighters as well as civilians in New York have been given a role in the book. How much was that a priority story element to do for you and Justin?
Palmiotti: New York has character…more so in our minds than most other cities [ mainly because I have lived there almost my whole life] and if we were going to make New York Power Girl’s home base, it was an important element of the story to involve the world around her. The city is much more than buildings and businesses and I think its always fun to see a superhero through the eyes of regular people and vice versa. Again, with Amanda on board, the people in the background don’t always stay in the background. She adds so much personality so easily. I think a lot of artists forget to be “in the moment” in a story and forget the interactions and effects these heroes have to the people around them. As far as the people protecting the city other than the heroes, police and firemen have always been important to our stories since day one. They are the real guardians and superheroes in the real world.
O’Shea: Of all the members of JSA, I have found it interesting that Dr. Mid-Nite has been part of Power Girl’s supporting cast. What was the appeal to utilizing him in the book?
Palmiotti: We felt he was a bit of an outsider like Power Girl and Geoff had some interaction between the characters that we thought was just great. We just ran with that. I personally find him interesting and even worked him into the Wednesday comics Supergirl strip we did as well. There is a nice relationship between the characters that is respectful and sweet at the same time.
O’Shea: At what point in developing the series did you decide it would be beneficial to designate Terra as Power Girl’s protégé or sidekick?
Palmiotti: Well, from before we actually were given the Power Girl series to work on. When we were writing the Terra mini series we thought Power Girl would be the perfect character to interact with because she was a little older and wiser, but in a way a bit of an outsider to the planet as well. When we got the Power Girl gig and Amanda was on board, it seemed like the most natural continuation to make terra part of the book. We never looked at her as a protégé or a sidekick, we always looked at Atlee/Terra as Power Girl’s best friend and someone she could share her surface world knowledge with and at the same time take a look at the world around her through a fresh set of innocent eyes. The combination of that and they way they are like sisters is something that has succeeded beyond our expectations. You can really feel the love between the characters and in issue 12, we take it the bonding a bit further which really cements their friendship even more.
O’Shea: Do you think that given the fact most Jonah Hex issues are standalone issues, it makes it an easier book for folks to jump in on without needing to know a tremendous amount of continuity?
Palmiotti: Absolutely…there isn’t a single con where I don’t have someone coming up to me and telling me about the time they gave a random issue to someone to read and got the person hooked because they weren’t intimidated by the history and such. The idea with the stand alone issues also helps us go out there and collect an amazing amount of talent we otherwise would never get to work with and give them single 22 page they can work and take their time with and not worry about impending deadlines that limit their abilities to do their best work. Because of this format we get to work with an amazing amount of talent, we get to write stories that explore the boundaries of the genre and we give the retailers a book they can pull off the rack each month and can push to any new customers. With the film coming up, it’s an especially exciting time for us to really make an impression at a potential new audience.
O’Shea: Indeed you do get “to work with an amazing amount of talent” on Jonah Hex. Consider some of the artists on 50 to 55: Darwyn Cooke; Dick Giordano; Billy Tucci; Jordi Bernet; and Vicente Alcazar. As a writer how hard is it to shift gears and play to the different artists’ strengths when writing for them? Can you discuss some of the storytelling strengths that these artists bring to Jonah?
Palmiotti: When Justin and I approach the story, as we have said many times, its always with the artist in mind. With someone with Darwyn, we know the storytelling is solid as a rock and he knows how to do humor without us trying so hard to write it…he finds the right angle and mood for every shot and we are just so happy to have him on any level. With someone like Dick Giordano, we are familiar with his incredible body of work and play to the strengths of his graphic storytelling as well, he draws beautiful women and can design a page like no one else. With billy, we have a history together, so we really know how to approach his story, especially since he requested a train and sexy woman to be part of the story. He nailed it so well…we look forward to having him come back for more. Vincente can illustrate just about anything, so for his story we looked at what he has done before and played to his strengths as well. He can draw people of all ages and that was important to the story. As far as Jordi…he can do anything and he is our regular superstar on all ends. He can do humor and switch to horror in a panel and the guy has never let us down on one single panel since he started. His stories will one day be collected into one hardcover book and are as timeless as anything being produced in comics today. As you can tell, we love him.
O’Shea: How did the upcoming re-release of Jonah Hex 1–for $1 (as part of the run-up to the new film) come about?
Palmiotti: I think Bob Wayne might have something to do with that…but honestly the people at dc these days have really stepped up their game and promotions like this are just awesome for the fans and us. Honestly, if you never picked up a hex book…how could you go wrong for a buck? With the movie coming up, the push is going to be just amazing.
O’Shea: Did being forced to change the name of your independent project to Random Acts of Violence help the book gain more last minute attention?
Palmiotti: Well, it’s a mixed blessing because we did a lot to push the original name to the retailers and fans and having to change it caused us to go out again and do another round that is extremely time consuming…but in the end, it’s the final project and what’s between the covers that counts and not a simple title change. This book is so important to us because of not only the content, but because we are doing something here with the content that is not only a bit adult…but we are managing to give the readers out there what adds up to 3 books for the price of two all collected into one package. This graphic novel is a sink or swim proposition for us, so we are hoping the fans of our work will give it a try on April 28th and more important, to ask their retailer to put their order in now. We know the landscape of comics is a bit rough these days and independent books are taking the biggest hits. With random acts of violence we are hoping this is not the case.
O’Shea: Random Acts of Violence is a tale where the lines of reality and fiction blur. According to a recent CBR interview, the story is partially inspired by experiences at cons–are there certain cons or certain fan-types that really served as inspiration for the tale?
Palmiotti: Well, what happens in the book is just a horror show, so god no…but you can see at times these small glitches with fans could have the possibility to be bigger in scope. To me, they really do not happen so much because I am always at my best behavior at shows and genuinely love the comic fans out there. They are the coolest, sweetest bunch of people ever…and over the years a lot of them have become good friends. Tthe inspiration for the story was Justin and I asking ourselves a lot of “what if” questions and working them into some of our own experiences. The book is a lot of fun…and then serious as hell. It’s an emotional roller coaster ride that ends in a strange way.
O’Shea: How did you and Justin settle upon Giancarlo Caracuzzo as the artist on Random Acts of Violence? How important is a colorist like Paul Mounts when tackling a tale of (at least partial) violence (where I expect the color red might be in high demand)?
Palmiotti: Giancarlo was our first and only choice on the book. When we were working on THE LAST RESORT for IDW, we knew we stumbled on a good thing . He is fantastic at illustrating people that don’t all look the same…a problem a lot of artists have these days and we loved that he has a European sensibility to his storytelling , so he was the perfect fit. Being able to get Paul Mounts to color was key as well for this book to look the way we envisioned it. We have been working wih paul for over 12 years now on different projects and his work on this book is brilliant as usual. The book, with the combination of these two working together, is one of the best looking graphic novels I have ever had the pleasure to work on. Sure, there is plenty of red in the book…but there are also a lot of sunsets, naked bodies and metallic surfaces as well.
O’Shea: You and Justin are fairly busy with your DC work–why did you decide to pursue a creator-owned project like Random Acts at this time?
Palmiotti: We have always had a few books working on the side since we first started working together. As fun as it is to write books for the big guys, we also have many stories to tell that do not fit the mold cast by the companies and in the end, we would like to own some of our own intellectual properties. It hasn’t hurt us when you look at things like The Pro, Painkiller Jane and so on. It’s the thing every creator should be doing with their spare time. I really believe and understand that I have only a certain time left on this planet and am not going to wait for that “ you got cancer” call to get off my ass and do something about it. I believe that doing what I love all the time and having some success with it makes a better product as well. After Random Acts of Violence…we have another graphic novel coming with the same team.