The comics writer who wants to be his own man: Jimmy Palmiotti
Jimmy Palmiotti has been a lot of things in the world of comics: inker, publisher, editor, writer and even journalist and interviewer at times. A veteran inker who transitioned to writing and editing, back in the late 90s and early 2000s he and Joe Quesada helped turn around then-beleaguered Marvel Comics giving the publisher a new style and swagger. But when Quesada became Editor-In-Chief, Palmiotti famously decided to jump back into the freelance world and carved out a niche for himself as a go-to writer for superhero titles and also a strong voice in independent comics.
Fast forward to today, and he’s riding high on the success of his longest running series ever, DC’s Jonah Hex, is doing some editing for publishing newcomer Kickstart, and has a bevy of projects on both sides of the Big Two on the verge of announcement. But despite his success as writer, or perhaps because of it, his name is often bandied about as a viable candidate for top jobs at both Marvel and DC — but as of yet, Palmiotti continues to freelance. Why? That’s because he likes it.
Chris Arrant: Easy one first, Jimmy – what are you working on today?
Jimmy Palmiotti: Like today this minute or right now? Well, an issue of Jonah Hex with Justin Gray, Freedom Fighters #5 and a big project in the works at DC that will catch people off guard; for Marvel, two mini-series with characters I love and another project with Radical Comics as well. I have almost finished editing most of my Kickstart projects, which have been a total blast. Right now on my screen I am going over the colors on the book Headache by Lisa Joy and Jim Fern and its beautiful; and as well, looking over the balloon placement on Joshua Williamson and Lee Moder’s Mirror, Mirror hardcover. Outside of comics, I finished an animated script for a fun project and am developing a graphic novel for a studio that’s a blast.
Arrant: You’re a very busy man, balancing several writing gigs, editing for Kickstart, and maybe still doing some inking perhaps? What leads you to such a busy life, and one of changing things up into such different things?
Palmiotti: Well, I am not inking anymore at all — I haven’t in years and that’s fine. It doesn’t mean I don’t draw; it’s just that I am done with that part of my life for now, which leaves me more time for my writing. I love what I do: comics and telling stories are my life and there is nothing that makes me happier to do daily…so at this point in my life I am getting to put the skills I learned as an editor to use working with Kickstart, I get to work on some of my favorite Marvel and DC characters and most important, I get to work with other talented people and create new worlds and creations. It may seem to someone on the outside that I change my work up a lot, but at its core, it’s all about storytelling…and entertaining people. Anyone that has spent any period of time with me knows I love to talk and swap stories with people and this field is perfect for that kind of love.
Arrant: Awhile back there was a big rumor going around that you were being eyed for a big role at DC, perhaps as a publisher even. Although that ultimately panned out into something else entirely, you’ve worked in virtually every position in comics… even being half of the team that revitalized the Marvel Knights line. When that ended you went back into the creative pool, while your friend Joe became EIC at Marvel. Can you tell us why you didn’t segue into something like that?
Palmiotti: I have been offered just about every big job in the industry and am still flattered when I get these calls. Really. The thing is, I had to make some choices in my life and did a lot of soul searching when these times came around to what I really wanted in my life and what was most important to me…and that’s where I figured out what I had to do and not do. Honestly, right out of college I worked in an office and had enjoyed it but left the world of advertising to work in my passion: making comics. Since then, I have done just about every single job and found that my favorite one is writing and creating new projects and working with creative people on something together. I love comic artists and writers…they are some of the sweetest and most talented people in the world…and I knew that taking a position that doesn’t allow me to create my own projects would eventually take its toll on me. I admire the way Joe and Dan handle their jobs and I think they were both made for it, but I personally its not for me…at least not for a giant company with 1000 characters. I could see handling a boutique line that allows me to contribute, but who knows what the future holds. For now I am happy as hell…and enjoying all the work I have. I know I am blessed and never take it or the people around me for granted.
Arrant: You’re a free man – after working under an exclusive at DC for a number of years, I hear you’re out and able to work for anyone and everyone. Can you tell us the pros and cons, for you at least, at being under an exclusive?
Palmiotti: Well, I was only exclusive for DC comics for a year…but yeah; I prefer not to be exclusive. That’s just me though. Most of the people I know love it. It would have to be a huge amount of money and freedom to ever get me to do it again. The pros and cons are that while under exclusive, you are guaranteed a better page rate and a certain amount of guaranteed work…as well as medical coverage for you and your family. The cons are that you may be put on something you don’t like and have to do it and cannot leave it…and that’s when it becomes a “job” and the joy of working in comics becomes …well…not such a great thing. As well, you have to pass on some pretty spectacular projects along the way because of your contract, so its just not something I can ever see myself doing again.
Arrant: So what kind of comics do you want to do?
Palmiotti: The kind of comics that aren’t the “same old thing” the stuff that pushes a reader to think, redefines genres and is more adult as well. I want people to read one of my books and sit after and think about it…go back and look at the art again…I want them to be an experience for the reader and I want to create new worlds as well. I want to be Stan Lee, but the Stan that does genre comics …I want to create things that live a long life way after I am gone and I want to have fun doing it.
Arrant: If you won the lottery tomorrow, would you still be doing comics?
Palmiotti: Not for the first few weeks…lol…but after that I know exactly what I would do. I would take the Paperfilms name I own and start publishing my own books…sort of what Justin and I do now for Image…but do it ourselves and I would hire 5 people right away…I already know who they are…and start putting out 6 graphic novels a year. Now…I am not waiting for the lottery because that’s a pipe dream, so I go out and get people interested in investing in books, like Kickstart did with me on Back to Brooklyn and Random Acts of Violence and put them out through Image. At this point, Justin, Amanda and I have plans for 4 new projects in 2011 that we are using our own money to put out. If we break even, awesome…but the likelihood is slim…but that won’t stop us. So yeah…winning the lottery is a fun dream, but I am not sitting around waiting for it to happen.
Arrant: Where do you see yourself in ten-fifteen years?
Palmiotti: Hopefully alive enjoying myself with Amanda right by my side and creating projects we love that people embrace and being surrounded by good friends. maybe a pool in my yard as well…that would be nice.