Jimmy Palmiotti has been a prolific creator in comics since the early 1990s, co-founding Event Comics and co-creating such fondly remembered comics as ‘Ash’ and ‘Painkiller Jane’, the latter of which was adapted to a Sci Fi live action TV series. He’s also worked extensively with DC and Marvel, penning among other titles, ‘Deadpool’, ‘The Punisher’, ‘Superboy’, ‘Powergirl’ (illustrated by his wife, Amanda Conner), ‘Jonah Hex’ and ‘Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters’. He, along with co-writer Justin Grey, is currently producing ‘All-Star Western’ for DC, along with ‘The Ray’ miniseries and the upcoming ‘G.I. Combat’ for DC’s ‘New 52: Wave Two’ and from Image Comics, ‘Creator Owned Heroes.’ He was gracious enough to answer a few questions for Sciencefiction.com.
Looking back over your career, a lot of your work is in what I’d think of as pulp action (western, war tales, darker characters, pulp/retro characters, some horror). Is this something that you are consciously drawn to and, if so, why?
There is a fascination to pulp type material that may have everything to do with the fact that I grew up in Brooklyn, never had a lot of money, lived near criminals, went to a catholic grammar school that felt like a penitentiary, participated in selling illegal wares, rode the subway every day to get to high school in 70’s New York City, and so on. Just these things alone guarantee producing an adult that has a lot of stories to tell. At an early age I was attracted to things that scared me… maybe charmed is a better word. The philosophies of what can make people do things so immoral and how they can live with themselves always peaks my interest. Books like Back To Brooklyn just don’t come out of thin air.
For as long as I can remember I have enjoyed westerns…the straightforwardness of the old world and the black and white nature of the storytelling. As far as horror goes, the reality of a situation that is out of ones control is something that continues to fascinate me. It’s a very weird list, these things that give me a thrill…and if anyone has read my material, they can see the reoccurring themes in just about everything I write. I am fascinated with people that choose to live life large, and the consequences that come with it.
History is fascinating because one can study it and find parallels to what is going on around us right now, each and every day. The past still holds many mysteries and a billion opportunities for building stories. Jonah Hex works , because in a lot of ways, nothing has changed.
But on the flip side, I think The Ray and Powergirl are both pretty squeaky clean and you handled them fantastically!
Powergirl was a book we really thought long and hard about…and we also worked with the guys at DC to get them what they were looking for as well. The main evolution of the book came when we were able to get Amanda to commit to doing a year worth of the title. The trick to make the best comic possible is to understand the people you are working with and play to their strengths. With Amanda involved we knew we hit the trifecta. We were going to be able to get away with a sexual, fun, and bright comic book and not get beaten up for it. The initial 3 issues were more editorially driven than we normally are asked to do and read like a straightforward superhero comic with our usual touches, but as soon as we were done with that, we kicked in and started writing the book for Amanda and she demanded a few things from the character that we agreed with.
For years, Powergirl has been written as an angry character …and the worst part is that for me, as a reader, I never had the feeling I had gotten to know just exactly who she was, so we decided to humanize her as best we could by giving her day to day problems to solve and make the super villains not so important in the book. Ideas like starting a business, searching for an apartment, dealing with friends and so on brought a lot of her personality to light. People started to fall in love with Powergirl again and adding Terra as her sidekick/best friend in some issues really drove home who Karen was as a person.
We would have probably stayed on the book…and convinced Amanda to stay on longer if the sales themselves had been better and she was able to get a break. The book just didn’t find its audience till after we left and that is still being reflected in the trade collections sales. As well, the powers that be at DC were not too crazy with some of the directions we were going with the series, so we felt it was a good time to leave with Amanda and call the run what it was to us…a good solid slice of superhero fun.
When we are at cons now…there is so much Powergirl/Terra cosplay going on it warms my heart. New audiences are discovering the book and that’s just great. One day we would love to do another series that takes place the day we left…but that is up to Amanda and DC…until then, we push forward.
So DC came to you with the concept of doing an all-new Ray. Can you describe your process for developing him? Also, the cast of The Ray is possibly the most diverse in comics. Was that a conscious choice?
We got the gig of taking what we knew about The Ray and creating a whole new character as a side book mini series for the new 52. We looked at the world around us and the world of comics and decided we should make the cast as diverse as possible…a Korean American, black American, Indian girl and so on…and treat these characters not as clichés, but rather as real people in a real world. The book itself was set in San Diego; so we kept true to the town they are in by mixing it up a bit. Our main goal is, within 80 pages, establish who the main character is, his powers, his bad guy, his social life and to get to the core of what makes him tick. If you don’t feel anything for him, we have lost you as a reader. We are very happy so many people have connected with the character.
Also, are there any plans to utilize Lucien anywhere else in the DC Universe? Will he encounter any other heroes?
Not in the mini series, but it is up to DC to figure out what they are doing with the character. At this point I do not know of any plans, but that doesn’t mean he wont show up somewhere…no good character stays down for long.
It was a brilliant idea to place Jonah Hex in old Gotham, at least temporarily, to tie the character in with the larger DC Universe (through Batman) for new readers. Was this something you decided?
Dan Didio came up and approached us with the idea and once we knew from him that we could play around with the history of Gotham and introduce characters like Amadeus Arkham in the series, we knew we were in for some fun. When we first heard about the new 52, we were initially worried that Jonah Hex might not be part of it…so this all worked out perfectly. The book itself is selling much better than the original series and with issue 9-12, our crossover with the Batman books where we are part of the “Night of the Owls” line –wide crossover will bring a new audience to the book as well.
I absolutely love the back-up stories in All-Star Western. DC has a rich history of western characters. How do you select which characters to use for the backups? And will these characters play into the larger role of the DCU in the future?
The selection is a mixture of recommendations from the guys at DC or we select something and try to talk them into letting us use them. We had a break and decided to create our own character, The Barbary Ghost, which is currently running through the book, illustrated by Phil Winslade. They really are letting us have some fun with the book and the format and I think the title gets more and more interesting as it goes along.
You’re giving us a new incarnation of the Unknown Soldier in the upcoming ‘G.I. Combat’. Can you give us any hints as to what to expect? And are there any other weird war characters that you’re itching to write?
I am a big fan of Sgt. Rock and a bigger fan of Joe Kubert. Would love to do anything associated with either of those two legends. As well, I am a classic Nick Fury fan and would love a chance to do a 1960’s James bond take on the character at Marvel one day. I keep pitching it- in the hopes they will break down and give it to me one day.
With the unknown soldier, Justin and I took on what worked, to us, with the way the character has been presented in the past and applied it to the modern world…as well as creating a new character that has a bit more personality and is less an enigmatic figure, though that is there as well. The end result is a nice mix of hardcore war with a splash of sci-fi and a lot of humanity. It’s tough at times to rework what a lot of people hold near and dear, but we think with the amazing art of dynamic Dan Panosian, we have a good chance of making new and established fans of the character pretty happy.
Will you be collaborating with your wife, Amanda Conner any time soon?
I am waiting patiently for Amanda to finish co-writing and drawing the Silk Spectre series coming up as part of the watchmen prequels. Amanda and Darwyn Cooke are doing an amazing job on it, but its taking up every single minute of her day, and will be for the next 5 months…but after that she is getting right on the Captain Brooklyn mini-series that Frank Tieri and I wrote for Image comics. That book should be out around September. After that we have plans to do another series.
Having seen your blog, I see you have affection for sexy ladies. How do you react to some of the harsher criticisms aimed at DC over the last year, regarding both females creating and appearing in comics?
When it comes to talent, I really don’t care about the sex or race of a person…all I care about is their work. I think DC took a lot of heat for nothing. Even worse was people’s reaction to some of these accusations. Imagine being hired because you were a woman and not based on your talent…why would anyone want to be in that situation on any level. Because a couple of their top female artists were working on other projects and not part of the 52, they took some heat. People were complaining where Amanda, Jill Thompson and Nicola Scott were…when everyone knew they were already working on other projects. I think less women read comics and growing up more men dominated the sales and that’s why the past crop of female creators were so few…but in the last few years, that has all changed and we are seeing some amazing women creators coming out and doing their own thing. What I do see is that the female creators are exploring a lot of different styles, and some of those don’t match up with the superhero look the bigger companies are searching for, so that’s one reason there aren’t more working at the big two…but that is changing daily. The days of the boys club of comics are on their way out.
Thanks so much, Jimmy! In addition to ‘G.I. Combat’ and ‘All Star Western’ look out for Jimmy and Justin’s ‘Creator Owned Heroes’ coming from Image Comics this fall, featuring contributions from some of the biggest names in comics.