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Chatting with Jimmy Palmiotti

A comics interview article by: Ray Tate
Ray Tate: I'm here with Jimmy Palmiotti for a talk about his current and future projects.

Some preliminaries first. What was your first comics related job?
Jimmy Palmiotti: I was in high school at the high school of art and design in NYC, and I was called by one of my teachers recommended me to help an artist with his backgrounds. I went to Queens and met Chic Stone and helped him ink backgrounds on an issue of the Invaders over Frank Robbins. Invaders 41. I was paid 5 bucks and was fired because he thought it looked too realistic. After that I ghost inked for a few guys on Howard the Duck magazine and some sci-fi and war comics at DC. All while in high school.


RT: Wow. I didn't know you went back that far.

JP: Well...after high school I went to college and took advertising and didn't do any comics for almost 8 years after. Then I showed my work to a friend Brian Marshall at eternity comics and picked up some ink work over Ron Lim on Ex-Mutants. Wasn't long after I started doing some work at Marvel and have kept busy since. My first paying gig in REAL comics was in '91 on a book called Nightcat, and on the Punisher.

RT: Nightcat? Was that the one that was based on a rock singer?

JP: Yeah. It was a horrible comic. Denys Cowan did tight breakdowns and I had 48 pages to do in a week. Things got better soon after. LOL.

RT: I vaguely remember that. I don't think I bought it either.

JP: Please, never do. It's crap. LOL

RT: Thanks for being so honest :)

JP: LOL.

RT: There were a couple of advertisements though.

JP: Yeah, a Joe Jusko cover and a Jim Lee pin-up.

RT: That's why I remember the Jusko ad.

JP: Yup

RT: From Nightcat and Punisher, an odd combo if I ever heard one, where did you go from there? I know your work mainly from 22 Brides, possibly Vampirella and Painkiller Jane.

JP: Yeah, well I inked a ton of comics...a lot of Punisher and Punisher 2099, some Valiant books like Solar and X-O Manowar with Joe Quesada, and eventually Joe and I put our money where our mouths were and created event comics. We did Ash, Painkiller Jane, 22 Brides, Kid Death and Fluffy and whatnot.

RT: Fluffy?

JP: From there I got called to talk to Marvel. Joe and I had a meeting with the then president and he made us an offer we couldn't refuse with Marvel Knights.

Fluffy was a giant robot dinosaur with the brain of a puppy.
RT: I see alcohol involved in this.

JP: Maybe with that book, but with Ash and Painkiller Jane we were giving it our best. Jane remains my favorite character.

RT: Painkiller Jane is awesome.

JP: Thanks. I love her...she never dies and neither does the property

RT: Speaking of which, when can we see more of her. I mean comic book wise, not naked or anything :)

JP: Hahah, yeah...I am planning a new series right now...and outside of comics putting together a big deal to see more of her in live action.

RT: Is this going to also be from Dynamite?

JP: Not sure yet. it's possible. With Jane, the artist has to be perfect or I rather not do it. I have been spoiled with Joe, Amanda Conner and Lee Moder.

RT: I agree with you. Lee Moder's artwork was so perfect for that character, with respect to Amanda Conner.

JP: I agree. I love them both on it...but they both have better paying gigs, LOL.

RT: Really? What's Lee Moder doing?

JP: Amanda is working on Power Girl right now...so she will be busy for at least a year. Lee is doing a book for Dark Horse I am pretty sure, or Top Cow...that might be it. I feel so bad I am forgetting the title. It's with Ron Marz

RT: S'okay. I forget to credit people.

JP: LOL

RT: Painkiller met Hellboy, if I remember correctly. I haven't read all of my Library editions of Hellboy, but is that adventure in there?

JP: No..it's not. it will be in a collection of Jane crossovers coming from Dynamite. She met Hellboy, Vampirella, Punisher and the Terminator.

RT: I enjoyed that Terminator one. For some reason the fit the name of the hero in vs. Terminator always seems to work.

JP: Yeah, it's magic that way, LOL.

RT: Well, I'm impressed that the Terminator people allow the hero to win all the time.

JP: Well… they can make more Terminators

RT: True, but I know some people are very touchy about their properties.

JP: As they should be. A lot of love and time is invested in these characters. I keep an eye on all of my books like a hawk.

RT: Sure, but I would expect somebody like Batman to be able to beat Painkiller Jane if it came to it.

JP: Hmm, depends who is writing it.

RT: Batman trumps all :)

JP: You know how it goes...they are both heroes....they shouldn't be fighting. Painkiller Jane would probably make out with Bruce

RT: Or Batwoman.

JP: Yes she is a bi-sexual superhero. Outwardly that's what the last miniseries was about. It's something I can do outside the DC and marvel framework.

RT: Was that because of [Painkiller Jane TV actress] Kristanna Lokken or was that already conceived before hand?

JP: Already conceived, but Kristanna was perfect casting. There will be more with her one day

RT: I figured it was just serendipity.

JP: Well… it really was in a way.

RT: Some of my friends thought otherwise, and I was explaining that coincidences like that happen all the time.

JP: Yes they do. We didn't know Kristanna was bi when the show started...but it didn't have anything to do with anything really. Her sexuality is her business. The Jane character in the comic was a different story. I wanted to present a healthy and realistic idea of sexuality with her character in print.

RT: That's exactly what I thought in the review. I like heroes that are sex positive and tough.

JP: Me too... it's a rare thing these days. Violence is ok...but sexuality is not.

RT: And as I said in the Terra review, it's like we'll save the kids from seeing boobies but not from having somebody's head chopped off in the same book.

JP: Agree. It's a weird world. Amanda had a blast on Terra and we are hoping people give it a shot. We wanted to do an upbeat fun comic. Issue 4 is the best of the bunch

RT: Whose idea was it to bring out a third Terra?

JP: Dan Didio's.

RT: Seriously?

JP: In a way, yes. We had an idea for a new character and he applied it to Terra. It actually was a good idea. Dan had a plan and it worked out well. We were very happy to have the opportunity.

RT: So if you'd rather keep this secret, that's fine, but can you give a hint as to what was the original idea for the new character?

JP: It's almost the same as the book that is out...except we reference the past Terra's and use DCU characters. We made it work

RT: So the idea of her having identical DNA to the two other Terras, was one of the transplants?

JP: We all sat around and figured out the back story and how it would all fit together and came to the story you see out now.

RT: So, you're working with Justin Gray on this story. Can you give a fly on the wall's eye view of what that's like?

JP: We get together and work or when I am out of town we work using the camera link on the Mac. It's like we are in the same room. We work together daily these days and he is one of my best friends.

RT: Forgive me for being stupid, but what does Justin Gray add to the story? Something overall and/or specifics?

JP: Justin and I plot out the story together and we dialogue together. He adds a worldbook of information and experience. We bounce things off each other daily and it keeps the story fresh all the time. We compete, challenge and second guess each other to create a better more original story. It's a healthy partnership for sure I think our work on Hex and Power Girl and Terra is some of our best.

RT: Well, I'm really enjoying Terra. Say, whose idea was it to introduce her in Supergirl?

JP: I think Dan thought it was a good introduction and we agreed.

RT: Well, it was a good idea I think. People who gravitate to Supergirl might naturally gravitate to another powerful female super-hero.

JP: It was a fun issue to write. Yes, we felt it was the same audience as well...and we love the Supergirl character

RT: Okay, so Amanda Conner is in this mix, which is like gold.

JP: I agree. She is the reason we did Terra and Power Girl. No one could have done a better job, and she has a way of making sexy not dirty. That's hard to find.

RT: Do you hammer out the action scenes, or do you say in your notes something like, okay, Supergirl just wails on the dude.

JP: We try to get very detailed and let Amanda do all the small detail stuff that makes it charming. We trust her more than most artists, so we let her have some room to breath

RT: Such as when Power Girl nibbles on her finger in the premiere of Terra?

JP: Yeah, the acting is all Amanda. She gets into the characters' heads.

RT: I wish more artists would pay attention to such things. That's really what makes the characters come alive.

JP: I agree, it's a shame when it just becomes a job with some people. These characters are really fun to work on, and it comes across when an artist cares

RT: Okay, so you've also got Superman/Supergirl Maelstrom story in the air right now.

JP: Yes, issue 2 just came out and we got 3 more to go. It's bi-weekly like Terra.

RT: This project then was completed. It's already in the can as they say.

JP: Yes, both were. That's why they can get them out so quick.

RT: Smart move.

JP: I think it keeps the readers more involved.

RT: I agree with you on that.

JP: Wish it was done more often.

RT: At the same time I think if the project is really good it would be worth waiting for. All-Star Superman, for instance.

JP: Yes, agree. I wish they would just wait until things are all done then solicit. Perfect world for me is all trade books all the time.

RT: You made a lot of crossword puzzle freaks happy by picking Maelstrom as the name of the antagonist :)

JP: Oh, I know. It's been misspelled in every press release.

RT: Yeah, it is a word that gives spellchecks a reason to exist.

JP: Hahahaha. Yes.

RT: I think you worked with Phil Noto on Beautiful Killer.

JP: Yes, that was Phil's first comic book...we have been great friends ever since. He is a great guy

RT: Have you been looking for a project to do together, or was this another case of serendipity?

JP: Well, we did New West after...and are working on a creator owned called Triggergirl 6, but this came along and gave us a break from that for a half a year. I will always work for Phil as long as he will have me

RT: Have you seen his Jet Seven sketchbook?

JP: Yes. Got one in my studio. Beautiful stuff. His and Darwyn Cooke's were the best ones in San Diego.

RT: Yeah, it makes me want to tear up my own sketchbooks :)

JP: Me too. Not yours...mine!

RT: LOL. I would completely understand if you pointed out the inferiority of my sketches. Are there any significant differences to working with Phil Noto than Amanda Conner?

JP: Phil is more of a fine artist where Amanda is more of a storyteller. They both have something that makes them unique to their work. They are both lovable people as well.

RT: Man, we're in complete agreement--I'll assume they're both lovable people.

JP: Yes. When there are 100 comics coming out a week...you need some to stand out. Theirs do.

RT: Oh, and yours.

JP: Well...I am a writer. it's more of a learning process I think. Finding your voice is like finding your style...and they both found theirs.

RT: I think you and your partners write comic books that are mature without being adult oriented. A lot of writers equate maturity and sophistication with explicitness or violence.

JP: Well..I think that's the easy way. I have written some sexy and violent stuff, but I write for adults, not children ...and I always assume these are intelligent adults that are looking for something they haven't seen. Going for the easy shot is a good way to bore the audience. I like my comics adult without having T&A just be the whole story. It's like a stripper vs. a girl you know. A stripper is nude all the time. It's her job Sure it's exciting to see her naked, but with a girl you know and like it takes on another dimension. More interest, because we get to know her, who she is and so on. It's a relationship I like to explore in the book. Real characters. Real ideas and dreams and when they have highs and lows, it should mean something. It's the only way to get the reader invested I think.

RT: Excellent analogy. I agree. That's why I also think the artists that are on your "personal" projects work so well with your words.

JP: Thanks. Yeah, they hear my voice and concerns and honestly...these artists can work for anyone so I take special care to understand what it is they want to draw and express. I spend time with them. It's really important to get that. For Hex, Justin and I always talk to the artist as well. I feel I am extremely lucky to be doing this. There is no way I am going to take any of the process for granted.

RT: That's cool. Not everybody believes in the collaborative process, and too many people miss that they're working with these legendary characters.

JP: I think some people become tired and need a break and to come back to the field and understand why they got into it in the first place. If it's for money and fame...you are sooo done

RT: Your next legendary character is Power Girl. Can you give us an idea as to what might be happening in that series?

JP: It opens big. Lots of action in the city she is involved in and in the process we are going to see her take on a few things that normal people have to deal with...job, home, etc. We are making the book over the top fun and exciting and at the same time, with Amanda's help, really giving Power Girl a soul. Making her real. Not a pin up. Look at Power Girl in Terra #4 and you will get a early peek at what Amanda is going to do. We love the character and are doing her justice with this series. We are gonna try, that's for sure. She gets her own supporting cast as well.

RT: I'm so happy to hear that. Power Girl was a fantastic character, and I'm afraid when somebody had her speak the lines "I never was much of a computer whiz." I was pretty ticked off.

JP: Hahaha, you will laugh. We both know she has a brilliant mind and shouldn't ever be saying that line ever. We are writing her smart.

RT: Does she have an origin in your mind? To me she's always going to be the Earth-Two cousin to Superman.

JP: We re-tell her origin. We are not going to make the past as important as the present and future. This is her book and she doesn't need all the bull from the past being all she is about. We acknowledge it all, but it's not the spine. We want new readers to jump on the the old ones to have a ball.

RT: Well, that's probably a good idea given the Etch-a-Sketch Continuity.

JP: Yes. If someone who never read the book is lost, we fail. It's a rule. Make it easy to enter the room

RT: Adam Hughes did some really fantastic Power Girl art, but as much as I love his covers, there was that one that was too much. It was like the cup-size of no return.

JP: I love Adam's Catwoman and especially his and Darwyn Cooke's WW.

RT: Darwyn Cooke's Wonder Woman was refreshingly different.

JP: Me too. agreed. She can't look cold and chiseled. Yes, Darwyn is amazing

RT: I have to say that Amanda Conner's Power Girl is such a treat to behold. Conner really makes her look heroic, and I think that's how I think she should look.

JP: Thanks...I will tell her and I agree. Hers is the best version of her I have seen in years. She gives her a soul.

RT: Do you see art in general becoming more homogenous, or is that mindset starting to break?

JP: I think there are always great artists and ones that will come and go. look what we got ...those three...Paul Pope, Jordi Bernet, John Romita Jr., Risso, Sharpe, and so on...good times for art.

RT: Okay. So, you've got Terra with Justin Gray, Amanda Conner and Paul Mounts. Suerman/Supergirl: Maelstrom. That's with Phil Noto.

JP: Yes and Jonah Hex monthly

RT: And Jonah Hex monthly. Anything else coming down the pike that you want to mention? Besides the Power Girl mini with Amanda Conner.

JP: Well… This week we have the Mortal Kombat vs. DCU game out that Justin and I wrote. Comic wise we have a book called The Last Resort coming from IDW this summer.

RT: How different is it to write a game than a comic book?

JP: Completely different once you figure out the spine of the story. It's involved and you co-work with a bunch of super talented people. A game is like writing 40 comics. That much work

RT: And The Last Resort? Horror?

JP: Horror/sci-fi/drama

RT: Thank you, Jimmy Palmiotti, for taking the time to talk with me.

JP: Anytime Ray, always a pleasure!

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