Jimmy Palmiotti’s illustrious comic career spans over twenty-five years. There is not a box of comics that does not contain a book without his name on it! From inking to drawing to writing Jimmy has done it all, including opening up a website with his wife and fellow comic creator Amanda Conner called PAPERFILMS. The site carries everything Palmiotti and Conner from signed books, art, so much more. Comic Watch reached out to Palmiotti and was lucky enough to have a little chat about his influences and everything about his awesome career. Enjoy!
Comic Watch: First off, thanks so much taking the time to talk with us at Comic Watch, it means a lot. Can you take us back to when you were a kid, growing up in New York and the first time you picked up a comic and knew that this is what you wanted to do?
Jimmy Palmiotti: I grew up in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn and for as long as I can remember, comic books were always around me because I have two older brothers that read them. I think besides Archie comics, the ones that I loved the most were the Fantastic Four and Superman and these were easy to find at a newsstand at the time and in barbershops. From day one I would copy the art in the comics and then when in my teens started making my own comics. Storytelling has been in my blood the whole time and it was a life goal and dream of mine for sure. I attended the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan and studied the art and went on to make comics for a living years later.
CW: Having worked on so many iconic characters throughout your career, are there any characters that you want to work on that you haven’t gotten a chance to?
JP: I would like a shot one day at writing the Fantastic Four, the Spectre and would love to do a Hellboy story at some point, but other than that, I have written just about every character I love. I have been pretty lucky that way and to be totally honest, I would like to take a break from the mainstream and keep creating new characters. I have been doing them on the side for years with Painkiller Jane and all my Kickstarters, but I would love to go full time at some point.
CW: Back to Brooklyn was such a great story and had great character depth. How did you, Garth, and Mihailo come up with Bob Saetta, and was the intention always to write a New York crime story, or did the project grow organically as time went on?
JP: This was a time when they only did two Die Hard movies and I had this idea for an action story where it was one guy against his own people – his family and organized crime, something he was part of till he witnessed something horrific that changed his life. I had the worked-out idea and since I love Garth’s work and the man himself, I pitched him the idea and we flushed it out and that’s where Back to Brooklyn came from. Most of my stories take place in places I live or have lived, Brooklyn, being forty-five years of my life. It’s why this and Monolith and Harley all take place in that wonderful overcrowded and overpriced place. We finally got the idea on paper and pitched it to Image and they took it right away. It’s been printed in just about every language since then.
CW: What is the biggest difference between writing screenplays and comics, and do you have a preference?
JP: Comics will be published exactly how I write them while my screenplays always get screwed with, no matter what. I love doing both, but the comics are less stressful for sure. My screenplay work pays 10x what the comics do, but again, you are always slaving away for a committee that wants changes all the time. I wrote six versions of the Painkiller Jane screenplay and by the end, I am now the co-writer on it, so you have to roll with it best you can till you become famous, then they START to leave you alone a little more. I prefer writing comics any day of the week and love the fans of comics, so that keeps me grounded.
CW: You have gotten to ink, draw, write, and create some memorable characters and stories over your career. What have been some of the memorable experiences you have had, and do you have a favorite?
JP: I think it was a blast working with Justin Gray on so many cool projects over the years on both our creator-owned comics and the Jonah Hex books. I also love working with my wife on all those Harley issues we did together. Marvel Knights and Event comics were an exciting time as well, working with Joe and having an office in the Marvel building. My favorite though is right now, working with Amanda full time on our own projects together. She is the love of my life, so I just can’t get enough time together with her. For us, Harley and Powergirl were some of our favorites.
CW: With so many successful Kickstarter campaigns under your belt, do you still get nervous when they launch?
JP: Each and every time, mainly because no two launches are the same and I am experimenting with things with each book. The genres are always different. The fans are the ones that tell me if its good or now…but yeah…mainly because I have to second guess each time. Thank God my buddy Patrick Wedge helps me with these otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do them. They are a huge amount of work and we do have our next one starting in two weeks called POP-KILL and again, I am doing something I never have done before with that one. If people want to know when they start, all they have to do is sign up for the newsletter at PAPERFILMS.COM and we will send them an alert.
CW: Power Girl, Painkiller Jane, Harley Quinn…all are strong independent women characters that have strong personas. When you were growing up were you around female role models that may have had an influence on your writing?
JP: I have always been surrounded by strong and powerful women and my mother was a huge influence on me in a million different ways. She was strong through hard times, had integrity and was the sweetest person I ever knew. She grew up in a family of ten during the depression with a widowed mother and only made it till third grade and then started working in factories in Brooklyn to help my grandmother out. We can’t even imagine this kind of hardship now. My wife is another inspiration because she is solid, ambitious and one of the most giving people I know. I have learned a lot from all the women in my life and it’s why I find these characters easiest to write.
CW: Being married to Amanda Conner, the creative energy in your home must be constant. Can you talk to us a bit about what’s it’s like to have each other to feed off of?
JP: Amanda is amazing. Her talent knows no bounds and she impresses me daily with the amount of thought and detail she puts into her work. She is slow, but with a purpose. We always talk about the project that is currently in front of us and change what we write from page to page. It drives our gang like John J Hill, Alex Sinclair, Paul Mounts, and our editor Chris Conroy insane and we know it, but the end product usually justifies our madness. Hopefully. The books Amanda draws have something to them that makes them stand out. Her storytelling is some of the best in the business and her character not only interact but they inhabit a realized world in each project she takes on. I love everything about her. Seriously.
CW: The vision of Harley Quinn you and Amanda brought is often described as a revitalization point for the character following her troubled past with the Joker, and even helped to influence her solo live-action movie. Could you tell us a little about how this approach to the character came together and what you believe has led to her enduring popularity?
JP: Her popularity is simple – it was the right time – the right take- and caught lightning in a bottle because these kinds of things rarely happen in comics and in a creator’s career. It was exciting to see that most of the things Harley was doing in birds of Prey were inspired by or taken directly from scenes and ideas in our series. Even the idea of everyone wanting to kill Harley after she leaves the Joker is lifted from the first few issues and it was exciting to see our influence everywhere. When we were handed the character, one of our conditions is we wanted to change her, make her less the victim, get her away from the Joker and start a new life and have her own supporting characters and not be a slave to the Batman universe. That idea worked. Amanda wanted to redesign her clothing a create a wardrobe that reflected her mood and what she was doing each issue and that idea started a revolution for cosplaying the character and influenced a world of licensing that DC never could have imagined. We went all-in with the character, writing two issues plus a month for almost five years, doing spin-off series, specials, and publicly pushing the character best we could. We love Harley, know her better than almost anyone except for Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, and will in some way always be connected with her forever, so we did our job and look forward to our next challenge.
CW: With your recent work on the new Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey series being a direct continuation of your original run, do you hope to continue this in future series and have you given any thought to an ending story you’d like to tell one day?
JP: Honestly, we are treating this mini-series as our ending for a while. We came back to the character because of Dan Didio and the promise we could do it any way we liked, but I see that becoming harder and harder to do in mainstream comics since there are licensing responsibilities that are a big part of these characters. Amanda and I have a notebook of about 100 more ideas for the character, so if DC wants us back on the character at some point, they also have to start to consider using us more in the multimedia of the character and really involve us in this process. A thank you in the credits of things is wonderful and appreciated, but a bigger than you would be to get us involved with the character in other media. We are hoping with Jim Lee making that connection with the company, we can be more involved with everything we do with them in the future. Jim is THE MAN!
There you have it, folks! We cannot thank Jimmy enough for taking the time to talk with us at Comic-Watch, it was truly our pleasure, make sure you head on over to PAPERFILMS and check out all the great stuff they have in stock.
From Brooklyn to Paperfilms: An interview with Jimmy Palmiotti
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