Jimmy Palmiotti Q & A interview by Anthony Andujar Jr 5/27/22
Q1. You and Joe Quesada are largely in part one of the biggest influences that shifted the paradigm not only for Marvel Comics during the late 90s, paving the way for the company to become a multimedia success, but for comics as a medium in regards to mature storytelling and talent. Looking at the comic book industry and the landscape of fandom in 2022, do you think you’d approach crafting comics within the modern digital landscape in the same way you did then? What would you do differently?
JP: I think no matter when a book is done, telling a relatable and entertaining story is a must across the board. As the audience for reading comics grows and gets younger, creators have to approach the medium in many different ways other than your basic 20-page print story. Between Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and approaching storytelling in a vertical fashion like Webtoons, the delivery of our stories is changing at a huge pace. A new generation is ONLY consuming digital formats these days and these new readers outnumber the print audience 1000 to one. I am paying close attention to all of this and with our new Subscription based comic delivery at Zestworld.com, we are doing this on a weekly basis. As well, at mine and Amanda’s site Paperfilms.com we offer all our titles in a digital format that you buy and own, not rent like the bigger companies. The good news is that there are people out there adjusting to this at a super quick speed and one particular project I am co-creating is going to help to speed up the process over time. It’s an exciting time for comics right now, and my hope is creators will eventually leave the big company way of doing business in the past and sell their art directly to their audience with no middle man.
Q2. What were the first few comics that paved the way for the long standing passion that you have made a legendary career out of? Who were your direct influences and why were they so impactful to the work that you craft today?
JP: My brothers always had comics around the house, so they were part of my landscape at an early age. Archie, Superman, Hulk, Jonah Hex, and especially Fantastic Four were my first titles, but it was not until I fell in love with certain creators that the medium became something more than a hobby. I became aware of people like Neal Adams, Bernie Wrightson, Mike Kaluta, Jim Starlin, Frank Frazetta, Wally wood, and so many more. I didn’t care a bit who they were making comics for, I just wanted more of their work. The whole Marvel vs DC thing was and still is for kids. I started following talent and I just wish Image comics started 20 years before, because it would have been great to see some of them do their own thing. Masters like Joe Kubert and Will Eisner paved the way for creators to look at the medium differently and their work still inspires me to this day. I love the work I have done for the big guys, but my personal creations are so much more important to me and bring out my real passion for the medium. My Crowdfunding books are where I am focusing all my time.
Q3. You and your wife Amanda Conner have been working together on numerous projects for many years. Most notably, Harley Quinn. Much of the work that the two of you have done is definitely felt within the animated Harley Quinn series and other adaptations. What is it about working on that particular character that keeps you two invested in crafting stories geared to her?
JP: We thought the character was a fun one and its creators Bruce Timm and Paul Dini created a unique eccentric personality to go with her, but for us to work on Harley for more than a few issues, we needed to establish her outside the Batman universe and give Harley what she deserved, A big break was needed from the overused Joker and Batman and her own supporting cast of characters needed to be created for us to grow an audience. Since we did this, DC has had her in 3 films so far, an animated series, and about a million licensed products. We worked with Harley to get to the heart of who she is and what makes her tick and in that process of over 115 issues, we fell in love with her. We are like the second set of proud parents and it’s spectacular to watch her grow still. In a career in comics, it’s a gift when you get known for a run on certain books and Harley is definitely one of them. We will probably be signing those comics till we leave the planet.
Q4.You’ve written scripts with Garth Ennis on some classic video games such as The Punisher (2005), Ghost Rider (2007), and few other video games over the years. What are the pros and cons of writing for videogames compared to comics? Were there any passion projects that you were attached to that didn’t make it off the ground that you could talk about?
JP: Writing a video game is a team sport. You work with a group of people that have many titles, break down a story over a month’s time and then write for about a half year after that. It is a long process and at times a thankless one. Like comics, the people that hire you to write the games, for the most part, think you are interchangeable with other writers and even when you have major success with a game and think you will get to work on the sequel, it always comes down to $ for them, sadly. I am proud of the work I have done, but unless the game features a character I own, I just don’t see any reason to ever write another game again unless they start to include royalties again, which they do not right now. If you break down the $ you get paid and the hours, you are working for low wages. Comics pay a bit better and give you more space for creativity. I am happy I got to work with Garth and the crews at the game companies, but it’s just one of many things I do. Both jobs can be fun and rewarding and suck at the same time. That is the reality of the business.
Q5. What do you enjoy most about writing for another medium that is complementary to comics?
JP: I love writing for TV and film and to be on set producing and working with the crew. More than anything really. The energy is close to an addiction. I never had more fun than having story sessions with the actors about their approach to their characters and with the DP of how to approach a shot or a scene in my script. I love being a hands-on producer. It is why I enjoy making my own comics so much as well. Being part of something you created is a thing creative people live for. It’s why comic creators really hate the way the companies treat them when developing their ideas, we just are not included in the process.
Q6. You’ve written various comics for many years, tackling all kinds of characters such as Jonah Hex, Batwing, Painkiller Jane, The Punisher amongst many others. What draws you to particular characters that garner interest in writing them? Are there any characters that you would like to tackle, that you have yet to reinterpret or re-establish, be it established characters or your own?
JP: I’ve worked on every single character I ever wanted to that is owned by other people. I just checked off Red Sonja off my list and I think that is the final one. Been there and have done that and had some good runs along the way. What draws me to the work these days is creating new characters, complicated worlds and having fun experimenting with different genres. Currently I am doing a Turn of the century Western with Chad Hardin, A Science fiction post apocalypse graphic novel with Pier Brito, A Jungle Girl graphic novel, a new Painkiller Jane book and a detective mystery series set in Florida about a retired cop. I think after this new Painkiller Jane series I have one more book in me and I am done with the character. Same with Ash and a few others from my past. I have to keep things fresh for myself and work on holding my interest. If I am not going to be excited about a project, I no longer take it on. The draw of these projects is always trying to bring something new to them, to entertain in a new way and for me, make the books for adults and not for kids. They got plenty of their own these days.
Q7. As a writer, and inker, what do you often struggle with after years within the business? As a creator, what difficulties do you face in regards to business decisions that young creators should be aware of?
JP: I have a bit of a list if you wish to indulge me.
I struggle with how horribly comic companies treat their talent and how they constantly try to take advantage of creators with rigged contracts they could easily fine tune to be fair, but hope you sign anyway as is.
I struggle with the amount of pop-up comic companies that only put out books to sell the property to other mediums or sell to another publisher and take advantage of up and coming talent in the process.
I struggle how terrible the compensation is for the creators that came up with the ideas from the ground up and then have to watch as a screenwriter takes claim to a story they took from a comic and then these same screen writers are okay with the film burying the original writers name in a pile of “thank you” credits at the very end of a film. These movies make Millions and then the companies want to pay you off and expect you to be thrilled with a horribly low amount of money.
I struggle with the horrible royalties because books have to hit 60k with big comic companies for a creator to make a penny and the way they hide the digital royalties in statements that have absolutely no transparency of transaction.
I struggle with the fact that so many companies throw away their talent in a heartbeat and that loyalty means nothing to them. You know why we need charities to take care of our older pro’s? Because the companies do not.
So, young creators should fight for their rights and their slice of the pie, always arm up with lawyers for every single contract presented and always be ready to walk away from something that does not seem fair. They should also communicate with the other creators around them, sharing experiences, contract notes, accounting issues, and any information that will help the next guy. Last, do not badmouth other creators and present a helpful and positive social media presence. I bet a lot of your readers did not know that currently big companies actually look at the number of followers you have on social media when hiring you and they look at WHAT you are saying as well. Negative people do not get hired. They have whole departments that check out your on-line presence. Things will only get better for creators if they take that extra minute to slow down and really look at what they are doing. Having Integrity can be learned over time.
Q8. Were there any projects that you had with Darwyn Cooke, George Perez and Neal Damas that were cooking in the mix that never got off the ground? Are there any projects with other creators that you and Amanda would like to work with? Are there any creator owned projects that you and Amanda Conner are working on currently?
JP: I was lucky enough to work with my buddy Darwyn on a few books, but we spoke a lot about other projects we could maybe do one day, but sadly these ideas will probably never get put together since without him. The world really got cheated with his passing. Neal Adams and I worked on a Harley book together and I was so proud of that book. Sadly, I never got to work directly with George other than publishing Crimson Plague with Event comics in the 90’s. All three of these creators changed the way I approached the art form and they will forever be missed. Especially Darwyn for me.
Amanda and I talk a lot about other creators and have a wish list of them we would give our right arm to work with. The thing about that is right now we are actually working with some of them, like Chad Hardin, on secret creator owned projects we can’t speak about yet. Chad is one of the best storytellers in the business and we are so happy to be working with him again. So much of the success of Harley Quinn is because of his amazing work. The guy approaches each page as if he is in the room with the characters and this gives the reader that extra detail to sell the idea. Same with our Red Sonja artist Moritat. He brings his “A” game to the book and each issue is lush, sexy and fun. Working with Juan Santacruz is a gift that keeps on giving. How the big two have not thrown contracts at him is beyond me. We are surrounded by super talents.
Amanda and I are currently working on a one shot for Image Comics for 2024 and for Zestworld working on our new series Boom-Pow about a woman that owns a donut shop in New Mexico that finds an immortal living in the desert and their adventures together. We are also in the process of putting together her Kickstarter for her first sketchbook in a series featuring the naughty side of her art. Lots of fun stuff is in the works.
Q9. In light of Neal Adams and George Perez passing, and the large popularity of superhero films, what do you think the industry should do more for established and up and coming creators? What changes would you hope to see within the industry that could greatly enhance it and the talent that carry it?
JP: I would love to see the big two start looking after the older creators and set up a 401k for their work and loyalty that these people can retire with. Seriously, they do it for their staff at the company, why not the actual people making them millions? Look, there are so many things they could be doing that they don’t and don’t care about, so in the end, what has to happen is that creators no longer support THEM and get their own work together so they can be self-sufficient. A union would have taken care of this, but it’s a very complicated thing to have come together and a full time job.
Q10. What projects do you and Amanda have in the pipeline that readers should keep an eye out for?
JP: I already mentioned some things, but right now, we have a few issues left of Red Sonja and then a trade collection coming your way. As well, everyone should go to ZESTWORLD.COM and at the very least register for our free mailer which people will get something weekly and if desired, join the pay section and get a boat load of our new comics delivered right to your screen. Past that, we are working on a few projects we are not allowed to speak about yet, but please sign up at Paprfilms.com for all that info as well.