Palmiotti and Cooke’s story appears across six labels of “an incredibly complex Session Ale brewed with Juniper Berries and Lemon Peel.”
Jimmy Palmiotti and Darwyn Cooke have brewed up a new six-panel story that draws inspiration from the old Charles Atlas ads that appeared in comics starting in the 1940s. But you won’t find it at your local comic shop today — you’ll only find it in Chicago-area liquor stores.
It is impossible not to root for a new comic when it is pitched by Jimmy Palmiotti. Latest example is the AfterShock Comics creator-owned Superzero: “There is a lot of joy and craziness in Superzero and I think right away you will be rooting for the main character Dru, a teenage girl with a love of comics and everything superheroes.”
To mark the upcoming release, Palmiotti was kind enough to let me interview him.
Tim O’Shea: How important is it to foster a strong relationship with retailers in the run-up to the release of the first issue?
Jimmy Palmiotti: If people do not see the book on their store shelves, then in their mind it doesn’t exist, because a lot of comic fans do not read the internet as much as we think they and rely on their stores to keep them up to date and stock books for them. With any new company, it’s a lot to ask retailers to order heavy on something that is brand new, so its super important for them when ordering to see some familiar names to get a feeling for their initial order. For us, with Harley Quinn and Starfire coming out monthly, they might already have a bit of an idea what to expect with Superzero, but I’m making sure I’m available to them via social media to answer any questions they may have. For my whole career I’ve always been communicating with retailers about the work, and with these trusted relationships have been helping them set their orders as best as I can. With Superzero, we feel this book will appeal to the Harley and Starfire audience as well as the Kick-Ass audience. Look at the other books they have coming and you will see this is a creator-driven launch. So to directly address the question it is key to the success of the company to always work with the retailers. They are our partners in this at all times. Our success is dependent on them.
How enjoyable is there to be known as a part of the creative team with Amanda Conner that is known for creating fun lighthearted stories?
It’s a fantastic time to be working in comics where female leads are becoming normal and working with Amanda, we really are having a blast. This idea for Superzero is something we have had cooking for over six years and its really exciting for us to think we will finally get to entertain and tell the story we wanted to with this project in the initial launch of After Shock comics. There is a lot of joy and craziness in Superzero and I think right away you will be rooting for the main character Dru, a teenage girl with a love of comics and everything superheroes, and hopefully get hooked at the idea we are presenting. The theme is how can a normal person become a superhero and we take it to places that are borderline insane…and at the same time ground the book is in a realistic world that everyone can relate to. I think this book is easily one of our best we have done and we hope everyone else thinks the same. The first issue will surely bring a smile to a lot of faces.
What makes this an attractive property for AfterShock Comics as opposed to some other creator-owned focused company?
We could have gone to many different places with Superzero and each company offers a different deal as far as pay, royalties and ownership. We looked at what was out there and we wanted to partner with another company, rather than just own all of the property, because we just don’t have the time that we would need to self publish, promote, and push it properly. With a lot of companies, you have to do a lot of your own flag waving and with After Shock, they have a team onboard that is going out and doing the things we can’t do, leaving us to tell our story and do what is important to us on our end. As well, outside of the book, After Shock has a crew that can go out and take the property to other media, which is great, but for us, we don’t have any time but to focus on the book. Its great if they do get other media interested, but all we care about is that Superzero is the best comic book we can deliver. The decision to partner with After Shock was made easy because we already had existing relationships with Joe Pruett, Mike Marts and when we met the rest of the gang, we all got along great. This part of the business, the relationships, is key. A lot of time I have worked with publishers that once they get the book from you, you don’t exist anymore unless it’s a big seller. This is not the case with this crew. We are in it together all the way.
Care to elaborate on this gem “What comic creators really need is a brilliant experienced person to go out and sell licenses for creators and their work.”
What I was making note of was there are a lot of license conventions and designer cons and so on where the bigger companies like DC and Marvel license out their characters and art to companies to use for toys, games, statues, t-shirts, posters and a million other things and I wish there was someone that would look , as an example, at my creator owned work at Paperfilms.com and dig in and go out there and sell licenses of the characters to other types of media. For me to do it, which I do most of the time, it takes a lot of effort, connections and time that I just don’t have because of the work I put into the books. I could really use someone that knew what they were doing is all. I feel a lot of the properties are ripe for other media.
You liken Superzero to Harley or Starfire. In what ways do they share common traits?
Aside from the same creators writing them, Superzero is a good person wanting to help the world around her and has a good heart that even though things may go wrong, people can see where she is coming from. I also thing that Dru is also someone that wants better for those around her and is driven to make it happen, so they have that in common.
What can you tell me about the art team for Superzero?
We won the lottery as far as getting the perfect team on the book. On pencils and inks we have Rafael De Latorre who is one of the very few artists that can draw characters in their teens and they actually look their age, not something that is easy to do in comics. His storytelling skills are cinematic, and very telling of someone who has a great sense of set up and delivery and can convey body language. These were the key things we were looking for in the art and his facial expressions are so dead on we hate to cover a single line with dialogue at times. We also scored big time getting colorist Maiolo working with Rafael on this book. He sets a mood and a palette that captures the sun-drenched world that the story is set in, that being Tampa, Florida. He understands story and scene shifts and gives the book a painted feel that is just beautiful to look at. Rounding off the team is designer and letterer John J Hill, our letterer on Harley Quinn and now working with us on Superzero. John has some serious skills and the patience of the Gods working with us again. He simply is the best and we demand him for just about everything we do.
Is it too early to discuss supporting cast?
We meet most of the supporting cast in the first issue. We meet Dru’s mom and dad, sister, best friend and a couple of classmates. These are the important people in her life and a very colorful bunch at that. Her world is a small one that is about to get much bigger as she experiments and throws herself into some pretty insane situations. This book we keep the camera and focus always on Dru as we follow her and I think it works out just great. We get to see the people around her through her critical eyes.
For my money, Jimmy Palmiotti is one of the smartest and hardest working creators currently in comics. In this new Q&A, he and I discuss a range of ideas and projects, including updates to the PaperFilms site; the company’s new Threadless presence; Starfire; andHarley Quinn Road Trip Special #1, the latter of which goes on sale September 9.
As always you continue to make improvements to the PaperFilms site, how important is that site to maintaining a rapport with your fan base.
The PaperFilms site is our hub where we keep people up to date on our work, offer our services, offer downloadable books, limited signed prints, book conventions and sell just about anything we do produce these days. I think it’s very important for any creator to create a brand and offer their work to the public because with dozens of companies selling hundreds of books a week, a lot of product never makes it to a comic shop. Amanda Conner, for example, can only do about 12 shows a year, and at these shows she sells signed prints. It just isn’t fair or realistic that she can be everywhere, so we like to look at it as a service that people can buy her signed prints at our site and not miss out. Things like this are super important to building and then keeping a fan base happy. I’m a consumer like everyone else and buy product right from creators. I like to think with no middleman involved, I am supporting that creator and giving them some support to continue their craft.
Is there any thing better than getting to be able to feature art from Amanda, Phil Noto, Dave Johnson, Paul Mounts, and others via Threadless?
There is nothing better than seeing a lot of hard work presented on something besides a comic book. We have a small interview about it hereand I have to say that although it took some time for Bill Tortellini and I to put it together, we are both super proud how everything came out. The phone cases are top quality and the printing on them is stunning. The T-shirts and canvas art are also very cool and seeing these on people is just amazing. For Dragon Con and Baltimore, if you show me a case or a wear one of these t-shirts, I will do that person a free quick sketch. Yeah, I’m not the best artist, but I can draw a pretty good Daredevil or Jonah Hex. Threadless and the crew up there have been amazing at promoting our section, so we hope to see some sales soon.
You are advocate for good comics be it they corporate or creator-owned, you are squarely an advocate, not an apologist. Look no further than earlier this week and the FB post. “Opinion pieces are not facts. DC is doing great and as anyone that has worked as a boss in publishing, you constantly have to experiment and shake things up all the time. Harley and Starfire both came from that. Marvel Knights came from that. The press trying to make DC look weak should spend the same time pointing out how the company makes sure we are compensated for our creations in all media, how they give us a % of foreign royalties for our books and digital sales and how they include us in their PR for the projects we work on.“
Where do I start. How critical are foreign royalties for you? How important is it for you to be be plugged in terms of PR?
This post was my reaction of seeing a couple of days worth of press attacking D.C. comics, which by the way, is one of the best companies to work for in comics, and I have worked for them all. I’ve been called a company man because I stick up for them, and I totally am… but I am a company man for about 8 different companies I’ve been working for, including DC, Marvel, Image, After Shock, Boom, Dark Horse, Action Lab, Jet City, Adaptive, and including my own company Paperfilms. Anyone that knows me knows I push and talk up every company I work for and it’s part of what you get when you hire me. I think it’s the smart and professional thing to do and will not make excuses for it.
What I hate seeing is everyone joining in on bashing a company that is constantly trying new things and really does go the extra mile with creators on a daily basis. This is one of the few companies that pay us for foreign royalties on our books, which is a big deal when you have been working for over 20 years in the business and start doing shows overseas and get to see all of your work in giant collections and collected editions. This is a decent amount of money and I am sure all the retired artists and writers that have worked for them in the past are happy to receive these well-deserved checks. The comic book business is global, with books being printed all over the world and the idea that a company limits their royalties to only English editions, or just to print is just not playing fair with their talent anymore.
No matter who I work for, I can always find faults in the company, and DC is no different, though I will say I find much less in them than others. Companies shake up their lines each year, sometimes twice a year and that is just normal business…something is not working, try something new. Marvel and DC do this all the time. Have been for a long time. Marvel Knights did it and I was part of that. I guess what I am trying to say is that in the end, everyone bashing these companies publically have to remember that as this negativity leaks out to other media , it paints a pretty crappy picture of the business, so I rather remain positive and celebrate what IS done right, promote the good work and keep the negative vibes away.
Yeah, not as interesting as being negative, and I understand that, but we are working in a time where we have some of the greatest comic artists in the world creating things of beauty each and every month. I would much rather celebrate the art form. It’s how I roll.
With Starfire #3 there were a few subtitles like “Cruise Out of Control” are those narrative elements than an home back to the 1970s DC comics, or something else?
They are a fun way of cutting scenes and locations and pushing the book further along than a regular format. It has been done in film for years and we have done it many times in the Jonah Hex series so it seemed like a fun place to do it, and a challenge with the titles working with the set up scenes. The chapter thing is very retro, but it still works well today.
In Harley Quinn 19, did you or Amanda write that great “I built Beaver Dam in my pants.” speech?
That was all me with her editing it because I might have gone totally overboard. There are times when writing parts of the book, all I really want to do is entertain Amanda and she just loves bathroom humor…so the two rants in the book are me sending a love letter to her. I read one review where they said it was too much and over the top and that also made me happy as well. We pride ourselves in going where no others would even think of going and at the same time keeping it all fun. You would think after writing over 25 of these books we would run out of this silly stuff, but far from it. Amanda’s brain is a fun house of madness and with the two of us working on this at once, it is rather insane at times. Thank God it fits the character.
Mike and Joe Pruett are close friends and I have a history with both. Their partners are smart and lovely people and together, we saw an opportunity to have some fun and try something different with the character we are presenting. Mike gave me one of my first writing gigs for a major comic book company and that was my run on Deadpool many years ago at Marvel. He asked and we answered. As well, they are both big fans of Amanda’s work and that just made the entire process that much sweeter.
What can you tell about the new Harley Quinn annual road trip?
This double sized special was a fun idea Amanda and I were tossing around for a bit, putting Harley, Catwoman and Ivy together on a road trip across country. We honestly only had one problem doing this book and it was that we needed about 60 more pages to tell the entire story we wanted to tell…not a bad problem though. We get to follow these three as they party, play Truth or Dare and pick up some unlikely hitchhikers. We also learn a little about Harley’s childhood and family in the process. We custom wrote this special to be illustrated by Bret Blevins and with the help of some other guest artists like Moritat , Mike Manly and a few others, it’s a pretty fun over the top story.