Smash Pages Q&A: Jimmy Palmiotti on AfterShock’s ‘Superzero’

SuperZero01_17_PreviewIt 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?

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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?

Superzero#02_10_Preview-1We 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.

Smash Pages Q&A: Marguerite Bennett on AfterShock’s ‘InSeXts’

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To say Marguerite Bennett is an up and coming writer would be somewhat of an understatement. Not many people at this early stage of their career could convince someone to let her take the reins of a creator owned-project much less a project that DC and Marvel would not touch with a ten foot pole–due to subject matter. InSeXts is an erotic horror story about a pair of Victorian era lovers who go on a vengeful killing spree.  Luckily for Bennett Mike Marts, the Aftershock editor-in-chief, like what he saw in greenlit the project.

Then another fortunate development, Bennett agreed to talk to me about the new series.

Tim O’Shea: InSeXts is an erotic horror story about a pair of Victorian era lovers who go on a vengeful killing spree. Was that the initial pitch you gave AfterShock Editor-in-Chief Mike Marts, or did it evolve to that over time?

Marguerite Bennett: This was the original pitch, yes! I was astonished and delighted and maybe a little bit horrified that of the stories I submitted, this was the one that was approved, because now the whole world would know the awful things I like to read and write about in my downtime, haha.

The story actually began as a 12-page one-shot in the IN THE DARK: A HORROR ANTHOLOGY edited by the magnificent Rachel Deering (drawn and colored, at the time, by Jonathan Brandon Sawyer and Doug Garbark), but I had always had great plans for my lethal ladies. I’ve been thrilled that I’m finally able to continue their story and give them the space to breathe and evolve and commit a LOT of murder.

Am I correct in thinking this is not a creator owned project that Marvel or DC could or would touch with a 10 foot pole. Why do think AfterShock is willing to take the risk?

Hahaha, no, I can’t say many companies would’ve touched it–the brutality and sexuality and time period and relative absence of traditional heroes certainly set a ghastly tone. AfterShock has been wonderful to work with, though, and have given me such freedom. Mike Marts is kind of my comics dad (sorry, Mike) and brought me in to DC and then to Marvel a year later, and I work very hard to make sure the scripts I send him are up to scratch. He can tell you, I actually took a script back because I decided there weren’t enough “Holy #$%&” moments and gutted the whole thing and rebuilt it until I felt it was worthy. I work very hard to make sure that there is nothing like this story and it can be a suitable feather in AfterShock’s hat for all the support they’ve given me in its creation. For everything I’ve seen in my relationship with them, they’re committed to making sure there is nothing like their books on the market. I’ve been very happy.

What can you tell readers about the lead characters as well as some of the supporting cast?

The main protagonists are Lady and Mariah, our titular lovers. Lady is high-strung and anxious, Mariah younger but more mature. Lady, having been caged by her life for so long, takes deadly risks, while Mariah is more calculated, more inclined to wait for her revenge. Both of them are devoted to one another, and long for a family of their own above all else. Beyond that, they are aided by Dr. William Taylor, their beloved friend, and hunted by a variety of foes, from human abusers to Old World horrors to surprising villainesses. One villainess has been shockingly fun to write–Sylvia, Lady’s sister-in-law, a female misogynist who despises everything Lady is and will do anything to see her put in her place.

What creative risks are you able to take with an ambitious artist like Ariela Kristantina especially when teamed with a colorist like Bryan Valenza?

Oh my goodness God, I love Ariela and Bryan to pieces. Ariela takes these horrifying things and adds such loveliness and elegance to them–sincere tenderness that, in the hands of another artist, would be lacking, would turn the entire story into some low pornography. Bryan’s textures are rich and subtle, with soft warmth that suddenly gets slashed through by some hypersaturated neons in moments of outrage and violence. Together, the beauty of their artwork highlights the ghastliness of our story–I couldn’t be happier with any other team.