Jimmy Palmiotti on Kickstarter, Painkiller Jane and His New Graphic Novel, Denver

Depending on your age and comic book proclivities, you might know Jimmy Palmiotti as one of the [...]


Depending on your age and comic book proclivities, you might know Jimmy Palmiotti as one of the biggest names in creator-owned comics, the co-founder of the Marvel Knights imprint that got his longtime collaborator Joe Quesada the job heading up Marvel Comics or one of DC's most talented and prolific writers (often with Justin Gray) of the last decade or so. Currently, he's sitting on $38,000 worth of pledges toward his sixth consecutive successful Kickstarter campaign (the goal was $31k), this time for an original graphic novel titled Denver with Gray, artist Pier Brito and a soundtrack from composer Hans Karl. You can check out a track from the soundtrack below.

The idea is to advance and enhance the reading experience for the book, which is essentially a crime novel set in a post-apocalyptic near-future where a comet strikes the moon, setting off a chain of events that sinks nearly all of the United States into the ocean. The tale takes place in the real-world city of Denver, a mile above sea level and now home to the safest environs in North America. It's a dystopian tale of betrayal and intrigue that the Kickstarter page describes as being influenced by Blade RunnerSoylent Green and Heavy Metal Magazine. You can check out the trailer for the project below. Palmiotti joined ComicBook.com to talk about the project, his large body of work and about the impact of Kickstarter on the comics landscape. ComicBook.com: You've been one of the most respected names in comics for a while now. Does it even faze you anymore at all when people question the idea of established talents using crowdfunding? Jimmy Palmiotti: I just try to explain to them why I do this and what I am doing. I work for bigger companies, but on their material, not mine. I do creator-owned books for Image, one of my favorite places to work, but these don't always do well for me since I have to lay out a ton of money myself way in advance. I have hits [ The Pro] and I have misses [Creator Owned Heroes] . Outside of Image, you start to give away your rights and you pitch the idea, and they decide if they want to do it, so mostly I have to make the work more focused on the commercial value and wants of each of the companies. With Kickstarter, we get to do whatever I like content wise, minimize the risk by creating the project and making sure the pledge part of the drive offers things people would want to buy, and pitch the idea to a crowd that votes with their dollars. Honestly, if no one liked the Kickstarter pitch, they wouldn't back it and that would be that. I admit that having a following helps, but again, Kickstarter is a store in my eyes and you better be offering something good. Sure, a number of people want to support my work, but it's a two way street. We work hard on our projects and do everything ourselves and the people that back our work comes back for more because we simply take good care of them and deliver the best book we can. So, to wrap this all up, it's all about my control of a project and creating a relationship with the people that support it. I just don't have that anywhere else.

denver cover color 1 copy 3

ComicBook.com: I can say myself that what you get for your investment in one of the Jimmy Palmiotti Kickstarter campaigns is top-notch work. What's the difference between this and doing creator-owned work through a publisher like Vertigo, Image or whomever? Palmiotti: Image is totally different compared to most companies since they do not claim ownership to your projects, but there is a pitch process, and after that you have to pay out of pocket for complete production of the book and then a fee to the company per issue. Outside of Image, you have to pitch your ideas to a group that are looking at a different bottom line or at the very least looking to see if what you are pitching will make enough money for them. As well, you are giving a percentage of ownership to some of them, which means handing over some control. I am not against this and have created original work for a ton of companies, but there are contracts involved and rights issues and so on that I don't worry about on a Kickstarter. ComicBook.com: You know, I look at books set in the near future, like for instance Brian Wood's The Massive, and I think that the comic book science they used is so much easier when you just hit something with a meteor. Was that almost shorthand to just get right into the meat of the story and not spend too much energy on the hows and whys of how things got to be the way they are? Palmiotti: Over population and people are destroying the planet at an alarming rate this past century, but things can be turned around. Now…a Meteor is a realistic thing…they hit the planet all the time. With Denver, we don't get into the why the planet is the way it is, we just drop you there and the story takes place from there. I think the right combination of anything can screw with the delicate balance of our planet. Weather and pollution happen to be the main ones right now. The next big flu epidemic can be the nest one. Earthquakes could lend a hand…and so on. I think the how and why might be important if we do a second Denver book. We would probably set that story as a prequel. ComicBook.com: With a ready-made soundtrack for this project, is it something you'd consider playing with the format a bit and going for something like motion comics? Palmiotti: I have to say I admire a lot of what has been done with motion comics. Madefire is making some leaps and bounds with the work they do and I am a big fan of their process. They have figured it out where I feel a lot of others haven't. For me personally, I just don't make enough money on any level to animate these books. I really wish we did. I would love to take something like Denver and bring it to Madefire to see what they could do with it. Maybe that's something I should look into. Hmmm.


ComicBook.com: This art is gorgeous; it has a very Vertigo feel to it, like Quitely or Darick or somebody. As a writer, is it kind of a dream come true to have somebody come to you with this level of work at a portfolio review? Palmiotti: It sure is , mainly because most of the work I see is derivative of someone's style and having work that stands on its own two legs come my way that looks so amazing almost guarantees I can find them some work with either me or a company I work with. Over the years I have been very lucky in this department. With Pier, once I scanned over the first 3 pages, i knew he would be perfect for this project and Justin agreed. We put him to work right away before someone else scooped him up. Right place at the right time. The hardest thing I have a problem finding good colorists. There are a ton of decent ones, but finding people that understand the craft gets harder and harder. ComicBook.com: Now that you've been doing the Kickstarter thing for a while, what do you think are the risks that creators take when they get involved with it? I mean, everyone talks about the customer's risks, but have you been nailed with unexpected costs or anything along the way? Palmiotti: We deal with crazy shipping prices, people for the hell of it cancelling pledges along the way, that sets everything off and we have a constant back and forth with people that move, lose the package and so on. There is a lot most people don't talk about and this is in the fulfillment state. Costs change. Printing time clocks get altered. Packing supplies have to ordered in bulk. Customer service happens even a year after a drive has been delivered and so on. It is a ton of work, but I welcome the interaction with the people that support our work. ComicBook.com: Creator-Owned Heroes was an absolutely terrific book, and it was heartbreaking to see it go. Do you see crowdfunding as a venue to keep titles like that alive and viable in today's market--by pre-funding them and knowing that your risks are minimized? Palmiotti: Not for a monthly title, but maybe to do an annual. If I did it again, I might make it different format size. I think the market just isn't open to too many new ideas in format and delivery. I stand by the book, but I think it became a bit too hard to get the retailers behind it. We had some great ones that did and that's why it was around for 8 issues, but 1/3 of all retailers never ordered it. In the end, it was simply sales that killed it. If I ever do it again, I would do it as a big book and once a year. ComicBook.com: You never seem to run out of ideas; will we see any of the properties from Creator-Owned Heroes or some of your other material come back in future Paper Films books, or do you have so much crammed into your brain that it's difficult to look back? Palmiotti: I would love to do a book, maybe a trade that has a Monolith, Tattered Man, Triggergirl 6, Denver, Weapon of God, and a Queen Crab story in it. I just have no idea if it would sell and know it would cost me a bundle to do. Remember, I don't draw these titles, so everyone has to be paid for their work. For now though, I look forward to new ideas. I just got to figure out how to make it work. ComicBook.com: I think most fans look at something like Harley Quinn and they think that the success of that book more or less guarantees you work, and/or creative freedom, at the Big Two. What does a big success like that ACTUALLY afford you at DC or Marvel? Palmiotti: It affords me a bit more freedom to go crazy in that actual title. They look at the sales and say maybe they are on to something and don't try to make us change things as much. It's just a smart way to do business. That book selling well will not have any influence on All-Star Western or Batwing. Only sales will change that. For DC, they always treat me pretty well, so even if something does not work, they try to find something else that will . Being involved in the Injustice game writing helps us in that area as well. At Marvel comics, it's never consistent for me. I get calls out of the blue for projects, and if they are fun, I take them on. I love working for both companies, but the huge sales on Harley have not gotten our phone ringing more from Marvel comics. I have Painkiller Jane at Icon over there right now, so that keeps me busy. I never stop pitching to both companies though. If a good idea pops into my brain with a certain character, I always pitch it. I also know only one out of 40 pitches stick. That is the process. They are both fun to work with and will always take their calls. ComicBook.com: This seems a pretty obvious choice for a film adaptation, for the same reason I asked about the motion comics. Word is you've got a Painkiller Jane script that's moving forward; would you be interested in personally adapting some of the Paperfilms material if a producer came rights-hunting? Palmiotti: I sure would. I wrote the Jane screenplay because I wanted to see my version make it to the screen. Same with my next project with Craig Weedon called Cursebreaker. We went right to screenplay and go out and shop it this March. I think having sold enough screenplays helps the film and TV people feel more comfortable with me adapting the work. I was at an agent's dinner once and they said straight out that the last thing studios want is comic book people writing screenplays of their characters. I aim to change that way of thinking. I understand the two are completely different ways of telling a story and I have worked behind the camera and in front of it enough to understand that. I have a sale in the next month that is for a character Justin and I created and we have minimal involvement with the project, but we knew that going in, and are fine with it. The producer got my info off the internet and just called me to talk a deal. Not everything we create has to have an adaption, but some would really do better with it. My next screenplay is a horror in a beach town thriller.