Talking To Jimmy Palmiotti About Religion, Self-Publishing And Breasts

2279d9c99b4f5380a455541bfd9901df_largeI’ve known Jimmy Palmiotti for quite some time. We started getting very chatty around the time he and Joe Quesada headed up Marvel Knights and it seems like so much in the current mainstream comic scene began at that point. However, he soon left, moved from being known primarily as an inker (and the model for Banky in Chasing Amy) to a writer and co-writer of comics, working with Justin Gray primarily on the edges of Marvel and DC. But of late he’s found new success on Kickstarter with a number of successful projects including a personal favourite of mine, Queen Crab. His fourth, Weapon Of God, is currently funded and he’s currently working up stretch goals. The comic involved. Weapons. And God. And Amanda Connor covers.

What are your own religious beliefs and have they changed through your life? Does the book reflect any of them?

I was born a Roman catholic, got baptized, and had communion with 8 years of catholic school in Brooklyn N.Y. I think growing up with priests and nuns as part of my life, it taught me to question a ton of things and a lot of them were the rules and practices of those much more disciplined than me growing up. It was when I was in my teens I saw the business side of religion show its face. My mom was trying to get a mass at our local church for a relative and it came down to politics and money and they were turned down. My mom and dad were never the same after that, but my mom stayed the Christian all through her life. I have kept the Christian sensibilities with me…the part where I am kind to people, don’t lie and cheat, don’t steal and so on, but put the Sunday church and most of the other by the book beliefs aside. Honestly, these days I have a different view of the religion I grew up with, but I have kept my values. I am not the most religious person, but I also understand how important it is to have faith. I respect all people’s beliefs, no matter how odd they may seem to me at times.

8be9b20c953828cfd162faa674cc29bf_largeWith Weapon Of God, Justin and I spoke about how we would handle the main character and the back-story, that the church keeps and teaches a chosen one to fight evil for them. We decided that we would tell the story as if it was real on all accounts-that maybe the church has this warrior hiding out somewhere and is just waiting to trigger him into action. A lot of the crazier stuff in the book is our storytelling and Imagination at work, but there is a bit of both of us in the FBI agent assigned to work with him, Mary Baltimore. In the end, we treat the subject with respect, pepper it with a little craziness and as always with our work, there is a lesson hidden deep down, and that lesson is that there is always hope in every situation, no matter how impossible it may seem. We are not trying to change peoples lives here, just entertain them with a fun story and beautiful art.

Well, your Kickstarter audience has been growing book by book, is there ever a level it could reach for you where this was your primary source of income?

That would be a real interesting idea, but it wasn’t all that profitable till the last one, Sex and Violence. The first two hit the goal, but with any learning curve, we made mistakes that we’re still paying for. Part of any success is understanding where you failed and not repeating it. We are finally in a place where this might make sense on some level…having a few kickstarters a year, but we shall see. All the left over money from Sex and Violence went to giving the artists a bonus and right back into 3 other books we have in the works. If all I ever did was kickstarters to make a living, that would be awesome, but after spending 3 weeks shipping 800 packages, well, lets just say the people at my local post office consider me family. Don’t get me wrong; I love this format, but its still evolving in my eyes. Ask me this a year from now and I am sure I will have a better answer.

a6981e75f71a0ae30b879f070208abfd_largeWill do. Certainly Kickstarter is turning a number of comic creators into self publishers – including posting off hundreds of copies of their graphic novels, individually. How do you deal with the nuts and bolts on delivering the books to people?

The real simple answer is to fulfill the orders on time and making sure the customer is happy and satisfied, and wants to come back for more. We treat it like a grass roots business. I understand that people can back other projects, so I treat the pledge levels like a retail store and offer product that they will never be able to get anywhere else but from us. As well, we treat each and every person with respect. Any problems they have, we do our best to solve them.

The actual nuts and bolts are simple. We try to have the book almost complete before we offer it on Kickstarter so people do not have to wait to receive their pledges. We get price quotes in advance for production, as well as printing costs on all the books and limited prints. We hit the post office and get shipping rates for assorted package weights, and what they would charge shipping internationally. The last thing we do is keep an organized record of everyone, what they pledged and then get to work packing up each package with their awards and mailing them. After that we get a receipt of the shipping date and tracking for the packages. It is a ton of work on so many levels, but nothing beats seeing all the post and tweets of the people getting their awards after that and loving what they received. I look at it like these are people in a room with me at a con, friends supporting our work and open to our new ideas. We want their experience to be a good one with us. You really have to stay on top of things though and a million things can go wrong if you don’t take all the details into consideration. We deliver one bad Kickstarter and I think we would be out of business.

9960921d23aee7d5edfe5e0669b15adc_largeStretch goals are increasing the size and production values of the graphic novel – but also the weight. Are you factoring increased postal charges into the mix?

Yes, that’s why there is a money difference between them…and you have to figure out in advance how many copies have to be printed, what the extra costs are with shipping and weight of package and final packaging and so on. It is not a simple thing and we do not throw stretch goals out there lightly. We figure in just about everything we can. It is easy to underestimate things. Again, it is a learning process all around. The way Kickstarter is formatted, they make it as easy as possible for us, but in the end, we have to deliver.

You doubled your aim with Sex & Violence and now its been published for backers. Any news how that will be made available to a wider audience, as Retrovirus and Queen Crab were?

We are offering it digitally at for download for the time being, as we are the other creator owned books we did. Honestly, we are working on a second volume of Sex and Violence and after that is done, we would like to collect them into a hardcover. We have no publisher in mind yet, but when we do, the books will have different covers and no pledge list because we want to keep the Kickstarter book a unique experience. Same goes for the prints, exclusive to the Kickstarter. Just look on E-Bay for example…there is only one single copy of Sex and Violence to be found. The 1000 we shipped are staying in those people’s hands. That says something. Yes, future collectors items for sure. Last con I did, I had a ton of retailers asking for copies, which I do not have for sale. Eventually, they will be available though, but for now, digital is it.

You’ve got three monthly books at DC. You’re about to have four comics in a month at Marvel. How do you reconcile the different creative processed with Kickstarter work?

Well, Justin and I have Batwing and All Star Western monthly at DC. Ami-Comi Girls are reprints from the digital line and I wrote a 4 issue What if mini-series for Marvel. Because we are a team, Justin and I can handle a bigger workload and still have time for our side projects. We love making comics and telling stories for a living, so unlike most jobs, we have no problem doing this 15 hours a day together. I personally break up my day into sections and use the calendar on the wall to figure out my work schedule in advance. There was a day when I had a ton of books in advance, but these days I am right on schedule. I do find it hard once in a while to switch gears, but that’s natural. My background in advertising helped me a lot get used to this way of working.

So, since it’s just entre-nous, who are the villains starring in the renamed Batwing and All Star Western titles in September?

Well, isn’t that a better question for the crew at D.C Comics? I am a company man for every company I work with and a true professional. When they say I can talk about a future project, I go out and make noise. Until then, I have no comment. It is the respectful and adult thing to do. Anyone that can’t keep their mouth shut really has to ask themselves if they really want to keep their job. My rule is when previews are out, only then I can talk about a project. Until that happens, I promote what is coming out next week, Like All Star Western #20 featuring Booster Gold. Yeah, I am good at dodge ball.

a3eee5918c36e3eba78ed2922dfb94a2_largeBalls. Okay, now down to the really important themes in your work. Reading your books, I do notice one reoccurring visual motif, and its one that’s also informed a number of emails you have sent to me in the past. How important are women’s breasts to you?

It is no secret I have an appreciation for the female form. So important in fact that Amanda and I are part of an event happening in Orlando, Florida June 15th called ROCK PINK and it’s a celebrity Bowl- a -Rama to benefit Rock Pink – whose mission is to raise breast cancer awareness and support local breast cancer programs. We are the comic book celebrities, LOL… and it’s a great event if anyone in the area is interested. Here is the link:

Do they become a kind of shibboleth of the type of book being published?

I tend to write the kind of books I want to read and growing up, you can tell in an instant I am a product of years worth of heavy metal magazines and European artists.

The kickstarters we have done are aimed at an adult audience, but that is changing soon since we are now working on an all ages science fiction graphic novel. There has been nudity in each of the books and we have always had it in our character driven stories. A person’s sexuality is part of who they are, and since these books are aimed at adults, we try not to pull any punches, and that includes showing male genitalia as well, which we did in the Sex and Violence book.

It does make me wonder what a book by you and Frank Cho look like…

I would love to work with Frank. That guy can draw his ass off, and he draws beautiful men and women. I think if we did something together, we would find a better title than the one you are offering. The trick to Frank is that he draws EVERYTHING well, but people seem to focus on his women more. I think he has the potential to be the next Frazetta. Yeah, It’s obvious I would work with him in a heartbeat.

Weapon Of God is currently bing funded on Kickstarter. I’m in.

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

twitter   facebook square   globe