Devon Sanders writes,
Please, bear with me.
About 15 years ago, I left work early. The sun was shining. My work was done and more than anything, I wanted to enjoy what was left of the day.
As I walked home, I passed a little bookstore I’d passed maybe a thousand times before. The selection on display outside was always different and I’d pass by just to see what was new.
The books would always draw its share of people browsing but this day standing alone was one I’d seen before. Standing there, just looking at old books was Tony Bennett, a certified legend.
And I just kept walking.
I told myself I was happy to have simply seen Tony Bennett, this true American master of song; someone I appreciated with all my soul. And I just kept walking.
I swear I have a point and I will bring it back to comics. I promise.
OK, so I’m walking away from Tony Bennett, regret becoming heavier with every step. The further I walked, I wasn’t telling him just how much I appreciated him and everything he’d done for my love of music. I’m walking away.
“He just wants to enjoy the day. Leave him alone”
“But when are you ever going to get this chance to tell Tony Bennett to his face this thing that is so very much on your heart right now?”
Before I know it, my feet are turning me around and my heart is taking over. I walk back and quietly say, “Mr. Bennett, I’m honestly sorry to disturb you but I just wanted to tell you just how much you and your singing have meant to me.”
Tony Bennett stopped the world and fixed his eyes on me and smiled. Before I knew it, he’d extended his hand and said, “Young man, thank you so much for saying that. THAT means the world to me.”
It wasn’t just a typical handshake. It was one of those warm handshakes where the person places their other hand over yours. I thanked him again and told him to enjoy the day and Tony Bennett waved goodbye.
In that one single moment, I learned more about how to treat people than my twenty-plus years before on this planet could provide. I felt considered. I felt good. I walked away an even bigger fan.
To this day, if you say “Tony Bennett,” my eyes smile wide.
Fast forward, 15 years later and I’m standing in line at Baltimore Comic-Con for Darwyn Cooke. He was running behind and out of nowhere, I hear this voice asking me, “How would you like a Twizzler?”
I look to my left ready to say “No” to unsolicited Twizzler pushers until I realized it was Jimmy Palmiotti, leaving his booth and his wife, Amanda Conner to check on the people in line for his buddy, Darwyn…
In that moment, I knew this guy was genuine. It was just so damned sincere.
So, please, let’s take a moment to consider Jimmy Palmiotti, one of comics’ unsung heroes. If for no other reason than he pretty much saved Marvel Comics.
1998 and Marvel Comics is in turmoil. Stock could be bought for pocket change. The industry as a whole is feeling the effects of the speculator boom, gone bust. With bankruptcy a possibility, they throw caution to the wind and set up what essentially was a boutique imprint for two creators who’d some a lot of work for them in the past but currently were known more for their own self-published work, chief among them, Ash and Painkiller Jane.
Those two men were Marvel’s current Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada and his business partner and frequent collaborator, Jimmy Palmiotti. Their strategy was a unique one; take Marvel properties that were viewed as “damaged” and let creators they would like to read just go crazy on them under the newly created “Marvel Knights” banner.
First out of the gate were long dormant characters or books cancelled due to, frankly, having nothing new to say. Those books were:
Daredevil, The Punisher, Black Panther and The Inhumans.
All characters currently enjoying popularity due to a hit TV series or scene-stealing moments in another character’s movie or imminent arrival in theaters near you.
The next books released under the Marvel Knights banner?
Black Widow. Doctor Strange.
Seeing a pattern?
Not only were many of these books outselling many of Marvel’s superhero universe-proper books, they introduced many new readers to Brian Michael Bendis, arguably, Marvel’s most important writer since Stan Lee.
Without the guidance and vision of Jimmy Palmiotti and Joe Quesada, Marvel may not be in the place it is today. Marvel was about to simply go away. Without these two men digging deep, Marvel would not have been in any sort of position to eventually be bought by Disney for $4 billion. This is said in no way to diminish anyone’s considerable contribution but it kinda irks me that no one ever says, “Jimmy put in the work, too.”
It probably doesn’t irk him as I suspect he’s busy with his own entertainment brand, PaperFilms with forays into self-publishing with books such as the bizarre and entertaining Queen Crab. All of this and his work-for-hire output, chiefly, Harley Quinn, a book that doesn’t necessarily speak to me but respect for one great reason: he along with co-writer Amanda Conner, stopped fetishizing The Joker/Harley relationship as a love story and called it what it was: a horribly manipulative and abusive relationship. A bold move away from a blindspot many within the comics community interpreted as a selling point.
While DC was turning their characters darker and grimmer, Jimmy, along with Amanda, were moving Harley gently towards some kind of light. And selling more copies than just about anything on the DC Comics roster.
And pretty much that version of Harley is making it to the big screen in the upcoming movie, Suicide Squad.
I honestly cannot think of anyone else in recent memory who’s had a bigger hand in the shaping of the comics medium. He deserves a look with fresh eyes.
Top it all off with he just seems like a good f*%#ing guy.
So, the next time you see Jimmy, hold out your hand and tell him that he’s done alright by the comics medium and maybe offer him a Twizzler.
Devon Sanders is a ninja. Bet you didn’t see that one coming.
Find him on Twitter at @devonsanders.