Although he’s taking some time off from the mainstream, Jimmy Palmiotti is busy making comics. And this week he’s back with his latest crowdfunder for a graphic novel, Killing Time in America.
This time he’s teamed with co-writer Craig Weeden [MIA’S GIFT (novel)- DIAMOND PAYBACK (screenplay)] and artist Justin Norman (aka Moritat) (JONAH HEX, HARLEY QUINN). Colorist Paul Mounts and designer John J. Hill round out the team for a full color hard back with a Dave Johnson cover.
Like some of Palmiotti’s previous Kickstarters – Queen Crab, Sex & Violence, Denver and Hype, to name a few – it’s an action-packed tale with a few dark spins. The story involves a family of four who come to Florida for a killing spree. A retired detective is out to track them down, but along the way we see a lot of disturbing, brutal violence, and go behind the scenes with both the killlers and the detective. It is ADULTS ONLY for sure, as you can see with the exclusive pages supplied for this interview.
The Kickstarter just launched and is well on its way to getting funded – in the past we’ve talked to Palmiotti about his other Kickstarter projects, and he kindly offered his thoughts on the project and the industry at large, as well as getting back to creator owned work.
As always, it’s a frank talk – Palmiotti is a straight shooter with a view of the comics industry that few can match.
THE BEAT: This is a brutal read that a lot of people will find morally repugnant. What appealed to you about a story about utter psychopaths on a kill spree?
PALMIOTTI: Well, the main story is about a detective trying to hunt them down and put them out of business, but yes, its told from the killers point of view for most of the story, so I can see how you would read it like that. The appeal of telling this story was to do something different after years of writing super powered people. Craig and I wanted to tell a horror story that seemed rooted in reality and location, and reflected on what is going on in the world, but at the same time offer a spark of hope. It is an adult graphic novel in every sense and we do not hold back, mainly because we were shooting to create something scary that evokes the movies that I enjoyed in the 80’s like Friday the 13th and Halloween. The movies and books that made me feel uncomfortable, yet I always came back for more.
THE BEAT: In a way, it’s a more realistic take on the kind of nihilism that Harley Quinn represents, or at least the dark side of that. In real life, she’d be a danger to society. Was that connection anything you purposely explored?
PALMIOTTI: After co-writing Harley for 4 years, I felt it was time to experiment more and to write things that I feel were interesting to me for a number of different reasons. When I was offered The Jetsons, it was so far away from what I was doing, I was interested in seeing how a family could exist and stay together during the worst possible time, one where the world was ending, and with Killing Time in America, I wanted to go to a dark place that I know exists in some form or another in the world we currently live in. When writing Harley, it’s silly fun and when she does horrible things, they are for a reason–in her head–and she makes them happen. Some of the things that happen in that series are truly over the top, but the tone set makes it easier to swallow.
With our Kickstarter, we set the tone in the real world, and it’s a warning as well as an adventure. Looking past the overall story and into the smaller details, we see the lives of people who have something dark in common finding a playground that goes bad for them. I was not making a connection between Harley and this book, but I can see how you might see that since all the characters have a history of violence. That said, I am not a violent person, or a supervillain, or a cowboy, or a regenerating female cop, or an astronaut, or a super powered cousin of Superman, but it sure is fun to write them.
THE BEAT: The usual knock about this kind of story is that there’s no one to root for. In a lot of stories about killers (like Dexter, set in Florida as well) we eventually have some sympathy for the killers, but this gang is just bad all the way through. How do you think readers respond to this kind of story?
PALMIOTTI: Out of the group Maria’s character discovers there is more to life than the path she is on…but our good guy in the story is the retired cop, Hobie. He has a history with these types of killings and we follow him as he tries to shut them down. We really were not looking for any sympathy for these killers, it was more of an examination on how each of their personalities and what happened to them in the past might have created a kind of normalcy about what they are doing and how, even if that is the case, just how horrible it is that they even got there. I expect each and every person will have a different opinion about this, which is fine by us. No good story is all Black and White.
THE BEAT: How did you hook up with Justin “Moritat” Norman and what does he bring to this project?
PALMIOTTI: Justin and I have worked a number of times, best known on All Star Western and I love his storytelling skills so he was my first choice for the book. He has no problem drawing adult content which is important to the project and when last we worked on Harley Quinn we got to talking about doing something together. Not only is he a great artist, he is one of the few I have worked with that always gets their work in on time, which is important to me. With a Kickstarter, you never want to keep people waiting for their rewards and I never have.
THE BEAT: It’s been a couple of years since you did a Kickstarter. Is getting back to crowdfunding one of the goals for taking time off from the mainstream?
PALMIOTTI: I love doing Kickstarters because it’s so grass roots. It puts you in direct contact with the people who support your work and opens up a dialogue with all of them. As well, after writing other people’s characters for years, it’s tough watching the work we have done appearing in films and licensing, and to feel great when the % we get on these things is so slight. Understand that we don’t go into this blind, so I can’t complain, but I think it would really help some companies to appreciate their talent a bit more and try to position them into some of the projects that spin-off into other media. I’ve written for animation, film, TV and video games, and yet, as always, people that you work for every day try to pigeon-hole you. It’s a story as old as time itself.
The way to do that is to have your voice attached to characters you can own, or at least work with those willing to give you a better cut. I will be doing some company work this year, but the majority of the work will be on projects like this that I can own and hopefully they will have a life outside this. The Kickstarters work well for this. Amanda and I need to plan for our future and to do this, we plan on creating projects we love and control. The Paperfilms.com site gives a good picture where we are heading work wise in the future and if you join the newsletter, you get to see a lot of the work behind the scenes we have coming up. I love the mainstream, but they are superhero obsessed and I am a bit tired of reading the same things over and over.
THE BEAT: And let’s talk about that spare time! How did it feel to walk away from a bona fide cultural phenomenon in Harley Quinn?
PALMIOTTI: Amanda and I felt we did everything we set out to do, watched a character go from a cancelled book to a media sensation and had a blast with all the attention during that entire ride. We walked away because the challenge was not there for us anymore. A big part of what creative people need is to be challenged and try different things. Becoming the guy known for one character that they didn’t even create is not the legacy I want to leave behind and Amanda and I felt we had so many other cool ideas and stories to tell, we felt it was time to move on to other things. The fine people at DC totally understood us, and we still have some cool projects planned in the future with them. As for Harley, we love her so much and have one more one-shot coming, but it’s time for others to play with Bruce and Paul’s character. She isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
THE BEAT: What else are you going to do in your spare time now? The comics market seems to be undergoing a bit of a correction. Is it a good time to watch from the sidelines or would you rather be in the thick of things?
PALMIOTTI: I am never really in the sidelines. I may go quiet now and again, but I have never felt like I have more going on than I do now. My true partner in life and work is my wife, Amanda, and we have a lot of projects planned, and if some companies are interested, great. If not, we can Kickstart them like we are doing this book and we can make sure they get to the people who want them.
What we’ve been doing is taking well needed time off and spending a ton of fun time together traveling and having adventures and appreciating each other. We both had a lot of close friends pass away these past few years, and we realize that life is precious and our time together is limited, so we are mixing work and play into everything we do. We also have cut back on the amount of conventions we are doing since the past 4 years have been like a comic tornado for us. We really want to do something else and the idea of a headline for our next work being “Jimmy and Amanda are the new team on – Put existing big company character here” really holds little to no appeal to us at this point. We’ve been there, and done that so many times…we want out of that infinite loop and to dig into new and exciting projects!
Amanda and I are looking to do new characters, try some different genres, create all ages content, write and produce films and pour our blood and sweat into something that we can own. We want, at the end of the day, our characters to live on long after we are gone. It’s something you have to go out and do and not wait to happen to you.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.