Jimmy Palmiotti is a frequent and award winning writer for DC Comics, but also dabbles in Marvel comics. He has worked on iconic characters including Harley Quinn, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Punisher and Powergirl, and even co-created series and characters like Painkiller Jane.
I have been a fan of Jimmy for a while now, and after getting the chance to interview him, my respect for him has grown. His outlook on life and the world is really something to behold, there were so many moments and responses where I smiled because he nailed it on the head. Not to mention his portrayal of Superman in the Walmart 100 Page Giant books is perfect. I would very much like to see more of his Superman.
What is your favourite character to write and why?
The easy answer is any character I created or co-created in the past 20 years. I think maybe Painkiller Jane and Monolith were my favourites, but these days I am also enjoying working on genre type stories not focusing on a superhero or one character. For the big companies, Harley Quinn, Powergirl and Jonah hex and for Marvel, Punisher and Daughters of the Dragon. After that, I have worked on all the characters I ever wanted to, so the future holds a lot more creator owned for me.
How do you think your writing style compares to other writers? How important is it to have your own trademark/style?
I seriously think most writers are better than me for a lot of different reasons, but in the end, I write for the artist and the audience, and not my peers. I have written mostly female characters, so I think that in a way is my trademark go to…and adding humour to just about anything is one thing I always do. Has to do with the way I see the world…laugh, otherwise cry all day. The world can be overwhelming.
Is it hard to apply that when you have to consider the representation and personality of a character?
Not at all, the characters are mostly all human, or in Superman’s case, a human born in outer space, and that’s an easy thing for me to bring out in the character. I am not a fan of stories that are all dark and brooding. They have their place, but to me writing that kind of thing is just too easy, and in the long run I feel we never get to see all the angles of a character. I lose interest in these characters if I do not see their human side in the story. What is there to relate to otherwise?
What happens during your writing process, where do the ideas come from?
They come from everywhere and everything. I am inspired by the talents before me for sure, but just as important in creating your own voice is to notice the world around us and I am always present, something I work on all the time. I do not let my mind wander to the “what if’s” of life, I stay grounded in reality around me, mainly because there are a million ideas right outside everyone’s door. That and Amanda and I travel like hell, mainly because we see the hands of time moving forward and we want to see the world around us before one day we can’t get around. I also think a lot of the world is living way too large and nature is starting to strike back big time. I think an important part of traveling – and this helps your writing – is to learn all you can about where you visit and meet the people there as well. There are a billion stories out there waiting to be told. You just have to open your eyes a bit more and let them come to you.
What/who are your inspirations?
Out of the gate my parents, who always pushed me to pursue whatever I was interested in. After that it would be all the greats like Stan Lee, Stephen Spielberg, Jack Kirby, Joe Kubert, Will Eisner, Frazetta , Moeibus and so on. That list is endless, like my book collection. After that the love of my life, Amanda Conner, who daily shows me what it is to be loving and caring and how to live in harmony with the world around us. She is the finest person I know.
I just read your story in the Walmart 100 page giants. What I love about your Superman is the fact that people around him who he has never met put their lives on the line to save him, very much like he does for them, no matter what. Where did you get your inspiration on the story itself and your own representation of Superman?
I don’t get asked to write characters like Superman or Batman often, so when I do, I take inspiration from Darwyn Cooke and try to write the iconic core of the character the way I see them, fully dimensional and connected to those around them. I approached Superman as earth’s hero and after that I got into his head and touched on the great empathy he has for the struggle of those around them without his gift. The soap opera part of Superman is something you do when you have a year’s worth of stories, but for me, putting Superman in the path of something bigger than him was a great way to introduce the core of the character to a brand-new audience who might have never read a comic book before. It was also important to put him in a situation in middle America to include an audience that can, at times, be ignored and a struggle that is very real to a lot of people.
What made you want to showcase the good in others and not just Superman?
It’s because I think the good in people inspires superman and what he does. His youth was made up of farmers in a small town and their struggle. I think when you can make a story relatable to those people reading it, it takes on a more personal intimacy than a story where aliens are invading or of super powered bad guys. I firmly believe, given the chance, 99.9 % of the people on this planet want to do good, its just their delivery, outside influences, and bad habits they learned along the way that make it harder for a lot of people. It’s easy for us to feel helpless when we watch the news, but we mustn’t forget, it’s very easy to help our neighbours and friends and that’s where the true good comes from. I think it is always important for Superman to be reminded of this simple fact, to recharge his drive constantly to make the planet a better place.
To you, what are the essential Superman characteristics that have to be captured within a story or representation of him?
Superman wants to help and has an understanding and empathy when dealing with others, but most important to Superman, he has a need to fit in and feel he is part of the world around him and not be alienated. Just like all of us. We have a great need to belong. What comes to mind often is all the refugees and people coming to other countries fleeing persecution or just looking for a better life all the time. Their struggle is real and in order to understand what makes Superman tick, you have to keep these issues in mind.
Do you have a favourite representation of Superman?
I grew up on the late 60’s and early 70’s Superman stories that were not worried about big stories and storylines that went for years or events so big that we lose who the character is. I grew up in Superman stories that were 22 or 20 pages and had a beginning, middle and end. These are my favorites. They got right to the heart of who he was and what was going on around him, no matter how silly or insane it was. Honestly, I would write a done in one book of him any time if asked.
What does Superman mean to you?
He was the first superhero comic I read and he really does stand for truth and justice…as well as being the stand-up guy that would never intentionally do something bad or let people down. He is the good in us with fuel injection amplified by 100x ,and he is the best part of humanity and empathy in a person. He is a hero through and through.
Trunks or no trunks?
I don’t care. Like Harley Quinn, he should have a dozen or so different suits he wears according to his mood. He should be a lot more metro living in a big city. Who wants to be caught wearing the same thing over and over. It’s just not realistic. Give me a year of superman books and you will have 12 different costumes and I will drive everyone insane.
Would you ever consider returning to Superman more permanently?
If asked, yes, But I don’t see that happening. I am sure Brian is exactly who they want on the character and to be honest, my take might not be what they want…which is fine. I got to do these Walmart stories and they really scratched my itch for now. Hopefully an opportunity comes along one day. Writing Superman for Neal Adams in Harley’s Little Black Book has been a highlight for me. Until then, I will be working on the Wonder Woman stories in the Justice League Giants for Walmart with my wife. That story is insane and I just put Jonah Hex in the book with Wonder Woman, so there…that will teach them for hiring me. Lol….
Are there any current/new DC writers that stand out to you or inspire you?
I think there are a lot of talented people out there at the moment, but I tend to read non superhero comics and watch films, because writing all day, it’s hard to read others and not get influenced or distracted. I have a better idea of the talent of a writer when they are working on their own characters than other peoples. I would list my favourites in that, but once I do that, everyone that I forgot to mention will give me shit….so I stay away from listing anything.
Are there any characters that you haven’t yet worked on that you would like to?
I was thinking of this exact thing the other day and went down my list – Red Sonja, Powergirl, Superman, Batman, Wonder woman, Shang- Chi, Conan, Killraven, Daughters of the Dragon, Punisher, Hawkman, and so on. I couldn’t find one I had not worked on that I had a huge desire to. Worked on all the ones I had a desire to work on. Checked off my list, and on to my own creations.
Are you currently involved in any other upcoming Superman projects?
Sadly no. Nothing in the works at the moment. I am currently working on Wonder Woman and Painkiller Jane. I also had to cut back on my comic work and focus on my screen writing. I have two screenplays in pre-production. These take a ton of my time. I am trying to experiment more in my work because after 5 years of Harley, I needed to redirect my energy to other things as a break.
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
Less monthly titles and more creator owned books, as well as writing a lot more adult material. I am a kid that grew up on Heavy Metal and I need to get that stuff out of my system as well and the only way to do that is create. My inspirations come from many places so I plan on experimenting more and working close with my crew at Paperfilms.com.