Between the lines: Jimmy Palmiotti Interview

Mon, December 18th, 2000 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Bill Baker, Contributing Writer

[Jimmy Palmiotti]If there's one person I can single out that truly deserves my unofficial title of "The King of Schmooze," it would be Jimmy Palmiotti. Not that Jimmy has ever had to worry about such ephemeral achievements, or having to work at being recognized by his fellow travelers in the comic biz. Jimmy knows -- and is known by -- just about everyone in this business. Simply put, he's one of the most popular and highly regarded people in the business ... and that's not even taking into account his creative abilities.

Which isn't meant to ignore or deny his rather considerable talents as an inker, editor, and as a writer. Rather, it's a real tribute to the man that people truly enjoy working and hanging out with this amiable, multi-talented creator who's been so instrumental to the success of the Marvel Knights line, the establishment of the Black Bull imprint, and the recent rise in popularity of Marvel's once-flagging Deadpool series. Despite having one of the fullest schedules in comics today, Palmiotti was able to spare a few moments of time to discuss his new writing assignment, his plans for the "Merc with a Mouth," and his work as an inker.

BILL BAKER: How'd Deadpool come about, and why'd you take the gig?

JIMMY PALMIOTTI: There was an editor that was hired at Marvel, named Mike Marts, who I've know for years. Really good guy. I think [Christopher] Priest was writing the book at the time, and they just wanted to go in a different direction. And a while back I wrote a story for Mike Marts [when he was at] Acclaim, a Solar issue, [but] Solar got canceled before it ever saw print. And Mike really liked it.

So he kinda asked me if I'd be interested in writing Deadpool. And I literally told him, "I know nothing about this character, except he goes around and tells jokes every two minutes." So I went and got every issue of Deadpool and read them. And, ya know, after I had my eyes put back in my head from gouging them out, I realized that, "I think I can have some fun with this character." He wanted me to go into a different direction, just do whatever I wanted with it. And the guys that wrote it before, like Joe Kelly, and [Mark] Waid, and everything, had their own Deadpool. Joe's especially. Joe's Deadpool, he had a wisecrack every two minutes, ya know? It was sort of like a "Spider-man on speed" kind of thing. [General laughter] They were great issues, but there was no way I could do what he was doing. If I could do that, I'd be writing sitcoms instead of doing comics. Joe's really good at that.

So I figured, "Well, if I'm gonna do it, I wanna do it my way," and my way was he's a cold-blooded killer and a mercenary. And I wanted to take it back to that storyline. So that's what I drew up, and threw up at Mark Marts, and Mike loved it. He said, "Go for it!" And I said, "I wanna hire ..." -- you can't get the editor out of me -- I said, "Can I get a different penciller on it for three issue?" And he's like, "Who do ya have in mind?" And I said, "Well, actually I really like Paul Chadwick, because the guy's one of the best storytellers in the business." If you don't know his work, Concrete is just brilliant. And Mike was, like, "Yeah, right! You can get Paul Chadwick. If you can get 'em, you can have 'em!"

So I called up Paul, and told him this story, and Paul was, like, "OK, I'll do it!" And that's pretty much how it all came together. I would only do it if he would do the first story arc, 'cause I just wanted somebody that would make me look better. [Laughter] And, even if the story sucked, I figured Paul's artwork would transcend it, and help it along, 'cause he is such a good storyteller. And, visually, he adds little things that I just didn't even put in the script. He's just a very, very smart man, ya know?

So, that was the challenge, and I did that and handed the three parter in. Then they asked me, "You wanna write some more?" And, at the time, there's a guy -- Buddy Scalera -- that was working at Wizard magazine, who was pitching Mike Marts Deadpool stories like every day, and he's another good friend of mine. I've known him for years. So, as of #49, we've partnered up and he's helping me as co-writer the series from then on, because he's just in love with the character. He's got so much energy, and I like working with people, so it was a fun kinda thing to do, write it with Buddy. We're both learning a lot from each other doing it this way.

But, that's how it came about. They just wanted to try to do something new. The book has always been, and especially of late, not the best seller Marvel has, ya know? And I'm happy to see that, at least while I'm doing it, numbers are going up each issue. So that's good. That means we're getting more attention. Or more kids are stealing it, I don't know. [General laughter] Something's happening. But the numbers are going up.

BB: Are you writing each arc with the particular artists drawing it in mind? I know you've got different artists doing different arcs, for a while at least. For instance, isn't Steve Dillon coming on for an issue?

[Jimmy Palmiotti]JP: Well, Steve is just doing a cover, actually. I wish I could have Steve Dillon for more than that, but Steve's committed to Punisher right now.

Yeah, I'm definitely writing it for the artists. Michael Lopez did issue #49, and it's called "Cat Magnet". [General laughter] Yeah, figure that [reference] out. Mike Lopez draws beautiful women, which is why he's drawing that issue. Then issues 50 and 51 are a two part story I wrote specifically for Darick Robertson, of Transmet fame. So, specifically, I'm going for his strengths. And I think that, when you see 50 and 51, you'll see that there. And then numbers 52 and 53 are Anthony Williams and Andy Lanning, two great guys that I like, and the story's leaning towards what they like to do. And then I think that, with 54, Georges Jeanty [Bishop] comes on as regular artist. That's exciting for me, 'cause his work is just terrific.

BB: Yeah, his work is just beautiful.

JP: So, I've been lucky with that. I've been lucky with cover artists, 'cause we started out with a brilliant Joe Jusko cover. Then Paul did the cover for the next issue. Then Jim Starlin, somebody I grew up loving, ya know, did number 48. And then, for 49, I conned Kevin Nolan into doin' a piece. For 50 we got Art Adams to do one. Issue 51 is Darick Robertson, and 53, Amanda Conner did 53, and 54 will be Steve Dillon. I just kinda asked everyone of my friends if they wanted to do covers, and they all tie in with the stories, which is really nice.

"I don't know what I'm known as; mostly a tracer, that stupid Kevin Smith tag [for inkers], ya know? So it's kinda nice to get my voice out there a little bit more."
- Jimmy Palmiotti

So it's kinda like a dream job, ya know? 'Cause I've just been known as an editor, a creator. I don't know what I'm known as; mostly a tracer, that stupid Kevin Smith tag [for inkers], ya know? So it's kinda nice to get my voice out there a little bit more.

BB: Well, how different is it for you to be just writing the script, rather than working on the graphics?

JP: I think it's extremely satisfying, in that somebody has to draw what you write. And then, when you see it, it's, "Whoa! That's even better than I imagined it!" Or worse, whatever. But I think it's a new kind of excitement for me, and it's definitely something that I've always wanted to do. And now, all of a sudden, all these opportunities have started to come my way. Meaning Gatecrasher -- and, ya know, with Gatecrasher I'm getting to work on animation, I'm writing animation scripts -- and Deadpool, the comic I'm writing, and some other stuff.

Ya know, it's so different from the inking part of my career, because the inking part isn't really important, per se, because the writer and the penciller have all the work. They start with the blank page. Pretty much me, the colorist and the letterer, already have the blueprint lined up, and we gotta do our own thing. Not to say it's not important, but it's easy for me to say now that it's not the most important thing. It's that blank page that's the most intimidating thing. For the writers and the pencillers, that's the horror of their job, and also the most satisfying thing about their job. So I wanted to at least get in on that end, ya know, try the writing thing out. And I think it worked out.

BB: Well, since we've broached the subject, what's your approach to inking? Are you trying to accent what the artist has already put down, or are you trying to add a bit of your own perspective to the final look of the work?

JP: I think, if I do well as an inker, I think it's because my attitude is, "If they hired the other guy to draw it, obviously it's good." All I have to do is enhance it.

Enhance it means, obviously, ink it; separate it; shade it. Do whatever I have to do [to preserve and present] whatever they put down.

There's some brilliant inkers out there. There's Klaus Janson, Al Williamson, Kevin Nolan, and others. And when they ink people, it looks like them. I respect that, but that's not what I do.

When I ink somebody, it's looks like their art, only a little better. Or maybe just a little clearer. In the past month I've inked Amanda, Paul Gulacy on the Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight issue that's out now [#137], Steve Dillon. Three completely different styles, and you can't really look at it and say, "Oh, Jimmy Palmiotti did that," ya know? I don't think so. Some people tell me they can, but I don't see it. I think it's flattering when I'm not the focus, ya know? [Laughter]

I think it's flattering when they say, "This is Steve Dillon's best work!" That's very satisfying to read, because they may not understand what I did, but there's something that made them say it's better than something else he did. Or, "This is the best Gulacy's looked in years!" I know it's mostly Paul, but there's part of me that goes, "Yeah! I nailed that!" or, "I did a good job on that!"

That's my approach. My approach isn't to change, or to fix, ya know? If there are things to fix, you send it back to the penciller, you don't let the inker mess with it. I've had a lot of kids come up [to me at shows] with their samples and say, "Yeah, yeah, I took the pencils and I fixed everything!" And I'm like, "There was nothing wrong with it!" "Oh, no! That head didn't look right." I'm like, "Right, in your mind, but that's not your drawing," ya know?

So I'm a very loyal inker. Pretty much anybody who gives me their pencils are gonna feel safe with me. They're not gonna worry too much.

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