EDITOR'S NOTE: The following article contains language, innuendo and off-color humor which is decidedly NSFW.
Away from the chaotic hustle and bustle of fans attending the 2014 Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo, Jimmy Palmiotti hosted a panel that included Amanda Conner, Cully Hamner, Nicola Scott and Jill Thompson. The first, experimental, "Listen to Jimmy" panel had an informal air to it. The panel was removed from the bustling show floor, and the conversation amongst the panelists was equally removed, focusing on fun and enjoying one another's company as opposed to detailing bits of comics news or announcements. The overall atmosphere of the room was similar to sharing a table at the CBR Bar with the panelists, albeit without pint glasses filled with slowly disappearing Galaxy Hero IPA.
Before getting to the meat of the panel, Palmiotti asked everyone to run down their current work. Conner, Jimmy's wife and co-writer on "Harley Quinn" (a title she's working on "with some asshole") is also working on a creator-owned project Palmiotti has co-written with Frank Tieri. Hamner, said that he is currently doing a lot of stuff for DC, and cited his past work on "Red" and "Blue Beetle." Right now, he's working on "Legends of the Dark Knight" and writing an as-yet-unannounced project that will be out next year. Nicola Scott is currently penciling "Earth 2," which she has been working on for two years now. Prior to Scott introducing herself, Thompson arrived, slightly hurried, apologetic and declaring, "I am so scattered around, like freckles on some ginger girl." Thompson shared that she is working on "Beasts of Burden" (with Evan Dorkin) and a painted project that will near a hundred-twenty pages and has yet to be announced. Following her introduction, Palmiotti asked Thompson if it was true she used stuffed animals for reference on "Beasts of Burden." It is true, affirmed Thompson, as she mocked out playing with the toys.
In front of an intimate crowd, the atmosphere set and the speakers in place, Palmiotti began by discussing the pillows at his hotel. To say the least, he was not impressed, saying he likes to sink into the pillows, and Scott agreed. In fact, she was puzzled by the pillows' composition, given that they had pockets of pillows on the pillows. This, declared Palmiotti is what the panel is about -- pretty much everything but comics. As the panel was settling in, they discussed their relative freedom of speech. Scott was hoping to be able to speak freely, not having to check her language, but Jimmy did point out that there was one child in the room. That didn't stop anyone from truly sharing what was on their minds as the conversation covered a dildo bouquet, Stan Lee posing naked and awkward sexual experiences. For certain, that child may have had a few questions for his dad, but before things were complete, he also posed a question to the panel.
"The 'Listen to Jimmy' panel here is, basically, we're just going to talk about everything," Palmiotti said, adding to the audience, "I want you guys to get involved." He turned back to his panel and said, "I have some questions that we can all answer just to set the tone to start with, and we're going to start with Jill and work our way back."
It was obvious that Thompson had spent time with Palmiotti before and was comfortable with the prolific writer/inker's sense of humor and penchant for innuendo as she quickly spoke up, before he could deliver his first question, and stated, "36B," filling the room with chuckles from the panel and audience alike. Palmiotti's true first question was, if each of the panel were to become ice cream, what flavor would each be? Thompson opted for pistachio, saying it's "creamy and delicious and a little nutty."
Scott said she'd be Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey because "it's a little bananas and it's got nuts in it." Palmiotti latched on to the comment that it has nuts in it, playing up the double entendre.
"I'd be like an orange sherbet because nobody wants orange sherbet," Hamner declared The crowd moaned in empathy to Hamner while Palmiotti insisted he'd eat it, explaining that he loves orange sherbet.
Conner was a little perplexed and said she would be Rice Dream, to which Palmiotti asked, "What the hell are you talking about?" Conner backpedaled a bit and said tonight she hopes to be rum raisin. Immediately following that, Palmiotti indicated that a certain "r" word couldn't be said any more, referring to the current movement to ban the work "retard." Nicola Scott, playfully and sarcastically mentioned that she was going to miss that word, so Palmiotti told her to use it in a sentence. She wasted no time and very playfully blurted out, "Fuck you, you fucking retard."
Next, the panel was encouraged to share their worst comic experience. After a few moments of silence, Thompson declared, "Black Orchid." She admitted to not being comfortable with the script she was given, as she felt it was overly art directed, comparing it to an Alan Moore script. The details would give Thompson a headache trying to interpret them, and she called the experience "the most difficult time I've had." Thompson pointed out that no writer and artist are going to see any scenes exactly the same in their minds.
Palmiotti said the gift of working with a great artist is that the story usually comes back looking better than you imagined. Thompson added that the dialogue should drive the characters choreography, but each creator brings their own nuances.
For the most part, Conner hated working on "Barbie" for Marvel Comics. (Palmiotti mockingly agreed, "Barbie was disgusting. She was horrible.") Conner's favorite thing to draw is facial expressions, and Barbie's entire emotional range consists of Oddly Satisfied to Somewhat Happy. Every time she tried to give Barbie some personality, the powers that be would shut her down. The other project that came to mind were the "Lion King" covers she illustrated, Conner recalling that she "couldn't nail Simba the right way."
This garnered a snicker from Palmiotti. "'Nailing Simba,' our next book," Palmiotti declared.
"I was waiting for that!" Conner retorted. She continued to work on the series, but out of frustration from the stringent feedback she was receiving from Disney, she decided to just trace Simba. However, the folks at Disney said that something just didn't look quite right -- with the traced version. Thompson completely empathized and added that she had a similar experience with "X-Files" from Topps.
"Don't ever work on the licensed product of the thing you love. It will take the love out of you," Thompson advised the audience.
The feedback Thompson received was that her artwork, which she was quite proud of, showed characters who looked like Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny -- but not Scully and Mulder. "I couldn't figure out what that meant, because I was using photo reference from the show."
The people reviewing Thompson's work for Fox were not familiar with the comic process. At the detailed pencil stage, she had shading and "X"s over spots that were going to be black. They asked Thompson why Scully only had one side of her face. Thompson explained the whole face would be there, just in shadow. "Can we see it?" was the request she received from the reviewers. From there, her process became: Draw everything in, shade over the very detailed drawing, which then prompted the reviewer to ask, "Why is Scully's face all dirty?" Palmiotti released a moan of understanding while Scott was visibly hit with empathetic pain stemming from Thompson's ordeal.
Fed up with the email exchange, Thompson decided a phone call would be a better avenue. Thompson explained what was going on once more, with the Fox representative again asking why Scully's face was dirty. Out of frustration, Thompson convinced Alex Ross to draw a page. Ross felt that Thompson had captured the appearances, but agreed to help her out. Of course, Fox had a problem with Ross' art as well, and decided they couldn't waste any more time, so they had Charlie Adlard redraw all the heads with no shading on them at all. Thompson said this, "made them look like weird porcelain masks. And it turns out, eventually I found out -- they didn't want to give Gillian and David, who had rights of their likeness, anything. If they had just told me that, I would have made it look less like them."
Palmiotti then asked, "And you won an Eisner for this book, correct?"
"Seven," Thompson joked.
Palmiotti's worst experience was on the "Strange Days" comic, based on the movie, when he was given a large stack of pages -- he estimated eighty -- with the requirement, "Just ink this tonight."
Nicola Scott asked, "What company was this?"
"Marvel Comics," Palmiotti answered, to large laughs form the room.
"Damn that Jack Kirby!" Thompson declared, opening the next discussion, of Kirby, his setup and his work -- with Palmiotti spinning out a theory that Kirby had other people working for him.
"Shut up!" exclaimed Hamner.
"How can that guy do all that?" Palmiotti asked. The existence of drawing elves was hypothesized, along with the theory that Kirby's wife, Roz, did everything non-comics related in his life for him. At this point, Thompson declared she needed a comic book wife. "I have one," Palmiotti replied, indicating his relationship with Conner. "Nothing gets done."
Hamner mentioned that he had seen photos of Kirby's drawing table, which was small, and matched with a rocking chair. "How do you draw in a rocking chair?"
Palmiotti suggested, "Maybe we should all get rocking chairs."
Pantomiming what he believed it would be like to work with this sort of set-up, Hamner declared, "This is the greatest panel I've ever done!" It was suggested that perhaps that's how Kirby crackle started, from mistakes. "I think Kirby was doing some Kirby crackle to get that done," Palmiotti quipped. "There's a lot of Kirby crackle on the table next to him, with a razor blade. I'm not saying Jack Kirby did cocaine. I want to be clear on that -- we think Stan might."
Palmiotti then took the conversation to a surprising and continuously irreverent place, telling them room that Stan Lee once posed naked for a photoshoot. The panel erupted in shock, awe and curiosity as Palmiotti broke into a Stan Lee impersonation. "You know what I love about being naked, it's my penis out there."
Conner declared, "Someone else can show it to me -- I don't want it in my browser history." As audience members raced to find the image on their portable devices, the discussion circled around the why of the image, with the pervasive tale pointing towards a calendar being the vehicle that carried the image of comic book industry legend Stan Lee laying naked with a comic book covering his privates.
When the image was found, the fan that found it brought it up to share with the panel. In his best Stan Lee voice, someone exclaimed, "Excelsior!"
"He's working it Marvel style," Hamner offered.
Palmiotti came back with his Lee impersonation, "Face front true believers!" Jokes then flew from autographs, to putting a dent in the comic. Palmiotti only then learned that Lee was also at C2E2, crestfallenly saying, "I wish I knew. I would have invited him to the panel. He would have done it."
"Would he have stayed awake for it," Scott wondered.
Thompson enthusiastically shared her story about people running past her that morning to get Stan Lee's autograph, accidentally knocking over her water bottle as she related the anecdote.
Palmiotti, who hosted Stan Lee's last panel at MegaCon, mentioned that Lee is ninety-one, then surveyed the room. "How many people in the room are ninety-one? Exactly." Before the panel, Stan was pacing and complaining about doing too much, but once he was in front of his audience, "he was charming as hell." Palmiotti went on to praise Lee for being wonderful, especially with the fans.
Thompson mentioned meeting a Stan Lee cosplayer who looked just like Lee, minus the handlers. Hamner wanted to know, "Was he naked?" The conversation then turned to cosplaying naked Stan, with a fake couch and fake legs, but real legs underneath. Palmiotti suggested the costume would require "Giant-Size Man-Thing" as the covering comic book.
Nicola shared a story of Lee visiting to Australia, "he arrived the Saturday morning of the show, came straight to the show, signed all day, talked all day, took a couple of little grandpa naps up in the green room, did it all again the next day then flew out on Monday."
Hamner, flabbergasted, exclaimed, "What? Are you fucking kidding me?!"
Palmiotti also shared a phone call he received from Lee. At first, Palmiotti thought it was someone pulling a prank on him, so he dropped an f-bomb and hung up. Lee's administrative assistant called back shortly after, assured Palmiotti that it really was Stan and then connected the two comic creators. Lee said he hadn't gotten a reception like that in years, which prompted Palmiotti to conclude, "He's got a great sense of humor."
Palmiotti opened the panel up to the attendees. At this point, Conner had figured out the comic hiding Stan's unmentionables was "Batman Versus Hulk," to which Hamner added, "It would have to be a treasury sized edition."
The first question was specifically asked of Hamner. The fan wanted to know if he artist was hopeful to be involved in a third "Red" film. Hamner said he had a lot of fun and thought the movies were fun. The movies don't closely adhere to the books, Hamner pointed out, saying the first fifteen minutes were closest to the book. "It was an all-around great experience."
"Nicola, you live in Australia. You come here. What's the difference?" Palmiotti asked.
"Australians think Americans are really polite, but when Americans come to Australia they think we're really polite. But we're not," Scott said. "Your coffee is shit," she declared, calling it watery and too "instant."
A fan had to interject at that point. "Is our coffee worse than Foster's [lager]?"
"No one in Australia drinks Foster's," Scott declared. "It's not available in Australia. We make it, or Americans and say Australians drink it."
Saying she ran into another Australian that morning, Scott asked him where he was from, to which he replied, "Wagga Wagga." "Which is really rural," Scott explained
"Like kangaroo rural?" Palmiotti asked. Scott replied kangaroos were everywhere, which led to Palmiotti's next interrogative, "Have you ever dated a kangaroo?"
"Yeah, I gave birth to one last week," she replied.
Asked what comic book character would make the best cup of coffee, Palmiotti immediately replied, "Galactus," because it would be the biggest cup of coffee. "It would taste like crap, though."
Hamner asked, "Would it be Too Much Coffee Man"?
Scott asked, "Is there an Italian superhero?"
Hamner blurted, "Jimmy."
Palmiotti agreed, but cautioned, "I don't drink coffee."
Scott shared a couple of the places where she had found good coffee in the States, one being the MudTruck in New York and another being near the Sex Museum. Scott said they discovered they were staying near the Sex Museum, "in the middle of the night, " leading to rampant speculation and jocularity about the nature and activities surrounding the discovery including an order for a "bouquet of dildoes."
Sharing a theory, Palmiotti said, "If they put a Starbucks in a neighborhood, you should buy real estate there. Because it's flying the White Man's flag." Palmiotti speculates that once the Starbucks is in place, yuppies come in and start paying whatever is asked, gradually inflating the local real estate market. "That's how it was in Brooklyn."
Thompson validated Palmiotti's theory, declaring, "It's true. And it worked that way in Chicago," pointing to neighborhoods which gentrified only after the arrival of Starbucks.
Palmiotti mentioned that he was once hopeful of a Starbucks opening in Brooklyn, so he could make some more money. Asked if that happened, Palmiotti replied, "No. It didn't happen. Dunkin' Donuts comes in. That's when you know you've lost."
Asking if the panel was being covered by websites or bloggers, Pamiotti requested that we make sure people know this panel was conceived to be fun.
"And we are the most politically incorrect bunch of people ever," Conner added.
Scott's contributions to the panel were singled out, and it was decided she used the most "F" words, ever. Palmiotti pointed out that Scott also contributed "dildo bouquet," and requested that be the title for the panel coverage on Comic Book Resources.
An audience member said that what's really going to happen is that Bleeding Cool would pick and choose the topics from this article and represent it as "Jimmy Palmiotti Raises the White Man's Flag," or, "Italian Superhero Jimmy Palmiotti Raises the White Man's Flag." The panelists once again made it clear they were purposefully being relaxed and somewhat irreverent in the name of fun. Palmiotti then returned to his prescribed questions, asking, "What was your most awkward sexual experience?"
"I am not going to answer that," Hamner said. "They've all been awkward, really."
Conner shared her experience, saying, "He was working really hard trying to get into my pants." Conner resisted, to which the guy asked, "What, don't you have any hair down there?"
Palmiotti, who hadn't heard this story before, asked, "That was his pick-up line?!"
Trying to get back on track, Palmiotti asked, "Worst airplane experience?" Some stories were shared before the conversation derailed to comparing a Jabba the Hutt cosplay to a jump castle, which prompted Hamner to ask, "Are we still on sexual experiences?"
"You know what I can't stand on the plane?" Palmiottia asked, answering his own question: People are depressurizing, and everyone farts during the last fifteen minutes of a flight.
"I wouldn't stand next to a row of people and silent-but-deadly them," Thompson said, declaring that this happens at conventions as well on airplanes.
Offering his own convention peeve, Palmiotti spoke about sitting at a table for autographs or sketches. "We're, like, height-wise to your crotch." It's OK most of the time, except when the cosplayer is wearing a Flash costume or something like that. Underpants, sponges and cups were all suggested by the panelists to curb that effect.
"There was an Aquaman, and it was barely a fishstick in his pants," Palmiotti said.
Thompson shared an encounter with a Mystique who was wearing lots of body paint and no underpants, saying things like this inspire her to get higher tables when offered at San Diego. Then, not only is she not having to crane her neck up the whole time, "Nor am I looking right at Aquaman and his fishstick."
Palmiotti also said he didn't like to take comics out of bags, as he ripped a comic once and had to replace it for the fan.
Hamner added, "It was touched by Stan Lee's junk."
As more innuendo spun around the topic of comic bags, Palmiotti declared, "I picked the right people for this panel! This is perfect. I was choosing from eight hundred people for this panel, and I was like, 'I need these people, right here, because they have the same stupid sense of humor.' Speaking of stupid, what's the stupidest thing an editor has ever told you to do or said to you?"
"Oh, man, Hamner replied. "How do I narrow that down?"
Ultimately, the panel was a lot of fun, with the quintet of creators all having a great time, busting into Stan Lee impersonations, dropping innuendos into the conversation and keeping the audience engaged throughout the hour.