Earlier this week Bleeding Cool broke the news that Creator-Owned Heroes would be closing shop. The news came on the same day that issue #7 hit the stands making January’s issue #8 of Image’s monthly anthology the last ever issue. Geeks Unleashed are big fans of Creator-Owned Heroes with issue #4 making our Comic of the Week feature back in September. The whole idea of Creator-Owned Heroes was brilliant, I can remember reading the first issue and texting the some of the other GU writers at the time in regards to what a genius idea of buying a comic and getting a comic story and magazine content centred around the comic industry. The idea itself was a breath of fresh air to an industry surrounded by the New DC 52 and Marvel NOW and is a comic I will no doubt miss. Geeks Unleashed spoke to Jimmy on Creator-Owned Heroes and his current Kickstarter – Sex and Violence which is a mature 64 page graphic novel, which are both collaborations with Justin Gray.
Geeks Unleashed: To take a step back or several steps back, Justin Gray and yourself are well know collaborators with Phantom Lady, All-Star Western, Creator Owned Heroes and Retrovirus under your belt but how did this all start? Where did you first meet and how did this collaboration start?
Jimmy Palmiotti: Justin was an intern at Marvel Knights, when Joe Quesada and I took over an office and a bunch of books at marvel years ago. He was working mostly for Joe and we became friends. When he left we stayed in touch and bounced around ideas for a bit until I left Marvel Knights and got the opportunity to create new titles for Wildstorm at D.C. comics under Bob Harris. I called on Justin to partner up with me and we have been working together ever since. He is one of the finest writers I know and we both are different enough that together our work becomes this whole different thing. Like Joe, being able to work with good friends is a gift.
Geeks Unleashed: Despite the news of the cancellation you, Justin and Steve Niles must be very proud of your monthly collaboration, which in your “Listen 2 Jimmy” column in issue #1 you mentioned that Creator-Owned Heroes was a mash-up of Tales to Astonish from Marvel with magazine content. How did you all come up with this comic?
Jimmy Palmiotti: We are very proud of it. We do wish the market supported this kind of book more, but we are happy to have done what we consider 8 excellent issues. We all met at a con and started to discuss how this type of book just does not exist in the market today…how there is nothing out there for people who want to create comics for a living… where pros can communicate to them, and at the same time feature all new comic book material, all in one book. We were aggressive, but in the end, had little press, minor support from retailers and if you don’t get the help there, the readers never get the book. I cannot tell you how many stores did not ever order a single copy…we have learned from this. In the end, we wanted to do something different and when you cross that line, there are never any guarantees. Being safe is not in my blood. It was a wonderful failed experiment that I am very proud of.
Geeks Unleashed: With the idea being to have a comic story spread over several issues or just be a one and done type story, if any of these characters become popular could this comic be used as springboard to give them their own series?
Jimmy Palmiotti: Sure, both Killswitch and Triggergirl are being collected and if the market wants more, we are ready for it. It is hard to tell at the moment because another thing about the format is a lot of reviewers chose not to review it, waiting for a trade instead. We tried to present the stories as a complete adventure without a lot of hanging threads. We love and live with these characters, so hopefully we will find future interest in them.
Geeks Unleashed: You’ve been involved in self-published and creator owned comics but in your opinion what is the highlight of self-published books to date?
Jimmy Palmiotti: I have so many of them…starting Event comics with Joe and publishing Ash and Painkiller Jane, Starting Blackbull comics and publishing Gatecrasher, New West and Beautiful Killer…starting Paperfilms and publishing Back to Brooklyn, Queen Crab, Random Acts of Violence, the Pro, Tattered man, retrovirus and more. More than half of these properties have found a home outside comics or are in development for films, like New West at the moment. The very fact that we have managed to create new properties each and every year is a sign of success for me …all of them are highlights in their own way. I think there are a lot of undiscovered gems in here…and a few duds. Lol…
Geeks Unleashed: Another one of yours and Justin’s collaborations is Retrovirus, which was your second Kickstarter project. With your third Kickstarter due to finish soon, which we’ll get to shortly, what are your views on Kickstarter as platform?
Jimmy Palmiotti: The Kickstarter platform is one where I get to sell directly to the reader and they can either make or break a project based on their interest in it. I happen to think this is a wonderful format to deliver the books and it avoids a lot of the bullshit in-between and expenses that we as creators have to go through to get our books to people. For me, its fantastic and a ton of work at the same time…but this is work I will gladly do to keep writing and creating things for those that want them…new ideas and new formats.
Geeks Unleashed: And on your third time around what have you learnt from Kickstarter?
Jimmy Palmiotti: The key is making the pledges interesting and making sure you have a low price to deliver the digital copy to everyone. Doing Kickstarter, I have learned I am directly selling digital copies of my book without another company/handler taking 30-50% of my money from me. I have also learned that I can also have some fun and focus the product at the collector…by making a book P.O.D. I can print an exact number based on pledges, of books and number and sign them…and make them Kickstarter exclusive. These people are getting something they NEVER would get anywhere else. Later and down the line, I will publish the material through a publisher…but not in the same format, not with the exclusive cover and not with prints and autographs. I am learning that although a small number of people, these are the ones that I am in a relationship with and am able to deliver a specific product to. These are the people with an open mind willing to come along for a ride where thy let us experiment a bit and lessen the risk.
I will point out that the Kickstarter format is not for everyone…simply because a lot of your life will be spent fulfilling the pledges. It takes about 2 weeks of my life getting all the pledges together and making sure all of them have arrived in good shape or at their addresses correctly and like any business, people have things happen, moving, change of address, miscommunication and you have to be a customer service for each and every one of them. I am three in and all the people that have pledged will tell you I am on top of the situations and fix things as soon as possible. It is a lot of work and most people have no clue to expenses. RETROVIRUS, in shipping alone, cost us almost $2,000.00 to just ship the books, another 200 in supplies and another thousand in printing. all of these expenses an your time have to be figured into the mix.
Like I said, this is not for everyone or anyone lazy.
Geeks Unleashed: With the Kickstarter due to finish soon there is still an opportunity to back this project. Can you tell us about the incentives?
Jimmy Palmiotti: We have everything from Skype chats, limited edition signed prints by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Broxton, Juan Santacruz and myself. We have Darwyn Cooke incentives, limited edition books and so on. At its most basic, you can get a digital copy for 5 bucks and be part of the project. The $25 dollar pledge gets you a hard copy of the limited edition of the book featuring an exclusive cover by Amanda and signed by Justin Gray and myself. You also get the digital as well at that level. We tried to make it easy for anyone to be part of this. I will warn, this is a mature audience book.
Geeks Unleashed: Your current Kickstarter – Sex and Violence is a 64 page graphic novel split into two stories one by you and the other by Justin. Both PORNLAND, OREGON and GIRL IN A STORM seem to be two stories that really push the boundaries. Was this the reason behind using the Kickstarter route rather than going via Image for example?
Jimmy Palmiotti: Image comics is great to us and we will always bring our projects there because of the great group of people running it. In this case, If we went to image, we would never be able to pay our artists for their work and both of these guys have to make a living. Image does not pay you to make a comic. You have to bring them a finished book…and when you do, you have to be able to sell enough copies to pay for printing and their fee for handling the book. To be honest, we did not have that kind of money. With Kickstarter, we raise the money to pay the team, pay for production, and pay for the printing, packaging and shipping all in advance and we have to pay no overhead, no handler because we did it ourselves. In the end, the last two projects I did went to image after the Kickstarter for the general public, but the Kickstarter people got something special for their pledges and we take it even further with Sex and Violence Vol 1.
Geeks Unleashed: Can you tell us about a little about both of these stories?
Jimmy Palmiotti: Pornland Oregon is written by Justin Gray and drawn by Jimmy Broxton and is about a man who finds out his runaway granddaughter is murdered, he goes on a bloody trail of revenge and gets pulled in deep into Portland’s internet porn world. It’s a serious crime drama that takes a hard look at things that are really happening in the world. Its just beautiful. Jimmy has done his best work to date on this.
Girl in a Storm is written by me and illustrated by Juan Santacruz and is about a female cop in new york that is discovering things about her sexuality that she is having trouble processing. It also follows her day-to-day complicated life on the job and goes a bit “ rear window” halfway through it all. It takes voyeurism to another level.
Both stories are different and I think it’s a treat for some people to see our different writing styles in one place rather than on the same story.
Geeks Unleashed: Sex and Violence is quite a striking name for a book, what are your own views on Sex and Violence?
Jimmy Palmiotti: Well, I am a very passionate person in just about everything I do and like most people inhabiting this planet; I love sex and everything about it. I also like when things are sexy …food, design, clothing, lighting, landscapes and so on. I think our sexuality keeps us young and the examination of it keeps us vital. Every single person I know finds different things sexy and that fascinates me.
As far as the violence part of the title, in the stories we are telling, these two things have a lot in common. A lot of adrenaline-fuelled passion has a dangerous edge to it and when we talk about sex, it can either be beautiful, emotional and even a bit perilous.
Put these two together and you get people curious, and that is why we put “volume 1” in the title. We have so much more we think we can explore in this, and we hope to raise enough money to do another volume.
Geeks Unleashed: Thanks for your time today, before we go is there any other projects around the corner we should be on the lookout for?
Jimmy Palmiotti: We have the HUMAN BOMB mini series out now featuring the amazing art of Jerry Ordway. Each issue is getting more and more fantastic and we made Jerry work hard on this one. Other than that we hope people pick up RETROVIRUS, which is out now, and pick up the last two issues of Creator-Owned heroes. Thanks for the interview guys!
Geeks Unleashed: You can checkout the Kickstarter here.