Comics readers know very well the talents of Garth Ennis and Jimmy Palmiotti. Those names on the cover indicate a good time lurks in the pages within. With Ennis’s over-the-top violence and visceral storytelling paired with Palmiotti’s ability to strike right at the heart of plot, one can only expect rip-roaring action, a solid story and a high body count from anything these two team-up on. In September, readers will find out exactly how high that body count will run as Ennis, Palmiotti and artist Mihailio Vukelic bring a bullet-ridden tale of the New York mob to the stands in their Image Comics miniseries, “Back to Brooklyn.” Ennis and Palmiotti spoke with CBR news about the book, its origins and writing a tale set in their own stomping grounds.
“Back To Brooklyn” is a crime-based action drama about Bob Saetta, the number-two-man and chief hitter for Brooklyn’s Saetta crime family. Unfortunately for Bob, he knows too much. “Having discovered a horrific secret about his boss and older brother, Paul, Bob is trying to save his wife and son from his family’s wrath while avoiding the violent attentions of Paul’s soldiers,” Garth Ennis told CBR News. “All Brooklyn is out to get our hero, believing that he has turned rat- the result of a deal he’s supposed to have cut with the NYPD. Bob is gambling that he’s resourceful enough to survive on his home turf, but the ghastly truth about his brother is only the tip of the iceberg. The streets Bob knows so well have become a killing ground, and the horrors and depravity lurking there will stagger even a hardened killer like himself.”
“It’s what I love best,” said Jimmy Palmiotti, “a ‘one man against impossible odds’ kind of story set in a very familiar and colorful backdrop. The book is a rollercoaster ride. It’s unlike anything I have ever worked on.”
The cast of “Back to Brooklyn” includes Paul “The Wall” Saetta, who Ennis characterizes as “a monster, a violent, crass, heartless bastard whose indulgence of his own vile impulses has landed his family in dire straits. Said the writer, “Normally content to let the normal mob cycle of violence and profit work for him in its own quiet way, Paul becomes positively lethal when his organization is threatened. He pulls out all the stops, doesn’t care who gets hurt or what other chaos results.”
|Pages from “Back to Brooklyn” #1|
Another character, Churchill, is “a semi-freelance enforcer employed by Paul,” Ennis continued, “a cool, cynical killer with a relaxed, if highly creative way of getting results. Tends to get amused rather than upset, very much the ice to Paul’s fire. Bit of a mystery man- no one’s quite sure who he really is or where he comes from.
“Maggie Mahoney is an old flame of Bob’s from back in the day, and would really rather be elsewhere, thank you very much. Getting caught up in Bob’s current escapade actually reminds her of the disastrous relationship they once shared- just one damn thing after another. Only this time with blades, guns and bloody slaughter.
“Vinnie ‘The Thermos’ Gogliomoro is a small-time crook and Bob’s oldest friend, with a sizable secret all his own- one that gets him into trouble on a fairly regular basis. He’s keen to help his old pal in this time of trouble, without considering just how badly out of his depth he’s getting- until it might just be too late.”
On the “right” side of the law, readers will find the likes of NYPD Deputy Commissioner Hardy and FBI Special Agent Erskine. “They like to think they are the masterminds behind a scheme that will take down a major crime organization and put them both on the fast track to career success,” Ennis said. “They find out pretty rapidly just who’s playing who.”
The inspiration for “Back To Brooklyn” lies both in movies that haven’t been made and in a late Friday night discussion in a New York bar. “The original idea was Jimmy’s, born I believe of his love for street-level action movies with blazing guns and splashing blood,” said Ennis. “The kind they don’t make anymore, really; today it’s all giant orange explosions and fancy moves. He mentioned it to me about seven or eight years ago, and in the intervening time we developed the plot together.”
|Pages from “Back to Brooklyn” #1|
“Garth and I talk about movies we have seen and the ‘wouldn’t it be cool if’ situations that characters get into and how they would deal with a situation,” Palmiotti added. “When we were originally talking, I think I was complaining that there wasn’t another ‘Die Hard’ coming any time soon and wouldn’t it be cool to do a story like that, but set it in New York with the mob and make it the most violent, insane story we could come up with. Get Garth going on a subject and he has a million ideas, which usually ends with us laughing so hard we turn purple. Sometimes these ideas come to life, most times they get lost in the evening. This one survived.”
Palmiotti and Ennis are top action writers in their own rights, having written between them the likes of “The Punisher,” Jonah Hex,” “Preacher,” and “Deadpool.” Both have also worked together previously to script a Ghost Rider video game. For “Back to Brooklyn,” Garth Ennis is writing the actual script, but the story is authored by the pair.
“The idea of a mob hitman going back to face his family- both his families- in the most violent way possible, taking down his old organization piece by piece, that’s Jimmy’s,” Ennis explained. “The details of the plot are shared between us both- the hideous secret Paul’s been keeping is mine, for example, but the final confrontation between Bob and Churchill is Jimmy’s. What happens to Bob’s mother is down to Jimmy, what happens to friendly old egg-cream salesman Mr. Caproni is all me.”
|Page from “Back to Brooklyn” #1|
“The scene with bob and his mother,” Palmiotti said, “was inspired a bit at the time when my mom was in a rehab center for a shattered knee and she went out the front door of the place in her wheelchair, which was on a hill. Well, this hill pointed right down to the belt parkway and Sheepshead Bay and she couldn’t control the chair, and it started to roll downward. Needless to say, someone stopped her before she became fish food, but when you see the scene in the book, knowing this story will make you laugh your head off…after that sick in the stomach feeling has subsided.”
“Given that I wrote the script, most of the dialogue is mine,” Ennis said, “but Jimmy did contribute some key lines, most notably Bob’s recurring catchphrase, ‘Anything I can do for you, pal?’- Which has an increasingly grim significance as the story develops.”
Once writing commenced, Palmiotti began shopping a deal and getting backing to pay for the “Back to Brooklyn” project. Said Palmiotti, “It’s something I do now and again because, unless it’s a superhero these days, the cost to produce a comic usually exceeds the money you make back, and I am not in the business of losing money. That all done, I handle the back and forth with Image, edit the book and doing press and whatnot along the way.”
The financial backing comes in the form of Kickstart Productions. “To produce a book like this, we needed some knishes,” Palmiotti said. “A decent amount since we have a top writer and an artist painting the book. Since a lot of business was being done between myself, Ken Levine, and Jason Netter at Kickstart Productions — we did ‘Painkiller Jane’ deal together for [Sci Fi] — I pitched them on the idea that they could own a percentage of the property if they paid for the production of the series. This worked well because everyone got paid enough to live on, and at the end of the day they can go sell it if they like or not. It’s been a real easy relationship because they told us to ‘go do what you do,’ and we did. We shall see if we can find an audience and try to get some of their money back.”
|“Back to Brooklyn” #2|
As Palmiotti’s a life-long Brooklynite, readers can expect a certain level of authenticity from “Back to Brooklyn.” “We try to hit all the major landmarks in the book as well as keeping the neighborhood feel to the characters,” Palmiotti said. “[Having moved to New York from Ireland], Garth nails it each and every time and his voice for all the characters is pitch perfect.”
Additionally, illustrator Mihailio Vukelic visited Brooklyn to research his work on the book. “He shot a ton of pictures to nail the locations visually, so what you see is a really cool representation of my hometown.”
Of Vukelic’s work, Palmiotti said, “Take a look at the art my friend. it doesn’t resemble anyone’s work and for me, that’s a plus right away. Mihailio and I met at a con and he was showing me some science fiction art samples and there was some beautiful storytelling in the facial expressions of the characters that set off alarms in me. That said, this is his first book and he has been working between jobs on this over a year now, but it is worth the wait. It’s amazing when you see an incredible talent like this get better with every page. He really is fantastic.”
Would it be spoiling things if the boys from Brooklyn were to say whether or not there might be more “Back to Brooklyn,” should sales warrant it? “‘Who will survive and what will be left of them?’ is probably the best answer to that,” Ennis remarked.
Added Palmiotti, “I live in the here and now. There are five issues coming soon. Dig in and find out.”
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