The first installment of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray’s latest creator-owned endeavor “The Deep Sea” finds itself in the hands of comic readers today as part of “Dark Horse Presents” #16, the latest installment of the monthly anthology from Dark Horse Comics. The story, featuring art by industry veteran and current “Wonder Woman” fill-in artist Tony Akins, follows a retired deep sea diver in the wake of a tragic accident that claimed the lives of his peers.
In telling this story, longtime writing partners Palmiotti and Gray strove to find a balance between character and action, finding emotion and humanity amidst action and adventure. Comic Book Resources spoke with Palmiotti and Gray about “The Deep Sea,” the nature of collaboration and plans for more beyond the initial three-part serial.
Jimmy and Justin, what can you tell us about the story you’re crafting in “The Deep Sea?”
Jimmy Palmiotti: “The Deep Sea” is all about a group of explorers who go on a deep sea mission that goes seriously wrong and it is assumed the crew is dead. The story itself is one where we follow a retired member of the crew that didn’t go on the dive because of an accident, and how the events of that day changed his life. The main themes are about lost love, exploring the unknown and the unleashing of a dormant secret. Describing this in detail ruins a lot of the story — I know that is a bit of a cop-out answer, but I enjoy a mystery.
Justin Gray: It is a story with a great deal of scope and excitement, but very grounded in emotion and rich characters.
Like most of the offerings found in “Dark Horse Presents,” “The Deep Sea” sounds like it’s a bit different from your typical, mainstream comic. What was the inspiration behind the story and the characters?
Palmiotti: The characters are loosely based on a number of people — two of them, my parents — and the rest we based on iconic explorers of the time. The inspiration came from a pitch Justin and I were presenting on one of the big studios in Hollywood a few years back. We took what we pitched and twisted some of the ideas around to make it work better as a comic. The idea was a huge one when we were presenting it, and then we looked hard at it and wanted to find the soul in the concept — something that would make us care beyond all the cool visuals — and I think we nailed it. We fell in love with the concept and the story started writing itself.
Gray: The idea was to play with a blockbuster concept and pulp science fiction, but as we progressed through the concept, we saw opportunities to polish the high concept and keep the fun sense of adventure. It is kind of a throwback to those great Saturday afternoon adventure movies.
Do you approach a story like “The Deep Sea,” which initially finds its home in an anthology series, differently than a stand-alone title?
Palmiotti: We broke the story into three small parts where each has a reveal moving towards the bigger picture. I personally am a huge fan and supporter of “Dark Horse Presents,” and I was blown away that Mike approached us for this. We are very accustomed to creating stories with a small page count, so working with this format was easy for us.
We are looking at this three-part story as a primer to see if we can hook the interest of the readers and then be allowed to do more. The crew at Dark Horse loves what we have done so far, and we are in talks for a series. Hopefully it will all go well.
You two have been writing together for close to a decade now, at least. Can you describe that working relationship?
Palmiotti: It’s a happy and healthy creative relationship where we world-smash our ideas and challenge each other every day. The key word here is “respect.” We respect each other’s talent and opinions and we speak around four times a day to each other. We are a very cute couple.
Gray: Sure, leave me with the cute couple joke. I think the truth of it is, we’re friends before collaborators and it has always been that way. It never feels like work and whenever one of us gets burned out or needs a fresh look at something then the other steps up.
Finally, how did artist Tony Akins join your team for this project?
Palmiotti: Years ago, I inked a bunch of “Fables” books over Tony and was blown away by his work and especially his storytelling skills. We often spoke about getting something together of our own and getting [colorist] Paul Mounts in the mix. Then Dark Horse approached me, and I knew this was the right project for all of us. Tony sent me the first layouts and I was blown away. He was made for this.
Gray: You have to see these pages — they’re magnificent. And when you add Paul Mounts, well, everything is better with Paul Mounts!
The first chapter of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray’s “The Deep Sea,” with art by Tony Akins and colorist Paul Mounts, is available today in “Dark Horse Presents” #16.