In the heyday of the 1990s, when comic companies were cropping up right and left, two upstart creators named Jimmy Palmiotti and Joe Quesada fleshed out their Event Comics line with a different kind of unkillable character.
Since her debut, the hard bodied hard ass known as Painkiller Jane has been shooting her way through comic adventures with a twisted healing factor. No matter how many times her body would miraculously rebound from hot lead punishment, Jane would feel every wound and carry it with her. Since then, Palmiotti has carried the character with him through multiple publishing homes as well as big media adaptions in the form of a TV movie and a SyFy original series.
Today in advance of Comic-Con International in San Diego, Palmiotti and Marvel Comics’ creator-owned Icon imprint announced that “Painkiller Jane” will return to the stands once again in the form of a four-issue miniseries. Headlined by the writer, the book will place the ever-healing hit girl on a mission to protect a Saudi Arabian princess in Manhattan in a main story drawn by Juan Santacruz. Meanwhile, the characters origins will be explored in a special back-up by Palmiotti and artist Sam Lofti.
CBR News spoke with Palmiotti about the return of his signature character, and the artist explained the reasons for bringing “Painkiller Jane” to Icon, why the character gets sexier the closer he gets to her, what intense action he has planned for her in comics and on the screen and how he hopes her return will connect her with fans, male and female alike.
CBR News: Jimmy, “Painkiller Jane” is in many ways your baby — the project you keep returning to time and again when inspiration strikes. What was the lightning bolt that told you now was the time to get her back on the page?
Jimmy Palmiotti: I have been working on the screenplay and started thinking more and more that I needed to get back to the character, and then the hard part came up: Where to publish her. I spoke to Joe Quesada, and, because I had already been working on a few Marvel projects, he mentioned the Icon line to me. I spoke to my buddies [there] about what I had planned and told them the talent involved, and we struck a deal. Honestly, I didn’t want to go back to writing her ’til I had a better sense how she would fit into the world. I think the last series I did at Dynamite caught the biggest audience the character had, including a really cool female audience I never expected.
You’ve done a number of creator-owned and original series ranging from humor to crime to science fiction, but Jane seems unique in your catalogue — your lone kick-ass lady bruiser. Why does this character and concept resonate with you so strongly?
When Joe and I created Jane, we were trying to create a vigilante character that could exist in the Event Comics world opposite Ash, and we succeeded. When we gave Jane her own series, we knew we needed to explore a bit more who she was and what made her tick. As I started writing her adventures, I got to dive into her past and her relationships with her father and her motivations as a crime fighter and started to feel for the first time how fragile and desperate she was below the tough guy surface. She was suicidal in the Dynamite comics series, and now I feel she is finding her place in the world and exploring her sexuality a bit more. This was really a case of slowly falling in love with the character and, because every writer does this, I started putting a lot of myself into her. Her reactions and the abrupt side of her was mine. Amanda [Conner] always told me Jane was me in a female character’s form, and the more I write her, that becomes more and more clear. The connection is there, and when you have that, it’s something unique. I hear her voice in my head. I am really pleased with how this first miniseries is turning out.
Now, the last time we saw Jane was in a pretty wild crossover with the Terminator. With that past, where did you want to pick things up to establish this new series? How does this book represent a new phase to the character or maybe a return to form?
The Terminator crossover was something crazy and fun, and I don’t consider it as part of the continuity of the book. It was done to get the character to a bigger audience, but in Painkiller Jane’s world, there is no such thing as time travel and robots killing people…yet. I am keeping her and the book as grounded as possible in our world, in real places and keeping the fantasy and science fiction elements out of it unless something brilliant comes up. I want people to read and relate to the character and her exploits. The book now puts Jane in a dangerous place following her relationship with her best friend Maureen and establishes the people around her. I like to think of the new book as Jane a bit more grown up but still out of control. Because the book is aimed with a more adult audience than before, the language and sexual side of Jane will be explored and become a big part of who she is.
In terms of the specific story on tap here, we know it involves a different kind of contract: protection. And protection with political intrigue, to boot. Why get Jane involved in the Middle East?
Actually the story takes place around New York, Fire Island and in Queens, and we bring a piece of the Middle East here. The story was inspired by reading about a real princess and her life and how she wanted something different for herself. At its most basic, it’s Jane versus the world around her once again. My biggest goal with the books are to get people to understand and root for Jane as she gets some peace in her life. Unfortunately, she is a character that attracts chaos on a daily basis, and that is never going to change.
You’re collaborating with artists Juan Santacruz, Sam Lofti and Paul Mounts, here. I know Paul has his experience bringing his pallet to the character, but the others are new to this world. With art styles on the book in the past ranging from detailed and brutal to stylized and brutal, what were you looking for this go round?
Sam illustrated a 10-page story that is half flashback as extra material in the first issue, and when we met at a convention in Dallas I put him right to work. Juan and I have been working together for over 10 years now, since “The Resistance” title for Wildstorm. While it is true this is his first Painkiller Jane book, he just digs right in on page one and makes this character his own. Juan’s strength has always been his storytelling and beautiful women. Our last book together — “Sex and Violence” Volume 1 — showed me how much better his work has gotten in the past year. It’s available for download only on Paperfilms.com. I think this showcase of his skills is going to put him on everyones favorite artist list in no time.
A lot of folks will remember Jane’s had two forays into live action with a TV movie and series under her belt. Looking back on that experience, has it changed the way you approach the comics at all or maybe emboldened the approach you take?
The experience hasn’t changed my work, but I think it pushed me to be a better writer. I look at the movie and TV series as alternate realties of the character that existed in different mediums. Both have their good and bad points, but in the end, it opened the book and my work to an international audience, and this can never hurt. The real Painkiller Jane is located in the comic for now, and that’s cool. I still have hopes that someone comes along and makes a film or series that respects the original work a bit more. I have spent six months co-writing a screenplay with writer Craig Weeden, and it’s just now making the rounds in Hollywood. It’s the closest adaption ever of the work because it came from me.
Overall, what makes Icon the right home for Jane, and how does this series set the character on the path you’d like to see her travel from here forward?
I am a huge fan of the books and creators publishing through Icon and jumped at the chance to be part of this group. Icon is the perfect home because of the freedom I am given to take the book in any direction I please, and they have the distribution of Marvel Comics behind them. In the end, the best thing for me would the to get the book out to as many people I can. As most people know, I have a huge history with Marvel Comics, and some of my good friends are in charge of things there, so this choice was a no brainer for me.
“Painkiller Jane” returns this November from Marvel/Icon. Stay tuned for more news out of Comic-Con International in San Diego from CBR News.