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Talking Comics with Tim | Jimmy Palmiotti

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Anytime I get to talk to Jimmy Palmiotti, we never lack for projects to discuss. I can’t prove it, but I am willing to bet Palmiotti came up with at least two new story ideas while in the midst of this email interview. This Wednesday, July 6, marks the release of Trailblazer, a 48-page full-color western science fiction comic book ($5.99 [Image]) that he co-wrote with Justin Gray and art by Jim Daly. As detailed in this recent CBR release coverage, Trailblazer is “about a hired killer who turns in evidence against an employer for the murder of the woman who raised him. The government must then shield their star informant by enacting Operation Trailblazer, a witness protection program that uses not only location but time travel as well in order to keep their charges safe. As the assassin adjusts to his new life in the old west, he soon finds that no matter when or where he is the future is dead set in coming back to haunt him.” If you buy the book via Comixology, the original script is included as a bonus.

Before discussing this new Image release, we talked a bit about the impressive Jonah Hex 70-issue run (please note, for more scoop on Palmiotti and Gray’s plans for the new All-Star Western series be sure to read CBR’s Jeffrey Renaud’s recent interview with the creators)–not to jump the gun though, as issue 69 goes on sale this Wednesday (with art by Jeff Lemire). Also our discussion delves into the Palmiotti/Gray team reuniting with artist Joseph Michael Linsner on the Claws II (a sequel to Marvel’s Black Cat/Wolverine 2006 team-up) miniseries, which amazingly enough also goes on sale this Wednesday (check out the CBR preview of the first issue). Go into a comic book store this Wednesday, and bottom line, you will have your pick of Palmiotti product to buy. Palmiotti’s passion for comics and his equal commitment to meeting deadlines are two things I’ve always admired about him and that shine through in this interview. As you’ll read at the end of the interview, Palmiotti is curious to know what characters fans would like to see him work on, so please be sure to let him know in the comments section.

Tim O’Shea: You and Jonah Hex have a heck of a future together (with All-Star Western), no doubt. But I really want to talk about how amazing it was that you and Justin successfully told Jonah Hex for 70 issues. How proud are you of that accomplishment?

Jimmy Palmiotti: Very proud…and proud of the excellent work of so many amazing artists along the way. Justin and I would celebrate each and every year we were on Jonah , thinking at any minute it could be the last, but the great crew at D.C. comics always believed in us and believed in our choices and seventy issues is a huge milestone. They believed in us so much that with the new 52 books, they let us continue too do what we do best. In our minds, issue one of All Star Western is another chapter in the characters life and we haven’t missed a beat. The good news is that we are going to have a lot of fun with the other western characters in the D.C. universe.

O’Shea: What were some of the highlights of working on those 70 issues?

Palmiotti: Getting to work with some of my comic book heroes like Jordi Bernet, Eduardo Risso, Darwyn Cooke, Tony DeZungia, J.H. Williams, and so on. as well getting to writ with Justin a series that mostly consisted of done in one stories where there really wasn’t another book doing it at the time with a rotating guest list of artists. Another highlight was getting all 70 of these books out on time the first week of the month for 70 months. That in itself is a record these days…and last , introducing Tallulah Black into the Jonah Hex legacy. Honestly, the whole series was a bunch of highlights for us. In the perfect world we would have continued Jonah Hex and done all star western at the same time.

O’Shea: Will you be marking the final JH issue in any special way, or just focus on telling one good final tale?

Palmiotti: Both, the last issue is something special for a number of reasons that I will not ruin here…but in our eyes, because the book only sold a certain amount of issues, we always thought it would be cancelled any time, so we made sure each and every story being told would be great, since it might have been our last.

O’Shea: As a longtime and established inker/writer, I am always curious how you go about deciding to team with certain artists. For example, why did you choose to work with Jim Daly on Trailblazer?

Palmiotti: I met Jim while hanging out with mutual buddy Tim Bradstreet and we got along well. At the time Justin and I wanted to do this as a book and Jim was available for a really great price and we were happy to have him aboard. Jim is a solid storyteller that doesn’t depend on flash to get the story across and with Trailblazer, we needed someone that understood what we were looking for, and we picked the right man. Jim drew that actual book over five years ago for us…but we had to save up some money to actually pay for the rest of the book and get it published. These things cost a fortune.

O’Shea: How did the Trailblazer project come together–and what prompted you to take it to Image (as opposed to another indy publisher)?

Palmiotti: I have a great relationship with Image comics that has been going on for years and because every cent of our money went into this book, we wanted to retain all the rights…and not share it with a company that doesn’t have our best interests in mind. It’s also a matter of controlling the property after its release. With Image, they let us do what we want, pick when we want it coming out, and the crew there is so helpful, they really are a dream to work with. I think the world of all of them and I wouldn’t bother bringing my work anywhere else unless I actually published it myself. With all the books coming out these days, their line is one of the few aimed at adult comic fans…and that’s an important market to me.

O’Shea: What’s the attraction of mixing the Western genre with time travel?

Palmiotti: What’s not to like? We love genre mashing and it always makes for an interesting story. We have had this idea in our heads for over eight years now, so its good to see it actually get out there. This book was originally a screenplay first. One of the first we wrote.

O’Shea: Given that Trailblazer is based on one of the first screenplays you and Justin wrote I was wondering if you needed to revise it some (given how much writing experience you’ve had since your earlier writing days)?

Palmiotti: We wrote the comic to be a comic and it’s quite different in parts compared to the screenplay. Things that work in a comic don’t always work in a film and I am happy with the differences. Anyone that has worked in both understands this and has to take that into consideration when adapting any kind of work.

O’Shea: With Claws II, you get to reteam with Joseph Michael Linsner–and also get to reteam Black Cat and Wolverine. Traditionally most times, it would not seem that those two characters paths would not cross. But for you as a writer what’s the benefit of playing with the dynamics of these two characters?

Palmiotti: I think they are both at a time in the characters lives where they understand the different between work and play and we have kept that tradition alive in this second series. There is a huge amount of flirtation and we have written to Joe’s strengths in this series by introducing not only the sexiness of the characters, but also involving Killraven and his band of resistance players. Joe has out done himself on these books and don’t be surprised to see them sell out in the first week. They really are beautiful to behold.

O’Shea: Given the variety of stories you are creating in a given month, how stressful is it to try to keep the creative output of a standard that pleases you, while still keeping your sanity?

Palmiotti: The stressful part comes when the actual script leaves my hands. There are scores of people out there … artists, colorists and even editors that think I worry too much about the product…but my argument is that although a ton of comics come out each month … anything I work on has to have a certain level of professional quality to it. I feel for the people spending their hard earned money on these books and think we have to give them the best work we can each and every time out of the gate. It drives me crazy when creators are dismissive about the work and even worse when the people in charge forget that these are projects of passion. Justin and Amanda [Conner] will tell you that I can lose my mind from time to time, but I take it out on myself, not others. I treat every job like its my last and there is a price to pay for that … and my sanity can be that price…lol.

O’Shea: While clearly in demand at DC and Marvel, how important is it to you to always keep a hand in creator-owned projects?

Palmiotti: I love the big two comic companies. I have a ton of history with the characters and the people there and respect that…but honestly, I shouldn’t be called a creator if I am not doing my own thing and creating new characters. The drive to do this can be costly, but at the end of the day I think I am where I am now because I step out of the safe zone and take risks. Take for example, There would have never been a Marvel Knights deal if Joe and I didn’t start Event comics where we published our own work. Things like this make you realize that although it’s great working for the big two…when you own a character you control everything and they become your baby. It’s an amazing feeling of independence that comes along with it and I know in the end, I will be remembered for my characters long before a run on an established character. I hope…lol.

O’Shea: Any questions you want to ask your Robot 6 fans?

Palmiotti: I would like to know what books they think I would do a good job on … from any company. I am interested to see what they say… and if they would like to speak to me, one on one, hit me up on twitter at @jpalmiotti … or find the Paperfilms page on Facebook.