EDITOR'S NOTE: The following article contains language, innuendo and off-color humor which is decidedly NSFW.
As soon as the audience took their seats at New York Comic Con's Listen to Jimmy panel, it was clear this wasn't going to be a typical convention discussion. There were only thirty or so people filling chairs in perhaps the smallest panel room at the Javits Center, and the moderator's podium stood empty. "This is a panel where it's interactive. You're really not going to learn anything," Jimmy Palmiotti explained right off the bat.
"Matter of fact, you'll probably get stupider by the time we're done," Frank Tieri chimed in as he was introduced as "the writer of 'Punisher in Space' and some other stuff." They were joined on the dais by Palmiotti's wife and frequent collaborator Amanda Conner, Paper Films editor Joanne Starer, and a pastry chef from southern New Jersey named Kenny. Palmiotti likes to bring an audience member up for these panels, and today was Kenny's turn.
Seeing as Listen to Jimmy was meant as "a break from those other panels where they try to teach you how to crowdsource or how to walk like a zombie," Palmiotti asked what sorts of strange panels people had attended over the weekend. Someone said they'd been to the Mike Tyson panel, prompting Palmiotti to attempt a very weak Tyson impersonation. "Was it a good panel? Was it good? The panel?" Not nearly high-pitched enough or enough lisp, and Tieri let him know it.
Conner mentioned that there had been a Learn Dothraki panel, which her husband assumed was a language from "Star Trek." "They should arrest all those people," Tieri said.
"What are you talking about, 'those people?'" snapped Palmiotti. "What kind of monster are you?"
"Those Dothraki people. People who want to learn Dothraki. What's wrong with you?"
In defense of "Game of Thrones" superfans, Conner posed that learning Dothraki wasn't much different from learning Spanish. "One is an actual language with real people talking," Tieri shot back.
Ignoring his friend, Palmiotti changed course and noted that it felt like NYCC was more crowded than ever, making it surprising that he and Starer had passed each other twice at the same spot. He then complimented the three or so Harley Quinn cosplayers in the crowd. "By the way, we're big fans of cosplay, so don't listen to the Internet."
"The sucky thing about being a professional is that I don't have time to put on an elaborate costume," a bummed Connor added. "Otherwise, I'd totally cosplay." Palmiotti asked who she'd be. A crowd member suggested Elektra, and Conner said she'd been that for Halloween once.
"So was Frank," Palmiotti joked.
"Who would I be?" Conner wondered aloud. "In the DC Universe, I think I'd be Catwoman. And in the Marvel Universe, I think I would try and attempt She-Hulk, who I also was for Halloween." Starer reminded Conner of her Leela from "Futurama" costume, and Palmiotti requested a moment of silence for the canceled cartoon. "We love 'Futurama' We miss it."
The floor was opened for questions, and Palmiotti told everyone that they were welcome to ask Kenny anything they wanted. He kicked it off by asking how old the panel's non-professional member was. When he responded, Palmiotti shot back, "26 and still single, what's wrong?" The run-on gag of the panel became trying to set Kenny up with Starer, who sat uncomfortably to his right.
This led to a discussion about marriage, with Conner stating she felt people should play the field until they hit their 30s. Palmiotti asked how many people were married in the audience. Hands went up, and Tieri booed. "Now put your hands down. How many people regret it?" Tieri shot his hand into the air, sparking laughter from the panel.
Palmiotti said that he and Conner had waited a while before marrying. "Actually, what's really funny is, my ex-husband is here," Conner added. Tieri asked if he was dressed as Silver Surfer again, and relayed a story about how he had met her ex at a convention in Baltimore.
With a gruff voice and demeanor reminiscent of Jim Norton, Tieri explained, "She goes, 'I want to introduce you to my ex-husband.' And all of a sudden I come over and there's a guy dipped head to toe in silver, with a silver speedo on. And I'm like, really?"
Conner claimed his memory had sexualized what was in reality just a body suit, but Tieri was sure "that guy was butt-naked." Either way, her ex had apparently once again dressed in the Silver Surfer outfit for NYCC. Palmiotti smirkingly suggested Conner put on a Galactus costume and go meet him.
They then started listing off the strange costumes they'd seen at NYCC, including a severed head on a turtle (Tortuga from "Breaking Bad") and a bunch of muscular guys who were just walking around in their boxers. "When you're built like that, you just want to show it off," Palmiotti said.
"Yeah, but I saw a couple guys who weren't built like that," Tieri joked.
Palmiotti agreed, recalling a "big breasted guy" whose costume he didn't recognize, but who "just kept slapping them around."
"Jimmy's talking about what happened last night in his hotel room," Tieri quipped.
"Yeah, I was really sad you left so early," Palmiotti retorted. "You took all the towels."
Joanne was excited to see a Powdered Toast Man from "Ren and Stimpy," and Conner talked about a pair of Tetris pieces that she was equally impressed with and annoyed by as they made their way through the crowded floor. "I was like, 'Get the fuck out of the way!' And I could just see all the tweets: 'Angry Amanda Conner pushes over Tetris.'"
Palmiotti mentioned that he'd accidentally kicked over someone's crutch, which reminded Joanne about an incident at the Marvel party the evening prior when Tieri "gave a girl a concussion." A defensive Tieri recounted the tale. "Obviously, we were drinking." Obviously. "At some point, someone put a balloon on my back." Palmiotti explained that the string was fastened to his back so the balloon floated about a foot and a half over his head. He imitated Tieri turning back and forth frantically trying to see what everyone was laughing about, only to have the balloon swing out of sight.
Tieri attempted to go on, but dissatisfied with his account, Palmiotti took over. "So this is going on for hours, and everyone's walking in the bar going, 'I want to take a picture with Frank and his balloon!' So me and Mike say, maybe it's time to stop him. So we go up to him and say, 'You ever seen that movie 'Up?'" Palmiotti can't help but laugh with the audience at the image. "And then Mike goes, 'cause Frank's sitting in a chair, 'Yeah, that stupid movie where the guy's sitting in a chair with balloons on him.' And we just kept going."
"So I'm like, okay, yeah, I've got a balloon on me," Tieri picked up. "So I get it off me, and I'm trying the whole rest of the night to put a balloon on Mike."
"And he thinks he's really sneaky about it," Starer said sarcastically.
"He's like a tap dancing Godzilla," Palmiotti quipped.
Tieri couldn't get the balloon to stick, and stepped back with a frustrated shrug. "And some girl is passing by, and she gets elbowed right in the face. And I'm like, 'Oh, I'm sorry!' But she just kept doing this." He stood up and slowly paced the back of the platform with his face in his hands, imitating the girl hiding her pain. "And she just walks out of the party. Never even looked up! I'm like, 'I'm sorry,' and she's just going."
Joanne said that they never even saw the poor girl's face and have no idea who she was. "Look for the girl with the broken nose and the two black eyes," Conner joked.
Finally, it was time for the audience to get in on the questions. The first fan asked Palmiotti and Conner about the controversy that sprung up last year surrounding a Harley Quinn audition page that some claimed glamorized "sexy suicide." Specifically, the fan said that he'd heard the two speak on the topic at a Boston con and was curious about any lessons gleaned from the fallout.
Palmiotti began by relating the outrage to his audience, which is listed as "Over 16." "Because obviously, when we do this, sometimes we say shit and it's funny. But obviously you could take it out of context and turn us into History's Greatest Monster Panel." The crowd laughed, clearly seeing how such a misconstrued notion could be reached. "But like anything in the news, in the context of where it is and what's happening, things get taken out of context and are used as weapons. And the Internet is really wonderfully graceful with that,"
"Outrage Junkies," Conner said.
"People who sit around waiting for the next thing to be outraged about," Tieri explained with a shrug.
Palmiotti continued, "It was something that was taken out of context, and we were blamed for promoting sexy suicide, which I didn't even know was a thing. But at the same time, you have to be professional and say, 'Okay, it bothered some people.' So I kind of wrangled it and explained. I wrote a nice little piece and said it was never our intention and it was taken out of context, and so on and so forth. The best you can do is explain your way out of it and hope that people understand your explanation, ya know?" He paused. "Anthony Weiner." The laughter broke the spell of the first serious matter broached during the panel.
"Anyway, you do the best you can, but you have to understand that on some level there's one person who didn't read the whole thing sitting there going, 'Well, these people are horrible.'"
"Well, we are horrible, just for different reasons," Tieri remarked.
"Anybody who knows us knows we would never do that," concluded Palmiotti. "So you roll with it, you do the best you can. You try to clear it up instead of letting it float out there and people getting more angry. You deal with it head on. It's like in real life; when something happens, you deal with it head on. You go right after it and say, 'No, this is what happened.' Explain yourself, and hope for the best."
"Just like we have the rub-and-smell issue coming, the special scents. I'm sure we'll have another group coming after us for corrupting everyone on Earth," he added with jovial resignation, referring to the "Harley Quinn Annual #1" due later this month. "It's so ridiculous, but then again, you should go out and rub and smell it all you can."
A woman in the audience asked, "If you smell it backward, will you summon Satan?"
"You mean, if you start from the back and start rubbing and smelling it and then work your way to the front?" Palmiotti clarified, receiving an enthusiastic "Yeah!" from the woman. "You're gonna have to try it. Do you want to summon Satan?"
"I can't answer that right now," she replied.
"He's already here!" Starer exclaimed, gesturing towards Tieri.
Palmiotti asked the woman what she'd request if the Dark Lord really did appear. She said she really wanted to be Asian so she could cosplay as Jubilee, a response that seemed to both amuse and flabbergast Conner.
Another fan asked whether the upcoming appearance of Power Girl in Palmiotti and Conner's Harley Quinn series would be the same fun tone as their previous work with the busty Kryptonian. The creators responded simultaneously with a sly, "Yeahhhh."
"I'll give you a teaser," Palmiotti said, brightening up at the fan's question. "Power Girl, we saw in the issue before she gets knocked to another galaxy. She lands, she has amnesia. Harley Quinn's job is to convince her that they're a crime fighting team."
"Harley, at that moment, feels like being a superhero," Conner added. "So what better way than being part of a superhero team-up?"
There will apparently be a six-page scene where Harley is trying to disrobe an unconscious Power Girl and shove her into a suit that matches Harley's own to prove they're a team. Because that's obviously easier than just Harley changing her own clothes. The pair will also take a shopping trip to King's Plaza in Brooklyn, and be dumped off in a different dimension in part two. They'll face a character Palmiotti calls "a spoof of Thanos. A guy with a lot of rings, like a Liberace in space." It'll all be written in the same playful tone, in some ways picking up right where their "Power Girl" series left off, and the door will be left open for more team-ups between the characters.
Speaking of Power Girl inspired a fan to ask what they'd do if they ever brought Atlee into the New 52. Palmiotti was firm on the idea that he'd keep the name Atlee instead of using Terra, the name he gave the character in 2007. "Because that didn't work to our advantage at all."
Conner revealed that the Terra name was an editorial mandate. "Yeah, they were like, 'We want you to do something with Terra and we want her to be new.' And we decided to make her the polar opposite of the previous [incarnation], and she was just purely good."
Palmiotti said they have a soft spot for Atlee, and if "Harley Quinn" continues to sell well, he'd consider using that success as leverage to get her back in the comics. "That's the power of having a book that sells -- you get to ask for stupid things." He also pointed out there's a panel in "Harley Quinn" that mentions sub-basements, something he thinks could be connected to Atlee
After a sidebar about Kenny's favorite pastry to make (brownie with peanut butter frosting, no nuts), Conner asked if anyone had any "Punisher in Space" questions for Tieri. The woman from before asked if he'd ever consider revisiting Space Punisher for a team up with Detective Ka-zar.
"Who the fuck is Detective Ka-Zar?" a dumbfounded Tieri asked.
The woman explained that there was a run of Ka-Zar books that had the Savage Land native running around in a fedora, solving crimes. Palmiotti smiled wide at what he called an "awesome" concept.
"And the tiger runs around with him solving crimes?" Tieri asked, laughing. "Really? Sounds like a Hanna-Barbera cartoon."
"Well, who better to write it?" Palmiotti prodded.
"But in space. The whole fucking thing happens in space." Tieri paused at the thought, but only briefly. "Yeah, what the hell. I'm gonna steal that idea."
Sticking to the topic of characters out of their usual locales, a fan asked if Palmiotti had ever pitched the idea of picking up where "All-Star Western" left off, with Jonah Hex and Tallulah Black being pirates. Leaning forward and pounding the table, Palmiotti exclaimed, "Of course I did! Pirate Jonah Hex is the coolest thing ever. And Tallulah already has a patch!" Sadly, DC didn't seem interested in the idea.
"How the heck is pirate Jonah Hex any better than Punisher in space?" Tieri asked defensively. "It's like the exact same thing, except that one's in space."
"Well, Jonah Hex in space would be awesome," Palmiotti joked.
"There ya go, let's pitch that."
"Well, we had to have a happy ending so --" Palmiotti trailed off quickly, realizing he'd set himself up for another foul-minded jab at his pal. "Actually, Frank always has to have a happy ending, that's why he brings an extra $60."
"That's how I met Kenny," Tieri played along.
Regarding bringing Joker back into "Harley Quinn," Palmiotti confessed they're a bit handcuffed by the villain's current New 52 standing. "We were able to put the Joker in because it was a 'Five Years Later' story, but I don't really know where the Joker is in the New 52 at this point." The purpose of the book was to focus more on Harley anyway, though Joker will appear in the "rub-and-smell" issue.
Conner admitted that the "romantic, I want to kill you, I love you thing" leads to good stories, but they want to leave it open for Harley to "explore other romantic avenues."
Without missing a beat, the woman form earlier interjected, "Ivy."
"Well, you're gonna love the rub-and-smell issue," Palmiotti teased, to the moan's audible delight. "That's all I'm going to say. There's a lot more going on in that book than just the warning on the cover." â€¨"It's actually more rubby than it is smelly," Conner grinned.
"The next Kickstarter we have lined up is a Western," Palmiotti revealed about Paper Films, the property development company run by members of the panel. "Justin [Gray] and I are doing what we couldn't do in 'Jonah Hex'" He promised something sexy and violent, but said they haven't delved too deeply into it because they wanted to fulfill all the incentives from their "Sex and Violence" fundraiser first.
Keeping the conversation going, he asked if anyone had had any good pizza while in New York. Someone gave a shout out to Two Brothers' dollar slices, which offended Tieri. "That's not real pizza." He scoffed at the idea of Dominos, and went on to list his favorite spots. Brooklyn joints Di Fara's, Deano's, Totonno's and L&B in Brooklyn all got nods, as did Lombardo's in Manhattan.
Palmiotti then told a story about a time he and Starer were getting breakfast in L.A. When he ordered a bagel, toasted dark with butter, Starer got indignant. "You don't toast a fresh bagel," she declared in an accent that clearly betrayed her New York upbringing. "A bagel is a beautiful thing. It's like kinda crunchy on the outside, a little white and chewy on the inside."
"You're racist," Palmiotti proclaimed to laughter. "I like my bagels with a little color."
When Kenny agreed with Palmiotti over Starer, he was promptly booted from the dais, replaced by Ed from Philadelphia for the final few minutes of the panel. Despite the bagel discrepancy, Palmiotti and Starer claimed to agree on most things, except movies. This brought out the favorite movies question, which Starer responded to by saying all Alfred Hitchcock and Jackie Chan movies.
Contesting that you couldn't love all Jackie Chan movies, someone mentioned "Tuxedo," which she tacitly agreed isn't a great film. "But I'll still see it because of Jackie Chan."
"Even though 'Rumble in the Bronx' wasn't shot in the Bronx?" Conner posed. "The rolling hills of the Bronx? The snowy peaks of the Bronx? The sidewalk cafes of the Bronx?"
"Always in my heart, Jackie Chan," was all Starer would say.
From his seat in the front row, Kenny asked how everyone first got into comics. Conner said her first gig was actually drawing backup stories, but she started working in advertising when money wasn't coming in fast enough. Her husband also got his start in advertising, saying that he repressed his desire to join the comic industry until his 30s as the pay was never good enough.
"It hasn't really changed that much, by the way. But two people doing comics, that's a little better."
Tieri said he was an intern and then staffer at Marvel, and Palmiotti noted that that's how they first met. Tieri tried to tell the tale, but Palmiotti's constant ribbing sent him into a stubborn fit. Instead, he fielded a question about whether "Punisher in Space" was his own idea.
"I was drunk," he joked. "That was after they did Frankencastle, so I was like, 'Alright, they'll try anything.'" So he actually pitched a story with space mobsters and Castle heading off-Earth to do battle.
"It happens," poked Palmiotti.
"Oh, right, because fucking 'Harley Quinn' is like real life. That's a fucking novel," Tieri snapped.
"The Punisher's in space," Palmiotti stated flatly.
"You just did a scratch-and-sniff fucking issue, alright?"
"In space. The Punisher's in space."
"How about Jonah Hex? Oh, he really travels through time!"
"In space. The Punisher is in space!"
A fan called out for "Archie Meets The Punisher -- in Space," which somehow seemed to the panel members to be a far more interesting story idea.
Despite the interactive nature of the panel, those in attendance were fairly subdued, though they laughed at every insult and dig. The panelists' frank and relaxed attitudes made for an entertaining, comfortable scene, the kind of experience you'd hope to have if you simply met these people out in the real world. And with the weekend ending and the real world approaching, it was one hell of a way to end a con.