It surprised me to see Jimmy Palmiotti pursuing yet another Kickstarter in 2014, considering he had successfully completed one earlier in the year for Denver. This new one, launched this week, focuses on Sex and Violence Vol. 2.
My decision to interview the veteran writer wasn't based on aiming to help him achieve his Kickstarter goal; he's days, if not hours, away from achieving that. Instead, I hoped to tap into some of the knowledge that allows him to so effectively operate crowdfunding campaigns (many of the completed projects can be bought at the PaperFilms shop).
Not only did the creator offer some of the lessons learned from his past Kickstarters (hint: avoid the shipping costs from hardcover), but he also proved quite candid about the challenges of swimming in creator-owned waters. Palmiotti also was willing to elaborate about his perspective on last week's controversy about Milo Manara Spider-Woman #1 variant cover.
Tim O'Shea: This is your second Kickstarter in 2014 alone, the first being for Denver, where you exceeded your Kickstarter goal by nearly $20,000. At the time of this interview, you have more than 20 days left on this Kickstarter, and you have less than $3,000 to raise before you reach your goal. Have you ever considered starting a side business where you consult fledgling creators on how best to structure a successful Kickstarter?
Jimmy Palmiotti: I have helped a lot of people for free, and that's cool when I have the time, but my business is making comics, and anything I do that isn’t that job takes me away from my love. I always answer a question, but honestly, doing these Kickstarters is a ton of work and a lot of people just aren’t up for it, or they approach it like people are out there waiting to give them money for being fabulous. Kickstarter is a business, and your Kickstarter is a passion product that must deliver the goods. So to directly answer your question, I am around on Twitter to always answer a question, but to consult, I just don't have the time at the moment. Maybe one day I will.
We are good friends, and Amanda [Conner] and I consider him part of the family, and having Paul on anything I do will make the project a better project. I know he’s limited to what he can do because the Big Two keep him busy, but he’s always there to help me with projects like this because he understands the process and goals we have. As for getting him to work over Vanesa, all I had to do was show him the work then talk deadlines. Wait till you see the rest of the story: It's graphic by nature, but in a noir way that really stands out. Paul and Vanesa shine on this project. Paul is my go to guy on color on each and every project.
You wrote two of the stories, while PaperFilms partner (and your frequent co-writer) Justin Gray wrote "Red Dog Army." Can you talk about how you decided which artists would be best suited for each of the three stories?
The trick with comics is matching up the right people with the right book and getting magic. When I was editing Marvel Knights with Joe [Quesada], we spent a lot of time deciding who would be the best fit for each character, and this was no different. For the "Daddy Issues" story I needed someone that could draw a mother and daughter and had a super-talent for nailing facial expressions and body language. I was looking at over a dozen artists, and when it came down to the nuts and bolts, I thought each and every one of them had a disconnect with the material till I saw the work of Romina Moranelli. I knew instantly I had found the right person. As the pages came in, they were better than expected, and I see a fantastic future for her in the business. When I was writing the "Filter "story I was looking for a very dark noir-type style and I had met Vanesa a few years back and wanted to find something to work with her on. I made the call and we were able to fit it into her now busy schedule. She brings a graphic style to the story that is a healthy contrast to the other stories. With Rafa on Justin’s story, we got one hell of a cool-looking graphic novel.
What attracts you to doing these kinds of mature projects more: the sex or the violence, or a mixture of both?
I am interested in the mixture of both and taking them further than I could with most mainstream books. I am fascinated with what people are capable of doing given the right situation, and these stories are studies in just that. We go over the top in some stories, but its to make a point and we are working in a visual medium.
I respect that you consider several aspects of the projects that some Kickstarters may not. For example, you note in the pitch, "This is soft cover format (please note, NO hardcover) to help everyone enjoy the lower shipping costs." In general, how much of a cost savings do you see by staying away from hardcover? Also is this a lesson learned from one of your past Kickstarters where you offered a hardcover version?
I am trying to first, keep the book printed in the United States and not having hardcovers shipped from overseas. Second, the shipping alone of the hardcovers and production costs are very expensive, and then the shipping weight comes into the picture. We put that note because we get about 5 percent of the people asking if it is a hardcover, so we wanted to be super-clear it is not. We did offer Retrovirus and Queen Crab as a hardcover, but we had to overprint both to cover the costs and lower the price, and now we are sitting on thousands of them. I have not made a dime of profit on both of these books as of today. I made some mistakes, for sure, but it's a learning curve I am working on. Lessons learned.
How good did it feel that by Day 3 of your Kickstarter for this, you added the stretch goals already?
I feel a lot of people are curious to what they will be and also excited we have gotten to where we are. A lot of people ask how we do it, and simply put, we are offering a product that is unique, quality, and with all our Kickstarters, we take care of the customers so they keep coming back for more. We do our best at PaperFilms to give each and every person personal attention. It is a total grass-roots business model that needs to stay that way. Customer service is important.
With the Manara Spider-Woman controversy of last week, I would be remiss not to get your take on it, particularly given this tweet by you: "No one loves Manara more than me, but not for mainstream superhero comics. He is the top adult comics artist in the world."
Sure. What I was saying overall is that you know what you are going to get with hiring that brilliant man, so don't be shocked when people freak a bit. I think his style doesn't fit superheroes most of the time, and especially ones in the U.S. … and I also consider his talent wasted on them, especially if everyone is coming down so hard on him. That all said, he can do whatever he likes, and I would hire him to do a superhero book in a heartbeat, making it a mature-readers book. Simple as that.
Could you see a time where you would shift completely to creator-owned comics solely, or do you enjoy working in universes such as DC's too much to walk away from those storytelling opportunities?
I could if I had a hit, but to date, I really haven’t. Creator Owned Heroes at Image tanked. Painkiller Jane just makes enough to pay the artists, and so on. I haven’t had it yet outside mainstream comics, so I won't make the jump, but I will keep testing the waters with my Kickstarters and indie books on the side. At the end of the day, I just love writing, so getting to do books like Harley Quinn, Daredevil and G.I. Zombie are a blast. I don't feel I have to walk away from anything … I just want to do it all and am glad I am getting the opportunity.