Jimmy Palmiotti is a comics legend. He’s worked on everything with everyone – he inked Kevin Smith’s iconic “Guardian Devil” story in Daredevil; he co-created Painkiller Jane with Joe Quesada; and he’s currently writing the bestselling Harley Quinn with his wife, Amanda Conner.
He’s also something of an old hand at comics Kickstarters: Hype, his ninth (!) pitch on the crowdfunding site, sees him continuing his partnership with Justin Gray, his longtime writing partner with whom he’s written some terrific comics like Jonah Hex and Power Girl.
With art from Javier Pina and Alessia Nocera, and lettering by Bill Tortolini, Hype has a classic superhero feel to it, though the pitch has some interesting twists to the character. I spoke with Jimmy about Hype and some of the peculiarities of making comics through crowdfunding.
Den of Geek: Tell us about Hype – who is he, what can he do, and why do you want to tell his story?
Jimmy Palmiotti: The basic story of Hype is focused on the first adult human being created in a lab that, although he has access to all the information in the world, he has to learn to be human and a study in what makes us different than any other species on earth. He is trained to be a soldier, but with not having fine tuned his emotions, he makes mistakes that cost lives, so a female specialist is brought in to train with him to make him understand his shortcomings and they form a bond.
Hype is part superhero, part romance and a lot of sci-fi and in the end, a lot of fun. It’s a project we all are very proud of.
How did the project come together?
Justin and I had actually pitched this a few times to different companies and we couldn’t get anyone interested, so we looked at the pitch a bit closer a few times and started to see what it was that might have been turning people off too it. We reworked and fine tuned the story and then decided rather than get a lot of rejections again, we would just do the book ourselves as a Kickstarter. It became an issue of control on our part and seeing something that others were only looking at as a commercial property. We just wanted to tell the story.
Javier Pina’s art is very dynamic – the action sequences in the Kickstarter preview pages have a lot of energy and expression in them. Did you lean into the action a little as you started to get pages back from him?
I have worked with Javier in the past and knew what he is capable on the page, but the story is organic and throwing in action for the sake of “cool panels” is not how we write something. At its core this is about interaction between two people and the consequences the relationship might have on the both of them.
Javier was given a whole range of things he had to draw and my favorite pages in the book are the ones with Noah and Amanda as they discover the world around them by going to different places and experiencing things.
You and Justin Gray have been working together for quite some time now, and on a ton of different projects – comics, obviously, but some movies and TV, too. How does the partnership work? And how does it thrive working across so many genres and mediums?
It really helps that we are best friends. We spend a lot of time talking and have a lot of ideas and we slam them together to create the things we work on. We both are different people and that helps the final product in a lot of interesting ways because we do not always agree. In the end, this relationship makes it easy for us to work together and create cool projects like Hype along the way.
It seems like there is a really deep world already built around Hype and Noah Haller. Particularly when you mention his inability to see the big picture or catch social cues, it sounds like there are elements of autism spectrum disorder to his character, something that isn’t often considered in superhero comics. But 52 pages doesn’t really give you a lot of time to work with that. Is there the potential for you to come back to him down the road?
This story is part of a bigger picture and if there is an opportunity to expand on that, we will for sure. This Kickstarter is slow moving, so it is a wait and see process, because without hitting its goal, we will be totally limited to how we move forward. It is the risk of putting yourself out there with a project and getting it started without others to give you feedback.
Its why even the smallest commitment to the projects helps us big time… When you work on something this fun like Hype, each corner you turn when writing the book has its challenges and it opens up story ideas as well, so it’s natural we have many more stories to tell.
We do know that if we hit our goal, what we give to the backers is one hell of a fun book with the promise of more in the future. Every single project we work on has a bit of that in the mix…the hope of a second story.
Kickstarter just released some stats on their campaigns, and there have been 3500 successful comics Kickstarters. Eight of them have been yours – Abbadon and a second volume of Sex and Violence being the most recent. What is it about Kickstarter and crowdfunding in general that makes it so good for comic projects?
This is the only time a creator can bring a fan into a project they are working on and have direct interaction with the creator. I answer every single question sent my way on the Kickstarter page, I pack all the packages and we put together the book from the ground up, always considering the people that might back the project.
With Hype we even have a reward where I will Skype with anyone that may need help with their projects, advice with their art and help on any level I can give. It is this grass roots set up that for me makes this entire experience so unique. In the end, this is a process where the fans speak with their money and let us know if they want something or not.
A lot of comic Kickstarters run into trouble because of their rewards structure. How difficult is it to balance your costs as a creator with the value (or perceived value) that backers want from a project?
You just have to be realistic with what you can deliver and not deliver and the costs. Having done nine of these, I learned the hard way how to approach the reward section. That said, I am always on a learning curve with the campaign. Hype is the only one we have not hit the goal within the first few weeks, and we have been adding new rewards along the way, hoping to get us in the safe zone, but with only 6 days left, it’s gonna be tough. In the end, you have to read what is being bought and realize that this is what the people really want.
Crowdfunding basically forces you to not just be the creator, but the publisher and the distributor, too. Does that change your approach going into a project?
It is exhausting. Every single day I have to push the project, do the interviews and podcasts and at the same time we have to continue getting the book together, dealing with printers and setting it up if the goal is reached. It is not easy, and people coming into this thinking it’s a quick way to make money have to rethink this.
Our profit is not made on these projects, sometimes, til years later. It’s a tough business, but again, worth every minute when I go to cons and shake the hands of the people that have supported my projects.
Let’s say you weren’t the creator of Hype: what reward tier would you be shooting for if you were backing it?
That’s easy, if I was a digital comic fan, I would go for the book and script reward. If I was a fan of someone like Amanda Conner or Dave Johnson, their reward sings. If I was a creator that needed me to pick their brains and give advice, the Skype reward, and if I was a retailer I would buy up the Monster pack reward, to get 30 signed books, and 5 Painkiller Jane trades, all signed by Amanda and myself. It puts the books under 12 bucks each, and the resale on them is a pretty high rate since they are unique, not mass printed and will not be available anywhere else.
The campaign for Hype ends on Thursday, February 18th. For more information on the campaign, check out its page here. Palmiotti and Conner will be guests at Long Beach Comic Expo the weekend of 2/18/2016. For more information on their panel schedules, or to find out where you can meet them, check out LBCE’s web page.