*Editor’s Note* This piece was originally published in our now defunct crime mag Blunt Force Beating and has now been given a new home.
Writer, artist, inker, editor . . . Jimmy Palmiotti has done a little bit of everything in the comics world. From working on recognizable Big Two properties like The Punisher, Ghost Rider, Jonah Hex and Power Girl, to creator-owned projects like Painkiller Jane and The Last Resort, Palmiotti has earned all the praise that has come his way as a veteran on the front lines of comics and comics-based properties.
When it comes to crime, the series he did for Image with Garth Ennis and Mihailo Vukelic called Back to Brooklyn is as gritty and brutal as they come. It’s the story of a crime family being torn apart by the actions of one of their own, and how it plays out is not for the squeamish. With a new graphic novel about to be released, a splatter-fest called Random Acts of Violence, Palmiotti was gracious enough to answer a few questions about the books and the processes involved in getting them into the eager hands of rabid fandom.
You have a new graphic novel, written with Justin Gray and art by Giancarlo Caracuzzo, called Random Acts of Violence, coming out soon. When is it supposed to be released, and what can you tell us about it?
Random Acts of Violence has a street date of April 28th and is about a couple of comic creators that go and self publish their first book which is called Slaughterman…an ultimate horror character and then when the book hits big, they go on tour of the country and deal with the fallout of their creation. It’s a mix of con experiences and really horrific murders. I dare say, it’s a blast.
From what I’ve read, Random Acts seems as much a horror book as a crime book. These two genres seem to overlap fairly frequently — what elements do you think comprise a “horror” story versus a particularly brutal “crime” story? I mean, what’s the difference between a mobster whacking some guy with a meat cleaver that makes it “crime” fiction, but if some lurch in a hockey mask does it it’s a “horror” story?
Usually in a crime story the killer has a reason he is doing the act…for vengeance, money or romance…in a horror story, we are dealing with a twisted brain that is fascinated with death and destruction and at times has no other motive other than curiosity or a unquenchable need. They overlap in the actual act of killing, in the details, but the motives are far away from each other.
Did you pitch this book as a standalone graphic novel right out of the gate, or were you shooting for a monthly book and they offered a standalone GN? What makes you decide to pitch a monthly vs. a standalone, or vice versa?
We first were going to do 3 separate issues, then the more we thought about it we did the math and the book would have cost 12 bucks total for only 66 pages of actual story. We figured a graphic novel was the way to go for a low price tag of $6.99 and like Jonah Hex, we were giving the reader a full story, not a continued adventure. Also, with the square binding, the book can now have a longer shelf life…but it is not without the risks. The orders need to come in higher…so if you are reading this, you would make my day and tell your retailer to pre order it…or give it a shot on Amazon soon. For us to do this book…we already know we are out of pocket more than half of the book…but we feel word of mouth might help us. We hope.
You have another collection available of what was originally a monthly book for Image called Back to Brooklyn. That was a straight up, guns-and-blood crime story that you wrote with Garth Ennis, with artwork by Mihailo Vukelic. How did that story come to be?
I had an idea for a story based on smaller stories and things that happened in Brooklyn growing up and took them and sculpted a story I pitched to Garth over a beer and he loved it. He agreed to take it and run with it and that’s how it came to be. I have many crime stories to tell…but the market is limited. I think I have another two “Brooklyn” based stories I would like to tell…but one is going to be a novel and the other a collection of short stories in 2012.
With Back to Brooklyn, the work that Ed Brubaker has done with Criminal and Incognito, Vertigo and Dark Horse coming out with “crime” lines, and stuff like Rick Remender’s Last Days of American Crime, there seems to be a real resurgence of crime stories. Why do you think that is, and what makes you come back to it?
Personally, the audience of superheroes needs something else in their diet. This is a good thing, but again, only a limited number of people are into to the genre…so guys like Ed have an easier time. I love what he does and buy every single thing he writes that’s not superhero. I come back to the genre because I love the idea of raw emotion and driven characters that will do anything to get what they want. It’s a surreal thing for me to write because I am nothing like these people…I have a wall and empathy and all the things that make me a good person. Writing these monsters is a nice release.
Besides Back to Brooklyn, you also collaborated with Garth Ennis on the classic prostitute-cum-superhero book, The Pro. In addition, you’ve collaborated with Justin Gray on Jonah Hex as well as the new story, Random Acts of Violence. What do you like about collaborating with other writers, and can you give a quick insight into how those collaborations play out when it comes to actually putting words on paper and delivering them?
With Garth, you let Garth do what he does best and run with the idea. He isn’t what I call a real collaborator in that sense…which is perfect, because he is a master of his craft and one of the coolest guys in the field. With Back to Brooklyn…we went over the idea…who the characters were and where they were going to go along the way. For me, there were little surprises along the way, but he stuck to what we laid out and I thought it was brilliant. If anyone here didn’t read this book and you like the genre…I think its one of the top 5 crime graphic novels out there now. As far as working with Justin, it’s like working with a best friend that can do no wrong. He is open to ideas, deals with my madness and understands that we sometimes move to a different beat and it makes the books that more interesting. We see the world differently and the same and it helps our work. Anyone that has been following our books understands that we can switch gears with genres and tone and characters in a drop of the hat and together we are well-rounded writers. We talk a few times a day and flush out ideas daily as well. The amount of work we are sitting on, given the chance, would blow people away if we found a sponsor. Yeah…if you have a few million and want to invest it …call me…I will give you better odds than any stock. Lol…
You’ve written for comics, movies, etc. Is there a Jimmy Palmiotti novel anywhere in your future?
Yes. A book of short stories I am working on now…and a novel that I will do once something I am working on pays enough to give me the time to flush it out. Hey, ambitions are good things…lol.
Are there any particular types of stories or genres you haven’t done that you hope to do before they stuff you in a padded room and throw away the key?
Romance…softcore and hardcore. I think I would love to take a group of characters and have a blast with relationship stuff…I know it sounds boring to some…but some of the best written works do this well. I would love a monthly “weird love” title to go crazy on. I know if I did it independently, I wouldn’t sell an issue…but knowing me…I will try. Lol.
Besides your art (and the lovely and talented Amanda Connor, of course), what gets you out of bed in the morning?
My cat Devo is hungry…and usually, I got to pee. Other than that, the idea that today might be the day that something happens…I know, its very optimistic, but I believe you put it out there and it finds you eventually. I also like to update my fan page on Facebook…hahahah. That sounds so high school.
Any crime stuff you’ve read or seen in the movies or on DVD lately that you thought was particularly cool?
Just Ed’s stuff , Darwyn Cooke’s Parker graphic novel and I saw The Counterfeiters and thought it was brilliant. Rent it…it kicks some major ass.