Live From NFCC: Creating Comics With Your Friends Starring Conner, Palmiotti and Cooke
What do Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti and Darwyn Cooke have in common? They’re all comic creators, they all do a lot of work for DC Comics, they also shared a panel at Niagara Falls Comic Con! The husband and wife team of Palmiotti and Conner (current writers of Harley Quinn) popularity is at an all time high and Cooke has won multiple awards for his work on the comic adaptation of the Parker novels among other things. They’re also great friends and their panel was a lot of fun to listen to!
After a brief patronizing of Iowa, prompted by panel attendees making the drive from there, the panel got started and Jimmy talked about breaking into comics, as a high schooler he shadowed some comic book artists and realized they were poor and he didn’t want to be so he worked on advertising art instead and then came back into comics when he was 30 because a friend of his was doing work on Punisher and Ghost Rider and needed help so he’d go to Marvel and do some backgrounds and when he was done he’d bug everybody until they gave him some work, luckily they thought his work was good and was always on time which is huge for an artist. Amanda upon joining the panel jumped in and said she used to take day trips to New York City and would call up the major publishers and tell them she’s from out of town and she’s leaving that afternoon so they’d squeeze her in to show her portfolio. After doing that about six times they finally got sick of her and gave her a backup story. Darwyn chimed in saying that’s the real secret to getting work in comics, annoy them until they give you something to do so you’ll leave. He then continued to tell his story about going to DC Comics in the early 80’s with an eight page story which was bought for $35 per page. unfortunately it took him a week to do a page so he had to give it up, like Jimmy he worked in advertising and then in the 90’s he took another shot at comics which went nowhere. A while later Bruce Timm was looking to hire artists to work on Batman: The Animated Series which he was hired on the spot for and had pitched DC a Batman story during that time which was not approved until years later when a new editor found the submission and called him up to ask if he wanted to do it, and from there the ball started rolling.
The conversation then turned to The Pro, a book that Jimmy and Amanda drew based on the script by Garth Ennis. The idea came about when they were in Germany for a convention and they were in a bar since Amanda was sick and the Englishman’s cure is to drink. So they were in a bar and they started talking about what would it be like if streetwalkers had super powers. After a napkin drawing they realized they were comic creators and they could actually do it so after the convention Garth went back to the UK and wrote the script and sent it to Jimmy and Amanda to be drawn and they were giggling while reading it thanks to their “11-year-old boy humour”. They had problems getting it published at first and only Image had agreed to it although they were shocked to hear some of the reasons it was denied, including one who disliked the title. But in the end it worked out since it’s now on its 7th printing. Jimmy called it “The Filthy Watchmen” since it’s been printed so many times over the last ten years, he also added he hopes Zack Snyder makes a movie about it one day. He did add that there is an animated short on YouTube they created for Spike TV but Spike refused to air it.
Darwyn was asked about the Parker books and said he was contacted to do four books over 8 years and he got those done in four years. He said he will be doing more but is taking a break currently but you can expect The Butcher’s Moon to come out next year which ties up a lot of the characters and stories from the previous books. When asked how he got involved with the Parker adaptations, Darwyn said he was a fan and tried to do it early 00’s with a different publisher but they couldn’t secure the rights and then IDW called and asked what he wanted to do and they got the rights within a couple of weeks and although he was originally worried if it would sell he was happy it became so popular.
Then came the inevitable Harley Quinn questions, starting with the movie version of the character. Amanda advised she was optimistic but she was withholding judgement until seeing the film. when asked specifically about the tattoos sported by Joker and Harley she said she kind of liked it and hoped the tattoo of a beaver she saw was Bernie from their current Harley run. When asked if they were nervous taking on Harley after the New 52 Suicide Squad backlash. Amanda said they didn’t realize it would be such a juggernaut but they weren’t nervous but that she specifically wasn’t a fan of the Suicide Squad Harley since she was so dark and she felt Harley had to be fun and wanted love so she wanted that at the core of the character. Jimmy said he wanted the book to be very Harley centric and had specific plans for the character so when Dan Didio (co-publisher at DC) asked what they wanted to do Jimmy said he wanted her out of Gotham with her own supporting cast, which Dan didn’t like since in Suicide Squad she has a bomb in her neck and Jimmy said he didn’t want to follow that continuity and he chose Coney Island since he’s from Brooklyn he wanted to write what he knew. On the zero issue, Jimmy said he had that idea as a #1 but Dan pitched it as a #0 instead and told them that if they can get all the artists on board they could do it so he and Amanda literally walked around the convention they were at with a sign up sheet to get other artists on board. Jimmy acknowledged that they just got on Harley at the right time since the character already had a built-in fan base ready to explode but added it’s nice having a top book but also made mention that G.I. Zombie which came out about the same time was also DC’s lowest selling book ever so he remains ever so humble. The moderator added that this is the only incarnation of Harley he enjoys, especially Bernie the beaver. Darwyn added he hates her too but that stems from his work on The Animated Series and got sick of drawing the sequence where Harley jumps out of a pie and sings to Joker a la Marilyn Monroe.
When asked who are their favourite characters to write, Darwyn admits he loves writing J. Jonah Jamieson despite only writing about 6 pages of him. He’s such an easy character to clip into according to Darwyn before adding “he’s such an asshole with just a touch of humanity” Amanda likes drawing Power Girl, She-Hulk and Harley. Jimmy said he loved doing Jonah Hex but did over 100 issues so he’s got that out of his system but he’d love to do some more Painkiller Jane who he calls the female version of himself. When asked about which Harley side characters they like the most, Amanda went back to power girl before acknowledging that the Harley-Bernie relationship is great. Jimmy talked about an upcoming character named Mike who is a Rooster and Big Tony, who he promises was not intentionally modelled after Danzig.
When asked about who they would never work with Jimmy admitted that there are two people he won’t work with but declined to give names. Amanda talked about her inspirations which ranged from Chuck Jones to Frank Miller to Disney Animation. Darwyn tackled both questions saying he can name six old men that he always names but there is a lot of inspiring talent around him now, he specifically names Jeff Lemire (All-New Hawkeye) and Matt Kindt (Mind MGMT). He admits that there has only been one creator he’s worked with that he wouldn’t do it again, though there are a lot of editors he won’t. Darwyn tackled another Parker question about the colour scheme used and how he chooses the one colour for each book that is heavily used. He said he looks at the story as a whole and tries to find a specific colour that fits the tone or emotion of the story.
Before Watchmen was brought up and Amanda talked about Darwyn calling her up and asking to co-write since he has never been a 16-year-old girl, an argument Jimmy refutes by the way. In the end Amanda notes that Darwyn wrote most of the dialogue for the 16-year-old and Amanda wrote mostly for the big black man. Darwyn then talked about his strategy for getting out of books he doesn’t want to do by making outlandish requests, he mentions that that’s how Wolverine/Doop happened as well as his work on Spider-Man where he pitched “Imagine Archie Andrews as Spider-Man”. He said Silk Spectre was so far out of his wheelhouse that when they had a big meeting about it he said he’d only do it if Amanda drew and co-wrote it, which Dan agreed with which made his plan backfire and then it backfired again when Amanda agreed to it. Amanda added that she killed herself doing that book as she wanted it to be perfect, Jimmy was even calling it “That F-word Book” and at one point cut-loose on Darwyn for getting her involved. The moderator asked if he liked the book which Jimmy admitted they did a beautiful job but just wished that level of effort was being put into a creator-owned project.
The backlash the Before Watchmen books unleashed was the next topic and Amanda admits she’s oblivious to what goes on online. Jimmy had heard that Amanda was being blacklisted from the Eisner’s. Darwyn added that there were a ton of artists doing variant covers and at that point the blacklist got broken since they weren’t going to blacklist 45 of the greatest artists in the world. Darwyn then added that he actually won an Eisner that year for Parker, but his wife was a social media junkie and was beside herself with all the threats that were being posted. Darwyn then started talking Alan Moore and said he did better than most people who gets “screwed over” and goes as far to say if it’s his fault for not reading his contract.
Jimmy and Amanda were asked about why they always show Harley and Power Girl eating and asked if the same will happen in Starfire. They said they like seeing people doing real things in comics that’s why Harley is shown eating, cleaning up after cats, all the BS we do in regular life. Amanda adds that Starfire discovers beer in the first issue. They said they make them do the mundane stuff it makes it more relatable, the trick is to make that mundane stuff interesting. Jimmy added that Amanda would have every hero open the issue on the toilet if she had her way… Which they had done in a Vampirella issue where a demon ate a bunch of candy with laxatives in it and the only way Vampirella could vanquish him was by ingesting the demon full of laxatives. When they pitched it to the editor he said go for it since it sounded like fun, unfortunately the publisher didn’t like their hero sitting on a toilet. Coincidently that was their last issue on Vampirella. The final question was directed to Jimmy and his run with Jonah Hex, Jimmy said lack of sales killed the book, often times he thought DC would cancel it but they felt the book was quality and they kept hoping it would find a broader audience but ultimately he’s happy they got 100 issues and DC gave them six months to conclude and they already knew how they would do it and Darwyn asked to draw it and ultimately helped conclude the book by having Jonah sailing off in a boat instead of a horse which Darwyn said generally means goodbye but setting sail could mean see you soon.