Earlier this week I spoke with Harley Quinn writer Jimmy Palmiotti. Due to his having to meet deadlines, I conducted my interview with him through email. What follows are his answers to questions I sent him. Those questions range from his early childhood, to strong female role models, and to advice he has for up-and-coming comic book artists and writers. I hope you enjoy reading the interview as much as I enjoyed being part of it.
What comics did you read as a kid? Were there any particular titles or characters that stuck with you or inspired you?
Since I had older brothers, I read whatever they had laying around. Archie comics, Superman, Wonder Woman, Fantastic Four and a bunch of horror and science fiction comics. I also grew up reading the comics in the back of Playboy magazine, my favorite being Little Annie Fanny.
Since The Geek Initiative is all about celebrating women in geek culture, were there any strong female role models you had growing up? Do you have any now?
All the women in my life have been strong female role models. My mother was one of the strongest people I knew and she went through a death of a child and still managed to bring up 4 very healthy and energy filled boys. Amanda Conner, my wife, is a great example of a female role model because not only is she strong willed and smart as a whip, she has a compassionate side to her that is contagious. She makes the people around her want to be better people and that’s a wonderful quality. In films and movies and such, there have always been strong female characters and when I was of age to do my own books, Painkiller Jane was one of the first characters I created.
What got you interested in writing for comic books? Do you have a favorite book you like writing for?
I think I have always been a storyteller, which also means you must be a good listener and be willing to throw yourself into situations. I really only wanted to ever write my own characters but reality and bills taught me that writing others can be just as fun. My favorite comic characters to write have always been female, and looking at my past work, this is so obvious with Painkiller Jane, Beautiful Killer, Triggergirl, Harley Quinn , Powergirl and now Starfire.
What did you want to be when you were a kid? Did you always want to be a comic book writer?
No. I wanted to be an artist, then a filmmaker, then a billionaire playboy. I became a writer because I could write about all of those things I wanted to be and more.
When you first were starting out as a writer, did you go through any rejection? If so, how did you overcome it?
I never quit. Someone didn’t like my work, I would submit more to others till I started finding the people that did. The first thing you learn is not everyone is going to like your work…and people can even be dismissive of types of work. What you have to do is find what makes you happy, write that and hope eventually someone else with a check in hand happens to like it. Writers write for themselves first.
About Harley Quinn, one of TGI’s editor’s heard you and Amanda say at Comi-Con last year that you were writing Harley as more independent. Could you expand on that, please?
We were trying to say that we approached the series as its own book in its own time zone and we didn’t really want to depend on years of continuity to weigh down the story. We were bringing our vision to the book and hoped others would like it. We didn’t want to be just another team on the long line of teams on the character. We wanted to make our mark.
What medium do you like writing for the most? What are the benefits for the different mediums you’ve written for?
I love writing comics because its easy and you see the results quickly. I love writing for TV, especially when I am able to be on set to rework dialogue and have input. I love writing screenplays because I get to see what other people see when they read and adapt my work. All three are fun, but comics will always be my favorite.
I’m sure you’ve been asked this a lot, but who is your favorite comic book character and why? Favorite villain and why?
Don’t have one. I buy comics by either the writer or artist. I don’t think any specific character really stands out to me one way or the other till the right writer comes along and brings it to life. Same with an artist, if it looks like crap, I will not ever read it. I have to find the art appealing otherwise I pass…and at times, even if I love the writer. It’s a visual medium. Books sink or swim for me based on the talent drawing the book.
Do you have any advice for up and coming comic book artists and writers?
Stop playing on the computer and get to work on your craft. Travel the world, explore different cultures and put down the damn comics and create something. Stop trying to be someone else and be yourself. Fall in love, get your heart broken and take a risk now and again. Say what is on your mind to those you trust and become the person you admire, the one you look up to. Respect yourself and others and understand that you will never be great unless you live your life the way you dream.
If you could sum up your career in a movie quote, what would it be?
“Get busy living, or get busy dying.” Andy Dufresne/Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Interested in Mr. Palmiotti’s work? Harley Quinn #18 hits shelves July 15, and Starfire #1 & #2 are in stores now; both are available from DC Comics.
*Disclaimer: Interviewer has no material connection to the person or works mentioned in this piece*