Avril Brown Presents:
JP: As a writer, my influences are all over the map. Other writers always come to mind but honestly I think a lot of my skill has come from being a good listener and appreciating a good story told to me by others. I also think the insane amount of travel I have done has helped my writing as well. The idea that most people experience things by reading about them is not right in my eyes. Well rounded writers are citizens of the world and need to get off their ass and experience things and then use that in their work. How can you write about pain and love and anything with any sort of passion if you haven’t lived it. Heartbreak comes to mind...if you haven’t had your heart completely broken to the point of exhaustion, how would you be able to portray this correctly? It would ring false in the readers mind. I am not saying go through hell, but what I am saying is try to be in the moment, let the world sink into you and the pain, suffering and the joy be part of your waking life. That said, I try not to read too many comics, focus on an array of writers and watch the news as often as possible.
With inking, that’s an easy one. I look and still love the work of Frank Frazetta, Kevin Nowlan, Klaus Janson and Jack Davis among many others. I really don't ink much these days though.
AB: Do you miss it? Would you say you prefer writing to inking since the former has been your focus as of late?
JP: I miss inking good pencils. For the last year, most of the pencil work I have gotten to ink has not been up to standards. This is the editors fault, not so much the penciler. The last job I did had so many patches on each page I just handed them back to the editor. Most recently, I got to ink a Darwyn Cooke cover and that was a different matter all together. Honestly, I will take on only the inking gigs I feel something for and will not take on any more just to make a check. I can afford to do this because I actually think ahead and plan for times when work will not be so readily available. There are only a handful of people who I will ink for now but when I am doing it, I love it. That all said, writing for me is a bit easier and less time consuming and there is nothing more fun than writing something and receiving the art to see how it was interpreted. I am a visual person, so artists usually appreciate my scripts. The funny thing about getting older and being in this business for a while is to take a step back and look at things and realize that we all spend an insane amount of time doing what we really don't want to do. I am, for the most part, done with that.
AB: You’ve written books for several of the major comic companies. How do you feel the comic industry has changed over time, for better and worse?
JP: Well, better and worse in many ways. If it wasn't for the companies outside Marvel and DC, I would have probably changed careers by now. The fans are the ones that need to change a bit more and stop buying only one type of book. Their decisions at the store influence what is being produced. It's frustrating that only superhero books dominate the racks but little by little things are changing again, thank God. I try to stay positive but it gets me nuts that most comic stores mainly stock only the big two and some random big sellers. The prices for comics are a bit steep for what you get...but everything is going up in price, so it is what it is. A few years back I was running a small side company for Wizard magazine called Black Bull comics and because I had complete editorial control, I took the back end of the comic and added 12 pages of letters, photos, comic strips and pin ups...because I felt the books needed more for the reader to feel involved with. I am really proud of those additions. What I do find amazing is that Justin Gray and I are able to still be writing JONAH HEX now after 40 issues and that's a positive sign. When I grew up in the 70's there were so many genre comics coming out you wouldn't believe. I wonder what is different now from then...am I rambling? Well, I can talk all day about this.
AB: I’ve got time. What do you think is different now from then? How did we get stuck on the superhero highway?
JP: That's easy, superhero books made more money so more superhero books were made. It's economics. Why do a western when a crappy, horribly written superhero book can sell three times more? There are a handful of excellent superhero comics being done each month, but let’s be honest, for the most part, all the others are rehashes of old stories or are so weighed down with continuity that handing one of these books to a new reader will guarantee that they will never pick up a comic again. On a positive note, a lot of indies and graphic novels are getting attention, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Honestly, I will know things are changing when the graphic novel section at any chain bookstore will stop looking like a hurricane stacked the books and actually have displays and their own table as you walk in. Forget the flash-in-the-pan books that tie into the comic movie of the week...I am talking about respect overall for the product. It's places like this that can change the perception of the product if they choose to.
AB: Where do you see the future of comic books heading? What are a few of the things you would like to see more or less of?
JP: More graphic novels, all multi-book titles like SUPERMAN, BATMAN, X-MEN and SPIDERMAN come out in one square bound book once a month for 12 bucks, and this 'one story in eight issues' crap put to rest and writers get back to telling stories that move and not drag. These days you can't tell if a story is bad 'till you buy four issues, lol. I think all the books should be formatted differently, square-bound, better paper and come out monthly. Between all the titles, there will still be plenty to buy each week. The other thing I wish companies would do is if they are gonna start charging four bucks a comic, put a short story in the back of the comic. Try new ideas, have some fun for a change. I do hope the time of weekly twenty-two page comics comes to an end. Nothing would make me happier than to do a ninety page comic four times a year. It's a European way of thinking I know...but keeping it in this current format gives the illusion of it being disposable product and I just don’t think it is. Personally I hope we see less crossovers, less superhero books and less terrible art.
AB: Definitely with ya on getting more for our money. Coughing up four dollars per comic is killing me. I, unfortunately, do not plan ahead. Who is your favorite fictional character of all time, be they male, female and/or other?
JP: Well, one that I did not create I would have to say the Torpedo character created by Enrique Abuli and Jordi Bernet that was published in Spain and will be translated and collected again in the U.S. by I.D.W. The series is about a hit man during the 1920's and had some of the darkest humor I have ever read and the character himself was an unforgiving bastard, which for some reason, entertains the hell out of me. Now, a character I created, it would have to be Painkiller Jane. She is someone that I have been writing so long, it seems like she is a real person to me. I adore her undying love for her friends and her kick-ass attitude. Both of these characters are far from perfect, and I guess that's the appeal to me.
AB: You and Joe Quesada created ‘Painkiller Jane’ and ‘Ash’, the former being a police officer with Wolverine-like healing powers, the later being a firefighter with some pyrokinetic abilities. How did the idea for these characters come about? Would you like to see either of them make it to the silver screen? And did you ever have a desire to join the force/become a firefighter yourself, or do you just like writing about these types of heroes?
JP: When we first had the notion of self-publishing we had to come up with some characters and indirectly we wrote what we knew and based the characters in New York and in the case of Ash, based the character on a fireman we knew named Bobby Gallowitz who hurt himself on the job and also on a grammar school friend Terry Quinn who is a fireman as well in Queens and what we later found out was what the Dennis Leary character was based on in Rescue Me. With Jane, we wanted to create a female hero that was not like anything out there at the time, which simply means she didn't have huge breasts and seduce men and kill them. There was a lot of that going on, trust me. The original idea for a fireman superhero came out of an idea that hit me while in the shower and for Jane, it made sense to make her a cop since a lot of what she was going to do as a character had to do with the law. For me, Ash has always been a visual character and Jane a personal heartfelt one. Personality wise, Ash is Joe and Jane is me. As far as making it to the big screen, Ash is owned by Dreamworks and Paramount at the moment and JANE has had a TV movie and a twenty-two episode series and by San Diego I will be able to announce another JANE deal that make the fans very happy.
We all want to be and do superhero things in real life and working for the police and fire department are the closest we can actually get to doing that. All that said, as a child I dreamed of being both but the reality of the stress and dealing with tragedy on a daily basis lost its charms for this adult. It's much easier to write about and admire them...and that’s what I do.
AB: Well speaking as a big fan of PAINKILLER JANE, I for one can't wait for your upcoming announcement. I'm buying my plane ticket to San Diego as we speak. What is your favorite personality trait of Jane’s?
JP: Probably that she never gives up and never worries about what others think about her or what she does. She is consistent and true to herself and it's something I try to be. I also like the idea that she is open-minded to a lot of different things and gives them a try first. That's something I wish I had more of in me. Skydiving and shark fighting come to mind.
AB: Two things I've always wanted to try, except I'd rather pet a shark than fight it. I have to say I also enjoy her open mindedness, especially when it comes to her own sexuality. We don't see many bisexual protagonists in comics, and Jane is quite the awesome ambassador for this particular orientation. What is one of the most all around entertaining and enjoyable projects you’ve worked on?
JP: Right now it's the JONAH HEX series for DC and a series called THE LAST RESORT coming from IDW comics this summer. On a constant basis, it's PAINKILLER JANE because I don't have to write traditional comics with Jane. The books can be all about her sexuality, her screw-ups and such and really never have to do the normal comic thing, and that's always a breath of fresh air. JONAH HEX gives Justin and I a real cool chance to tell morality tales and work with some amazing talent and THE LAST RESORT book gives us a chance to tell a balls to the wall, uncensored story that explores death, love and sex in a biological disaster background. What more could a writer want?
AB: What indeed? Care to share ideas/spoilers on any current projects you’re working on?
JP: Well, I am translating the TORPEDO books for IDW, writing THE LAST RESORT for them as well and they are collecting THE RESISTANCE series we did for Wildstorm comics and that has an awesome Darwyn Cooke cover on it. We are on the road to hitting issue fifty of JONAH HEX and have a ton of really cool artists on hand and are knee deep in POWERGIRL at the moment with Amanda Conner on board. The series starts out with some really big superhero action and then gets grounded in a way that will totally make the fans very happy. More on that soon, but the series itself starts in either May or June.
AB: Sounds like a well-rounded idea, we'll keep our eyes peeled for it on the stands. Any wise words of advice for aspiring writers?
JP: Go out and travel the world, listen to stories from your elders and ask questions daily. Do all that, learn the language and stay current with the news. Stay open minded and argue daily as well. Read the classics, stay away from bad comics and learn how to write for TV and film.
AB: Duly noted. And now for the random question of the day: What is your favorite Italian dish? Personally I dig a decent gnocchi with a tasty meaty sauce.
JP: I was going to say Monica Bellucci, but I was thinking probably the way my mother made meatballs. She would first fry them then put them in a huge sauce pot and cook them for an entire day with other cuts of meat. They were a meal in themselves.
AB: Damn, that sounds yummy. Now I'm craving a hearty Italian meal. Before I tend to my appetite, I want to say thanks so much for your time and sharing a bit of yourself with the readers of CWR. Good luck on everything Jimmy, and looking forward to reading/watching more of your work!Visit CWR at Unsungheroes!
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