Painkiller Jane was first introduced in the '90s by Jimmy Palmiotti and Joe Quesada, as part of their Event Comics publishing line. The character has extraordinary healing abilities but a very ordinary capacity to feel pain, and has starred in multiple miniseries and a TV show which ran for one season on Sci-Fi.
A lot has changed for Palmiotti and Quesada since the '90s — Palmiotti is one of the most prominent writers in the comic book industry, with multiple work-for-hire (including DC's freshly announced Harley Quinn ongoing series) and creator-owned projects; and Quesada served for a decade as Marvel's editor-in-chief, and now currently serves as the company's chief creative officer.
Yet after a stint at Dynamite, Painkiller Jane is returning to comics at Marvel's creator-owned Icon line, with Palmiotti writing, and a new look designed by his frequent collaborator (and wife) Amanda Conner, who also provides covers along with Dave Johnson. The new four-issue Painkiller Jane series — which sees the title character tasked with protecting a Saudi Arabian princess — starts in November and is illustrated by Juan Santacruz, Sam Lotfi and Paul Mounts; we talked to Palmiotti to learn more about his return to the character.
Newsarama: Jimmy, after most recently being at Dynamite, Painkiller Jane is now a part of Marvel's Icon line. What makes Icon the right place for Painkiller Jane, and now the right time for you to revisit the character? It seems that you've been doing more at Marvel lately, between this and What If?: Avengers vs. X-Men.
Jimmy Palmiotti: We had a great run at Dynamite comics with Painkiller Jane a few years back while the TV series was on the air, and after that other work took priority, so I put the character and book on the back burner. I wanted to write more Jane stories, but didn’t want to just launch the character again without a better plan.
Joe and I were recently talking about the best place to publish again and I’ve been working on a couple of projects with Marvel and the idea and offer came to make it an Icon series. I naturally jumped at it. I am a huge fan of the Icon line of books, so it all made sense. I feel with so many exciting things going on in the world of comics now that the timing makes sense. I also love getting to work with a bunch of people at Marvel that I have been a friend with forever. It just seemed like the perfect fit.
Nrama: Since it has been a few years since the last Painkiller Jane project, where do we find the character when this series picks up? And has your take on her evolved in the past few years?
Palmiotti: Painkiller Jane has always been a very complex character, even though on the surface she seems like an unrelenting badass. There is a vulnerability about her that keeps her interesting to me, and she is one of the few characters that are open about her sexual preferences. This has always been the case with Jane since we created her back in 1995.
When we first created her, she was to compliment the Ash character we had at the time. As the character evolved and I started writing her full time, she has become a bit less mysterious and more grounded in her adventures. I’m taking Jane in an even more mature direction, keeping the over the top action on full throttle. The new adventures will be mostly about her best friend Maureen, a detective at the NYPD, and Jane being her personal lethal weapon to get the dirty work done. Unlike most superhero comics, Jane doesn’t have that single bad guy that keeps coming back. When she meets someone that is doing horrible things, she does her best to simply wipe them off the planet.
Nrama: The new series involves Jane protecting a Saudi Arabian princess, and coming across assassins along the way. What can you say about the inspiration behind the story? And what aspects were you looking to explore with the title character?
Palmiotti: Amanda and I read a story a while back about a princess that was so protected from the real world that she couldn’t even function in simple tasks and that she had no idea how the real world worked because she was so kept away from everything outside. I thought it was fascinating and wanted to set up a storyline where Jane has to be stuck babysitting someone like this, and also protect her from groups of assassins that want the princess dead for their own personal reasons.
The idea that Jane is going to show this girl the world around her in a totally different light is fun, and in the end, says more about the character of Jane . The entire first issue is a set piece where we see Jane sent to Kennedy airport to meet the princess and just about every single thing goes wrong. It’s a bit over the top, but at the same time a blast. I am also having a blast writing the cause and effect scenes and making the assassins each extremely unique. It is a colorful world they live in.
Nrama: At least the first issue includes a 10-page back-up story before Painkiller Jane had powers, drawn by Sam Lotfi. What prompted you to visit this period of the character's history?
Palmiotti: I didn’t want to write an origin story with Jane out of the gate because that would take up the whole book, but wanted to show a little glimpse of how Maureen and Jane met and became friends. It’s a really simple flashback story that is less about her powers and more about two friends bonding. Sam Lofti did the art on it and it has a bit of an animated feel to it that works perfectly for this particular story. My goal is that by the end of this book the reader will know what makes these characters tick and will want to explore them more as the series goes on. As far as how Jane gets her powers and such, I will be showing that as the series goes on. I just recently finished a screenplay with co-writer Craig Weeden that is being shopped around Hollywood now that is all about her origin. I might at some point offer that as a download in the future.
Nrama: The interior art team for this series is Juan Santacruz and Paul Mounts. What makes them the right artists for this project?
Palmiotti: Juan is the regular artist with Paul on color. I have been working with them both for a long time now. Juan and Paul first worked together with me way back when on a series Justin Gray and I created for Wildstorm called The Resistance, back in 2001. For anyone wanting to check that out, the first issue is free on comiXology.
When I knew I was going to start the book again, I had Amanda Conner do a new design of Jane…simplify all the over the top elements and ground the character a bit. At the time I was looking for someone that could handle a lot of detail, locations and the interaction of the women in the book and not make the characters look like teenagers. As well, I wanted someone that could excel at action storytelling, someone that was able to draw a book that if I had to, I could take out the dialogue and the reader would still know what was going on.
I was finishing up the Sex and Violence Kickstarter with Juan and asked him if he was booked, never dreaming I could get him. As luck would have it, something fell through for him and he got started right away and the book and his work are looking amazing.
Having Paul on color is just a gift. He brings Batwing to life each month at DC and he has been my go-to guy for color since the late '90s. This is the dream team on the book on so many levels, but all you really need to do is take a look at the art and no words are needed.
Nrama: Given that Painkiller Jane is now at Marvel's Icon line, has your Painkiller Jane co-creator Joe Quesada — who is obviously busy as chief creative officer — been involved in the creative process for this story at all?
Palmiotti: Joe is one of the busiest people I know, and in a perfect world he would be all over the book. The good thing is that Joe sees everything I am doing and he trusts me to do the right thing with the character, so I get his blessing to get to work. Unlike a lot of creators out there that share properties, we are good friends and don’t have the ego stuff that gets in the way a lot of the time. We both want what is best for the character and in the end, that’s all that matters.
Nrama: Let's end with a common concern with long-running characters who may have been out of circulation for a bit — how much of your approach involves the balance of making things both accessible to whoever may be encountering the character for the first time, but also rewarding to readers who have been following Painkiller Jane for years?
Palmiotti: This is an important question. I have to make the book an accessible read for that fact alone, that we may be introducing the character to a whole new generation, but while doing that, I think the die-hard fans will see things in the book that will make them feel all warm and fuzzy at the same time. To them, the character and stories will have that good old outrageous, spicy, violent feel to them that they have grown to love over the years and there is enough material in the first issue, including a history of the character by writer Patrick wedge, that will bring the new reader up to date. The last thing we want to do is alienate anyone, and this has always been a balancing act for any new book.