Longtime writing duo Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray are different things to different people. For some they’re the long-running Jonah Hex scribes writing All-Star Western. For others they’re the writers of the excellent Power Girl series in 2009 and 2010 with Amanda Conner. And for others they’re best known for their creator-owned work like The Monolith and Kickstarter successes like Queen Crab and Retrovirus. Well, now they’ve got something else they want to be known for: sex and violence.Literally, that’s the name of the new Grindhouse-style split book the duo are working on, and using Kickstarter to get it published. Launched late last month, Sex And Violence, Vol. 1’s Kickstarter fund-drive has already met its $18,000 fundraising goal and is hoping to double that to give more rewards and a longer future to this series. But what’s it about?
Sex And Violence, Vol. 1 contains two stories, one by Palmiotti and artist Juan Santacruz called “Girl In A Storm” and a second by Gray and artist Jimmy Broxton called “Pornland, Oregon.” The first follows a female NYPD officer who gets more than just a casual interest in a lesbian couple that moves into an apartment across the way from her window. In Gray’s tale, he follows a grandfather who cuts a swath through the internet porn community after his granddaughter is found dead. The duo describe these two stories as about “crime, lust and redemption,” warning of excessive nudity and violence making it distinctly not for kids.
Interested readers are open to contribute funds to the Kickstarter for Sex And Violence, Vol. 1 from now through Thursday, Dec. 13, with pledge rewards ranging from a PDF copy of the book, to a print edition, original art and even characters named after you in the book. For more, we talked with Palmiotti and Gray about his eye-opening and adults-only title.
Newsarama: What can you tell us about your stories in Sex & Violence, Vol. 1?Jimmy Palmiotti: “Girl in a Storm” is about a female cop in New York that is going through some very emotionally difficult times on her job and is looking for a little release and normality in her life. She is a bit of a lost soul staying busy enough to not have to think about her problems, but while she is forced into some downtime, she finds other things to keep her busy, including her neighbors across the way from her apartment. For me, this is a study of a woman who isn’t about her sexuality as much as she is just going towards what interests her and is finding out her interests might not be the healthiest kind. I had a lot of fun with this story. Nrama: Justin, for “Pornland, Oregon” you’re really delving into the seedy side of the online porn community. How aware were you of the what’s going on in the real world and what inspired you to set a story here?
Justin Gray: First let me thank everyone that has backed the project. Without you this doesn’t happen and we’re all grateful for your support. The porn aspects are a backdrop to a story about family and how past mistakes can catch up with you. I’m not interested in plumbing the morality of the porn industry as it applies to either culture or personal belief systems. In the story Rick has been raising his granddaughter from the time she was an infant. In her teens she rebelled and eventually ran away from home before becoming involved with people in Internet porn. I see it as a parent’s nightmare. Particularly in this case if you have a daughter. Rick has dedicated so much of his life to raising a child and protecting her from the dangers of the world and then one day she’s a complete stranger. When his granddaughter turns up dead he abandons his life and goes looking for the people responsible.Nrama: Jimmy, “Girl In A Storm” sees you venturing a look at a NYC peeping tom who happens to be a female police officer, scoping out a female couple who live in a neighboring building. First off – sexy women, you’re an unabashed lover of the female form – from Brooklyn Bizarro to your Sexy Monday posts on your blog. Is it hard to conjure sexiness in comics?
Palmiotti: Sexiness is different than nudity, so there has to be a story and character development involved otherwise the sexual side of the story seems cheap. A ton of comic and comic characters are sexy when handled the correct way…and a lot of this comes from the way the character acts, the characters confidence and look and then a lot of how the character is drawn. It has to be the right combination to really work. I think we got lucky because both Jimmy Broxton and Juan Santacruz get it and apply it to their work. On another note, I have always loved women and everything about them. My other hobby is taking photographs of people so it seemed natural in a way to write a story involving a voyeur because even behind the camera with a willing subject there is a certain detachment when looking at a subject.
Nrama: Sex and violence is pretty risqué in comics, but you seem to be tackling that head-on… putting it in the title, no less. What led you to do these stories, and title it so succinctly and upfront?Palmiotti: We figured why beat around the bush and just name the book the simplest thing we could come up with. It also gives us a banner to work with and do more stories down the line. Honestly, I can write these kind of stories day in and day out and never be bored. I am very interested in dissecting what makes a person tick.
Gray: The title was something we just started calling it whenever we discussed doing these stories based on a theme. It served as a focal point, but I think we looked at it not only from different perspectives but also how we could twist perception.
Nrama: This project has already surpassed its funding goal of $18,000 and as if right now are close to $30,000. With this extra money, how does that change or expand the project?Palmiotti: The first thing to understand is that with extra pledges comes extra commitments…so most of the money goes to the Print-On-Demand book printing, the sets of signed prints offered, packaging for all the pledge levels, getting help fulfilling and then the shipping charges from every single package that has to go out. After that, we have given both of our artists more money when we hit a higher amount and then we added bonuses to the pledge people, called stretch goals that we have to deliver more product to. I have learned from the last two that these things are all part of the process.
Gray: I’m just stunned and humbled to have this kind of support in a way you don’t feel anywhere else. Numbers for larger publishers are either cause for celebration or a slow death of a title as you watch numbers bleed away month by month. With Sex & Violence and Retrovirus we’re able to set up a direct connection and communication with an audience that wants to help make the book a reality. I love the idea of community and rather than buying a book out of habit or dropping it because money is tight we’re all ushering a book into existence.Nrama: You’ve done four of these, successfully I should add, so what would you say is the hardest part about raising funds via Kickstarter?
Palmiotti: Two things come to mind. Making sure you have pledge bonuses that people actually want to pay for, and then the actual shipping, packaging and follow-up of having 500 packages leave your home that are packed correctly. I have had so many different things happen with the shipping…lost packages, damages, returns, etc…you really aren’t finished till each and every person is taken care of to their satisfaction. This is the unglamorous part of Kickstarter most people don’t talk about.
Gray: There is a tremendous amount of work that goes into it after the business of making the comic is completed. You are the creator, editor, manager and distributor of the project with all of the complexities that Jimmy mentioned. It is also a much more personal experience for everyone involved. The packages you get have been hand packed and driven to the post office by the same people who made the comic. It sounds corny, but I think it makes it more special in the case of a book like this.
Nrama: How soon will Kickstarter backers get the POD Sex & Violence, Vol. 1 book?Palmiotti: All of them will receive the link to the PDF around February …we are shooting for sooner though. The actual POD book will come in end of February or the beginning of March.
Nrama: You two are Kickstarter alums, getting four projects successfully funded with it. Along with Diamond, publishers and retailers, it’s become an essential part of your pipeline of getting creator-owned work out there. What’s that like for you two?
Palmiotti: It is a godsend to know that we can create a product that the actual readers can tell us weather they want it or not and not have to deal with a retailer or company that brings their opinion into the mix and orders a book based on how they think it would sell or doesn’t green light a project because the feel there is no market for it. This works for me because I have to think that no one would support this unless they felt an interest in the subject matter and this is the closest thing to sitting at a convention with a book and talking to a customer. It is direct and the feedback is honest and if they are happy, they become a return customer. I like to think that everyone that has supported our books have been very satisfied with the way we handled them and the way we delivered the product to them. I am also a big supporter of other Kickstarter projects as well.
Gray: It allows us to not only tell stories we want to tell in the formats that we feel they’re best suited for, but also the opportunity to connect directly with the audience for each book. These books exist specifically because there are people that want them. As we saw with Creator-Owned Heroes there is an audience, but the size of that audience wasn’t large enough to maintain monthly publication at the costs required to bring that book to market. There are simply too many books and a system that is built to exclude a majority of independent comics. Kickstarter levels the playing field by helping an audience and a book find and support each other. Again it goes back to a sense of crafting something from an initial idea to putting your own stamp on the box and sending it directly to a person that believes in your work.Nrama: People don’t realize this, but you two are extremely prolific these days – cranking out numerous creator-owned books like this, while also doing Big Two work like All-Star Western, Human Bomb and Phantom Lady. How do you two work so well together? What would you say are your individual strengths that fit well with one another?
Palmiotti: Justin is one of my best friends and we love doing what we do…so this is easy on so many levels. Justin’s strength is he has a brain that is unique and different than mine, more scientific. He looks at bigger picture events…understands the layers of things better than I do. Our backgrounds couldn’t be more different as well and we each bring something to the table. He can also type 400 times faster than I can.
Gray: I have learned and continue to learn so much from Jimmy as a friend and creatively. I think our differences are part of it and the fact that he tolerates my personality quirks that drive normal people crazy. Creatively Jimmy can always shove his hand into a project and pull the heart out of it or put heart into it. That’s what he’s looking for above everything else. Emotional investment is the most important part of any story and over the years I’ve learned that he has an instinctive understanding of a larger emotional spectrum. I guess if you needed a corny pop culture comparison I’d say Kirk and Spock.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!