Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, the writing team behind DC's Harley Quinn and Starfire, are taking their quirky approach to creator-owned comic books with Superzero. Debuting this week, Superzero is about a young hero wannabe named Dru who is convinced that comic books and pop culture are sending her a special message to save the world.
Superzero works as a love story for comic books, as 19-year-old Dru believes she's decoded the secret formula to become a superhero by reading comic books. In the first issue, she puts her theory to the test and the result is a surprising mix of humor and heroics, with a focus on a young, smart, just-like-all-of-us comic fan who follows through with what she believes.
Illustrated by Rafael de Latorre and Marcelo Maiolo, Superzero is one of the first titles out of the new company Aftershock.
Newsarama talked with Palmiotti about the new series, which he believes was under-ordered by stores, and found out how readers can get their own copy of Superzero even if their local comic shop didn't get it.
Newsarama: What's the main title Superzero mean? And what's the "quick pitch" description for the book?
Jimmy Palmiotti: It refers to the main character, Dru. "Superzero" is the name given to her by classmates that don't like her, making fun of her obsession with comics and pop culture — and the fact that she views herself a hero, or a hero wannabe. The idea of the series is, we follow this 19-year-old girl as she explores the origins of other heroes and tries to shape her own destiny at any price. In tone it is a lot of fun and a bit out there, like the concept itself.
Nrama: Let's talk about Dru. She's got a fun personality and some wild ideas about what comic books mean to the real world. How would you describe her?
Palmiotti: Dru is optimistic, smarter than most people around her and is sweet in nature. She has a really established sense of what is right and wrong and stands by it, her family and her friends. She also thinks the world is telling her a special message and she has to act on it in order to move to the place she always dreamed she could be.
Nrama: Where did you and Amanda get the idea from for the character and story?
Palmiotti: The character of Dru is a lot like Amanda, at least that's what I keep telling her. The way she absorbs pop culture and looks at things differently makes her a true artist in every sense. The story progressed between us pretty naturally and its huge climax came out of left field while we were working on it. It became an organic thing that we just followed and it all made sense.
Nrama: Although there are elements of some of your other comic books — particularly the bits of humor — this first issue feels a little different from stuff you've been doing lately. What got you interested in writing this story in particular with Amanda?
Palmiotti: We actually came up with the concept and name about six to eight years ago and have been sitting on it until we found just the right time, artists and company to do it with.
We have both been fascinated with the idea of where superheroes came from — and in what reality these types of people would exist past the people we call heroes in our real life, like doctors, nurses, cops, firemen and so on.
We wanted to present this concept and idea in a fun way. I think at its core it is a lot like the other books we do because we feel a connection to the main character. And in the heart of all the characters we've created someone we like, no matter how much they may screw up.
With Harley Quinn her flaws are obvious, with Kara it is an unfamiliarity with what the people of this planet do and with Dru, she is looking at the world as if it is feeding her a message, her dreams building towards something she can't understand but has to follow. All these characters have strength to act on their impulses and needs and I think that's also the charm of them.
Nrama: How would you describe the tone of Superzero overall? What kind of readers would this appeal to?
Palmiotti: This should appeal to anyone that enjoys comics, pop culture, enjoys our work on Harley Quinn and Starfire and understands what makes a great looking comic, because the art is a major selling point on the book.
Nrama: Let's talk about the art. How did you link up with Rafael and Marcelo? And how does their art inform the story?
Palmiotti: We were offered a ton of artists for this project. I have at least 15 full files of people's work that we looked long and hard at, and as soon as we saw the work of Rafael De Latorre and Marcelo Maiolo, we knew in an instant these would be our guys.
With all the experience between Amanda and I, all we wanted was perfect storytelling and we got that and a certain beauty to the work as well. They understand the location of the book, can create characters that look their age and also have a real sense of fun and excitement that we haven’t seen in a while. We love what they are doing.
Nrama: You said you were waiting for the right company to help you publish this book. How did you get involved with AfterShock for this project?
Palmiotti: They made us an offer we couldn't refuse, created a deal that was creator-shared and brought in people we liked, like Aftershock publisher Joe Pruett and Editor-In-Chief Mike Marts, for us to connect to.
It's exciting and difficult to be part of a new launch because we all know there are so many books on the market right now, but they have a line-up of talent other companies would kill for and we are having a blast.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell potential readers about Superzero?
Palmiotti: I will say that more than half of the comic shops in the United States haven’t even ordered a single copy of the book, so come Wednesday December 16 there will be a lot of upset fans wondering why their retailer didn't order the book. We are happy to let the collectors know that along with Emerald City Comics in Florida, we have put together a chase cover that is available today for order with a special blank word balloon that we will sign and personalize, and it's available to anyone at paperfilms.com and at emeraldcitycomics.com.
We do ask that if your retailer has not ordered it, ask them to please pre-order future issues, and have them ask Diamond if they have any copies. We really believe this is some of the best work we have ever done and are super proud of Superzero, so we hope you all get a chance to read it.