Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray know all about superheroes, and all about successful Kickstarter campaigns – but have never done a superhero comic book on Kickstarter until now. Until they found Hype.
Hype is a new 52 page graphic novel by Palmiotti, Gray, and artists Javier Pina and Alessia Nocera about a superhero that works for the U.S. government but has one catch: he’s only awake one hour per day. His handlers have his hour pretty booked, but when he begins to get a taste of what real life outside of work can be, he begins to ask questions.
Hype has until February 19 to raise $26,000 on Kickstarter in order to fully-fund and publish this graphic novel, and as of February 12 they’ve raised just over $20,000.
Newsarama asked questions of Hype’s writers, talking both about the story, as well as the unique challenges a superhero-genred comic book has on the Kickstarter marketplace.
Newsarama: Jimmy, Justin, what can you tell us about Hype?
Justin Gray: Hype is a 52 page original graphic novel about an augmented human being whose body needs a 23 hours to recuperate after using his extraordinary abilities. Usually that hour is put to use keeping our interests safe from various threats, but it leaves little room for our hero to experience being human.
Jimmy Palmiotti: It’s also the story of a lost woman finding her way back to her own humanity while being assigned to oversee the hype program and interact with her new apprentice.
Nrama: An hour a day, but you’re superhuman – what a gift and a curse. How’d this idea come to you?
Gray: I’m not really sure exactly when it came about, it was something that we cultivated as an idea based on talking about how short life is and how we can sometimes take our time for granted. Most of us think there’s plenty of time to do all the things we want, when in reality we should be living life, I mean truly living it in a meaningful way. It just so happens that the character of Hype works as a great metaphor for that.
Palmiotti: What Justin says. The concept of limited time and the idea of how much wasted time we all use was a big concept for us, as well as the idea that with technology going the way it is, eventually we will start making soldiers to fight our wars for us.
Nrama: What kind of missions does Hype do for the U.S. Military?
Gray: I think what I like about this concept and story is that the government doesn’t fully understand him, or what kinds of applications he should be used for so they go with the most obvious - terrorism. Ultimately I see Hype understanding our world better than we do and realizing a single interest group like a government is a narrow way of looking at the world.
Nrama: Beneath the costume, the powers and the “hype,” who is Noah Haller?
Gray: Noah is a blank slate. This is largely because he’s manufactured, which brings about interesting ethical questions I think mirror where our medical future lies. He is child-like, learning about the world as a child would, but also possessing incredible abilities that most seasoned adults would have trouble processing.
Palmiotti: We would like him because he looks at the world and everything in it with a fresh take and appreciates what we take for granted, and even abuse, as the human race plows through and destroys its own natural resources.
Nrama: And how does meeting Amanda Marr change things?
Gray: I’m personally fascinated by what soldiering in the future will looks like. I had this idea where people might be able to turn off their emotions during wartime and then reactivate them in peacetime as a means of circumventing things like PTSD. Some of that made it into the story in the form of Amanda Marr, who is a scientist and behavior specialist fascinated by the same things. Hype’s first mission is a failure and Amanda is brought into the mix to see if there’s a way to avoid that failure in the future. The relationship that forms changes both their views of the world, especially Noah’s.
Nrama: What’s to stop Noah from trying to pursue a normal life?
Gray: He can’t as presently constituted. Even if he sat perfectly still for the hour he is given his body would burn out and he’d die.
Palmiotti: He has to “ sleep” 23 hours a day and while he does this, he needs protection.
Nrama: Illustrating this book is Javier Pina and digital painter Alessia Nocera. Both are in-demand by the Big Two, so how’d you get them onboard to do Hype with you?
Gray: We’ve had a relationship with David Macho and the Spanish Inquisition team for years and have worked with many of those amazing artists. As for Alessia, she was recommended by Fabrizio Fiorentino who brilliantly illustrated our last Kickstarter, Abbadon.
Palmiotti: Some artists also choose their work by how interested they are in a project. Both of these phenomenal talents can write their own check and yet I think the concept is what drew them to the project. You can see the talent in each and every page.
Nrama: You two have become Kickstarter kingpins, but you’re also well-known on the convention circuit. How do print copies of your Kickstarter-exclusives do when selling them in person at conventions after the fact?
Palmiotti: Kickstarter Kingpins is a funny term. With each project we do, we are always on a pretty big learning curve. What we have learned is that a concept like Hype is probably one of the hardest things to sell on Kickstarter and we know we will need the entire run of the campaign to hit our goals on this one.
As far as the books at cons, well, first off, Justin only does a couple a year and I have cut my cons in half, but honestly, it is super rare I ever have enough left over to sell. If people are looking for them we have them at the Paperfilms.comsite, what little we have. I am not a person that likes to carry a ton of books all over the country, that's why the Paperfilms site is set up, to supply people with the books, Amanda’s art and prints and digital downloads. When I do bring print copies, they sell right away, but the ones the Kickstarter people get are usually different versions with signed prints and so on. It is why the site exists.
Nrama: Jimmy, does this feel like a modern-day version of running your own publishing company ala Event Comics?
Palmiotti: When we were running Event comics, we were trying very hard to be a mainstream comic company, dealing with Diamond and distributors and so on. That was a full-time job and in the end scheduling became just one of the many problems we had to deal with. We put all of that aside to do Marvel Knights and looking back, we did change the face of Marvel but at a cost to our own books. What I have learned that if I want to make mainstream comics, well, there are plenty of people I can work for, and I do. What I try to do with the Paperfilms books is experiment. Push the content and format and experiment with ideas that don't need to sell so well or be so mainstream. As well I like to think of the company and website as a grass roots operation since it is my buddy Patrick Wedge and I running things. One day I might be able to raise the capitol to actually have an actual publishing company, or have another company want to partner full-time, but until then we will partner with friends like Adaptive on projects.
Nrama: I’ve interviewed you about several of your Kickstarter projects, and seemingly always at your side is designer/letterer Bill Tortolini. In this word of creator-owned and self-publishing, what makes Bill an integral part of your team?
Gray: Bill is a great guy, hard working, intelligent with a great eye for design and a great last name. Who doesn’t love Tortolini? All kidding aside, we have a great working relationship with Bill and know he’s always going to give 100% day or night to each project.
Palmiotti: Bill is a lifesaver and a talented guy, as is our other brilliant designer John J Hill. We love them both because although they do a lot of the same work, their styles are completely different. Each job has a look and having them both is a real gift.
Nrama: Correct me if I’m wrong, but of the nine Kickstarter projects you’ve done Hype is the first straight-up superhero tale. Superheroes dominate the traditional comic book market, but why are you leaning into it now for your Kickstarter line of books?
Palmiotti: It is just this one book, and like I said earlier, this one will not get funded till the last minute because it is looked at as a superhero book, which has flooded the market right now. Honestly, it’s more sci-fi with a mix of romance, but visually it comes off this way. We are hoping we have enough pledge rewards that interest people to maybe give the book a shot. I am adding some new rewards every four days, some pretty out there, some skype sessions and so on…and this will be a slow process, but I am confident we will reach our goal, mainly because the art is so beautiful, the story fun and because with all our Kickstarters, we have delivered a top notch product with exclusive materials. I have faith in our wonderful audience. They have always been our greatest asset.
Gray: Hype has superhero elements for sure and the suit can be misleading in some ways, but I think anyone that has followed the work we do as a team will recognize that we don’t rely on a single genre in storytelling.