Jimmy Palmiotti's back with a new graphic novel on Kickstarter, this time delving into the horror genre with a modern twist.
Killing Time in America, a 112-page hardcover book that Palmiotti co-wrote with Craig Weeden, tells the story of a group that travels to the U.S. specifically to go on a murder spree – but they're webcasting it back to their hometown so others can delight in the grisly deaths.
The "twist" is not only the incorporation of technology into the killers' rampage, but the secret motivation for the murders that can be traced back generations.
The story also introduces a tough cop who's tracking the killers, because this isn't the first time someone from their hometown came to the U.S. to pile up bodies.
Illustrated by Justin Norman, the artist also known as Moritat, the book is being funded through Kickstarter with pledges by fans. The total needed to fund the comic book is $38,000, and at the time of this article's publishing, the page had almost made it.
Newsarama talked to Palmiotti to find out more about the project, why he keeps coming back to Kickstarter, and what types of benefits he's offering to fans who jump on board now with Killing Time in America.
Newsarama: Jimmy, what brings you back to Kickstarter? Enjoying the independence from publishers?
Jimmy Palmiotti: This is my tenth Kickstarter over the years and as always, what brings me to this format and way of doing business is the connection and interaction to the actual people buying the books.
Kickstarting a project lets you know in advance if people believe and want the project by their show of support, and its success or failure has everything to do with the content offered and the way the campaign and rewards are presented.
Nothing makes me happier to travel and do conventions and have people come up to me and tell me they supported the campaign and that they were happy with what they got and so on. That connection is something truly unique to the process and it never gets old.
As far as independence from publishing goes, the risk is all on me with these projects and that’s fine because in that process, I can retain ownership of the properties, which I cannot really do in many places. Image Comics is probably the best deal out there, but with Kickstarter, again, I get to sell directly to the people interested and form a relationship that is lasting.
You would be shocked by the amount of people that come back over and over to support these and for me, I try harder and harder to make them happy. With the website, Paperfilms.com and the newsletter, these connections become enforced even more.
Nrama: OK, what's the quick pitch behind Killing Time in America?
Palmiotti: The simple pitch is a group of foreign killers posing as a family travel to the United States and go on a murder spree in a vacation beach town and podcast it back home for a bar full of sick and twisted people to watch.
Craig and I wanted to write a horror story in the tradition of Friday the 13th and Halloween, creating a backstory that tries to make sense of some of what is going on.
I think a lot of people will understand this, but the difference is we created four characters instead of one and their motivations are what drives the story. It’s a tale of bad people being chased by someone that wants to put an end to them.
Nrama: "Bad people" is an understatement though — like you said, the murderers are not only on a killing spree, but they're sharing their work via a webcast. I know this stuff is rooted in real-world occurrences — we had a high school girl from our local school webcast a rape recently. Are you sort of ripping this idea from the headlines and taking it one step further?
Palmiotti: What struck me when watching a lot of horror movies, especially in the '80s, was thinking about why we would even want to watch something like this and we both know the reality of any of this is frightening as hell, but when you are creating a comic or film, it's many steps away from reality. And we understand this and sit in a theatre or read a book and enjoy this type of entertainment mainly because we feel safe and are open to being scared and shocked, knowing it’s all not real on any level.
Could something like this happen in real life? Well, I sure hope not, but like everyone else, I watch the news every day and what is happening out there is scary as hell, so it’s hard to not to let this stuff influence you when you are a writer for a living, but in the case with Killing Time in America, it’s all fiction. The story is over-the-top in a lot of ways, but at the same time, sadly, may seem possible in the world we live in.
The motivations of the characters differ, but with Detective Hobie, the character tracking down the killers, his detective work is rooted in reality for me, so it plays out in a way that hopefully makes you want for more. We are rooting for Hobie all the way to get some justice.
Nrama: There's an interesting twist partway into the book – the "why" and the "who" of the killers. Without spoiling that moment (assuming you don't want to…), what was it like trying to get into the minds of these killers?
Palmiotti: This is a story about bad guys and the different levels of bad. It’s not so different than writing super villains in comics. There are no capes or super powers, so it all seems more representative of reality, but it’s just as outrageous as, let’s say, The Joker is to me.
Getting into the bad guy’s minds, well, not so simple, since they all have different agendas, but the story itself is the main drive of the book. I think the interesting thing is, when writing bad guys, to remember you have to justify things, even if it’s in the characters own mind. Revenge is a big motive here, but it’s the revenge twist that justifies some of the character’s bad behavior. This is broken somewhat when one of the main characters takes a good look at themselves and starts to question what they really are doing, but we learn all the killers are carrying their own baggage.
I will admit, some scenes make me cringe to write and then seeing Justin Norman illustrating it, well, it brings home that fact.
Nrama: Anything you want to share about the Kickstarter offers for people who back this project?
Palmiotti: Well, we are creating a beautiful 112-page hardcover using the best paper and production and offering, in our pledge sections, original art, signed and limited prints, and a special exclusive edition with an Amanda Conner and Paul Mounts edition that is for adults only.
Check out the main page, and you will see we have something for everyone, including digital rewards that are pretty cool. We tried to create something for everyone.
Nrama: What's your hope for this book? It's a mature read, and like you said, you're creating a hardcover on this one. Is there a sort of vision you see for it? And might there be other chapters?
Palmiotti: For now, all that matters to me is the book in front of me. We have been asked by a lot of the people to do the books in hardcover format and because of the page count, this one was perfect for that treatment. If it gets backed and the people supporting it want to see more, then we will be super happy to go down this road again. But honestly, all I’m worried about is the here and now is the Kickstarter.
Anyone with this much at risk can understand this. The first day of a launch is always a rush, but it’s the week or two after when the hard work must be done finding the right audience for the book.
Nrama: You're working with Craig Weeden on this book. What has he brought to the project, and what was it like working with him?
Palmiotti: Craig is an amazing storyteller, known mostly for his screenwriting work, but he has done novels and so many other things. We work on a lot of projects together and Craig has a true sense of narration and how to get into the character’s heads — their motivations, fears and what makes them tick.
This will be his first graphic novel, but other than format, he took to this so easily, like I knew he would.
The fun part of this process was meeting over and over and piecing this together, really flushing out who the character are, and what he brings to the project is a sense of time and place and the kind of pacing only someone with a talent for could pull off. I really had a blast working with him and after this we have another project in the works that is all ages.
Nrama: Wow, from this to an all-ages story?
Palmiotti: Yeah, a bit of a contrast from this!
Nrama: Let's talk about the art on Killing Time in America. Most of your fans know Moritat's work well. What can you tell us about the art team on this project, and what has it been like developing this story with them?
Palmiotti: I only work with people I trust can deliver a well-crafted story, and Justin brought his passion to this project. I loved working with him on Jonah Hex, but I think this kind of material suits him better. I must have driven him a bit crazy doing this because I love a lot of small panels on a page.
Anyway, as you can see, the art is beautiful and it's all highlighted by the amazing colors of Paperfilms regular Paul Mounts. Paul is taking Justin's work and making it stunning to look at. The colors are deceivingly colorful for such dark material, but they reflect the mood and place where the story is taking place, which is in Saint Petersburg, Florida. Both of these guys are amazing, and then with the lettering and brilliant design work of John J Hill involved, well, the package we put together is stunning.
Nrama: Knowing you and Amanda [Connor, Jimmy's wife and frequent co-collaborator], this isn't the only iron you have in the fire. What other projects do you have in the works?
Palmiotti: Amanda and I are working on a few pitches that will be going around to different publishers soon, but she is also doing covers for DC comics, some animation style guides for Warner and we are working on two series of our own that will eventually launch via Paperfilms.com in one format or another.
We both are planning on mostly working together on a lot of things in the future, but don’t want to tease anything too much till we are ready. I will say people will be seeing more and more of her interiors than they have ever seen before.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell fans about Killing Time in America?
Palmiotti: Just that it would be awesome if they gave the page a look and watched the cool video. And if they support us or not, do us the favor and spread the word around. This is a grassroots project and lives or dies by fan support!