There's a big superhero film hitting theaters this week - Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) - and much of Margot Robbie's take on Harley Quinn is taken squarely from Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti's indelible mark on the character. In fact, the husband-and-wife co-writers are the top comic creators thanked in the credits.
While there's other threads to talk about possible spin-offs and sequels to the film, what does this mean film-wise for Conner and Palmiotti's other foul-mouthed superhero? Of course, I'm talking about The Pro
Debuting in a 2002 Image one-shot co-created with Garth Ennis, The Pro is about a superhero/sex worker who makes a living in a superhero world parodying the likes of DC and Marvel. In some ways a spiritual prequel to Ennis' later The Boys series (which has been getting its own cinematic due), The Pro struck a nerve at the time - both positive and negative - but has gone on to eight printings and several 'almosts' as a movie or animated series.
So with Birds of Prey in theaters and Palmiotti just back from the world premiere, we talked with the multi-hyphenate about The Pro's complicated relationship with Hollywood and what its chances are in 2020 given Birds of Prey and The Boys.
Newsarama: Jimmy, you and I crossed paths at a recent convention, and the topic of The Pro came up. It's been 18 years, and I believe the last reprint - the eighth I believe - has sold out... but it seems more relevant now than ever. How do you look back on that work?
Jimmy Palmiotti: 18 years? [Laughs] Feels like yesterday.
Anyway, the good news is that retailers can reorder the book from Image comics right now because we wayyyyy over-printed the last printing, because of just this thing. I’m personally happy about this because people at cons are always asking how to get another copy for their friend or relative they cannot stand. When the current printing finally sells out, be on the lookout for another foul cover by Amanda Conner and Paul Mounts. Amanda does have a tendency to want to see how much she can get away with when drawing The Pro.
Nrama: In the creator credits you're listed as the inker, but for me I see this as one of your first post-Marvel Knights projects you packaged as editor/project manager. How would you describe your complete role in The Pro?
Palmiotti: I think my job was, at first, wrangler of talent, then editor, then inker, then packager, then negotiator, and then the promotion end of the books release. At one point I was also part of the legal representation and excuse maker to some people in high positions feeling we went too far and wanted us thrown to the curb.
I am now the pitch man, producer and manager of the property past the printed stage. I also took care of the licensing for the T-shirts, prints, and the action figure. I kind of shared a lot of these responsibilities as well with Joe Quesada at Event Comics, so I had some experience.
When you do anything like this, it’s good to get proficient at wearing as many hats as possible. It’s been a constant learning process for me each and every time I do it, and even with my current company Paperfilms, I am still learning the hard way at times. I think the big secret is you finally learn it all and then an 18-wheeler hits your car because you happened to sneeze at the wrong time.
Fun thing, if I actually die this way, you can reprint this quote and conspiracy theories can be hatched.
Nrama: Way to go dark, Jimmy.
Back in 2017, the Pro was optioned by Paramount and a screenwriter was even announced. I believe you've said that deal has lapsed. And before that there was other film deals, and even an animated short once. Overall, how would you describe The Pro's reception in Hollywood?
Palmiotti: Hollywood is really fascinated and at the same time scared shitless of the property, and that’s why The Pro has been in and out of development its entire life. It’s exhausting how many times we almost made it to the big and small screen.
Our first offer came from MTV at the time they were developing animated shows and with that development deal it was passed around their offices and nothing really happened. We got the property back after 2 years. After that, Spike TV fell in love with it and even gave us a budget to develop a short with the amazing crew at Titmouse animation.
Check it out here:
Anyway, Amanda storyboarded the short, Garth and I wrote it, and I have to say, it looks great and the voice actors were amazing. So, Spike management changed hands and when they came back, they all sat down and watched the animation and from what I heard, said it was way too much for them, and eventually their contract ran out and we got the property back. That was a shame because we loved Spike's programming.
Anyway, A few years pass and of all things, Samuel L. Jackson does an interview in Entertainment Weekly focused on the Avengers movie and when asked his favorite comic book, he goes on and on about The Pro. I mean he devoted half a page explaining to his costars what it was all about.
A few years later, Sam himself tells me at a party that he wants to be involved if anything ever happens with the property. Total love and flattery from a man I truly admire.
Cut to a year and a half later and Paramount has interest in the property and after some back-and-forth negotiating, they put it into development and even have a pretty damn good script written…and then silence. With this silence, the development deal eventually runs out and they do not renew.
So right now, Garth, Amanda, and I have the property and are looking for someone to “come and get it” and hopefully get it made. As I said, I just think the idea of a prostitute superhero with a kid scares the shit out of the TV and film people, but as you can tell, in each case we did find someone that wanted to take a risk. I like to think that the property itself is hanging on the street corner waiting for the right john to come along and scoop it up. It’s been a long and interesting ride for sure.
Nrama: We're talking now as Garth and Darick's The Boys was adapted into what's become one of Amazon's biggest hits ever, and in many ways The Pro presaged that. Just as The Boys was helped to the big screen by the success of AMC's Preacher adaptation, has The Pro felt any of that?
Palmiotti: What we have felt is about a million people asking us why Amazon isn’t buying it as a series ASAP since The Boys are onscreen and doing well, and why haven’t we done this or that and so on. I have a lot of people wanting to take it out and attach themselves, but in the end, between my manager Lenny Beckerman and Garth's agent, we trust them to be out there shopping the property but as it usually happens, one of us gets approached online or in social media about it before the people selling it.
We hope someone reading this article knows a guy that knows another guy with a lot of money to spend that wants to develop a property that will make them millions and at the same time will get their family to disown them for being associated with it. We know that person is out there.
Nrama: The market has changed a lot from 2002 to 2019 - both in comics and in Hollywood, and is seemingly more accepting of adult-oriented superheroes. What do you think about the market shift?
Palmiotti: I think the market is more open to ideas, but adult material is always a risk and the chances are that someone will find something offensive are always pretty good with this kind of content.
I still think if we put this book out today, it would have the same impact and controversy it did when it came out 17 years ago. People would be making noise and attacking us like when it first hit and then start buying multiple copies and sharing with their friends outside comics. That’s what happened back then.
Funny story, we were at a bigwig Hollywood producers party on the west coast years ago and they were passing the comic around like it was an endless joint. We were laughing when they were talking about the book, them not knowing we were the idiots responsible for it. If I remember correctly, someone called it the “Filthy Watchmen” because it was always going into another printing and so many people have read it. Honestly, all three of us would finally love to see it jump into another medium and have a life of its own. Till then another printing, some more enamel pins, and some unusual licensing coming soon.
Nrama: Gotta ask - you and Amanda talk to Garth every so often. Speaking for yourself, what are the chances of a sequel to The Pro? And would it be even more raunchy than it was back in 2002?
Palmiotti: We are good friends, love working together and speak often… and once in a while we talk about The Pro. Amanda and I would drop everything to do another issue, or a mini-series, but the book belongs to three people and Garth told us, for now, the book is a stand-alone, and until that changes, we gotta hang and respect his wishes.
Amanda and I talk all the time what would be next and what characters we would develop and so much more. We do hope he wakes up one day and has a crazy idea we all can work together on. We all just love the character so much and we hate to think it ends with the comic.
And to keep in the theme of the character by whoring ourselves out, feel free to order a signed copy or download the book at Paperfilms.com. Its why we built the site.