Palmiotti has had a very long career at Marvel and DC, and has worked on characters ranging from the Punisher to Hawkman. He's been the creator and co-creator of The New West, The Pro, Gatecrasher, Beautiful Killer, Ash, Cloudburst, Trigger Girl 6, Thrill Seeker and Painkiller Jane. He and Gray have teamed up for Jonah Hex, Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters, 21 Down, The Resistance, DC's Countdown, Hawkman, Monolith, The Hills Have Eyes: The Beginning, and Friday the 13th and many others, including the upcoming The Last Resort. The first issue of Resort hits store shelves this Wednesday (check out the preview on Newsarama), and if you love zombies and 70s style exploitation, then it's the series for you. Demand your store order a copy in if they didn't snag you one already.
Palmotti graciously came by to talk about Resort (and why you should read it), zombie movies, how he feels about superheroes and their movies, where he'll be at ComicCon, and the experience of seeing Jonah Hex come alive. Read on!
Cinematical: Tell us all about The Last Resort! Going off the preview, I'm guessing this isn't for the squeamish. What are zombie and comic fans in for?
JP: They are in for a 5-issue story that follows a large group of different types of people as they try to survive a plane crash, biologically screwed up killers and some rabid animals. This is not for the kids on any level since the violence is over the top. There is sex, nudity, beheadings, animal attacks, assaults on peoples personal spaces and we even threw in a bag of some of the best weed in the world into the story. So it's got everything we like our "R" rated movies to have. Zombie fans will love the premise and the execution, and comic fans will enjoy reading something with balls for a change. Mainstream comics are lacking that these days, if you didn't notice.
Zombies are one of the hottest trends going right now, and even Jane Austen has found a way into the undead genre. What sets The Last Resort apart from the rest? How will it appeal to the zombie weary, if there are such people?
JP: I really don't think there are any zombie weary people out there yet. The Last Resort is about the people that are living, not the ones that are dead. Its less zombie and more genetics based. We are not doing the " friend gets bitten and turns on his best friend " thing, and reading and watching a million zombie related stories, we felt that the best thing we could do is set up a realistic idea and surround it with characters you really care about. It's very Irwin Allen in its execution.
The book is said to pay homage to '70s disaster and exploitation films like The Towering Inferno and Airport, along with all the zombie classics. What were some of the movies that influenced this book? Are there any homages fans should look out for?
JP: One of the most fun times I had, as a kid, was when my parents took me to watch The Poseidon Adventure at Radio City Hall. It was a movie where they introduced some likable characters and we got to watch most of them drown, burn to death and just die during the motion picture, and I thought it was the most exciting thing I had ever seen. I had no clue how the film was going to turn out and who was going to survive. Well, with that in mind, The Last Resort plays that game, and I think that element is the one that ties all the classic disaster concepts together. As far as zombie classics, Dawn of the Dead comes to mind for me. It's a movie I saw as a child that made my skin crawl and put a smile on my face at the same time. There's an homage to the helicopter scene in the last issue that will make people smile.
To borrow a question from AICN in regards to your Friday the 13th book -- what are your favorite cinematic zombie kills?
JP: There are the chopper blades to the head, the big splinter of wood to the eyeball, and just about anything that involves someone screaming and swinging at the same time. I do love all that raw emotion. When we wrote Friday the 13th for Wildstorm, all we wanted to do was make the reader sh*t his pants, so we did some spectacular set ups. I think some of the best kills are the ones that happen in real life. Just today a guy got choked to death by a stripper's handbag strap. I wish I made that up.
A lot of comic book fans complain that books seem to be written with a movie deal in mind. How do you and Justin resist that, particularly when your books are so cinematic in nature?
JP: You say that like it's a bad thing, lol. Honestly, we write the books as hardcore as we can, and never worry if someone is going to pick up the book and develop it. I have learned the hard way with Painkiller Jane that it doesn't matter what you do in the book, how well it reads and how well received it is. Once someone buys the rights they usually screw with it and do whatever they want, and it's ALWAYS for the worse. This is a lesson I have learned many times, so I don't sweat the after life of a book anymore. Justin and I stay true to the format and worry about the audience reading the book and only them. That said, I have a lot of faith in Jimmy Hayward on Jonah Hex.
As you mentioned on Newsarama, this is one book that's a real antidote to the superhero trend, and I imagine that in many respects, it's a lot more gratifying to do an original series like this. Is it hard to go back to the Marvel and DC world, and get back into the confines of those very old, very traditional heroes?
JP: With Powergirl it is because each and every issue gets looked at by many people and we really can't mess with things too much because the character is off in other books doing her thing, so for a mainstream superhero, it sure is a different gig. That said, we love working on that series. With something like Jonah Hex, we are given a lot more freedom to do what we want and have earned the trust of the editors and crew at DC. Honestly, with the superhero genre, there is really nothing new under the sun. All we do is put a new coat of paint on the existing characters. With genres, well, there is a lot more to explore, especially in comics and we are trying our best to expand our library, whether people want it or not. The worst thing I can do is have a career that others think is successful and not create my own characters. I will never understand people that don't do this, and I will never understand how someone can say that they will be content to just write Spider-Man and Batman and such. It's just not in our system to expand on another's legacy. I rarely choose the easy path in anything I do and I think I'm better off for it.
What is your take on the current superhero movie trend? You joked on your Newsarama piece that "If it helps, Batman gets the criminals and Wolverine heals... end of story", is that a fatigue you feel about seeing them onscreen as well? How does the movie trend affect you and your work?
JP: I have a really hard time getting excited by more superhero movies because they are mostly aimed at children or a children's mentality. These films are made for a certain audience and that's cool. I have fun watching them, but a minute after they are done, it means nothing to me. Again, I think it's partly a result of growing up, having relationships with women, traveling the world, and writing them day in and day out, or maybe just seeing so many of them. For me, the interest in these superhero films is more of a " I wonder how they will screw it up" thing. I'd rather see The Hurt Locker than Iron Man, 2012 than another X-Men, Shutter Island rather than The Green Lantern any day of the week. It could be just me though, and I understand this. But I am a storyteller and want a little more depth and character development. That said, I think superhero movies will mature, and that's a good thing. But remember, the minute these films stop making money, its on to the next big thing.
I asked Justin this, but I'd like to know your answer too. What superhero films and franchises have been your favorites? Any filmmakers you'd like to see adapt your work? I don't want to jeopardize future film deals, but who would you like to see tackle The Last Resort? Or would you prefer it stay on the page, and away from the movie screen?
JP: The Last Resort will always exist as a book, so I don't care if someone buys it and makes it into a movie. Good or bad, like Painkiller Jane, the show/movie is its own thing. The only thing that kept me from not losing my sh*t with Painkiller Jane at the time was that I felt I was writing some of the best comics of my career while they were shooting the show. Guess what, the comic still comes out and the show is off the air. See how that works?
I have enjoyed the last two Batman movies, The Incredibles, Unbreakable, Sin City, Dick Tracy, Iron Man was fun, love the Blade series. Wish they would do a decent Punisher movie already, leave Daredevil alone, never do another Fantastic Four, try to make Catwoman based on Brubaker and Cooke's version, make a Hellboy based on the book and stay focused on the main character. Hollywood also needs to stop thinking they can create their own superhero movies that aren't based on actual books. They all fail. Look at Hancock, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Sky High, and Zoom. I could go on and on.
As far as a director for The Last Resort, someone that is good with people and horror. A few of my choices: Pedro Almodovar, because I would care for each and every person in the film, James Cameron because he is just amazing to me, the Cohen brothers because they understand the humor in horrible things, Brian DePalma, because he understands how to mix horror with sexuality and suspense, Zack Snyder because I think he is not only great, but because I think, after all the big projects, he needs to get back and do something like this or a property like Back to Brooklyn, Spike Lee, because it would be fun to see what he does ...and any number of foreign directors . Really, you don't want me to go on, I could fill a book.
Justin described seeing Josh Brolin in his Jonah Hex gear as a very surreal moment -- what was it like for you seeing Jonah brought to life? How have you felt about what approach Jimmy and Warner Bros are taking?
JP: The producer on the film is an old friend of mine from when Joe Quesada and I sold our creator owned character, ASH, to DreamWorks. Andy brought the property to Spielberg and his crew and became the producer on the project. We have kept in touch over the years and when the Jonah Hex books started coming out by us, it invigorated the property once again and they were able to put the project together. Andy introduced us to Jimmy Hayward, the director of the film and they invited us down to the set, which was very generous on their part.
ComicCon is almost upon us -- and Jonah Hex is set to make his Hall H debut. Is that at all surreal to you? Will you be there to watch the footage, or are you going to be too busy with your own stuff? Where can fans find you and your work out there?
JP: Are you kidding? I will be at the panel watching the footage with the rest of the room. The best places to find me are at the prism booth on Thursday at 2pm. I will be doing portfolio reviews there and later at the JSA panel talking all about Powergirl. Friday at the Warner Brothers panel watching the Jonah Hex clip, then at 12 the Radical Co panel announcing mine and Justin's new series TIME BOMB. At 4:30, the Wednesday Comics panel. Saturday, I will be signing last resort at the IDW booth around noonish, check on the times with them, at the DC booth doing a Wednesday Comics/Hex/Powergirl signing at 3pm and Sunday, doing a signing at the Hero booth at 1:30. Its gonna be difficult to find me otherwise because I will be by the pool at my hotel or by Amanda's booth which is named FAT NAKED RAVE, and has her, Phil Noto, Jim Lee, J Scott Campbell, Art Adams and a host of other artists.