It's really not all that hard to make fun of the super-hero genre. Grown men and women, running around in tights, beating up one another? The core concept is ridiculous, really. But Ennis and company do more than simply poke fun at the genre. They tear it apart and even go so far as to point out what's inherently wrong with super-heroes. But most of all, they have fun with it. This is a raunchy, hilarious look at the genre through a set of thoroughly cynical lenses. Fisticuffs and fellatio abound in this bawdy book.
In order to prove that every human being has within him or herself the potential to be a hero, an alien observer grants incredible powers to a frustrated, angry New York prostitute with a whiny kid. He also alerts the city's (and planet's) preeminent super-hero team -- the League of Honor -- of her existence, and she signs up as the Pro... just for the paycheck, mind you.
The art is a study in contrasts. The designs of the "heroic" characters are thoroughly simple, but other aspects of the art are incredibly kinetic and highly detailed. She and Palmiotti match the ourageous tone of Ennis's script with in-your-face art and a raw irreverence. The colors reinforce the visual and thematic conflicts as well. The League of Honor are presented with gaudily bright colors, while the Pro's life on the streets is drenched in darkness and filth. It's a visual cue that denotes the divide between wonder and reality.
Ennis offers up an unflinching look at life at the bottom of the barrel, but he doesn't fall into the trap of stereotypes. The Pro isn't stupid, and she's not working the streets out of some noble sense of sacrifice for her kid. She wants to make some money. She's a hard worker, but she just can't muster the enthusiasm to worry about the state of her apartment. For her, actions speak louder than words, and her tolerance for bullshit is nil.
At its heart, this book is making a point about ideology, not just the inherent silliness of super-heroes. In essence, Ennis says that idealism can be used as a synonym for naivete, and the Saint is the personification of that point. Ennis (and the Pro) explains that the world basically sucks, so one would be well advise get a helmet. But that doesn't mean there's not room for little moments of inspiration, heroism and happiness.
If this book is about anything (other than a sendup of super-heroes), it's honesty. We're all walking around, wearing our public faces, that persona we present to others that hides our dirty little secrets. In other words, our civility hides our humanity. But there are those that are too busy with real life -- like the title character -- to worry about masks. She is who she is, and offers no apologies for it. She's not a bad person, and not even a particularly good one. She's just a person, which is more than some of us can claim.
I think those who read this book will agree: there is no phrase more inherently male than the Saint's "YESYESFINEOKAY!!" Thanks to Ennis, Conner and company for a lot of laughs.
For some months I have been trying to gather interviews from the working couples in comics. This is the first to come in, and frankly, it's one of my favorites of all the interviews I have done. Jimmy Palmiotti is an awesome inker, fine writer and publisher, and an all-around handsome bastich. Amanda Conner is a fabulous artist and just a lovely creature overall. Together they have worked on a number of occasions and often attend conventions together. Seems fitting, since the two are engaged to be married.
For those neophytes out there, Jimmy's current projects include Catwoman, Two-Step, The Pro, and the upcoming DC Comics series The Monolith (launching February 2004). Amanda has pencilled some of the top titles in comics, including Lois Lane, Codename: Knockout, Birds of Prey, and X-Men Unlimited, and is currently working on The Pro, and Masks, among others.
UGO: How and where did you two meet?
Jimmy Palmiotti: I first was introduced to Amanda in Hildy Mesnick's office at Marvel comics. I was going to ink some Gargoyles covers over Amanda. She was married at the time, and I respectfully said hi and spoke to her for a few minutes. I thought she was a knock-out, but a married one.
Amanda Conner: I don't remember.
UGO: I heard about a certain lap dance performed by one of you for the other while in San Diego a few years back. Care to elaborate?
JP: If I could remember every lap dance, my head would be holding a 40-pound brain. I am trying to think...Amanda gave me a lap dance so many times...awww, geeze. What I do remember is Amanda and another woman in comics getting up on the stage in a strip joint in San Diego and dancing for a group of us, until the management came over and asked the girls to stop. Some b.s. about not having a license; like you need one of those. I think the competition was just getting to the regular girls there. We were throwing money around like we just robbed a bank.
AC: Jimmy gives a fabulous lap dance. You really should see him in pasties. Oh, and he smells good, too.
JP: She needs help.
UGO: Hold on there, Jimmy. I bet Amanda is right on target. Do you have kids, cats or other pets, future plans?
JP: Cats - we have one butter ball of an animal called Frankie..she is diabetic, gets insulin shots ever day and does nothing but sit around, take human size dumps and wait for the next meal to come. Amanda and I have a ton of future plans, yet we don't obsess on them and try to make the best of each day we have together. We are blessed with having the kind of job where we not only work out of our home, but we see each other each and every day. We take breaks as often as possible to play. Last week alone, we went to the zoo and the Brooklyn museum of art to see a pulp art exhibit. With a regular job, that sort of stuff is only for the weekends and the rest of the world is out, then. Both places were empty and that suits us just fine. One day we will move to a bigger home and really, the only immediate plans we have are a wedding and more travel we travel around 6 times a year. We want to see the world.
AC: And I give the fuzzy beach ball of a cat the insulin shot each and every morning, and I have gotten so good at it that she doesn't even notice she is getting stabbed with a needle. I'd like to have more cats one day when we get that bigger house, but they will definitely be outdoor cats, 'cause I am sick and tired of cleaning up turds out of the litter box. One day, maybe, I will volunteer at either an animal shelter or some sort of animal preserve, so I will probably wind up cleaning up more turds anyway, which is fine, because I have gotten really good at it. Jimmy is right, though. We do want to see the world together. Oh, and that wedding, I am looking forward to that, too. Maybe I won't have to clean up any cat turds there.
UGO: Your work on The Pro announced the two of you as a working couple, but you've worked together before, no?
JP: Wow, that would be some list. I will try to nail some. We worked on a dozen issues of Vampirella, Gargoyles covers and interiors, Code Name: Knock Out, Birds of Prey, ten issues of Gatecrasher (which we both created with Mark Waid), and a ton of covers and such. We work all the time with each other.
AC: I'm sure we are forgetting something else, but we worked on a lot of stuff together before and after we started dating. Once you find your perfect inker, you've got to sit on them and not let them go. It's always nice to have the inker in the house with you as well, 'cause you can hover over him and pester him.
UGO: Which artists do the two of you share as influences, and which do you not understand the appeal of with your life partner?
AC: There are too many influences to really mention. Jimmy and I really just love looking at all sorts of art. My personal biggest influences are my mom and dad, both artists; Chuck Jones, Hillary Knight, and Al Capp. The thing I don't understand jimmy liking are jelly rings and chocolate-covered raisins.
JP: We both like a number of artists and really, if Amanda has someone she likes that I don't, I can fully understand why she likes a person after talking to her and getting her explain to me what the artist means to her. Amanda is a design freak and loves furniture, clothing and anything with unique design properties, including cars, which are no biggie to me. I like things that work. I am a much more simple person than Amanda. Her brain works on different levels than mine, and I love that about her.
UGO: Shared favorite movies?
JP & AC: Off the top of our heads, The Fifth Element, Jaws, Amelie, Brother of the Wolf, Long Kiss Goodnight, Alien, the Star Wars movies, Terminator movies, Pulp Fiction, Spirited Away, Die Hard, I think there are so many we share because we both like fantasy stuff and just about anything with good character development. Of late, I would say we both enjoyed Lost In Translation.
UGO: OK, now mentioning films, let me ask, since your web site is called PaperFilms and both of your approaches to page content seems cinematic, wouldn't it be a smarter way to market comics as handheld film stories? I mean comics are competing with video games, movies and TV...or am I wrong?
JP: You are not wrong, just that comics work in many formats, but mainly in print. I do not think comics on the web is a realistic venue for a business to make money and speaking for myself, I cannot read any one thing off my computer for very long, and I have to be sort of upright to do it. I relax and read comics at the beach near my house, on my bed and a number of other places where I can take full advantage of the formats easy mobility. I think comics are competing for video game and movie money, but really, the two things have nothing in common with comics and that is the problem, you have to read a comic. The others are instant gratification and require nothing but a slight attention span, especially movies and TV. Video games are just that, games. I do not think comics are anything but another form of entertainment, and at their best, little paper films that we can read and dispose of easily. A newspaper is a paper version of events as well. It's a format, that's all. Comics are the as yet undiscovered format for movie companies to test a property for less that 50 grand. Anyone reading this from a studio will understand what I am talking about. I would have never sold Gatecrasher, Beautiful Killer, and The Pro as properties unless they existed in this format first.
UGO: Who would be in your particular friendship circles, and is it true that comics is such a small industry that unless you have outright enemies, most people look upon other pros as pals?
JP: Well, since this is a comic site, I guess you are talking about people in the biz. Whom do we see on a semi regular basis? Probably our friends Nelson DeCastro, Justin Gray, Vince Letterio, John Cebollero, Heidi Macdonald, Jan Jones and Jeff Jones, Dan Didio, Dan Buckley, Mike Pasciullo, John Cassiday, Paul Gulacy, John Lucas, Garth Ennis, John McCray, Steve Dillon, you know (this list is sort of endless really) right off the top of my head I can think of around 50 more, but listing them all isn't fair, because we will skip one or two and hear about it forever.
UGO: Well, I was only hoping you'd name me. Sigh... When working together how do you resolve artistic differences?
JP: I am always right.
AC: About five minutes worth of bickering, and then some making up. And I let him think he's right.
UGO: Upcoming projects?
JP: The Monolith ongoing series set in the DC universe starts in February. 21 Down, Volume 2, starts in March, which is monthly as well. The last few issues of Two-Step come out soon as well as my inking over Paul Gulacy on Catwoman monthly. In spring, I have a sci-fi one shot coming called Cloudburst that I wrote with Justin Gray coming as well.
AC: Like Jimmy said, the last couple of issues of Two-Step, a story in a book called Masks (it was called Capes before, but they changed it for some reason), and some stuff "THEY" won't let me talk about. Also, every month I do some spot illos for Revolver magazine. I'm sure I'm forgetting some stuff, but it is so late and I'm tired, and I have to get up early and give Frankie her shot. And clean up her cat turds.