Some years ago (eight, to be exact), I wandered into a shop after having more or less given up comics for about a decade. And my eye was immediately drawn to this cover, featuring one of my fave characters:
This I had to have. Yeah, sure, it was cheesecake. But it was smart cheesecake. Clever cheesecake. And whoever this artist was certainly knew how to make their characters act. So I looked at the credits and I saw the name: Amanda Conner.
“Who is this Amanda Conner?” I said to myself in stentorian tones. “I must find out.”
What I found out was that Amanda Conner’s art was AWESOME.
So flash forward a while later, and I’m sitting at a panel at New York Comic Con and head honcho Dan DiDio is talking about what DC has coming up and he mentions that Power Girl will get an ongoing comic, drawn by Amanda Conner.
I immediately let out a “YES!” and just as quickly realized I was the loudest person in the room. I felt like a first-class idiot.
Anyway, through Conner’s art, I discovered Jimmy Palmiotti’s (and Justin Gray’s) writing. See, I pretty much missed the ‘90s comicswise, so this was all new and fresh to me.
I’ve been a fan of comics’ recently married First Couple (though they’d never admit to that title) ever since.
These two crazy kids are so popular in the industry that they managed to pull off the neat and rare trick of doing work for both DC and Marvel (via the creator-owned Icon imprint) at the same time. That just doesn’t happen in today’s supercompetitive comics world.
So here’s Part 1 of a three-part interview with two great creators who make Comics World a better place to hang out.
We kick off with a Mighty Q&A with Conner, plus some character sketchwork for the next month’s return of Painkiller Jane at Icon, rightchere:
Bring the readers up to speed on what you’re working on, what’s on tap, what’s next. What are all your gigs?
I am working on Captain Brooklyn right now with Jimmy and Frank Tieri. Those two really are the perfect guys to be working on a title named Captain Brooklyn. In fact, I’ve sort of modeled the main character after Frank. After that will be a Painkiller Jane story that Jimmy has had rolling around in his brain for probably 10 years now. I loved the premise of the story so much, and wanted so badly to draw it, that I told him if he ever did the story with a different artist, I would smother him in his sleep.
Your work looks deceptively simple because of the economy of lines. But I know it takes a lot of time. Tell me about your workday and your workflow.
Well, first, COFFEE! I think one of the hardest parts of the job for me is trying to figure out the environment of the scene and making it feel real. I do spend a lot of time searching for the right reference for the surroundings, and it can be difficult, but I still find it enjoyable. It’s probably a good thing that I don’t heavily render my illustrations, because I’m not the fastest artist in the world, and if I were to be less economical with my lines, I’d never get anything done. Also, I want the most important part of the story and art to be the characters.
One of the greatest qualities of your work is your characters’ body language and “acting.” How did you develop those skills and what do you do to stay fresh?
A large amount of thought goes into trying to imagine the character as a real and genuine person, and how they would act and react in a given situation. I want them to behave as you or I would in a spectacular situation, even if they are a super-hero and are used to this kind of thing. One of the things that helped me develop this is having parents that immersed me in all kinds of fun movies and TV when I was little, and buying me Mad Magazines with all that great Jack Davis and Mort Drucker art, and watching a lot of Chuck Jones animation with my dad. I think it also helps that I am a frustrated super-hero (as most comic creators are), and since that career didn’t pan out, drawing was the next best thing.
How did you get into this work? Do you have a separate day job?
I was working at a comic book store and apprenticing with Bill Sienkiewicz when I first started out. I had gone up to the Marvel and DC offices about five or six times before I got my first comic art job. At first, the comic work was very sporadic, so I went into advertising, until steady comic work started coming in. Then I started doing mostly comics, and occasionally taking ad work on the side. Advertising pays WAAAY better than comics, but comics are infinitely more fun and satisfying.
What’s your background beyond the professional?
My art education was at the Joe Kubert School of Cartooning in New Jersey. I don’t have a single hometown, exactly, because my family moved around a lot when we were younger. I was born in L.A., moved to Jacksonville, Fla., after the second grade, then moved up to Westport, Ct., in the sixth grade, spent some time back and forth between New Jersey and Connecticut, then moved to New York City. New York and Brooklyn are still among my favorite places in the world. Jimmy and I are living in Florida (New York’s sixth borough) now, and it’s really beautiful. I love it here… Although occasionally I still miss my other boroughs.
Who was your greatest creative influence?
First of all, I would say my parents. They are both artists. My mom is an illustrator and a fantastic painter. My dad used to work in advertising, and actually knows how to draw in a comic art and cartoon style. One of my first books was “Eloise,” by Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight. I can still see some of Hilary Knight’s influences in my work. And definitely Chuck Jones. He is a huge influence on me and my art. I still stop whatever I’m doing and turn into a TV zombie whenever there is a Chuck Jones cartoon on. Dan DeCarlo, Wendy Pini and Frank Miller are three big comic art influences and I am absolutely sure I’m forgetting some more and will think of them after this article comes out.
What was your first comic?
I actually don’t remember my first comic, but I’m pretty sure it was an Archie comic. I do remember my first tooth-fairy gift, which was a nickel and a Mad Magazine. I don’t have either of those, but the influences of that Mad Magazine have stuck with me ‘til this day.
Proudest achievement? Most regretful performance?
It’s really hard to say which achievement I’m proudest of because there are so many projects that I’ve worked on that I had such a tremendous amount of fun on, and when I think back to them, I have much love for them. Some examples are Power Girl, The Pro (sooo not for the kids), Silk Spectre, Gatecrasher, Painkiller Jane, to name some. I am having a great time with Captain Brooklyn, so I’m sure that will be on the list when it’s all done.
As far as a regretful performance, I would have to say a caricature job that I took on when I was fresh out of the Kubert School that involved around 60 caricatures. That is when I found out that caricatures were not my strong suit.
What comics do you read now?
Right now one of my favorite titles is Terry Moore’s Rachel Rising. Terry really knows how to turn out some very interesting characters, and create a really suspenseful story. I also love the stuff Jimmy is working on, like All-Star Western, and Weapon of God, to name a couple. I also read whatever Jimmy puts in the bathroom, where I seem to do most of my reading!
COMING, IN PART 2: Jimmy Palmiotti’s turn on the hot seat!
A version of this story first appeared at Parallel Worlds.