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On Monday DC will release the first issue of their newest digital comic Ame-Comi Girls. Based on the line of popular statues featuring anime versions of the women of DC comics it will include Wonder Woman art by Amanda Conner (at right) and Tony Akins, Batgirl art by Sanford Greene, Duela Dent art by Ted Naifeh, Power Girl art by Mike Bowden and Supergirl art by Santi Casas. Other characters will be added after the initial arcs. This week I chatted with the writers Justin Gray (JG) and Jimmy Palmiotti (JP) about the series, the characters (including who else will be joining) and how they work as a team.
DCWKA: I have to admit when I saw the announcement for Ame-Comi Girls my first thought was, “Well if DC had any chance of me reading a comic based on sexy statues, they sure picked the right team.” How did you two come to this? Was it pitched? Who had the idea?
JG: Thanks for the vote of confidence. There’s definitely going to be a certain number of people automatically opposed to this based on the sexualized appearance of some of the characters. The truth is DC and Dan Didio approached us to develop a series based on these designs some time ago and we’ve gone through a lengthy process of trying to find the best way to present them. We’ve worked directly with designer Jim Fletcher on some of the ideas and continue to do so. The story ideas came naturally because we’re given the keys to characters we love and allowed to do essentially anything we want with them. That means you’ll have elements of new as well as recognizable existing mythology associated with some of the characters.
JP: I like to think we earned the right to take on a project like this because of the love we show each and every DC character when we work on them. As said, we have been involved with this for over a year now and its something we were bursting at the seams to talk about. The design of the characters and sculpts inspire the hell out of us to take the material and go crazy with it.
DCWKA: You’ve partnered on a lot of different things - Power Girl, Time Bomb, Jonah Hex - how do you work together? Does one outline and one script or is there another process?
JG: First I’d like to say you ask a lot of great questions. We’re at a point where the ebb and flow of the process has been refined. It’s a natural thing to discuss story ideas and pass them back and forth. Same with outlines and scripts we juggle a lot of projects because we focus our efforts and know we can rely on each other. There’s no set pattern.
JP: It’s a positive process of knowing what the other person is best at and not. We have a synchronicity that has been fine tuned for the past ten years
DCWKA: This is your first digital comic - what’s the challenge of writing in smaller increments?
JG: It’s actually not our first, but it is our first for DC and to be completely honest I like the small chapters, there’s no room for waste and you have to keep things rolling. The other great thing is we’ve been working in a more condensed style for the last several years trying to pack as much story and excitement into fewer pages. Right now I’m loving the weekly idea as well because there’s a much shorter wait time between chapters and that might help build a readership.
JP: We have always believed that there is a better way to give the reader more bang for their buck and not have endless pages of people talking about things that do not matter to the story. We have been experimenting with the format and especially our artists involved have been pushing the format and storytelling ideas as far as they can, which makes this series particularly cool.
DCWKA: If I read the pitch right this is a world without male heroes. What was the reason for that? On one hand I’ve heard from readers that it makes it seem that women can’t be heroes unless the dudes are gone. On the other hand, it’s nice to see females taking the lead in project.
JG: I think no matter how you present material like this, especially when sex and feminism is a constant hot button issue in comics, there’s always going to be a way to flip or twist a negative out of it. I wouldn’t say there are no male superheroes in this universe. I will say our focus is on world building these recognizable female icons in ways that are hopefully exciting to not only long time readers, but also new ones. What we worry about is quality and entertainment value, great art and a passion for what we do. Ame-Comi Girls is escapist fun without being purposely funny, it’s superheroes doing big superhero things and they just happen to be women. The fact that they’re women is only relevant in our efforts to make them recognizable, sympathetic, hopefully inspirational human beings who can fly and run really fast. I think we’ve proven we don’t treat women, superhero or otherwise as talking breasts. In fact if you look at the body of work so far our heroines are diverse and represent all kinds of points of view. In Book Smart we had an author with amnesia lost in Kathmandu struggling to find herself. We took the negative impressions of Power Girl and used them as story points. In The Ray, his girlfriend was stronger than he was and she had no super powers. Terra, Painkiller Jane, Queen Crab, Tallulah Black and Phantom Lady are all very different characters.
DCWKA: You have an older, and I’ll believe this when I see it, “sexy” version of Jimmy Olsen in the book as globe trotting journalist. Why Jimmy Olsen? And why an older Jimmy Olsen? How do you make Jimmy Olsen sexy?
JG: You start with the art and you try to shatter the preconception of this sweet kid wearing a bowtie and acting like Superman’s puppy. In some ways you could say that Superman keeps Jimmy Olsen from becoming his own person. Grant Morrison handled that really well in All-Star Superman. Jimmy Olsen is a guy who is always going to look up to Superman whether it’s as a father figure, male role model or big brother. In fact Olsen represents the embodiment of Lex Luthor’s greatest fears – the impact Superman has on him is stunting his growth as a person. Take Superman away and put Power Girl in that place and the dynamic completely changes. You have that male female tension and attraction. You have Olsen’s desire to be with a woman who is incredibly powerful, intelligent, successful, sexy and exotic. In Ame-Comi, that forces Olsen to elevate himself as a man so someone like Power Girl would find him interesting and attractive. So our James Olsen is more Ernest Hemingway meets Sebastian Junger than he is this gee whiz redheaded stepchild to Clark and Lois.
JP: All guys named Jimmy are sexy.
DCWKA: There are a lot of Ame-Comi DC characters - how did you pick the first set of characters? How did Duela Dent get the call?
JG: Popularity first although our goal is to make all of them interesting to people that maybe didn’t find them interesting before.
JP: We did have a lot to choose from, and we start the series off focusing on the biggest of them all, Wonder Woman. When we decided this, it was only natural that we got Amanda Conner involved and then followed by Tony Akins, two people that love and have worked on the character before. Duela had a big following and we understood how important that is to the success of this project.
DCWKA: Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe the only characters that you’ve written before are Power Girl and Supergirl. How hard was it to write for new versions of the characters?
JG: Not hard at all, there were things we wanted to do with Power Girl and Hawkgirl that couldn’t be done in the main line of books. By example having Power Girl infuse Metropolis with Kryptonian technology and have her act as an altruistic entrepreneur looking to preserve the planets resources.
JP: We bend and sometimes break some of the rules in this series, but if you love the characters and what makes them likable at their core, you will find yourself very happy here. Having beautiful art on the story also helps…and together, it’s a big win for fans of these awesome Heroes and Villains.
DCWKA: How did you prepare to write the other characters and work with the artists on the character designs?
JG: The preparation was simple because this is a chance to do things with these characters that we couldn’t otherwise do. The designs, with the exception of Brainiac already existed. We had a lot of discussions with Jim Fletcher about Brainiac and how we envisioned her as something slightly different from the Brainiac presented in the 52.
JP: We write them all smart and a bit unpredictable to keep the reader engaged. A lot of the artists involved worked from the initial designs and have put their spin on them and what we have is chapter after chapter of beautiful images and storytelling. We got lucky having such a talented group as this. Each artist brings something fresh to the series.
DCWKA: Will a woman of color be joining the team?
JG: You’ll see Steel taking part in the book. We have plans for more diversity as the series progresses with character we don’t want to spoil this early on.
DCWKA: So tell me what you’re excited about in this book? What do you think readers are going to surprised by?
JG: Everything is exciting. We get to take all the elements of DCU mythology and twist it, turn it, blend it together without conflicting with other titles or representations of these characters. If we’re not excited by a part of a character’s history then we don’t have to feature it. It’s like getting a fresh start on things like Hawkgirl, whose mythology has always been cloudy. We can also throw in big ideas such as the Earth and Krypton are related. The Silver Banshee’s are an aerial mecha-suit-wearing xenophobic hate group. The idea that Big Barda is a space pirate or that Mera rules the oceans. This is all fun stuff for anyone that likes big, shiny superhero comics. It has drama, humor, humanity and huge threats. Robin is a lot of fun just because she’s so different from the others.
JP: The format and delivery is exciting…the revolving door of talent is super exciting and getting to work in a world where we get to map out the unlimited ideas and execute them is a dream come true. We are going to get a lot of people hooked on this series…and nothing is more fun than to get your comics delivered in the palm of your hand, week after week.
DCWKA: Right now you have no plans to print unlike Justice League Beyond and Smallville, what was the thinking there?
JG: That’s not our decision. Obviously a lot depends on sales.
JP: No clue…a better question for the guys in charge.
DCWKA: Okay, I want to get your take on the characters a little bit more, I’m going to give you a letter and you have to give me a word to describe the character. Okay Justin first, Jimmy second (Note: Justin did the letter, but Jimmy decided to freestyle.)
B for Wonder Woman – Bombastic. Exasperated.
G for Batgirl – Gadgets. Dangerous.
S for Girl Robin (Carrie) Sassy. Trouble.
D for Power Girl - D-Cup. Kidding, you put the D out there I couldn’t resist the joke. In fact I suspect that was a set up from the beginning.
An old friend.
R for Duela Dent – Raving. Hazardous.
T for Supergirl – Twofold. Huggable.
DCWKA: Finally, given that the book is based on a line of sexy statues, what would you say readers still on the fence about reading it?
JG: Don’t prejudge the book based on your feelings about the statues good or bad. It is a minimal investment to pick up the first Wonder Woman chapter wit hart by Amanda Conner. It is our goal to bring the old school flavor of superhero comics in a new way, the fun, excitement and escapism with dashes of humor, horror, action, sci-fi and soap opera. There should be something here for everyone and getting it weekly instead of monthly might be really appealing to some people – especially if you’re iPad obsessed like I am. You’re also getting an incredible number of talented artists collaborating on the introductory character arcs woven together and leading to the formation of a team not unlike the Justice League. We definitely want to hear your reactions good or bad so tweet at us @JVGray and @jpalmiotti with the #amecomigirls hash tag. Lets get social!
JP: Give it a shot…try something new. Impress your family and friends.
Ame-Comi Girls #1 hit Comixology and the DC application on Monday, May 28.