Comic book creators (and the real husband and wife duo) Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner are living the pandemic, like everyone else reading this. (Image credit: DC) The duo were halfway through their current DC / Black Label series Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey when the world started to lock up - in fact, we shared a conversation with them about what could happen on the ground from Chicago's C2E2 in March - the first (and presumably) last major comic book convention of 2020. It has been five months since then, and the pandemic continues - with Palmiotti and Conner living in one of the epicenters of the virus epidemic, Florida. But they tell us they are safe, taking precautions, and have usedthis time to concentrate on work. But as many people working in comics have found out, the pandemic has led parts of the comic book industry to shut down, take a break, or just slow down. a proverbial snail rhythm. So what are you doing? Keep on working. Newsarama reached out to Palmiotti to see how he and Conner were doing in this situation, to get their take (and maybe a little tip) on what they had learned, and what They can pass it on to others like them, by experiencing this while working in comics. This interview is not about a specific upcoming book, but just about a freelance comic book creator sharing a personal side of things and how it has adjusted, and how others might as well. Newsarama: Jimmy, like me, you live in Florida ... and this COVID-19 pandemic has beenUnique here, to say the least. How are you and Amanda doing in all of this? Jimmy Palmiotti: Amanda and I are big supporters of research and we read about the science of the virus, how to avoid it, and read the updates Daily updates from Johns Hopkins on new information and discoveries and try to stay away from political television news. We socialize, wear masks, wash our hands, and don't go to any business where we need to be inside with a large crowd as best we can. Also, if we see a business not following the guidelines, we just stop going and let our circle of friends know. This is serious business and unfortunately due to horrible leadership people make a lot of stupid mistakes and it only gets worse by the dayin days. It is a shame on so many levels. It is heartbreaking to hear about all the families who have lost loved ones due to all of this. Since we live in the mad state of Florida, part of our hurricane preparedness is to refuel we need to have during the pandemic, so we were okay with this end. I had to have minor surgery recently, so I took a COVID-19 test a few weeks ago and it came back negative. Amanda and I have a friend who runs an emergency room nearby and we learn firsthand how dangerous the virus is, so we take it very seriously and try to help those around us to be more secure. In the end, we're fine, but plan ahead every time we go out. Better safe than sorry… and yes, we vote by mail. Nrama: How does all this affect your writing, vur publishing, project management, etc.? Palmiotti: The pandemic has made it more difficult to function and concentrate for sure. This is all quite depressing with the information coming in daily trying to act like things are normal on all levels. The people who work with and around me face their own issues and unfortunately some with illness and death and try to function while this is all happening. I have three freelancers in Europe who kept me updated on their situation every week. Lots of scary information at first, but a little better now. I wish the United States could say the same. Amanda hasn't kissed her parents from the start and I really miss traveling with Amanda to Europe - something we do between shows every year. The idea that in a single day, 1000 persounds die, is simply breathtaking. I hate these impersonal numbers. With all of this, who can really concentrate a lot? When I have a lot of bad news, I just want to fall asleep hoping to wake up and it's sort of sorted out. Wishful thinking for sure. These days I make lists of things to do and work on and do my best to get them through. My motivation is definitely not what it used to be. (Image credit: Elevation images) What most help is to focus on the Pop Kill Kickstarter and have a lot of artist friends out of work and them put on future projects. When someone is waiting for it, I jump in. Another loss is that we couldn't have had a first atRandom Acts of Violence cinema, so it sucks. It will air in a drive-in on the 14th in Fort Lauderdale, but other than that, it'll be on Shudder by the end of the month and available now on POD. It 's nice to have this theatrical experience. Nrama: This pandemic came just as you and Amanda were giving Harley Quinn and Birds of Prey a problem. In general, how has DC and Marvel's response been to both of you going through this pand emic? Palmiotti: Well, we finished the four s ahead of time and Amanda still had two issues of the 34 page books to draw, so she has been busy since day one of the virus. For me it was quite different from what it was in the past. I had completed a secret project at Marvel and expected nothing more from them. (Image credit: DC) DC had a lot of changes just before the pandemic and we were just finishing our run on the 10 pounds0 Wonder Woman Giant pages that went straight to digital during it all. Then I featured a few things here and there- fun stuff, new ideas, mini Powergirl, and all the rest, but no bites, so I did what I do all freelancers, let everyone know I worked for that I was looking for, and if anything came up I was available. I found it a bit strange after working so steadily for so many years that I thought of months without work, but honestly with so much going on in the world, that could be the new normal. It 's the reality of a freelance writer no matter who you are. Recently things started to change a bit when I had a story in the Harley Quinn: Black, White & Red series and an eight page story in an upcoming book. I had a lot of free time, so I also wrote a five pa postges for DC - the first time in 11 years. My job is to follow them and all of the companies, and no matter how long you work as a freelance writer, it's always the same. You have to push, push and push again. There is nothing safe anywhere in this business, even with a contract. I love this job, but job security isn 't a highlight, for sure. Nrama: You're a freelance writer - working together in concert, paying your own insurance, filing your 1099s, paying your quarterly business taxes, all. With all that has happened, how is it for you to be a sole proprietor so to speak in this market? Palmiotti: The shitty part of being freelancers is that we are paying our own medical coverage out of pocket and that 's a small fortune. Add that to quarterly taxes and everything in lifes reserve, we must constantly work, launch, align work, etc. Since there is no retirement package offered anywhere in the comics, it is our responsibility to take care of our own retirement funds and that means putting money aside, which doesn 't mean is not that easy these days. Amanda and I constantly have to find ways to earn extra income and I spend a lot of time working outside of comics in the hopes of earning some extra income, but it doesn 't is not an easy thing. A big part of what a freelancer does is pitch ideas - spend time building the world and hoping that someone is interested, and that's hard - even with an established name - because there are so many outside factors involved - including hundreds of other people pitching. I learned very early on not to depend too much on companies, because in the end, you are just one of the many replaceable. That and the people you have relationships with evolve at some point, so you always have to start over from the beginning with someone new all the time. I'm also a screenwriter and although I co-wrote two feature films last year, I haven't seen a dime yet. I don't even want to begin to understand how crazy TV and movies are. Amanda and I always have a plan with our future work in and out of comics and we've been trying to connect with our audience since day one, so there are some perks that take us out of the normal employment relationship. It was and always will be very important to put a face to the people who support us. It is a way to protect our brand, no matter where we work. We know that the audience for our work is not huge, but the people who haveimitate our products - well, we make sure they are treated in the best possible way and we continue to do the job they continue to enjoy. It 's our assurance in a way and we really love these people. (Image credit: Paper Films) Newsarama: in it all , you already have your own beachhead - an active social media presence, a brand name ( Paper Films ) with a website and store, as well than a regular cycle of Kickstarters, one of which is now underway for Pop Kill # 2. Was that a plus in all of this? Palmiotti: The advantage of having Paperfilms.com is that on some level, Amanda and I can control our own destiny and not not be so dependent on others. I work full time in comics dsince 1991 and I have seen this industry change in so many different ways and what I take away from all of this is that you have to own some of what you create, understand that no one owes you anything, and on some level, being a freelance writer means you're always on your own. Don't forget I co-owned a comic book company [Event Comics] before Paperfilms, co-branded for Marvel with the Marvel Knights, created a imprint for a magazine company [Black Bull] and watched some of the most talented people in comics go through tough times because they were too dependent on just one source of income. (Image credit: Paper Films) With the Paperfilms website, I can offer people a way to 'get autographed prints, exclusive limited comics and original artwork direct from us as well as digital downloads of our books. With the Kickstarters, the current (numbero 14 for me) is Pop Kill with Dave Johnson and Juan Santacruz. Pop Kill about competing soda companies hiring a spy to steal a secret recipe and the madness he gets into trying to turn a scientist against the company she is loyal to . It's part of James Bond, of madness, and of all grownups. With Kickstarters, I get to know my audience, what they're looking for in my work, and get direct feedback on the types of work they want to see from my part. They vote with their support and their money and I'm lucky that so many great people support my madness. I think the future is all about designers coming out and making a name for themselves and focusing on their own brand. I see fewer and fewer comic book fans buying just one company. I see people experimenting with what interests them and less general loyaltys the editor. I myself have always followed the creators, whatever company they were working for and I think that will be our future. Having a place where people can go to see and experience your work, and offer a newsletter is very important. With ours, we let the consumer know what we are doing, where we will be, and offer discounts and coupons for the products we sell. I think the more we see, the healthier this industry will become. Nrama: Fu If not, let me ask you: you talk to creators - what advice can you give them to prepare for unusual times like these? Palmiotti: my go-to has always been to prepare in advance for bad weather and to stay in touch with the people with whom you interact, try not to get negative press or fabad mouth anyone, including other professionals… and get your job done on time. The trick beyond talent is to understand that when you're late or the less picky, the editor just moves on to the next person. Do your best to do your best, don't be a problem, and talk to your coworkers and your business the best you can. Slow things down, focus on the job, and be honest. Treat people the way you want to be treated. We're a small business, if you're picky - publicly insulting other people and so on - people remember that, and the managers really don't want more trouble in their lives. Let the job do the talking for you and stay aggressive as best you can. There are always days when it feels a little hopeless - and on those days, take a break and give yourself room to breathe. Nrama: You are a friendly face at conventions every year. How much did you attend in 2019, and how has it been for you with a lot less now? Palmiotti: I think Amanda and I did about eight in 2019, as well as a group overseas. In 2020 we made one - C2E2 and it was incredibly busy for us. We knew C2E2 would be our last for 2020, even though we had booked for around eight more for 2020 - all of them were canceled. We totally miss seeing the fans, other pros and dealers at the shows. Over the years, many of these people have become friends - people we see every year with whom we love to interact. The fans of the shows are just spectacular people and we have seen them get married in front of us, bring their newborns to show off and watch them grow up to be children.smart nts with amazing parents. These are all the special moments that we really miss. That said, we've cut back over the years and completely removed conventions that don't treat comic book pros as well as other guests. We continue to hope that changes, but so far we've done a lot of little shows that have been just as fun if not more. More people don't always mean better inconvenience, that's for sure. Nrama: Let's talk in more detail about the general skills part of the labor agreements. Conventions have tried to replicate the convention experience online, but you don't meet people, bump into people, etc. If not, how do you feel? Palmiotti: Well, I have a lot of people that I keep in touch with, so we talk a lot about industria and others and that keeps me partly informed. The other thing is that my office is in a comic book store and it's a big one with a huge staff so they keep me up to date with buying trends and news all the time. Having said that, I wish I could see my usual suspects and close friends in the business. Many of my favorite moments are after hours with the people I have met and grown to love over the years. The moment when we can compare the notes of the day, talk about business, and especially Comic-Con International: San Diego where I met friends from all over the world. It sucks so many levels, but I have a feeling that next year we will all come back safer, healthier, and hopefully a little wiser in the end .