Exclusive Interview: Amanda Conner
I've made no secret of my gushing love for Amanda Conner art, because it leaps off the page and gets right into your feel-meats. In retrospect, the previous sentence makes it sound lurid. That's not what I mean (well, not entirely). It's just got such a life to it that you can feel exactly what her characters are feeling, and it destroys any cynicism you may have about comics. She's done some excellent work – you have to check out her Power Girl and Painkiller Jane written by her husband Jimmy Palmiotti and, most recently, Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre with the inimitable Darwyn Cooke. As high-minded an artistic project as that was, however, you may also remember her for Garth Ennis' down-and-dirty hooker-turned-superhero story The Pro and thus look forward to the upcoming Captain Brooklyn, with Palmiotti and Frank Tieri.
The point here is that I got to sit down with Ms. Conner for an interview at Wondercon this weekend, and she couldn't have been nicer about my pathetic fawning. We talked about her influences, her upcoming projects, her predilection for filthy stuff, her post-mortem on Before Watchmen, Darwyn Cooke's burnout and the unlikely connection between Hilary Knight's Eloise and The Pro. Check it out, won't you?
CRAVE ONLINE: First, let me just say I'm a ridiculous fan of your work. It's amazing.
AMANDA CONNER: Thank you!
There's something about your style that I'm curious about – it's so emotive that it pours off the page and sucks you right in. How did you develop this – I know there's an Archie influence, but what else is there to it?
I did grow up on Archie Comics. That's what my mom would get me when I was sick with the flu and home from school, and she was like 'I don't want her watching TV for the next twelve hours, so let's make her read.' But I think a really big influence was watching a lot of Chuck Jones.
Oh, yes. Yes. Absosmurfly.
Chuck Jones, baby. It helps that both of my parents are artists, and my dad actually used to watch a lot of Chuck Jones with me, because he's a big Chuck Jones fan.
As everybody should be.
Also, there's an artist – you probably don't remember this, because you're a boy – but Eloise?
I've heard of her!
Okay. The guy who drew Eloise was named Hilary Knight, and he was so good with body language, and he has a really, really simple line style. It's very simple, but the emotions and attitudes that he gets across are just great.
And that's so much of what I love about your work. We kind of just fall in love with everybody you draw. Even someone like The Pro.
The Pro is almost like a grown-up Eloise. (laughs) Only without all the money.
Wow. I need to read some more Eloise and blow my mind that way.
Yeah, you'll see. If you ever get Eloise, you'll totally see it.
As far as Before Watchmen goes, I have to say that you and Darwyn Cooke did the best work out of all of it. I was one of those guys that was 'oh, you shouldn't do it! You shouldn't do it!,' but in the end, I couldn't resist a project with you two on it. What was the bigger draw – working on Watchmen or working with Darwyn Cooke?
A little of both. A lot of both, actually. The idea of working on a book that I grew up loving, that blew my mind back when it first came out and being able to do something with it? I couldn't resist, you know? I couldn't say no to it.
And now that it's done – one, what do you think about the finished product now that you've got some distance from it? And two, are you going to do anything else with Darwyn in the future, maybe an original work?
I'm not sure, but it's possible. Not right now – he doesn't ever want to put pencil to paper again right now, but that's only going to last a couple of weeks (laughs).
What, was he just burnt out on Watchmen?
He got a little burnt out on Watchmen, but also, he bought a little fixer-upper house and right now he's in cosntruction. He actually used to do construction before he got into comics, and he's actually really good. He's turning this house into one of the houses that he draws, it's a beautiful little mid-century modern. So he's having fun with that right now – he doesn't feel like drawing, he feels like building right now.
But I am really happy with the end product. The one thing that I wish is that we had a couple more – it easily could have been a six issue series instead of a four-issue series. We didn't know it at the time, but we could have easily – and it wouldn't have even been about stretching it out. We had enough material to put in. We actually had to cut.
Yeah, that's one of the tough parts of that project, leading right up to where Watchmen begins makes them feel connected and open-ended rather than stand-alone works. I really felt that with Ozymandias, which was really good otherwise.
Yeah. Darwyn and I were trying to make the ending seem like it could be book-ended, you know, but it was a delicate balance that we were trying to strike between making it seem like its own story and making it easily tumble into the original story.
Yes, that had to be a difficult thing to do. So what do you have coming up next? I know you're doing Captain Brooklyn, right?
Yeah, Jimmy Palmiotti and Frank Tieri. By the way, Frank Tieri is so Brooklyn that he makes Jimmy look like a British gentleman. (laughs)
Hah, yes, I've seen the man speak, and I've read some of his "Space Punisher." Whatever you're doing with that is going to be nuts. Because of course! Why not Space Punisher?
I know, it's great! It's like a bunch of twelve-year-olds going "wouldn't it be cool if we put Punisher in space?" I guess so! Yeah, it would!
So how's Captain Brooklyn coming along?
Well, ever since I finished up Watchmen, I've been saying yes to a lot of cover work and doing a lot of conventions, and I have to cut back on that a little bit so I can get more of it done, because it's not getting done quickly enough. I need to get on it.
Yeah, since you don't really have a deadline or anything…
Yeah, Jimmy's got to give me a deadline because I will just blow it web-surfing for shoes (laughs).
Hah, and what I've seen of it looks like it's going to be sort of "The Pro" in tone, at least.
It is, a little bit, yeah. A little hard-edged.
Is that an area you like to work in, or is it more like "okay, boys, I'll do this for you."
Oh, no, I love it. It's a lot of fun. I think it was from working on Barbie for so many years. That left such a saccharine taste in my mouth that every time I get a chance to work on something like this, I jump at it.
All right, so you like the filth.
I do like the filth, yeah!
Aside from Captain Brooklyn, is there any future work, DC or otherwise, that you have coming down the pike that I might fall in love with?
Well, hopefully, you fall in love with Captain Brooklyn, but – and this is really exciting, also – you remember Painkiller Jane?
That's one of Jimmy and Joe [Quesada]'s creations, and Jimmy loves writing that character. Absolutely loves it, and he's had this idea rolling around in his head for the past ten or twelve years, and I love that idea so much that I told him 'if you do this story with another artist, I will smother you in your sleep – and I can do that because I sleep with you.'
Wow, okay! So is it a revival or a continuation?
Well, I think all the stories that came before were self-contained stories, and this is also going to be self-contained. It's still that character, that badass redhead who runs around shooting things.
All right – last thing – is there any chance maybe you could do some All-Star Western with Jimmy? Maybe a Tallulah Black one-shot?
I would love that! You know what, if they asked me to do a Tallulah Black one-shot, I'd be all over that! Somebody asked me a funny question the other day – they said "hey, are Jonah Hex and Tallulah Black supposed to be you and Jimmy?" I asked Jimmy, and he just snickered at me, so I didn't really get an answer. (laughs)
I think that is your answer, actually.
Jonah Hex and Tallulah Black from Jimmy Palmiotti & Darwyn Cooke. Maybe she's onto something?