Separately, Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti had long established themselves in the comic book world before they married in 2013—she primarily as an artist doing knockout covers and interior pages for the likes of Archie, Power Girl, Silk Spectre, and Supergirl; he as an artist and writer on characters such as Punisher, Ghost Rider, and Jonah Hex in addition to his creator-owned graphic novels and limited series. It turns out the timing of their nuptials couldn’t have been better, as only a few years later the duo would switch to full time writer mode (although Conner still does the cover art) and tag team a pair of standalone DC Comics titles focusing on the company's now ubiquitous villain-slash-anti-heroine Harley Quinn (the eponymous solo title as well as Harley Quinn’s Little Black Book).
Amid the throng of fans, colleagues, and innumerable Harley cosplayers, Co.Create got a chance to ask Jimmy and Amanda to give some advice to couples struggling to find work-life balance in often unpredictable creative fields.
Jimmy Palmiotti: [Work-life balance] is a nightmare. We run into that because right now we’re doing a bi-monthly book, so it’s a lot of work. And then Amanda’s doing covers and . . . we don’t cook that much. [laughs] We definitely have a lot of dates every day.
Amanda Conner: Yeah, we never cook at home.
JP: We go out to dinner.
AC: And lunch. [laughs]
JP: Which is a break, but when you’re working on stuff, especially someone like Harley, you tend to always have it in the back of your head. So even when we’re out for dinner, something happens and we go, "Oh, that would be great for Harley . . ."
AC: I carry an iPad mini and it’s got like a miles’ worth of notes—Harley notes.
JP: But we do have those fatigue days where we go, "OK, we need to take a break." Or as Amanda says, "We need a real vacation, not a comic convention vacation." And I agree with that. But it’s a balance. Probably the most important thing is that she works upstairs and I work downstairs. So we don’t really work in the same room, either. So there are a lot of little boundaries and a lot of little things we do, but at the end of the day when we’re writing we’re trying to impress each other. So I’m trying to make her laugh and she’s trying to make me laugh and I think that combination is right there in the book. You can write for the audience only to a point. But you have to like what you’re doing.
AC: I have to make sure I entertain him first.
JP: That’s our gauntlet for getting the book out, if we both think it’s good. And we’ll talk about it—is it good? Amanda does the finishing dialogue on it, so I’ll say, "How’s the story, is it OK?" And she’ll say, "Yeah, yeah, but I added this and that" and then we have to let it go out the door. Deadlines dictate that it has to end at some point.
AC: Because you could noodle it to death . . . And we’re a little bit [protective of Harley], yeah, because we feel like she’s grown so much, and we don’t want her to fall back into her old bad habits, you know? We want to watch her, make sure—like your best friend in high school: "Do NOT kiss that guy! That’s bad."
AC: We had to change. Big time. Well, we started working together when he was inking, back in the day. And it started changing when I finally moved in with him. When we had to cram all of our worldly goods in the same space and he had his studio and I had to work in the living room . . . because I didn’t want to horn in on his territory.
JP: Thank you!
AC: You’re welcome! [laughs] But now that we’re writing together it’s a whole new learning process. Because he was writing Power Girl a while back and I was doing the art on it, now it’s a completely different thing now that we’re writing together.
JP: When we first started writing together, it took a little effort, because it comes down to, not a power struggle, but you have one wants to do more, and one wants to do this . . . so over the years we found a balance. Now we’re in a good place with the balance, but it took a while out of the gate to try and figure out how this was going to work. Because he hadn’t written together before Harley.
AC: I think it took like nine issues before we got into a groove. I see things so visually and so clearly in my head, that I think I’m a little overbearing towards the artists. So Jimmy and I bounce it all back and forth on it, and I let him send the draft to the artist so I don’t crawl up the artist’s ass, so to speak. Because it would drive me nuts as an artist if someone did that to me.
AC: It just takes time.
JP: And no ego.
AC: Yeah, you’ve gotta lose the ego. And there’s no way to do that, because once in a while we’ll both think one of us is right. But it helps to be able to go, "Oh, okay, maybe you’re right about this." It’s a process. You have to be consistent.
JP: Ego is not a good thing for a writing partnership. You have to learn to recognize the best idea no matter where it comes from. It takes time. I won’t really rest until she’s okay with it, and vice versa.