Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray Bring the Hype

hype-excerpt_page_1The United States military has a secret weapon: an individual who wields the superhuman abilities of immense intellect, speed, power, and strength. The cost? This power only lasts forty-five minutes a day. Noah Haller is HYPE, a man who is forced to undergo complete cellular regeneration twenty-three hours each day to retain his capabilities.

As Noah works to solve the world’s complex problems, he struggles to achieve the emotional balance and understanding that comes naturally to most humans. Scientist Amanda Marr aids him in his journey, but loyalties are tested as a terrorist group threatens the world with a deadly pathogen.

Hype tells the story of a genetically designed super human who can only live for one hour a day.  It was created after a successful, fully-funded Kickstarter campaign put together by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, comic industry vets behind other titles such as Harley Quinn, Powergirl, and Jonah Hex.

The two have successfully be using Kickstarter to launch numerous projects and I got a chance to talk to the two creators about their latest release.

Graphic Policy: Where’d the concept for Hype come from?

Jimmy Palmiotti: It was something Justin and I have had as a concept for quite a while…I remember even back in the early 2000’s having Michael Golden do a version of the suit he wore that we never used. Like a lot of what we do, some ideas just sit and wait till the timing was right.

Justin Gray: It definitely feels like we’ve been living with Hype for a long time and it has evolved and grown but the core concept has always been the same – what if you had superhuman powers but could only use them for one hour out of every 24 and the rest of the time you were in a coma. Would it be worth it? What kind of life would you have?

GP: How long has been since the initial conception to it being released?

JP: I would say about 10 years.

JG: It does take a while for that karma wheel to roll around.

hype-excerpt_page_2GP: The comic reminds me a lot of Frankenstein with a “monster” having to learn humanity. Was that an influence on the story?

JP: The evolution of the concept and idea were never referencing Frankenstein. It was more of us looking at where technology would go next and imagining what would happen if they could pull off this kind of an idea and how it would work as it matured.

JG: Frankenstein is a quest for humanity to have godlike powers, to become masters of death. With Hype our character of Noah has these incredible abilities and is responsible for saving so many lives but at a cost of his own life. The fun stuff is that Hype is kind of like the show 24 distilled down to 45-60 minutes. There’s no room for mistakes, failure and the real meat of the story is Noah’s struggle to feel connected to the world he is saving both physically and emotionally. That’s the beating heart of the story.

GP: In exploring that there’s a lot of time spent without action and focused on simple human interaction. How do you find it balancing that with the action sequences within the graphic novel?

JP: We follow our instincts and then edit and rework scenes and even dialogue till it feels like the perfect balance. With Hype we felt it was important to make a human connection with each character, even more important than the actual action that is happening. If a reader cannot relate to what they are going through, then the story, whatever it may be going forward, falls apart.

JG: With this kind of story the action elements are much easier than answering the questions of what happens to Hype in those fleeting moments when he is activated and tackling the emotional elements.

GP: The story is interesting in that while Hype is a man those in power over him are two women, including the direct head of the program. Was there any underlying themes you thought about with that dynamic?

JP: Not at first, but as the story started to find its legs we saw that the maternal relationship with Hype was an important one and that learning from someone of the opposite sex about the world around them might be a more natural progression for someone born later in life. Justin and I have always written really strong female characters, so on some level it is a natural thing as well.

JG: When you look at the two women they’re oppositional in their goals and that also helps define the duality of Noah’s life, he’s the emotional product of both sets of interaction.

GP: Speaking of themes, the story is about a genetically designed super human, and though it may sound like science fiction this is real science. How much did you look towards the real world for this?

JP: We are both totally interested in science and the science community and that is where the original idea came from, with a little added futuristic thinking thrown in. Since we started writing together, science has always played a big part in our work. Our first project together was called The Resistance about the world hundreds of years from now and how society was functioning. All good Science fiction seems plausible to me. Hype seems like it is about 15 years away from becoming a reality.

JG: Not only the science but also the psychology of it. Some of Hype was directly influenced by the fact that some drone operators, carrying out missions hundreds of miles away from their actual location, suffer from PTSD. There is a lot of talk about people being desensitized by violence so I personally found it fascinating that even in an environment that is similar to Ender’s Game the videogame aspect isn’t enough to fully divest us from emotion.

GP: When it comes to the design of the characters and the world, how much was you two versus artist Javier Pina?

JP: Javier is a brilliant artist and storyteller and we loved what he did with the book, but the design was given to him because we had Amanda Conner design the actual suit he wears and his look, down to the very small details. What Javier did was bring the entire look and world around him to life. We got very lucky working with such a talented artist.

JG: I couldn’t agree more he captured the full spectrum of what the story is trying to convey.

GP: The comic was funded by Kickstarter, which is a platform you’ve used quite often in the past. As creators what advantages and disadvantages do you see in using it for your projects?

JP: The obvious disadvantage is no one funds your project and you wasted a lot of time and money, but we have not had that happen so far because we understand that we are selling not only a project but offering up a store worth of items that people might want to buy in the process. That said, we have a wonderful group of people that follow us from project to project and have learned over time what they are looking for in a Kickstarter. We love using the platform because it gives us direct contact and conversation with the people that support us.

JG: Absolutely, we’ve been incredibly fortunate to have found a growing audience that gets what we’re trying to do with each project. That’s kind of remarkable when you look at the diversity of our offerings in terms of genre and content. Abbadon and Hype are very different projects from Forager and Sex & Violence and yet there’s this incredible groundswell of support from amazing people looking to back these projects.

GP: What lessons have you learned over the various projects you’ve done?

JP: Offer what you can deliver, keep the packages small, offer up skype sessions, figure out your mailing fees beforehand and always deliver what you promise on time.

JG: Jimmy is right and we continue to learn about the platform with each campaign. One of the fundamental lessons is to add reasonable pledge tiers that offer value to the backer. I’m launching a brand-new Kickstarter this month for a book I’ve written called Jail Bait & Trailer Trash. I’ve painstakingly gone over every tier, revised it dozens of times based on watching people run their campaigns. A lot of times friends and even strangers are asking me for advice and tips. I’ve learned that is it isn’t enough to have great content and art you need to make people aware of your campaign and know your target audience. Too often I think people look only at the successes, especially the projects that raise well over 100% of their goal and don’t spend enough time analyzing the many more that fail.

GP: The comics ends and leaves open a wide world, any chance we’ll see more?

JP: Yes, we sure hope to do a second part in the future, but for now we sit and wait to see how the book does in bookstores. If it does well, we will deliver more. It is as simple as that.

JG: Like the man says. If there’s a demand, then we’ll be happy to fill it.

GP: Thanks for your time!