Interview: Palmiotti & Gray Unleash a RETROVIRUS

In stores tomorrow, Retrovirus is an original graphic novel from the writing duo of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray. The pair launched this book as a Kickstarter several months ago, and it is now seeing full distribution through Image Comics. Palmiotti and Gray took time to sit down with Comicosity and discuss where Retrovirus came from, and what readers can expect from the OGN.

Aaron Long: Straight from the architects’ mouths: what is Retrovirus?

Justin Gray: Retrovirus is the story of a paleovirologist named Zoe Wallace who is hired by a pharmaceutical company to discover the origins of an extinct virus. She learns that the infected cells are what wiped out the Neanderthals and now that same virus that killed them is threatening to wipe us off the planet. There’s an obvious influence from both Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park at play here with regard to the overall feel of the piece. What Jimmy and I wanted to do was mix elements of science fiction and survival horror in a way that also serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of uncovering these ancient viruses. Another influence comes from my time working with fossil amber and being around the curator of paleontology at the American museum of Natural History.

Jimmy Palmiotti: It is also a chance for us to experiment with a different type of genre and go a bit crazy, not worrying about an editor that is telling us we went too far.

AL: Can you discuss the main character, Zoe, and what is driving her in the story?

JG: There are several themes at play in the story, but the primary one is creation, with Zoe representing humanity on multiple levels. She’s an extremely strong willed and intelligent character that is thrown into a violent and deadly situation. Anyone who knows our work also knows we don’t shy away from representing women as fully developed characters and Zoe is no different. You see that she has real world problems that contribute to her decision-making and illustrate just how strong she is as a person. We wanted to push her to the brink in ways we hadn’t seen in this genre.

AL: How did Norberto Fernandez get involved with the project?

JP: We had a great time working with him on another book we did for Image call Tattered Man and wanted to find just the right project for him and Retrovirus came along. We feel there is a good amount of non-superhero comic artists out there waiting for the right project and a special skill of ours is always trying to fit the right person to the right project. The material is custom made for his type of work.

AL: Jimmy, this is your second Kickstarter project, with the first being Queen Crab. Having now gone through two successful campaigns, are there any tips you would pass along to creators looking to start up a crowdfunded project?

JP: Sure, first, get most of your book done in advance and show as much as possible to get peoples interest. Do not get greedy and ask only for what you need. Last, if you are going to do something, do it with passion and an understanding that this is your loyal audience and they expect your best work here…don’t put together a project unless it’s the best it can be and make sure you fulfill each and every pledge.


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