Much has been made of the success of DC Comics’ current “Harley Quinn” series, from the creative team of husband and wife co-writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner and artist Chad Hardin. Not only has it been a consistent top-seller for DC over the past year, it’s also helped inspire some of the new series coming from the publisher in June — as seen in DC’s willingness to experiment with more humor-focused books like “Bat-Mite” and “Bizarro,” and even more directly in Palmiotti and Conner writing both a “Starfire” ongoing series, illustrated by Emanuela Lupacchino; and a six-issue “Harley Quinn and Power Girl” miniseries, also co-written by Palmiotti’s frequent collaborator Justin Gray and illustrated by Stephane Roux.
CBR News spoke with Palmiotti, Conner and Hardin during a recent press event at DC’s Burbank headquarters, to talk the influential impact of “Harley Quinn” and the “fun naughtiness” of “Starfire,” the “Teen Titans” mainstay set to relocate to Key West, Florida in an attempt (key word, “attempt”) to avoid the inherent craziness that comes with being an alien superhero.
CBR News: In a lot of ways, the success of “Harley Quinn” and the spirit of the book has inspired some of the new titles, and the publisher’s willingness to experiment with some different tones. How does it feel not only to have the book be such a hit, but to help bring in some different types of sensibilities to DC?
Amanda Conner: I think people were ready for a fresh storyline. As far as Harley goes, not only can people identify with her — I mean, you can’t really identify with her because she’s a psycho killer — but you can identify with her, because she actually does all the things you wish you can do when say, somebody cuts you off while you’re driving, or cuts in front of you in the bathroom, something like that, and you have fantasies about what you would do that person.
Jimmy Palmiotti: Why are you so angry? Why are you so damn angry, Amanda Conner? I don’t understand. [Laughs]
Conner: Because I live with you. [Laughs]
Palmiotti: As you should be. You should be very angry. Chad actually gets spared, because he doesn’t have to live with us. Unfortunately, you get our scripts, and have to deal with that.
Chad Hardin: I deal with a little bit of it!
Conner: But really, we told them, we’re just going to do what we want with Harley, because we wanted the story to sort of be Harley’s stream of consciousness. She’s nuts, and the book should be nuts. Let her be a nutjob, and follow her through her day.
Palmiotti: I’ll give credit to DC. DC and Dan [DiDio] [said], “Guys, do what you want, let’s see if it works.” Right out of the gate, we started with the #0 issue with 17 artists, and we just established right away, anything’s going to go. They let us do it. By the next month when the regular series came out, we said, “Let’s just make this fun. Let’s not worry about continuity.” Let’s bring her out of Gotham right away, and put her in a new place, so we can have a new start. That seemed to get a lot of people’s attention, and the idea is now, the creator’s vision of what the character should be. It was an experiment.
If “Harley” flopped, we might be doing something different. but because it caught on, I think a lot of the editors looked at this and said, “Maybe we can do this with some other titles.”
Hardin: If it flopped it’s like, “How did you do that?” But it did work.
Palmiotti: I think in a lot of ways, when talent’s brought on to a new title, they want to make it theirs. They want to own it a little bit. I think it’s really exciting that June is a month where a lot of titles are going to be owned by the creative teams, and then we’ll find out what works and what doesn’t. But I think to keep comics interesting, you always have to experiment. So we’re happy that things went that way.
Not only are you inspiring some of the new books, but Amanda and Jimmy, you’re writing two of them — what insight can you share at this point about the “Harley Quinn and Power Girl” series?
Palmiotti: The [“Harley Quinn and Power Girl”] miniseries is funny, because it takes place in between the second time loop in issue #13. Harley Quinn and Power Girl come out of one of the time loops, and Power Girl’s in a wedding dress, and Harley’s wearing power armor and has three-eyed cats. Power Girl goes, “That was the longest two weeks of my life.” That’s what the miniseries is — between that one panel, what happened there. Why Power Girl wound up in a wedding dress.
Conner: And Harley found all these alien cats.
Palmiotti: Chad’s been spared doing that series.
Hardin: If I had a power, it would be [to] freeze time and draw all the things I want to draw. You have to pick and choose. But it would be fun.
Conner: I would like to be Triplicate Girl.
Palmiotti: Stephane’s great, and he got to contribute to the #0 book, as well. We also know that Chad needs to have a life, and we’ve taken most of it away from him at this point. It’s true! You pencil it, and you ink it, and you do crazy stuff on it.
Conner: It’s gorgeous.
Palmiotti: Let’s give credit where credit’s due — we write crazy stuff, but Chad takes it a little further in his drawings. There are little things going on in the background.
Conner: We’re like, pointing and laughing — look what he did here!
Palmiotti: That’s always a good team, when everybody’s working together to amp it up a little bit.
Then there’s “Starfire” — what’s the plan for that series?
Conner: We’re sort of doing the same thing, seeing if that works with Starfire. We’re picking her up out of her comfort zone, and we are going to move her to Key West, Florida — which is probably one of the coolest places in the United States. I don’t know how many people know this, but once you visit Key West once, you’re always like, “How can I afford to buy a house here and live here for the rest of my life?”
Palmiotti: We have an eight-pager that’s in the back of the books [during] “Convergence” that leads to into the regular series of Starfire saying, “Alright, I want to start a different life here. I don’t want to be part of a superhero team, I don’t want to be fighting supervillains, I just want to get to know the people on this planet, and be able to move among them.” And of course, that’s when the chaos starts.
Again, it has a light, kind of fun feel to it, with a lot of crazy stuff going on.
And her costume is a little bit different — a little more covered up.
Conner: When I talked to Eddie [Berganza], my editor on it, he was saying, “Let’s do something sexy, but not porn-y.” I’m like, “I could do that!” Then we started talking about her classic costume and the cartoon costume, and we’re like, “Well, let’s try and merge the two of them, and see what happens.” I wanted to give her kind of a mod look at the same time, because I’m all about ’60s mod. Women of the ’60s were just so damn gorgeous, and they had the best clothes. I wanted to go for something like that. She’s got a whole new outfit and a whole new place to live, and a whole new bunch of people to try to not set on fire and explode.
She seems to be in a similar position to Harley Quinn, since she does have a wider recognition because of the “Teen Titans” cartoons — there may be people out there who have been looking for a new take on Starfire, too.
Conner: Yeah. It is important to keep in mind, she’s still a hedonist, so there’s going to be a lot of, “Wha-oh!” going on.
Palmiotti: That’s not going away. Sorry, moms. [Laughs]
Conner: But we are going to try and keep it fun. We don’t want it to be lascivious. We want it to be fun naughtiness, instead of, “ew naughtiness.”
“Starfire” #1 is scheduled for release on June 10; “Harley Quinn and Power Girl” #1 is scheduled for release on June 17.