Harley Quinn has been a popular character since her debut on “Batman: The Animated Series” in 1992, but in the past few months, the fortuitously named Dr. Harleen Quinzel has entered new territory: Near the top of the monthly Diamond sales charts, alongside the very biggest titles in the industry like “Batman,” “Superior Spider-Man” and “The Walking Dead.”
DC Comics‘ latest “Harley Quinn” ongoing series, co-written by husband-and-wife team Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner and illustrated by Chad Hardin, has been a major recent success for The New 52, despite launching last fall amid a controversy surrounding the content of a script page used in a tryout contest for upcoming artists. The book has seen Harley dabble in both roller derby and animal rescue, along with becoming the target of multiple assassination attempts.
With #4 now on sale, CBR News spoke with Palmiotti — whose latest successful Kickstarter campaign, “Denver,” wrapped up a week ago — about the “Harley Quinn” experience so far, collaborating with Conner and Hardin, Deadpool comparisons and the book’s next “wild adventures.”
CBR News: Jimmy, the sales success of “Harley Quinn” thus far has been notable, with issues #0, #1 and #2 all landing in the top 10 on Diamond’s monthly charts. You have to be pleased with those numbers, but are you surprised to see the book get such a warm reception? How meaningful is it to you to see that — especially for a book with a female lead character?
Jimmy Palmiotti: Harley Quinn is a very popular character. Always has been. I think the warm reception is based on the fact that we have found a voice that the fans are enjoying in the character, and we hit it out of the park with having Chad as the artist on the series. Amanda and I were very surprised that the book is doing so well and we are doing our best to keep the title as crazy and fun as we can.
I think there was a time that it was harder to push a female character in comics and get attention, but since a huge part of the audience is female now, it makes total sense why Harley is attracting the attention. Harley has the advantage of a great history behind her in comics, TV and video games. Her character reaches a huge audience.
It’s also significant given that the book sparked a controversy early in its existence, over the talent search page from issue #0. How relieved are you to see that hasn’t negatively affected the book’s reception, and do you think the book has successfully overcome any negative perception that page may have raised?
I always knew there would be no real controversy once the audience saw the tone we were going for once the books were in their hands. Anything taken out of context is open for interpretation, and this book and that specific page was no different. It was unfortunate that a lot of people reacted the way they did. We were all relieved that it had no long-term effect on the title, but I got to say, it had Amanda and I second-guessing some of our humor at first. Not so much now that we established how over the top the entire book is in general.
Following the first issues of this series, a couple different spots around the comics Internet — including CBR’s own Robot 6 — raised the notion that Harley Quinn may be DC’s answer to Deadpool. What’s your take on that? Do you see a similarity between the characters?
They are both fun and killers at the same time. I also have a history of writing Deadpool for a while. It ends there, though. I think Harley has a different set up and delivery overall than the “Deadpool” series, but I got to say, I love the Deadpool character. I think as the series goes on, the reviewers will look deeper and not jump at the first conclusion that hits them. This sort of thing takes time and a few issues to realize. I can see how with two issues out they would think that.
A major part of the success of the book thus far has been the art by Chad Hardin, in his most high-profile series to date. You and Amanda have the perspective of being artists yourselves — how has it been for the two of you working with Hardin on this series?
Amanda wants to draw every page we write, and with Chad, we found someone that Amanda looks at and says, “He nailed it,” just about each and every time. It is fun writing for an artist, being an artist, because there is a shorthand we can speak in that Chad gets. I we have any actual notes on his pages, they are usually story items and specific. He will never get, “I don’t know why, but I don’t like it,” from us. Chad has simply been professional, creative and has added details that we never even thought of. Every single issue is better than the last.
The first few issues of “Harley Quinn” have seen a number of animals come under the title’s character’s care. What inspired that direction with the character? What is that allowing you to explore with Harley Quinn that hasn’t been seen in her before?
Amanda loves animals — it’s as simple as that. Also, animals are innocents and it brings out the protector and hero in Harley, something we love seeing after killing hitmen and so on. We live in a cat or dog world. Who doesn’t love seeing our little friends play a part in the books we do? Track back Amanda’s work, and there is always an animal involved. Mostly cats.
Last month’s “Harley Quinn” #3 certainly showed, from her viewpoint, a very negative standpoint on Valentine’s Day — which may be surprising given that the issue was written by a married couple that’s been together for years. Is that purely Harley talking, or do the two of you feel similarly?
I tell Amanda that every day is Valentine’s Day, and after she stops rolling her eyes, she agrees. We see the holiday as a bit cruel because we have a ton of single friends with no one in their lives, and we always go out of our way to make them feel wanted as best we can. It comes from a place of great empathy of others, something we both share.
You’ve always got a lot going on in both the work-for-hire and creator-owned realm — how important is it for you to keep busy in both worlds? Do you ever see yourself leaning more towards the creator-owned side (as we’ve seen several high-profile creators do in recent years), or is the mix of both that truly works for you?
As long as I get to work on the characters I like, I will always continue working for the other companies. I love the creator-owned work, but making the comics isn’t enough when you do them. I have to work triple-hard to push something like the new “Painkiller Jane” series into people’s hands. It’s even harder to get women to try the book. If I felt my creator-owned books were enough for me to make a living, I would do much more, but for now, I push my work on the Paperfilms.com website and fund the next experiment.
Finally, is there anything you’d like to tease about upcoming installments of “Harley Quinn”? Based on solicitations, it looks like murderous cyborgs and scary neighbors are both in the near future.
We have a ton of wild adventures coming up. Yes, there is a character named SYBORG that goes on an adventure with Harley for a couple of issues, and more Poison Ivy in the picture as well. We will be getting to see Harley working all of her jobs, too, which open up many doors of insanity. We also have a few announcements coming up that will be pretty out there to most people, but makes total sense to Harley fans. Last, we will finally find out who sent those killers after Harley, and it is not whom you expect, that’s for sure.