DC Comics began its Friday programming at Comic-Con International in San Diego by talking with fans about Harley Quinn and the Suicide Squad, its current media darlings due to the imminent film. Co-publisher and “Suicide Squad” artist Jim Lee, writer Rob Williams, artists Philip Tan, Chad Hardin, and Mauricet, and Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner were on hand to discuss the upcoming “Rebirth” series. DC’s VP-Talent Development Larry Ganem moderated the panel.
“When we tackled Harley, we thought, a lot of times bad guys don’t think they’re bad guys, they think they’re good guys,” Conner said. “In her head, she’s a superhero — she’s doing all the wrong things for all the right reasons.”
With characters like the Flash and Superman, Palmiotti added, “You can’t really have them shooting someone in the head or throwing them down the stairs,” but in the Suicide Squad line “anything can happen.”
Lee said that “we probably know more people in real life that are like the Suicide Squad than the Justice League.”
Williams joked that he “had an Uncle Ted who looked like a giant crocodile,” with Lee quipping that he should add him to the book. “Thanks for making light of my childhood trauma,” Williams said.
Palmiotti said the first issue of “Harley Quinn” would get new readers up to speed by having “Harley getting up on stage and telling you all her history.”
“In the first three issues, there’s a bad meat outbreak at the hotdog stand,” Palmiotti said. Hardin added that “you’ll get to see how hot dogs are made,” in what Palmiotti said was a three-page silent sequence.
“Those pages were so funny I didn’t want to put any words on them at all,” Conner added.
Hardin said that he and the writers always tried to one-up each other. “I get the script, and I’m already laughing,” he said, but then his challenge is to make it funnier.
Conner was sporting a cast (not on her drawing arm), which Palmiotti said is a result of an accident while vacationing in Italy. “We went up Mt Etna, we went through caves, we even jumped down onto stuntman pillows… but then the last day, she’s like oh, look at that statue, and she tripped. And landed, with all her weight on her left elbow, on a rock.”
“Don’t ever fracture your elbow,” Conner advised.
Moving on to the main “Suicide Squad” series, which is written by Rob Williams and illustrated by Jim Lee and Philip Tan, Tan spoke about the unique challenge of the series. “When you have bad guys doing heroic things, you draw them differently,” Tan said. “It’s very different from drawing superheroes, it’s very challenging for me.
Lee said “we’re trying to create a style that makes the most of both our styles, to make it seamless” when arc switch between him and Tan.
Each issue will feature two stories, a 13-page Squad adventure and and 8-page profile of one of the characters. Williams said the Squad will discover an artifact that changes the direction of the team — “and the team acquires a new member, but I don’t think it’s a member anyone will expect.”
Williams said that when the team is dropped from space to the mission site to avoid detection, “everything’s going well until Croc vomits into his space suit.”
Williams said Rick Flagg’s driving force is that “he’s a former Navy Seal, he had lost some people on a mission — as horrible as the Suicide Squad are, he’s going to protect them, he’s going to bring them home.”
Palmiotti said that “Harley Quinn and Her Gang of Harleys” was inspired by cosplayers. “They would take the basic idea of her costume and just go wild,” he said, adding their own innovation.
The sixth and final issue “Harley’s Little Black Book” features Lobo and will be illustrated by Simon Bisley. Palmiotti did an impression of Bisley accepting the gig, and Williams made fun of his accent work. “I came into the world with a Brooklyn accent,” Palmiotti joked.
Palmiotti said #6 is a take on the show “Naked and Afraid,” and the final page sets up some major events in Harley’s world.
The floor was then opened to fan questions.
Asked if Harley could ever revert to a straight-up villain, Conner said, “It’s not impossible. She’s done some really horrible things.”
“She’s a character who can justify anything in her head,” Palmiotti said. “Sure, I killed 40 people, but 50 could have died.”
“The thing that excites me most about her is how smart she is,” Williams said. “I think I see more the villain side, myself.”
“A lot of the difference between someone like a police officer and a criminal is nurture,” Hardin said. “The same sociopathic instinct that would lead a person to rush into a burning building might be the same instinct to rob a bank. And the difference might be whether they had a parent that said, no, that’s wrong. A lot of our politicians are sociopaths…”
Shortly after, Williams joked that the secret new member was Donald Trump. “It’s gonna be huuuuuge.”
Asked whether Captain Boomerang would revert to his pre-New 52 origin, Williams said that Boomer is “a great liar.” “There’s a scene where he’s telling Waller his background, and she says, I don’t believe a word of it.” He added that readers will “see some of the real Boomerang.”
On the topic of the movie, the panelists said they were excited. “When your character is in a movie, you become a legitimate human being,” Hardin joked. “They can’t mock you any more.”
Lee said he delayed seeing the movie because he didn’t want it to influence his work on the comic. “Even watching the trailers, I could feel it influencing me,” he said. Eventually, he broke down and watched the first twenty minutes.
Williams said El Diablo isn’t in the first arc, but he expects to add him later on. The roster will be fairly stable at first to allow readers to get their bearings, but “things will change down the road.”
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