Changes are afoot in DC Comics‘ New 52, with Dick Grayson abandoning his Nightwing persona, the Teen Titans and Suicide Squad regrouping under new missions, and Harley Quinn… being Harley Quinn. At Comic-Con International in San Diego, the “Harley Quinn” team of Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, and Chad Hardin, and “Grayson” writers Tim Seeley and Tom King led a panel discussing the new vanguard of unique DC Universe series. Senior VP-Sales Bob Wayne moderated the panel.
First up for discussion was “Grayson,” which is now going to second print of #1. “You know how Robin is awesome? Well, now Robin has a gun and fights spies,” Seeley said of the book’s hook. “Batman knows about it, because he’s Batman, and he needs Dick to go undercover” to “work for the organization while working against the organization.”
“This is a character who’s been around for 74 years,and he’s my favorite character in the DCU,” King added. He said that the spy organization, Spyral, isn’t inherently good or bad, but “they’re going after the super heroes’ secret identities, and Batman doesn’t like that.”
“In the first issue, he fights a fat guy who is purple and shoots energy beams,” Seeley joked, “but it’s exciting in the issue.”
Seeley also discussed the nod to Dick’s past in the circus, both in terms of his flair for performance and “his ability to wake up in a new part of the world” and roll with the changes.
Next, Palmiotti spoke about “Star Spangled War Stories Featuring G.I. Zombie,” about a zombie who “polices the United States” but “sometimes his appetite gets in his way.” “I got my comp copies this week and I thought, oh, I thought they were going to cut that part out,” Palmiotti said. “Nope! This is the most violent DC Universe book you’ve ever seen.”
Palmiotti continued, “It’s a fun book, it starts out with the two agents trying to infiltrate a group in Mississippi and it goes from there.” Though G.I. Zombie “is the only zombie the government uses and acknowledges that he exists,” but this turns out not to be the case.
Giving commentary on pages on the screen, Palmiotti said, “Oh, there he’s riding a missile! Because somebody launched a missile that shouldn’t have been launched, he doesn’t know what to do so he just jumps on it.” Acknowledging the “Doctor Strangelove” homage, he added, “Zombie riding a missile is a great sentence.”
Each issue of “Harley Quinn” to date has been heavily reprinted, Wayne said, urging fans to ask retailers to order more copies so he didn’t have to keep going back to press.
Hardin talked about the “roller coaster” of working on “Harley Quinn” with Palmiotti and Conner. Wayne noted that, oddly, there were no Harley costumes in the room.
Palmiotti said that events of “Harley Quinn Invades Comic-Con” was “based on things that really happened, mostly.” “We just thought the theme would be fun,” Palmiotti said. Conner showed off one of her art pages, which shows “someone I know” but who in the story is “someone that Harley made up.” In the story, Harley comes to Comic-Con to show her portfolio and try to get work from DC Comics.
“Her character is Hurl Girl, who is a teacher whose students make her so mad she wants to vomit, and her vomit has these acid properties,” Palmiotti said.
Coming in October is the “Rub and Smell” “Harley Quinn Annual.” “I can’t remember if we talked Dan [DiDio] into it, or he talked us into it,” Conner said. Palmiotti added, “We put it in a polybag so you don’t rub and smell yourself in the aisle.”
“We do have a villain we would like to find the right smell for,” Palmiotti said, after saying that the team would meet their editor tomorrow to choose smells.”
Talking about issue #8, Conner said, “I have the sense of humor of an eleven year old boy.” She, Palmiotti, and Hardin laughed quite a bit, but hinted at pages that would not be shown on the screen today.
“If we are ever all going to get fired for a book, it’s this one,” Hardin said.
Seeley joked that “we’re trying to figure out how to use Rub and Smell for that masculine Dick Grayson scent everybody wants to get a whiff of.”
“I would totally rub and smell Dick Grayson,” Conner said.
Also coming up is Harley’s wedding to the Joker, followed by a Power Girl team up. “And Harley cuts a nice diamond out of her shirt,” Palmiotti said.
Wayne then opened the floor to questions.
Seeley said he and King have the first ten-issue “season” planned out, but there is no mandate to return to Nightwing in X number issues. “There is another arc planned after it,” King added.
Palmiotti said the more hard-edged Harley of “New Suicide Squad” and the “more fun side of her” seen in his book “can coexist,” and that she can also remain a core Bat-character while growing into her own character.
King spoke about why Dick Grayson was his favorite character, saying “he was always the character you could imagine being” and that “it’s a bit like Paul McCartney — he’s done so much, but he’s always been in the Beatles. Dick Grayson will always be Robin, and that’s an interesting tension.”
The panelists were asked what makes them laugh. Seeley said, “Farts make me laugh, but farts don’t work in comics.” Palmiotti suggested he should check out the Rub and Smell issue.
A fan suggested that other sidekicks might join the spy ring. “I like that idea,” Seeley laughed. “Just ship your sidekick off to spy school! Kid Flash is really pissing me off… off to spy school!”
Palmiotti said that Harley “has other love interests coming besides Mr. J,” while Conner compared it to breaking up with an ex who still “has a hold on her.”
“She does love her beaver, that little beaver guy? That’s important,” Palmiotti said.
Wayne: “That better not be part of the Rub and Smell.”
After further joking, Palmiotti said, “By the way, the beaver was Amanda’s idea.” Conner clarified that Palmiotti had suggested a shed with, among other things, a taxidermied beaver, but it was her idea to make it talk.