Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti are many things in the comics industry: writers on a variety of projects including “Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre” and “Batwing.” Artists who have worked together and with other collaborators. And a bona fide comic book power couple.
Later this year, the pair team to co-write their first ongoing series as the duo have been tapped by DC Comics to pen “Harley Quinn,” a new, monthly series debuting later this year with a yet-to-be-named artist. The villainess of Gotham City and Joker’s girlfriend has headlined a monthly comic before, but since the advent of the New 52 relaunch, the character has kept mainly to her current role as a cast member of DC’s “Suicide Squad” where she sports a look closer to her recent “Arkham Asylum” video games appearances than her original “Batman: the Animated Series” outfit.
Now, with Comic-Con International in San Diego soon upon us, CBR News has an exclusive first look at the book, and in their first interview, Conner and Palmiotti explain what they’re taking from Harley’s classic past, her “Suicide Squad” present and her many media appearances to make this book work as well as describing whether or not the Joker is waiting in the wings and what other surprise characters lay in store for “Harley Quinn.”
CBR News: Congrats on the new series! It’s been a while since we’ve seen a true Harley Quinn title. What was your first response to the idea of working with the character in the New 52?
Jimmy Palmiotti: When we were offered the book, it wasn’t something we said yes to right away. We needed to do a lot of reading and playing catch up on what the character has been up to since we knew the other version so well. Amanda and I spent a lot of time talking about approach, if we can find a real voice for the character , and what the series would be about before we sent in our pitch. On the surface, this is a no brainer with the two of us writing, but like anything else we do together, we needed to really dig in and find the who , what and where of the new Harley.
Amanda Conner: It was a little daunting, at first. She is a totally beloved character, and you have to show that some respect, all while bringing her into a whole new atmosphere. We have to make her world very believable. We want to make her almost like she’s someone you’ve met before.
Palmiotti: After a lot of back and forth, we found the place we needed to find and pitched it to DC, and they loved it.
Harley is a character that was born with a very specific, very beloved iteration on “Batman: The Animated Series,” though over the years she’s evolved in the comics as many of the DC characters do. What versions loom largest in how you see her today?
Palmiotti: We took a good long look at the New 52 version and then applied it to what we were going to do in the series. Harley is a complex character and we are going to build on her background, motivations and her home and supporting cast. Sort of what we did with Power Girl but with a mix of a bit more homicidal maniac added in.
Conner: That original version is what seems to be stuck in my head, but at the same time, I always thought it would be cool to see Harley (but not her Harleen self) outside of her costume, and what she would be like. That’s kinda what we have with this version of her.
Harley has been and done many things over the years. Her stories range from comedy to tragedy, and her status swings between villain and hero (or an approximate variation of heroism). What do you identify as the strongest components of her world that need to show up in this series?
Palmiotti: She is the hero in her own story. What happens, who gets killed, what house gets burned down and so on, well, thats just part of her story. She looks at the world differently and we will be building on that and looking even closer on her past and what makes her tick. There are so many layers to this fantastic character that we cannot wait to explore.
Conner: Like Jimmy always says; A villain almost never believes that they are the bad guy. They usually think that they’re doing something for the greater good, or that they’re downtrodden and trying to overcome their repressors, or more than likely, they just want something.
Visually, Harley’s look has gone from the court jester of the cartoons to the more sinister version inspired by the “Arkham” games. Are you looking to give her design a facelift for this series?
Palmiotti: The piece of artwork you see by Amanda running with this interview is what we see working for the character. Having so many personalities how can anyone imagine she would wear just one thing. Amanda has a great gift of creating costumes that you can actually wear in real life. A lot of designs these days are so over the top, they just aren’t realistic on any level for a character to fight or even sit on the toilet with them. Yeah, I said sit on the toilet. What do you think happens when the characters are not fighting bad guys? There is a lot of house cleaning, food eating, pet cleanup and bathroom time. Yes…we will be exploring all of these things.
Conner: I am trying to incorporate my favorite things about her latest look and her early costume. I was also inspired by some roller derby girls that I met a short time ago. I think that look totally works for Harley. Another thing I try to keep in mind is what would work really well for costumers and cosplayers, and what would be fun for them to create. One of my favorite things at a comic convention is seeing people dressed up in something that just started out as a thought in my head. Lastly, I always put the character in something that I wish I could run around in all the time.
As for the story, we’ve been following Harley in the pages of “Suicide Squad” for a while. Where does this series pick up her life, and what’s her own personal mission as she strikes out solo?
Palmiotti: The “Suicide Squad” book has Harley spending time with other heroes and bad guys. This book will focus on Harley and her life, where she lives and how she functions, as well as her motivations and solo adventures.
Conner: We want to put her in a new surroundings, with new people, and see how she behaves in that environment. Is she going to try to keep it together, or is she just going to cut loose and introduce her new world to the Harley brand of crazy?
It’s hard to talk about Harley without talking about “Mistah J.” Joker has obviously been AWOL since “Death of the Family,” and the two of them didn’t have the sweetest of encounters then. How does that relationship cast its shadow over the book as it gets going?
Palmiotti: The Joker is part of her life and he will still be. We will be looking at their relationship and other things along the way.
Conner: The Joker is someone that she’ll never be able to shake, nor is she really going to want to. Their relationship is a lot of what defines her now, although she is going to get into a lot of stuff where it has nothing to do with him. But that will always be looming in the background. She’ll have some serious ex-boyfriend issues.
What’s your goal for the first arc of the book? Is this the kind of series where we’ll be seeing Harley bounce all around the DCU, within the world of the Bat books or maybe more building some new elements that are unique to her?
Palmiotti: Ideally, I always think its a bit of a weakness to start pouring guest stars in every issue out of the gate, but she does play in a very colorful world. In this series, we are moving Harley out of Gotham to a place that makes sense for her. Gotham will always be a part of her adventures, but we’ve got some madness up our sleeves. The art should give you a small hint.
Conner: We do want to eventually have guest stars, but first we want to get everyone really attached to Harley on her own merits.
Both of you have, individually and collectively, worked on a lot of superheroine books, each with their own unique tone, from “Terra” to “Power Girl” to “Silk Spectre.” How does Harley fit within that canon? And in what ways do you want this series to feel different from past projects?
Palmiotti: The people that know our work from the other books will find one common thread: Amanda’s obsession with normal life and her attention to the smallest details. I think Amanda is crazier than Harley in a way, so this should be a fun series.
Conner: Hey, you’re the one that lives in the house with me and who chooses to take your chances and go to sleep while I’m still awake. Who’s the crazy one, now?
Palmiotti: You can call me “Mister J” from now on.