THE BAT SIGNAL: Palmiotti Talks "Harley Quinn," Gothopia & Jonah Hex in the Modern DCU

When it comes to writing the sons and daughters of Gotham City, DC Comics turns to Jimmy Palmiotti, the long-time writer and comics creator who pens three titles that take on the city, its heroes and one of Gotham's most famous bad girls.

Co-writing alongside artist and wife Amanda Conner, Palmiotti is bringing the villainous Harley Quinn to life in her own self-titled solo series. With the very first #0 issue setting the series' tone, readers will get to see artist Chad Hardin take over as regular artist beginning with issue #1, out later this month.

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Though "Harley Quinn" is still in its infancy, Palmiotti and long-time co-writer Justin Gray have been entrenched in Gotham City for a while. The pair took on the challenge of reinventing "Batwing" in March, replacing original African Batwing David Zambive with Luke Fox, son of Lucius Fox. The two have since carved out a niche in Gotham for the young vigilante, pitting Luke again Batman villains such as Lady Vic and Caligula.

The duo are also at the helm of the New 52 "All-Star Western," their current arc bringing Jonah Hex out of the Wild West and into the modern day as he deals with Constantine, Superman and the New 52 descendants of Arkham and Wayne.

With Gothtopia hitting "Batwing" in the New Year, Hex's adventuires in the now continuing and Harley setting out on her own adventures, THE BAT SIGNAL caught up with the busy writer. And though he kept specific details to himself, Palmiotti dove into the changes made to the controversial artist tryout scene in "Harley Quinn" #0, his plans for all three books and what the immediate future holds for Jonah, Luke and Dr. Harleen Quinzel.

CBR News: Let's start off with "Batwing" which, along with many of the other Bat-family books, is tying into next year's Gothtopia story. Why did you want to participate in the story, and what is it about Batwing that you felt fit in with the idea of Gothtopia?

Jimmy Palmiotti: It's really simple: Batwing is tied into the city of Gotham, his family lives there and his father is Lucius Fox. We have many personal events that tie into what the bigger picture of the event is, and Justin and I will be taking Luke to some very dark places with his personal life and the world he will be introduced to. We had to be part of this story and are super happy that we get a say and a chance to tie our book into everything going on. 2014 is Batwing's big year, and you will soon learn why.

How closely are you working with Gothtopia's architect John Layman and the other Bat book writers in laying out your story? Plot-wise, will it tie-into any of the other titles?

It ties into all the titles and events happening in the other books cross over with Batwing. It is a two-way street. We all work for the same office and editors, and these titles are all tied together. John and the rest of the writers are really bringing some really wild ideas to the series, and we are having a blast playing with the many cool things that they are introducing.

On the most basic level, what can you tell us about Batwing's Gothtopia story arc? Will this affect his status quo after the story comes to a close, or does this have more of an "Elseworlds" vibe?

There are events that change Luke -- places that he can never come back from. The next few issues take the character on an emotional roller coaster ride. We have some great things coming, but cannot give a lot away at the moment. Sorry!

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Then let's switch over to "Harley Quinn." We've now got the #0 issue out, which established its comedic tone and featured a huge roster of artists, as well as a change to one of the pages. Why did you and Amanda Conner want to start your run with the fourth wall breaking "artist audition," and why, ultimately, did you decide to change controversial the bathtub scene to Harley on a rocket ship?

I came up with the idea in a dream, Amanda and I pitched it to Dan DiDio in San Diego and he let us go crazy. We knew it was going to be something special when all these talented people started signing up, and we also wanted to approach this special issue with a " getting to know us" theme, since we are writing the character for the first time. We wanted to produce a comic that would be different, fun and capture the emotional madness that we thought Harley should have. I have to admit, I thought it was going to be difficult to tie all the pages together, but with Amanda and I working together, it was a blast.

We changed the scene because it upset some people -- simple as that.

What was it about Chad Hardin's artwork that appealed to you and felt like it fit with your take on Harley Quinn?

Amanda and I saw about 20 different artists' work, and some of them were huge names in the industry, but once we saw Chad's range of facial expressions and amount of detail and body language he had to his work, we knew in an instant he was our guy. Add Alex [Sollazzo] to the colors, and we think we have a hit on our hands.

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What are your goals for the book? Are you aiming to tell "episodic" stories or standalones with Harley, rather than more traditional superhero stories or multi-issue arcs?

This book is going to tell us what to do. So far, we are establishing who she is, where she lives and how she makes a living. After that, it's her continuing adventures and, I have to be honest, not a single person is going to know where we are going with the series. It is a very non-traditional superhero book -- at times, it will be all things and none. We have a lot planned, some crazy new characters and some old friends stopping by.

Our goal is to make every single Harley fan happy on some level. A lofty goal, we know -- but we gotta try.

From the solicits, we know that Poison Ivy will be coming in, and in #0, we got to see a brief glimpse of Catwoman as well. Will readers see a reunion of the Gotham City Sirens? And is Mister J is going to be making his way into the book?

Yes. Yes. Maybe. You never know.

We are establishing a lot in the first year. All of these characters are a big part of her life, so she will be getting visitors along the way. I will say that issue #4 and #5 are my favorites so far -- and you will learn why, soon enough.

In "All-Star Western," you're also playing with other characters of the DC Universe as Jonah Hex's adventures in the modern DCU continues with Constantine making an appearance. While Batman and Arkham are entrenched parts of Gotham, along with Hex's own history, what appealed to you and Justin about adding Constantine to the mix?

Constantine was needed and an essential person for Jonah to run into. These " guests" are all part of a bigger picture in Jonah's modern day adventure. After this, we have Superman stopping by, and I guarantee you that issue #27 is like nothing you have ever read. You will laugh, cry and reread this issue for a long time. This is the craziest ride we have ever taken Jonah on.

Jonah Hex, as a character, has gone through periods where he has been linked to the supernatural side of the DC Universe before. Is this supernatural bent something you're looking to bring back through this arc?

Well, it all ties into the fact that Jonah wants to get home, and the supernatural part of the DCU is gonna help our man -- or maybe kill him in the process. Jonah has seen a lot of strange things in his lifetime. In a way, dealing with the supernatural might be easier to process than Superman on some level, right? Aliens are a whole new ball game for him.

Well, so far Hex seems like he's adapting to the modern day pretty successfully, especially now that he can fund himself with his hidden gold. Do you intend to leave Hex in the here and now, or do you have more stories to tell in the old Wild West Days of Gotham?

We are taking Jonah on a trip that opens many doors for him, and we hope the right door opened brings him back to the place he came from. I don't want to ruin anything, but a certain woman with a patch over one eye will be playing a major role in the next year in the book, so expect some quality madness.

"Harley Quinn" issue #1 hits stands December 18; "All-Star Western" continues in the modern day with issue #26 out December 31; "Batwing" enters Gothtopia with issue #27, out January 8.

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