You know an interview is going to be epic when the DC Comics people warn you beforehand: “Don’t talk about the after birth…”
In any other situation it might seem strange, but it’s par for the course when you’re meeting up with Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti after the DC Rebirth panel at Wonder Con 2016. I was lucky enough to meet up with this dynamic duo to find out what makes Harley Quinn so darn appealing, and to get an exclusive look at one of Harley’s upcoming adventures. (Spoilers for the Loot Crate issue of Harley Quinn)
Sarabeth Pollock: First of all, congratulations on so much exciting stuff going on right now. In [Harley Quinn] Issue 26 we get the hair!
Jimmy Palmiotti: We’re acknowledging it, the movie, and we thought because of Issue 25 she had the blow out with the Joker. It’s sort of like starting a new day, and a new day for Harley means new clothing, a new hairdo, like any woman or anybody that’s been through something. They want to go and clean it up and change. Like now I have the chance to be this person because that person is not my life anymore and that’s what she does in 26. So we thought Margot Robbie looks awesome with that haircut so why not throw it at Harley. I mean, we change her costume every issue so what’s the difference?
Amanda Conner: So she might have a new hairstyle next winter!
JP: We’re always changing it. She’s one of the iconic characters that as long as you keep to the red and black theme and the diamonds you can actually manipulate any kind of clothing.
AC: Like most girls with a closet full of stuff.
SP: Right, and she does it so well. No matter what, even bowling.
JP: Bowling, yes, bowling! Chad and John Timms—whatever we throw at them they create an outfit for her and we’re like “Yeah! That’s awesome!”
SP: And I have to say, the Loot Crate issue—how much fun did you have coming up with anything that can happen happens?
JP: Anything can happen. The Genie is the best thing to throw into a comic and we were laughing because we’re also big I Dream of Jeannie fans from way back when. And so we had the genie and then we were like “Ooh, we can do anything.” What was your favorite part?
SP: I’d say when she’s wishing she was more “well endowed” and then as soon as her wish is granted she falls on her face. You watch the women on The Housewives of Orange County and wonder how they stay upright. For Harley, it’s asking for the wrong thing or the right thing in the wrong way. Like a million bucks, literally, or in that episode of The Twilight Zone when the guy asks for a million dollars and then the IRS shows up. You have to ask for the right thing and she’s always one step behind.
JP: Yes, except with the JLA. She went up there and of course we had to pull on Superman’s cape and pants Green Lantern.
AC: Someone was saying Harley was sexually harassing the JLA. Oh my God!
JP: I didn’t think of that when we were doing it. I just thought what’s the fun you could have?
AC: She’s just pestering them, yeah.
JP: And actually I don’t know if you caught it but she presses the button for them to come out of orbit and if you look on the last page they’re like “Oh, a shooting star.” That’s actually the JLA Tower going by.
AC: It’s really subtle.
JP: It’s real subtle but it’s the JLA coming out of orbit and burning up.
SP: So let me switch gears a little bit. Harley does so many things. She’s probably the most complex character, more so than even Batman. It’s probably harder to write her than a guy like Batman.
AC: It’s more fun to write it because she is so complex, you know.
SP: Is there ever a point when you have to stop and say that something is too good or two bad for her? Or how do you figure out what she wants to fight for, like the animals early on. That’s such an unusual cause.
JP: Oh, and she has a thousand parakeets that show up once in a while and they like her and they come in at weird times. I actually have them in a new issue.
AC: We’ve taken what has always been with Harley and just sort of ran with it. Because back in the day she had the hyenas, right, so she’s an animal lover.
JP: She loves animals.
AC: So we just took that and ran with it.
JP: I would almost say she tried to be a vet at some point.
JP: Before going into psychology she probably tried to be a vet at some point, probably messed that up, but you know we don’t harm pets, we don’t harm animals. Except between two pieces of bread when we’re hungry.
SP: Bernie has it bad, though.
AC: Bernie is her common sense.
SP: Like Jiminy Cricket.
JP: Yes, and we want to show she’s got a good soul, you know, it’s in there. She wants to do right but there’s a point where the switch goes off and it’s not like she becomes this massive killer or anything. She just looks at the shortest distance between her and the problem and just goes for it. Sometimes it’s with a mallet, sometimes it’s driving a car off a cliff, whatever it may be. So although it’s an intricate character, she’s also a wish fulfillment character for writers because whatever we come up with we can kind of work into her personality as long as we stay true to her. There’s a fine line even with her relationships with Ivy and her friendship with Tony. These are friends. These are people who have each other’s backs.
AC: She’s a loyal, loving person who happens to be a psychopath, you know. We sort of keep to Wile E. Coyote rules with her. We do have a certain amount of rules with her.
JP: Although the Loot Crate one we just sort of went crazy.
AC: But the rules are still there.
JP: We just figured this was our opportunity to get 500k people to try it out for the first time so we better make this the craziest thing. That’s why she (Conner) wanted to draw it. She was like “I have to draw this!”
AC: I love drawing and I don’t get to do it as often as I used to so I was like I’m doing this!
SP: It was such a great “gateway drug.”
JP: We hope so. We hope they get it and think “Let’s see what else they got” or “let’s walk into a comic store.” So we saw the opportunity and thought this was our chance, better than advertising to get people to try something new while they’re putting on their wool hate and t-shirt and button from the box. So we hope that works.
SP: Speaking of people wearing things, you see all of the people walking around the con and all of the different iterations of Harley going back 20 years.
AC: It’s awesome!
SP: What do you think the appeal is for young girls, women, men, even pets…. Out of all of the members of the Rogue’s Gallery, why her?
AC: Here’s my theory. I don’t know if I’m right about it.
JP: You’re always right. It’s a husband thing.
AC: Good answer. It’s like when you see her and she is so perfect and she’s so iconic, she’s so hard to identify with. We all want to be her but it’s impossible to be her. But Harley is full of flaws and she’s messed up and she eats a lot of food and she goes to the bathroom and she has to clean up after her animals, and she’s easy to identify with. And then there’s that wish fulfillment thing that we talked about where if you’ve ever been in traffic and some jerk cuts you off and you fantasize about having a rocket launcher on the hood of your car just like her. You know, she’s the kind of person who would have a rocket launcher and she does things we wish we could do.
JP: And I also think she brings out the designer in people because we have her in different outfits. A lot of people who are saying I’m going to come as Harley but I’m going to do my own thing where I do this or I’m going to do that to my hair but it’s still Harley and I think to cosplayers the most exciting thing is they don’t have to stick to exactly every single thing. They can build on it and own it and I think that’s the appeal that no other character has. There’s no other character that has so many different versions as Harley. There’s really no other character I thin. You could do Vampire Harley, you could do Transformer Harley.
AC: We’ve seen Zombie Harley, we have seen Bride Harleys.
JP: Brides. A lot of Bride Harleys.
AC: And little tiny Harleys that are adorable.
SP: Lastly, if you guys could do one thing that’s maybe not even canon, possible somewhere in time or in history, if you could plug her in somewhere, where would you want to see her?
AC: I would like to see Harley at my New Year’s Eve party…oh, wait.
JP: What does that mean? I don’t know what that means.
AC: Well, if a genie put her anywhere, that’s where I would put her.
JP: Oh, okay. We have, in Harley’s Little Black Book, we have an issue coming up with the Bombshells. Is that announced?
DC Comics Powers That Be: Announce it!
JP: All right, anyway she’s with the Bombshells. Something happens where she goes back in time and it’s sort of bizarre wish fulfillment but she kind of goes after Hitler at one point. I don’t want to ruin it too much but let’s just say she’s with him in his final hour. And, you know, she’s maybe responsible for some things that happen. But since it’s an alternate kind of issue we’re having some fun with it. So that’s when I got to put her back in time.
AC: We’re gonna get in so much trouble!
JP: I mean, I’d love to have her back with dinosaurs as the only woman on earth and only dinosaurs, but I also think the future with Mandy and Harley as the only people left and Mandy would be running away from her the whole time. There are a million stories!
And it’s so true. With the advent of DC Rebirth (not afterbirth, as Conner suggested during the panel) there is a whole new world to discover with Harley Quinn and all of her friends. Check out the next issue of Harley Quinn at a comic book store near you!