It's hard to imagine something being both bloody and cute. But when it comes in the form of Harley Quinn, the combination is almost irresistible.
That odd mix of perky and murderous is paying off for DC, in a big way. The prologue issue to the character's ongoing series — November's Harley Quinn #0 — was DC's second-best selling title for the month, beating out everyone else but Batman himself.
That's quite an accomplishment for what some would call a second string villain. But while it probably helped that the #0 issue had a slew of superstar artists supplying the illustrations, the story written by the husband-and-wife team of Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner made Harley's debut a critical favorite as well.
The Harley Quinn ongoing, which features the art of newcomer Chad Hardin, will kick off this week with a new #1. And while issue #0 featured Harley breaking the "fourth wall" to interact with her creators, this week sees the story get a little more serious, with the fourth wall securely re-installed.
Although the character is most associated with her ex-boyfriend the Joker and his nemesis Batman of Gotham City, Palmiotti and Conner are setting her new series in New York, where Harley has inherited a Coney Island apartment building.
While the character will interact with the rest of the DC Universe — with a promised appearance by sexy villain Poison Ivy in issue #2 — the creators are planning to establish a new supporting cast and surroundings for Harley on her own.
Newsarama talked to Conner and Palmiotti about their plans for the series, their reaction to the huge success of Harley Quinn #0, and more.
Newsarama: Jimmy and Amanda, the response to Harley #0 was huge. Did you expect that? Why do you think the issue did so well?
Jimmy Palmiotti: Never in a million years. We wanted to do something interesting and different with the Zero issue, but never really got why it was ordered like gangbusters. I’ve been working in comics now for over 20 years and I just can’t ever figure it out.
I think in this case, it was everything in the right place at the right time, and Amanda involved. I think the audience for the character has grown so much over the last few years with the games and other media, it was bound to get some attention.
Amanda Conner: I have to admit, I was pretty shocked. I know that Harley is such a beloved character, and I knew that there were a lot of fans hoping she would get her own series, but I had no idea it was gonna go through the roof the way it did.
Nrama: You took some humorous aim at some other creators — did you ask for permission and/or did you get any flack?
Palmiotti: We let them know in advance and to tell the truth, each and every person picked to be included in the book was picked because they have a sense of humor and understand good fun, even if it’s picking on them a bit. We didn’t have anyone giving us any flack, but we did have one page by Paul Pope that came in after deadline that is just stunning. We will be using it in a future issue. Paul is one of my favorite artists.
Conner: Yes, when we mentioned it to everyone involved, they were very enthusiastic, and seemed to want to roll with all the madness.
Palmiotti: We were lucky to have so many talented people interested in the character as well. She is a favorite to draw for a lot of creators.
Nrama: How are you following up the antics of that issue? What changes, and what stays the same as you begin the story in this week's issue #1?
Palmiotti: Breaking the fourth wall goes away and hearing the “writers” break into a conversation also goes away. Away forever? I’m not sure, but it’s gone for the series so far.
We keep with the theme of getting to know Harley and develop a new supporting cast and surroundings for her. We are approaching this like a day-one type of story, welcoming new readers and making the established readers happy for other reasons.
Conner: I actually enjoy talking to Harley, but yeah, we’re going to keep to a more straightforward approach (If you can actually call a Harley book “straightforward”). Other than that, we're going to keep throwing in much madness.
Nrama: The final pages of #0 referred to some Coney Island property that Harley got. How does that play into the comic?
Palmiotti: It’s a huge component of where she is now in the world, and how, going forward, it changes her life. We get to see Harley “nest” a bit and dig into a somewhat normal routine that is anything but normal.
Conner: It seems completely natural to have Harley wind up in a place like Coney Island… It’s as if they were made for each other.
Palmiotti: One visit to the place and you get it right away. Coney itself has multiple personalities, so it seemed a natural fit.
Nrama: It sounds like you'll still have plenty of wackiness and humor, but what are the overall plans for the type of comic it's going to be? Tone, style?
Palmiotti: The overall tone is something Amanda called "Looney Tunes meet a Tarantino movie." The book is fun and dangerous, bloody and cute and, at all times, unpredictable.
Conner: We try to be charming and enchanting with our bloody disgustingness.
Nrama: Will this be part of the DCU? In other words, will there be guest stars from elsewhere in the DCU, and will Harley interact with things going on in other titles?
Palmiotti: Yes, we interact with the DCU so much that Poison Ivy is featured in issue #2, and we have plans for more surprises along the way. We also get to introduce a dynamic new character in issue 4 that may have some real lasting power. When the time comes and there is an opportunity, we will be interacting with the other titles, but in the beginning, we focus mostly on Harley.
How's it been working with Chad? And what does he bring to the title? (Anything about his art surprise you, thrill you, etc.?)
Conner: I was a little worried because I am, admittedly, a control freak, and a wanted so bad to draw this book myself, but time constraints won’t allow me. And then we saw Chad’s artwork, I thought “Hey… this might work!” And now that he’s actually on the book, I can really relax, ‘cause he’s doing such an amazing job. One of the things I love, is he seems to have slightly twisted sensibilities, like myself, and no matter what Jimmy and I throw at him, he runs with it and turns in something wonderfully crazy.
Nrama: Then to finish up, is there anything else you want to tell fans about Harley Quinn #1 and the series as it starts this week?
Palmiotti: Issue one is an establishing issue that sets the tone and backdrop of Harley’s future adventures.
Conner: Yes, we will try to include, bare minimum, at least one horrible demise in each issue.