HARLEY QUINN & STARFIRE Team Talk Smothering Continuity and New 'Sexy but not Porn-y' Costumes

Starfile #1 cover
Starfile #1 cover
Credit: DC Comics

What do Harley Quinn and Starfire have in common (beside the obvious)? They’ve both got Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti in their corner.

In her new ongoing series – written by the husband and wife team and drawn by Emanuela Lupacchino – Starfire will be sporting a more concealing but attention-worthy new costume that will keep the sex appeal without being “porn-y” as Conner explains. She’ll also be rocking a new home base.

And in June, Harley Quinn, also written by Conner and Palmiotti and drawn by Chad Hardin, will continue Harley’s adventures with the recently introduced gang of copycat Harleys.

Newsarama spoke with Conner, Palmiotti, and Hardin about the new Starfire series and recent developments in and the post-Convergence Harley Quinn.

But before that, here’s the solicitation copy for June’s Starfire #1.

Starfile #1 cover
Starfile #1 cover
Credit: DC Comics

“From the writers of the outrageous smash hit HARLEY QUINN comes former Outlaw Starfire in her all-new ongoing series! She’s an alien warrior princess trying to find peace on Earth, and she’ll fight anyone and anything to get it!”

Newsarama: Amanda, Jimmy, Chad, what should readers expect from the June of Harley Quinn and the debut issue of Starfire?

Jimmy Palmiotti: You should buy 5000 issues of them cause every one of them has a different ending [laughs]. Buy as many copies as you can!

Amanda Conner: With Starfire, we’re moving her out of her regular life, which is always hanging out with other people like herself, superheroes, people with powers, people who can fly, bad guys and good guys, and we’re actually putting her in an environment where she’s hanging out with people like us, but dealing with a 6-foot tall stunning orange alien. We’ll be taking her to Key West, Florida, where she’ll stand out a little less than she would in New York, being tall, beautiful and orange - we can say she and her outfit will stand out less and we can just say she took too many tanning pills!

Nrama: Why Key West specifically?

Conner: Because she would blend in better.

Palmiotti: We didn’t want to do a big city because than it becomes another superhero book in a way. Everyone’s in the big city, like if its Gotham than you have all of the Batman characters, and so and so forth, and if we put her in Brooklyn than it would be Harley’s territory, so we thought, well, her costume is pretty revealing still, and the idea that living in Key West might be a perfect place for her to be. She wants to be away from other superheroes. She’s an alien so she wants to get to know regular earthlings, and so we thought, Okay... don’t take her to an island.

Conner: And she doesn’t want to live in an island so much because she likes to hang out with people, she likes to have a social life.

Palmiotti: So Key West, if you’ve ever been there, is kind of made for her.

Nrama: You mentioned the costume; I think everyone was surprised she has more clothes on now. Did you feel a little pressure from bloggers or fans to put more clothes on her?

Conner: I was pressuring myself cause I wanted to. I’m actually a horrible social media person so I don’t know a lot of times what people are saying about anything, which is not good but great at the same time, but I actually spent an entire day pounding my head against a wall, trying to figure out what her costume was going to be.

I didn’t want it to look too aggressive and too military, too angry, like “Lets fight!” and then I didn’t want it to be too boring. Jimmy actually kept coming into my room and saying “Not right! Not right” and I was like “Agh!”, so I decided to shelf it and sleep on it. I ended up sleeping on it for the night, and sometimes you just have to push a project away and get away from it in order to have a fresh take on it, and so the next day I talked to Eddy Berganza our editor and I was just like tossing some ideas back and forth with him and we decided on “sexy without being porn-y.” So I was like, “That I can do.” And he goes “Maybe a little bit of the old costume and a little bit of the new costume,” and I was like “I can do that too.” And so I sort of combined the two of them, and I think it worked out pretty well.

Whenever I design a costume I always want to think of something that I would wear, and so it’s a little bit go-go girl from the ‘60s. And it’s Key West, so it wont so “Oh!”, and you know, there’s guys in Key West that put sunglasses on their dogs! She’s a gymnast, so people running around with little bit clothing on will seem very normal.

Palmiotti: I think the goal too is that whenever there is a male character they have to wear less than her. So when people complain, we can be like, “But what about Bob over there! [Laughs] Look what he has on! Look at that guy! She’s like a nun next to that guy!”

Nrama: Moving on to Harley Quinn, there was recently a tweet about a “gang of Harleys,” what is that about?

Palmiotti: Yes, it’s actually the current issue that started it, and continued on the next issue. Harley is finding out she can’t do everything that she wants to do, she’s overworked, and in Harley Quinn #14, her life just breaks apart, but with Poison Ivy’s help, they put an ad out for help, for an assistant, and she gets like a million people trying out to be her assistant and in the end she picks 11.

They’re all going to dress like Harley and they have different ethnic backgrounds, and are different, so it’s going to be her running around with a gang of Harleys, but it’s not going to go as well as she plans. In theory it gave Amanda and Chad a chance to draw 11 different Harleys, and different costumes …

Hot Topic will have a whole section of Harleys!

It’s also fun because in the end, Harley is trying to organize a group of people, but again Harley is insane so she trying to organize this group and trying to control them … well, that’s a big illusion.

Conner: Harley has big dreams but then trying to make them happen…

Palmiotti: But also for us, the challenge is to get you to care about all the chicks she’s picked. There are great scenes, but initially you get to see them before she picks them, and I think it’s issue #15 where she sits there and interviews them and she’s like, “Well, why do you want to work with me,” and so a couple pages are all headshots. And so we get to know these characters and eventually she picks 11, but she initially picks a lot more, and we have a pretty funny scene where she narrows it down pretty quick, and it’s going to run for a couple issues. Harley is going to take these girls in and set them up to roam the city with her.

Conner: And they’re all from different parts of New York City, and so we’ve played with the names. Harley Queens is of course will be in Queens, and she’ll take care of Queens. Harlem Harley is going to be up in Harlem, and Bolly Quinn - her mom and grandma own an Indian restaurant in the Lower East Side and she’ll be taking care of Bolly.

Palmiotti: And there’s going to be a bunch of Italian girls from Staten Island. And those will be the Harley Quinn quintuplets. And they’ll smoke cigarettes, and because of their hair spray they’ll have a whole ozone layer over their heads at all times - it’s not true but it sounds like it would be. And it’s us just setting up a lot of chaos.

Nrama: Do you think she’s inspired a recent rise in the use of other absurdist characters out there like Bizarro?

Conner: I hope she has!

Palmiotti: I like to think that because of the success of it, there’s a lot more experimenting and a bit more fun in the comics, or at least format-wise there’s a chance of not tying something so tightly into continuity, cause we did that with Harley Quinn and I think a lot of the books are reflecting the “Oh why don’t we try this” and I think that’s the nature of comics. If it’s too tight, it feels tight, and people want a break from it.

Conner: They’re too smothered by it.

Palmiotti: Yeah, 52 books with a lot of continuity is a lot of stuff to read. So I think when something steps out of that line, I think it stands out initially and I think June is the reaction of the line maybe taking a step out of its normal place and trying something new.

Nrama: Will be there love interests?

Chad Hardin: Well, there’s Mason and then there’s always that weird psychological attachment to Mr. J, but she loves her beaver, Bernie, and she loves her animals too.

Palmiotti: Her beaver is always with her, her beaver is right there. Honestly wherever Harley is in the house the beaver is there with her.

Hardin: In our book the rational side of her Doctor Quinzel is her alter ego where she’s always trying to fit in. I always feel like the beaver, there’s always that really corrupted Harley before Joker, the beaver are the eyes, if that makes any sense. You can see the trouble coming.

Palmiotti: Like she has beaver senses.

Hardin: It’s also interesting to see how the fans react to Mason. They’re like “I hate Mason!”, but its always guys saying this, like they see the big buff guy and they’re like, “Oh great! She’s going to the great buff guy!”

Palmiotti: I think they like Harley going with Ivy a bit better. It’s like safer for the guys.

Conner: Harley and Ivy are like best friends with occasional benefits.

Nrama: Will Ivy be appearing in the series?

Conner: She’s always in it.

Nrama: Anything new with her?

Conner: Oh yeah. Jimmy and I have a special thing in mind. We can’t talk about it though.

Palmiotti: Ivy will be in it, and other heroes from Gotham will be in it too. [Laughs] Coming this summer!

[Note: DC Comics also provided the solicitation copy and cover to Conner and Palmiotti's other June-launching series, the four-issue Harley Quinn and Power Girl limited series co-written by Justin Gray and drawn by Stephane Roux. Here is that solicitation copy and cover by Conner.]

Harley Quinn and Power Girl #1 cover
Harley Quinn and Power Girl #1 cover
Credit: DC Comics

HARLEY QUINN AND POWER GIRL #1
Written by AMANDA CONNER, JIMMY PALMIOTTI and JUSTIN GRAY
Art by STEPHANE ROUX
Cover by AMANDA CONNER
1:25 Variant cover by STEPHANE ROUX
On sale JUNE 17 • 32 pg, FC, 1 of 6, $3.99 US • RATED T
Hey, remember the panel gutter between panels 3 and 4 of page 20 of HARLEY QUINN #12? What? You DON’T? It’s only, like, the most memorable panel gutter of the twenty-first century. Well, either way, have we got the miniseries for you, in which the full tale of that momentous and momentary pause can be told!
It’s a cosmic adventure beyond your wildest imaginings: Power Girl and Harley Quinn, stranded in a forgotten dimension, on the homeworld of the amorous warlord Vartox! They’ll sacrifice anything they have to in order to get home…except their dignity! Kidding! That’ll be the first thing to go.

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