Christmas has come early, and its re-gifting - but in a good way.
This week IDW released Jingle Belle: The Whole Package, a cross-company collection of all of Paul Dini's Christmas-themed character's stories and appearances. Although best known for his work on Batman and the creation of Harley Quinn, Dini calls Jingle Belle the character closest to his heart - but doesn't mind pitting his two girls against one another, as you'll find out
Dini spoke with Newsarama about this new 340-page omnibus collection, his fascination with Christmas, and even spells out how Jingle and Harley would treat the holidays differently.
Newsarama: Paul, thanks for doing this. Easing into things, what are you working on today? What writing-wise is on your desk to do, or has just been done?
Paul Dini: Well, there's this interview about Jingle Belle, and then it's fine-tuning the dialogue I wrote for a Harley Quinn holiday special for DC. I just can't escape snappy blondes and Christmas.
Nrama: IDW recently released an omnibus of all of your various Jingle Belle stories you've done around comic books. This seems like a long time coming - how did the deal with IDW and the decision to get it all in one spine come together?
Dini: I pitched the idea to IDW's Chief Creative Officer Chris Ryall and he went for it. However, I pitched him the idea in 2014, and it has taken almost two years to pull together all the Jingle Belle stories done since 1999. So yes, it has been a long time coming, and I'm grateful to Oni, Dark Horse, and Top Cow for digging through their files and finding everything. IDW has put together a very pretty package, so I'd say it was definitely worth the wait.
Nrama: Have to ask - how many copies of this book have you gotten just waiting to be given away as holiday gifts to friends and family?
Dini: Let me put it this way, nobody, and I mean nobody, is getting a Starbucks gift card this year.
Nrama: Good to know. Would you say you have an extra-large interest in Christmas? Where does it come from?
Dini: Extra-large interest, unhealthy obsession - I think both apply. When I was a kid I loved the ramp-up to Christmas, with the decorations going up around the neighborhood, the jolly music on the radio, the arrival of the toy catalogues and seeing my friends when I came home from boarding school. Of course there was the downside too, like frantically running with my folks to buy gifts for people they disliked the rest of the year, angry relatives fighting on Christmas Eve like Japanese monsters, and of course, the legion of bullies waiting for me on the bus back to school on January 2. So the Yuletide season for me was a mixture of merry bliss, bitter comedy and general confusion, all of which works its way into Jingle Belle in some form or another.
Nrama: Although you're most well-known for Batman and Harley Quinn, I'd argue that Jingle Belle seems to be the character closest to your heart. Can you turn back the clock and tell us how you developed her?
Dini: About twenty years ago I started playing around with the idea that a dad is just ‘Dad’ to his kids, no matter how famous they are to the rest of the world. That thought was prompted by some holiday cards I had received that year from some well-known folks I had gotten to know, including one from Steven Spielberg and his family. Moving the idea of celebrity into the holiday world, it was an easy leap to Santa Claus, and even though popular culture says he doesn't have a daughter, it worked to give him one. The idea that she would be a rebellious teen also clicked. What fun would it be if she were just a sweet, jolly clone of her folks? When she was little, Jingle was probably into the whole Christmas thing in a really big way, but like all kids she eventually outgrew it and had to rediscover in her own way what, if anything, was still wonderful about it. A few years after the first book came out, I talked to the Jim Henson Company about a Jingle Belle movie, and some of Jim's kids said they could definitely relate to parts of the Jing/Santa dynamic.
Nrama: How would you compare and contrast Jingle Belle with your other big creation, Harley Quinn?
Dini: Having lived through I don't know how many hundreds of Christmases, Jingle would be a lot less into the festivities than Harley. Harley would be like the kid who couldn't sleep Christmas Eve, running downstairs every three minutes to peek at her presents, and changing the name tags on the ones she didn't like for better ones. Jingle would just sleep all night, or be up texting friends about boys. She wouldn't get up until noon the next day and only then to stumble downstairs for coffee. By then Harley would either be unconscious, crashed out from too much sugar, or wearing a red and black version of Jing's outfit and forcing the elves to sing "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" or some other goofy song. Harley and Jingle would probably bond over hockey, though. Any chance to swing a heavy piece of wooden sporting equipment and cause destruction, both girls are totally there!
Nrama: Last question, then. I know Jingle Belle: The Whole Package is reprinting older comic books, but any chance you might return to do more stories now that she has a new home at IDW?
Dini: If the omnibus sells well, and there's demand from fans, there's a chance there could be some new stories coming. IDW and I have discussed it, but for right now we'll wait and see.