DC's new Harley Quinn title has surprised the industry with its ability to stick to the top tier of the monthly sales charts. But perhaps the bigger surprise is that it breaks the mold of the usual top-sellers — the title has a female lead character, an unorthodox (and often violent) storyline, and shocker of all shockers, it's funny — everything comic publishers would tell you that a reliably best-selling title usually isn't.
But that's music to the ears of the comic's writers, Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner. The married couple, who work with artist Chad Hardin on the book, told Newsarama they wanted to "do something interesting and different", and they recognized that the popularity of the character, with her appearances in video games and other media, would get eyes on the debut issues.
Next on the creative team's shake-things-up agenda? Poking fun at the comic industry itself. In July, DC will publish the one-shot Harley Quinn Invades San Diego Comic-Con!.
Palmiotti's apparently riding high on the success of Harley Quinn, as he recently predicted that his next unorthodox comic, the July-launching Star-Spangled War Stories Featuring G.I. Zombie he's writing with Justin Gray, will "sell out in a week."
Newsarama talked to Palmiotti about the Comic-Con issue, the story so far in Harley Quinn, and what's coming up next.
Newsarama: Readers have really been enjoying the adventures of Harley and Syborg. How did you come up with this character, and what comes next for these two?
Jimmy Palmiotti: After [May's] issue #6, we don’t see Sy for a few issues again. The character was an old joke between me and a few friends and when we were looking to add some new supporting characters, we noticed that not a lot of older people are featured in comics and felt it was our responsibility to change that. Sy also made sense since Harley will be working in a senior center, so it all came together pretty nicely. Amanda had a blast researching Yiddish and we hope to see some of his expressions used in everyday conversation very soon.
Nrama: Why do you think these two work so well paired in a story together?
Palmiotti: I think Harley appreciates people for who they are and Sy offers her an adventure that includes some pretty rough dealings. By the end of the story, Sy explains that she makes him feel young again and she appreciates him for other reasons. I think it's a very romantic pairing in a lot of ways that we don't see often. Not a physical relationship for sure, but more like a grandpa and his niece. We have some further adventures planned with Sy, but reader feedback will give us a good idea if they want that or not.
Nrama: Speaking of pairs, how do you and Amanda work together? And where do you come up with these crazy, hilarious, yet really violent ideas for Harley's comic?
Palmiotti: We spend a lot of time together and Harley writes itself in off hours and in the strangest places. We have lists of zany ideas we want to cover and work them into the scripts daily. We feel we always have to keep the audience on their toes and that's why the books are crazy and scene shift a lot. We want to deliver something unusual. As far as the dark humor, we both are like little kids working on a dream job. We both think some horrible things can be broken down into humor. Issue #7 may have a page in it with Ivy and Harley that I think will keep people talking for a very long time...
Nrama: Yeah, I see that Ivy's guest starring. How does Ivy's presence in the comic change the tone, and can you describe her role?
Palmiotti: Ivy is her best friend and always trying to help Harley with whatever problems she has. We have their relationship in a complex place and we play with them in a way that gives the readers some conversation. They are both fun and easy characters to write.
Nrama: What else is coming up in the next couple issues of the comic? And do we find out more about the hit that's on Harley?
Palmiotti: That part of the story gets figured out in issue #7, and issue #8, we find out what Tony is building on the roof, and the other storyline leads to Harley taking a vicious turn in her roller derby career.
After that we have some love interests, a wedding in September then a superhero team-up with another character Amanda and I love. We're planning out the book for the next year, and as we come up with some wild ideas, we just can’t wait to get there. It's a good problem.
Nrama: In the Comic-Con International issue, Harley is going to be among us at this convention, similar to the way she broke the fourth wall in her #0 issue — why do you think that sort of thing works so well with this character in particular, as opposed to, say, Superman? Is it the humor?
Palmiotti: It is the humor and the fact that she has multiple personalities that sometimes cross over. Harley is the perfect character for us to go a bit loony with on so many levels and she is charming and deadly in the process, which makes it more fun to see normal people around her. Superman, if he did the same things, would be weird, but to be honest…I would love to do a superman series where he is a bit nuttier than he is now.
Nrama: What kind of hilarity can you promise for this one-shot?
Palmiotti: The set up alone puts her in situations on a daily basis that we think are pretty unique to the actual convention. Having gone to Comic-Con now for over 20 years, there were a lot of stories we put into use when writing the book. Just the scenes with the cosplayers alone makes this book something unique.
We also break the 4th wall, and if there was a 5th wall, we probably would have smashed that as well.
I will give you a hint: We do feature some people that work at DC Comics, and Harley has some special time with them. The idea of the book is we have the story broken into chapters that represent each day of the con.
Nrama: Harley's also going to be participating in September's "Futures End" event. Is this really the wedding of Joker and Harley, as advertised? And how would you describe it?
Palmiotti: It is the actual wedding. They finally get married and a lot goes weird. This is the story we think all the fans have been waiting for, and we really don't want to give anything away... except that the wedding itself and the honeymoon will be happening on a tropical island and the book is worth it for the wedding guests alone.
Nrama: What's it been like for you and Amanda to work with Chad on the comic?
Palmiotti: We write madness and he comes back with that — plus another level we never thought of added on. He has simply been getting better each and every issue and it shows.
The guy is amazing and we were so happy that we got him for this book. Add Alex’s colors to the mix and we have what I think is one of the most visual books on the stand each and every month.
Nrama: You mentioned that you're planning the book for the next year. Does that mean you guys are around for the long haul on Harley Quinn?
Palmiotti: 'Til they kick us off or they piss us off! Honestly, Amanda and I are told to go wild by the crew at DC, and so far they have been true to their word. There's a very obvious reason most of my work comes out of DC comics. They treat me with respect, have great communication with the team and give us room to do what we want. They treat us well, and like any relationship, it's a two way street.
All kidding aside, we will be on it for as long as they will have us.