A year after DC's Harley Quinn series first surprised the comics industry with its ginormous sales, the surprise hit title helped form the future of DC with the publisher's just-announced June line-up including several other humorous titles.
Included in the new titles for June are two additional projects for Harley Quinn writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner. The married writing duo will be spinning off a mini-series called Harley Quinn/Power Girl, as well as launching a new Starfire ongoing.
It's a trend that most industry watchers and fans are liking. Not only is Harley Quinn ushering in an openness for fun at DC (something Deadpool seemed to do for Marvel), but the title is proving that a female-fronted comic book — one that features mostly female guest stars — can top the sales charts. And it appears that, thanks to Palmiotti, Conner and artist Chad Hardin's work on Harley Quinn (as well as the success of other recent female-focused comics), DC has several other women starring in their June line-up.
As DC marks "Harley Quinn Month" in February, and as the Harley Quinn Valentine's Day Special was released February 11, Newsarama talked to Palmiotti and Conner to find out more about June's spin-off, the growing female audience that's flocking to Harley's book, and why cosplayers are going to have a field day with the title's next storyline.
Newsarama: Jimmy and Amanda, I'm still amazed by how well Harley Quinn is doing. I assume you guys are pretty surprised by it too — or maybe you're not! Maybe you knew how awesome this character and concept are?
Jimmy Palmiotti: The character's awesome! But we…
Amanda Conner: We were totally blown away. We were like, "What?"
Palmiotti: I think the best bet for us is not to think about it and keep writing.
Palmiotti: You know, we don't want to get actually self-conscious of it.
Nrama: And February is officially Harley Quinn month!
Conner: Yeah, I think it's appropriate that it's Harley Quinn month, because it is the month of Valentine's Day, and she's one of those people who's always falling madly in love, whether it's her pets or the Joker or a new guy or a new girl. Or things in her house, like the "scatapult." You know, she just falls in love with everything.
Palmiotti: It's also Harley month, obviously, because Harley's on the alternate covers for the other books. And I know they're doing all these different Harley things, and they have all the trade books on sale at comiXology. They have all this stuff going on. And we love it. I mean, you know, we'll take it. And it's only 28 days. (Maybe that's a good thing.)
So yeah, it's Harley month. You know… it's better than Harley week.
And Harley has her own Facebook page now. I've already been checking it out.
Conner: How's it look?
Palmiotti: It looks great. It's all about Harley.
Nrama: I know you can't talk too much about stuff coming in June yet, but it's very clear that there's a recognition on DC's part — and I think the industry has taken note as well — that comics don't have to be grim and gritty to succeed. Not that there's anything wrong with a little grim and gritty…
Nrama: But there's room for some fun. Do you think this is a trend? Or do you think it's a case of the potential for fun comics always being there, but nobody was willing to take the risk?
Palmiotti: You know, when we did Power Girl, we said, "OK, it has to be fun. It doesn't have to involve continuity so much." And so when we got Harley, we said, "Can we do it like that?" And DC Co-Publisher Dan Didio was like, "yeah, sure — what's it going to do?"
Conner: Yeah, and also, I think when all you have to read is grim and gritty, you tend to think, "I need something a little light right now."
We were surprised. We didn't think it was going to do as well as it did, but we're happy that a book that's not so heavy is doing really well.
Palmiotti: Yeah, and flattered that other books are kind of saying, "OK, if these idiots can get away with it, why not let us try another take on something?"
So I think it's all good. I think, you know, it all comes down to creative people being able to create, and it's different voices, so we like it. We're happy.
Nrama: I was talking to Dan a couple weeks ago about Convergence, and we somehow got on the subject of the changing audience for comics, and he specifically said that you two noticed at conventions that you have a lot of female fans for Harley Quinn. Can you talk about that, and why you think that is?
Conner: I had noticed in the past 10 or 15 years — it used to be, I don't know, 10 or 15 years ago, when you went to a convention, it was almost all guys. You would see girls there, and women there, but usually they would be moms or sisters or wives lugging the books to help their respective guys get them signed. They usually weren't there for themselves.
I noticed a great big giant change. A lot of girls are going to conventions now because they are reading the comics instead of carrying them for other people. And they seem to really love them.
It used to be about, like, 90% to 95% guys. And now it seems like it's close to 50/50.
Palmiotti: Yeah, with us, we notice at the tables at the cons, there would be a mix. But with especially with Harley Quinn, we're noticing that a lot of the audience, especially at the cons, are female. And they're all ages — they're older, younger, people who just knew the character maybe from the cartoon, from the animation, and they're giving the comic a try.
So we notice there's a large female audience coming into the business, definitely, in the last couple years.
And it's a good thing, because with that comes variety and new voices. And we're very excited about that.
Nrama: Harley Quinn is so popular now that she's got a spin-off coming in June with Harley Quinn/Power Girl. And we've already seen them together in the comic, so I assume it's more of what we saw in Harley Quinn #13. Is it just fun to team her up with people like that, particularly people who aren't quite as whacky and crazy as her?
Palmiotti: This story [in Harley Quinn/Power Girl] actually takes place between panels, from #13.
There's a panel where Harley and Power Girl are jumping from one teleportation ring to the other, and she they come out of it, Power Girl's wearing a wedding dress and Harley has some armor on, and Power Girl says, you know, this was the longest two weeks of my life.
And it was between two panels.
So the six-issue mini-series is everything that happened between those two panels.
It's part of the bigger story, but it's just a thing we didn't show in the regular Harley Quinn series.
We didn't plan it that way, but we sort of did. We thought, maybe one day they'll let us tell the story between the two panels.
Conner: We were so happy when they said, "Yeah, sure, go ahead and do it." We were like, yea!
Also, the other thing is, it is really fun to team Harley up with people, because most everybody, next to her, is a straight man. And she's a great foil for everybody.
Part of it was a little bit self-serving too, because when we were doing Power Girl a few years back, it was so much fun, and we wanted to work with her again.
Nrama: I figured that, because you'd worked with that character together in the past, you just wanted more of her.
Palmiotti: Yeah, and now we just have to figure out how to get Terra into our books. We'll figure it out one day.
Nrama: How much are you involved in the visuals of what Harley is wearing and what she's doing? I know Chad does the visuals, but I assume you guys talk about the look you're going for?
Conner: Yeah, we do.
You know, one thing I've discovered about writing is that it really makes me miss drawing. So that's how I keep myself satisfied — I get to the do the covers and if, like, a new design comes along, I'm always like, I want to do that! I want to do the design!
Because I get a little fidgety if I don't get to draw something. So we do have a lot of input.
Palmiotti: Yeah, Amanda designed all the different Harley Quinns [that are in the next issue].
Nrama: Yeah, let's talk about those Harley Quinns. What's coming up in the comic over the next couple issues?
Conner: Harley is way, way, way overworked. She's just one of those people who likes to start projects, and sometimes they get finished, and sometimes they don't. But she's always spinning a lot of plates.
She's reached the point in her life when the plates are starting to crash a little bit, so she's decided that she needs help being Harley.
Palmiotti: So her and Poison Ivy put out a "Help Wanted" ad, looking for assistance. And the storyline for the next couple issues is going to be "The Gang of Harleys." And it's going to be 11 different Harley Quinns from different ethnic backgrounds, from different parts of New York.
They're going to half crazy people, running around dressed in very specific Harley suits…
Conner: Harley gear.
Palmiotti: Yeah, Harley gear that match their personality.
Conner: And they are all crazy, but nobody is nearly as crazy as Harley.
Palmiotti: Right. So it's Harley running, like, a group of other Harleys.
They're going to be, supposedly, making things better for the world.
Conner: Well, that's the idea, anyway.
Palmiotti: Yeah, the idea in their head isn't the same idea that actually happens.
But you know, it's just a bunch of fun and I think we've given the cosplayers enough Harley material and costumes for the next two years in this series.