In this month's Harley Quinn, the titular star returns to Gotham City and ends up confronting her ex-boyfriend, the Joker, in a way only Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner could write.
Working with artists Chad Hardin and John Timms, Palmiotti and Conner write Harley in both her title book and the new series Harley's Little Black Book. But as the main series hits the two-year mark this month, the character will prove just how independent and self-confident she's grown as she goes into Arkham Asylum to rescue her new boyfriend from her familiarly villainous old one.
The story, which hits its culmination in February's Harley Quinn #25, will give the book a bit of a new direction which will begin in March. Newsarama talked to Conner and Palmiotti to find out more.
Newsarama: Jimmy and Amanda, it looks like Harley's taking a trip to Arkham Asylum. That's a place with a lot of history for Harley, isn't it?
Jimmy Palmiotti: Yeah, we thought, since it's #25 — and we're going into the third year of the book — we thought, well, the elephant in the room… the Joker.
But we didn't just want to do a Joker story. So the story's still about Mason, but it's about how he gets transferred to Arkham, and she wants to get him out of there, because she knows he's not safe in there. And she has to take a trip back.
Conner: Yeah, it's kind of like homecoming week for her, but not a good way. Not in a "hey, my high school reunion" way. It's like homecoming, but in a bad way.
Nrama: Is she taking the gang of Harleys on this mission?
Palmiotti: She actually does it by herself. She gets a little help from Ivy while she's in Gotham, just to set up. But this is something she's got to do herself.
Nrama: This comic being so much fun each month, will this issue divert from that? Or is it still a story that's told in your usual style?
Palmiotti: It's still zany. It's still off the wall in places. But more than it's been in awhile, there's something that's plot-thicking.
Issue #24, we have her handling a lot of different things. And then we get a tease of what #25 is going to be at the end. And then #25, we're all in.
I think most of the book is the Joker, at least the meat of the book is the Joker dealing with Harley and vice versa. And their conversation, I think, makes the book worth it alone. Because this is a different Harley Quinn. This is a Harley Quinn that's left him, that's started a new life, that's met new people. She has a renewed confidence. And she's her own person. And she's feeling bolder and stronger. And she's walking into this place, where the old Harley was more of a passive, almost a victim in a sense to him.
It's definitely going to be an issue that's talked about for a while, because of the conversation and what goes down in this book.
Nrama: That's because of the path she's taken over the last two years of this book?
Palmiotti: Yeah! And you know, she's like seeing an ex. And her life started in a different direction, and it's actually — like anybody's life, when things go in that direction, there's a new confidence. And you feel rooted somewhere. Going back is not as difficult as it might have been if, let's say, she couldn't get her life together and she didn't change.
So we're definitely going to see this new attitude. This is not a Harley Quinn that has fear. This is one that feels like she's owed something, in a way.
Conner: Yeah, it's one of the things I always talk about. Sometimes when you have trouble getting over an ex, they still have a big effect on you. And the Joker still has a big effect on her, but she handles it differently than she had before.
It's sort of like, I guess we're sort of getting into the psychology of Harley a little bit more than usual, just to see how she handles the Joker, and how she is a different person than she was a couple of years ago.
Palmiotti: And remember, she's going there to get her current…
Conner: Her new boyfriend.
Palmiotti: Yeah, she goes to get her boyfriend out of there. And her ex is there. And they also talk as well. So it's a little bit of a chatty book, but it goes over the top.
Issue #25 is definitely a turning point for Harley. But anybody that's been reading the books is going to totally get where she's coming from, based on her past.
The greatest thing we can do for the character is take her as far away as we can from being a one-dimensional character and going a little crazy, and that's what we're trying to do.
Nrama: And this leads into the fresh new start it looks like she's getting in March?
Palmiotti: Yes. And people picking up the book for the first time — let's just say 10 or 15 people do that for issue #25 — they're not going to be lost.
One thing we do try to do with the book is bring you up to date and keep you in the loop. And again, issue #25 also is a great starting point because we lead into issue #26 and the issues after.
And in a way, it's also tying in with Harleys' Little Black Book. Things are tying in with that as well. Because we write it, and in the order we write things, we tend to see it as a big epic. And it's a natural progression for the character. It's all about fleshing out who she is, making her feel like a real person. Two years in, well, almost three years in, we really take a lot of time to make sure that people feel like they know who she is. They can relate.
Nrama: And the art going forward is Chad?
Palmiotti: Chad's on issues #24 and #25. And I think John Timms is on #26 and #27 — and that gives Chad time to catch up because #25 is a big book. I mean, Chad is our regular artist, and then John comes in to give him a two-issue break every once in awhile so Chad can have a life outside of comics. But they're our regular team.
Conner: Their styles are similar, but they're different also. They stand on their own. But they both lend themselves so well to Harley and her crowd. They work really well with the character.
Nrama: Then to finish up, what can readers expect from Harley Quinn in 2016, in all your books?
Palmiotti: With Harley's Little Black Book, we're definitely trying something different. With issues #3, #4, #5, and #6, we're going way out there. As they announce them, you'll start laughing, because we're trying to think outside the box.
With the regular Harley book, we have a lot of villains coming up. We're going to be building up some villains just for Harley. Her own villains. And there will be new characters and lots of madness.
Conner: And being that Harley is so unpredictable, we're trying to make the book unpredictable to match her. When you think you know what's coming, maybe we throw a curve ball in there, just to keep everything interesting.