One of the surprise publishing successes during DC's "New 52" line-wide relaunch was Harley Quinn, the wacky yet chart-topping comic that debuted more than two years ago and spawned several spin-offs and events. As DC enters a new era with "Rebirth" (and Harley gets a whole new audience of fans from the Suicide Squad film out this week), the Harley Quinn title is being born again, so to speak, with a new #1 issue by the creative team who originally launched the book.
With co-writers Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti along with artist Chad Hardin, Harley Quinn has given the character an identity of her own, complete with a diverse (and humorous) supporting cast and headquarters. With the "Rebirth" version of the book (or "Afterbirth" as they've dubbed their first issue), the creative team hopes to introduce plenty of new stuff along with the familiar, while also utilizing fan favorite team-ups for Harley, like Poison Ivy and Power Girl.
Newsarama talked to Palmiotti to find out more about the new approach to the book, why the team thinks their series struck such a nerve, and how the Suicide Squad movie might affect what comes next.
Newsarama: Jimmy, as Harley kicks off a new adventure with a new #1, what's different?
Jimmy Palmiotti: The book will now be coming out twice a month, so our regular Harley artists are all working overtime. We still have both Chad Hardin and John Timms on the series, but we will have additional guest stars for an issue here and there.
First up is Joe Linsner, who drew the Harley's Little Black Book #3, and we have the ever-amazing Brett Blevins helping on layouts from issue to issue.
Other than that, we re-tell the origin in issue #1 and then we're off to the races as far as story goes. The main story takes place right after issue #30 and opens with Poison Ivy and Harley having a spa day together, and then things get wild after that. The first story arc is three issues and deals with some bad meat.
Nrama: Fans will be glad to hear that Ivy's still a friend. There are so many characters from the first series that have become fan-favorites. Are they sticking around? I know the Gang of Harleys have their own title now, but who are the cast of characters around her in Harley Quinn as it relaunches? Familiar faces? Or new?
Palmiotti: The regulars are still with us, like Big Tony, Eggy, Queenie, Bernie The Beaver, Goat Boy, Sy Borgman, and we have some new characters becoming regulars around the house, like Red Tool and Jimm Salabim, a genie that lost his powers. We introduced him in the Loot Crate special, which will be reprinted in the next hardcover collection.
On the superhero side, we'll be seeing Poison Ivy a lot more. We have a three-issue story featuring Harley and Power Girl, and we plan on seeing the Joker make his way into her life again, but in a totally different way.
We have a lot of fun plans ahead that involve characters you never thought you would see in a Harley book. We're thinking way out of the box here.
Nrama: This character has had a lot of success under your pens. What do you think it is about Harley that makes her so lovable, and how have you tried to capture that each issue?
Palmiotti: We understand that she is a bad guy in general but a good person at heart and try to keep a delicate balance between the two. When we took over the title a few years ago, we looked at what Paul Dini and Bruce Timm introduced and then at the video game version, which was more the sexy killer, and felt there had to be a balance in between the two without giving up the qualities fans of both versions loved.
With that, we took the girl out of Gotham, and worked on building up a new supporting cast and focused mainly on developing a personality that we felt would be the right tone for a character that lived through the Joker and Suicide Squad and is now in a place where she is her own woman, in control of her own life.
We're happy that people embraced it, and the film version reflects what we did on some level. With each issue, we want the reader to love her, but not necessary be her. She is a wish fulfillment character for a lot of people and we totally get what Harley’s appeal is in that sense as well.
Nrama: The character's also been through a lot since you first launched her book. Has she learned from her mistakes and successes while you've been writing her? How do you think she's grown since then?
Palmiotti: Harley is seeing the impact she's having on the world around her and, good or bad, she is reacting to it and fine tuning her life. She's feeling a bit more responsible for those around her as well, and something like that shows how she is maturing, and yet staying immature at heart.
She is, at times, a wild, good-natured kid with all the toys at her disposal and no parents around to discipline her.
Nrama: The character's getting a lot of attention because of the Suicide Squad film. Have you seen it? Do you think your portrayal is influenced by it (or maybe theirs was influenced by your comic, as you hinted earlier)?
Palmiotti: We're going to see the movie at the Premiere on Monday night in New York, but from what we have seen in the trailer, not only are we pleased, but we see a lot of the influence from our book in her personality and that's really cool.
[Editor's note: the interview was conducted before the premiere.]
The director said he read our run and I have to think some of that is there, but in the end, Harley was created by two brilliant creators, Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, and their baby has evolved over the years. We are the latest people holding the torch and proud to yield it.
My personal wish is that the solo movie coming will reflect not only what we have done, but they include some of the supporting cast as well.
Nrama: What does your version of Harley think about being in a movie?
Palmiotti: She loves it and has already commented in the book in a sideways way all about it. I think she also loves that the costume is an amalgam of her unique costumes and one of her favorite singers, Debbie Harry. She also told me she loves the shoes.
Nrama: Before we finish up, Jimmy, can you share any long-term plans or hopes you and Amanda have for your Harley Quinn book?
Palmiotti: We're hoping with the film out the same week as Harley Quinn #1 that we get a brand new group of people feeling inspired after the film to give the book a try. My hope is that we hook them right away and turn another few million people into comic book readers so they can finally experience the place where these films come from.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell fans about the new Harley Quinn title as it kicks off again?
Palmiotti: Amanda and I and the whole crew are working harder than ever to make this the best book we can each and every month and appreciate everyone’s support over the past few years. We have some really fun stuff ahead, we will be taking chances, pushing the envelope and trying our best to make each issue a standout.