Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner are giving the their Harley Quinn title new life by working with Harley co-creator and animation veteran Paul Dini to tell stories of Harley's classic relationship with the Joker.
And according to Palmiotti and Conner, this week's Harley Quinn #17, which is the first issue featuring Dini, will be a perfect jumping-on point for new readers.
The front story in Harley Quinn #17 will feature the usual modern-day zaniness that Conner and Palmiotti have delivered for years in the best-selling title - the first chapter of a new storyline called "Red Meat" - but Harley Quinn #17 will also include a Dini/Palmiotti-written story in the back titled "Harley Loves Joker."
The Dini/Palmiotti story features animated-style Harley and her boyfriend "Mr. J," with pencils by Bret Blevins, inks by Jay Bone, and colors by Alex Sinclair. And according to Palmiotti, that co-feature will not only give the issue a different dynamic, but will provide a nice contrast with the Harley Quinn of the present day, highlighting the modern, independent woman Harley has become. (It also provides a nice contrast with the front story's artwork by regular penciler John Timms.)
Newsarama talked with Palmiotti and Conner about the choice to work with Dini, how this provides a jumping-on point for new readers and what other crazy antics fans can expect from Harley Quinn.
Newsarama: Jimmy and Amanda, how did you guys end up getting Paul Dini involved in co-writing with you to create these "Harley Loves Joker" back-ups for Harley Quinn?
Jimmy Palmiotti: Amanda and I were talking about this idea - wouldn't it be fun to go back in time and tell some more Joker and Harley stories about when they were in love, in that crime-spree stage of their relationship?
We were talking about how it would only be fair to offer it to Bruce Timm and Paul Dini. So we did! And you know, Bruce was very busy, but Paul was interested.
So we talked to him a bit. Paul and I talked and Amanda needed a break. So Paul and I talked and we started laughing at some crazy idea we had, and we started building on it and building on it.
Then we approached DC.
Nrama: Oh, then DC got involved.
Palmiotti: Well, yeah, we said, "Hey, would you mind if we do a six-page back-up for a bunch of issues?"
Nrama: And they obviously said yes. But do you know how many issues it will last?
Palmiotti: We don't. We're being organic with it. We did an outline, and as we were doing the outline, we'd start to laugh, like, "this would be a funny scene if it was blown out for two pages."
Amanda Conner: Well, it's supposed to be six issues, right?
Palmiotti: Yeah, supposed to be.
Conner: Now it might be more?
Palmiotti: Don't hold us to six issues. God knows. It's going to go until we tell the story.
Conner: I don't think you're going to get any complaints.
Nrama: And you've brought together quite a team for this along with Paul.
Palmiotti: Yeah, Paul and I write them together. So you've got me and Paul and Bret and J. Bone and Alex.
We're just having so much fun.
Nrama: It has a more classic look, which makes sense with a story that's set in the past - and also with a story that involves one of Harley's creators.
Palmiotti: I mean, I was a fan of the animated series, and of course working with Paul Dini makes me look better. That's all there is to it. I feel bad for Paul, but I look better.
But it's so much fun writing this classic Harley and having Bret and Jay and Alex doing the art. It's just beautiful.
Nrama: This week's issue is also the start of a new storyline in the front.
Palmiotti: Right, so we thought this is a good time for retailers and fans who maybe aren't picking up the series to say, "You know what? Let me give it a shot."
You have to do that every once in a while. You have to remember that you have to keep getting a new audience into the book. So maybe we'll get some people who love the classic stuff.
Nrama: Some people can't seem to get enough of Joker and Harley together.
Palmiotti: It's true! And she's not biting his lip or beating the hell out of him in this back-up story. It's a different time. It's classic Harley and Joker.
And it's a great contrast with the front story. You get to see the past, and then you also get to see where she is now and how she's grown.
So it serves the theme, but at the end of the day, it's mostly fun.
Nrama: You guys have spawned a lot of spin-off titles from Harley Quinn since you started this a few years ago. Maybe this will be a spin-off too?
Palmiotti: Eventually, they'll kick us off the book and Paul Dini will take over the series.
Nrama: Could there be room for both?
Palmiotti: That's what we hope. It makes us work harder in the front to keep that fresh.
Nrama: You mentioned that the feature story is also the start of a new storyline.
Palmiotti: Yeah, basically, the mayor of New York is dealing with the homeless situation that's a little out of control. He's done medicating, he's done trying to find housing, he's done with all this stuff. And he realizes that maybe, with the help of his assistant Madison, she figured out a way to get rid of the homeless and that's to bring a group of cannibals.
So Harley goes undercover in issue #17.
Conner: We actually get to see Harley be a homeless person.
Palmiotti: She's trying to see who's doing it.
And it goes wrong. It goes bad for her.
Nrama: And readers will get to see some of Harley's supporting cast in action?
Palmiotti: We get to see Red Tool in action with Eggy. And we also have a little tease of other things coming up - like Harley's brain, we're running a bunch of simultaneous storylines.
Conner: Jimmy's actually flipping through the issue as we speak because our brains are so far ahead in the game. Since everything is shipping twice a month - I mean, I think issue #21 is already being done.
Palmiotti: Yeah, but like I said, Harley Quinn #17 is a great jumping-on point. The cover that Amanda did says it all - modern Harley and classic Harley leaning back-to-back, coming to a T-shirt near you probably.
When you're doing the series for a while, it's fun to throw unpredictable stuff at people. I don't like the idea of business as usual with any kind of entertainment. I always think you have to keep challenging yourself, and that's what we've been trying to do with the book.