There aren't many comic book writers who list their "sense of humor" as a key part of their resumé, but for Frank Tieri, it's his most important asset as he takes over writing chores for DC Comics' Harley Quinn in January.
Tieri will be taking the reins from the co-writing duo of Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, who took over the popular title in 2013 and guided several spin-offs and tie-ins since. Working with Inaki Miranda on the title, Tieri is slated to start with Harley Quinn #35 on January 17.
Kicking off with two back-to-back storylines that feature Batman villains, Tieri is hoping to incorporate the Harley title into the DCU. But he's also adamant that the humor will continue, claiming to have a "similar sense of humor" to Palmiotti and Conner, evidenced by his run on Harley Quinn and Her Gang of Harleys.
Newsarama talked to Tieri about his upcoming run on Harley Quinn, what Batman rogues he's bringing into the title, and why the second story arc is titled "Angry Bird."
Newsarama: Frank, when you were given the task of taking over Harley Quinn, was it all daunting for you? Or did your experience on the title and other stories with Harley give you a pretty good footing before you started?
Frank Tieri: Well, listen, Jimmy and Amanda are both good friends of mine. And what they've done for the character speaks for itself. I think they're a large part of why the character's so popular.
We all have a similar sense of humor, so that helps. And when they recommended me for the book, I had already worked with Harley in the Gang of Harleys series, so when they called, I was more than happy to take the gig.
Nrama: Having read your issues of Harleys, I know you have a similar tone to your stories, but is there anything you're changing as you take over the book?
Tieri: It's still going to be fun, it's still going to have a lot of humor, and it's still going to have the characters everyone loves. But I think the one thing I'm doing a bit differently is I'm incorporating her more into the DC Universe, especially in the second arc. The villains will be characters from Batman's rogues gallery.
There will be humor, but the threats will be real. The humor will mainly come from Harley herself and her cast of characters.
Nrama: You're keeping the supporting cast?
Tieri: I am. The Gang of Harleys is still there, Eggy is still there, Tony is still there - the humor will remain intact.
Nrama: Before we get to the second arc where you incorporate Harley more into the DCU, the first story arc also has a familiar Batman character involved. Man-Bat?
Tieri: Right! The first arc is called "Man-Batter Up," with the sudden appearance of Man-Bat in Coney Island. And not to spoil too much - but you can see from the cover - she may or may not get turned into a bat herself.
Nrama: Harley just had a big loss. Do you address that as your run kicks off?
Tieri: Yeah, she's lost Mason, and she takes it pretty hard. And her reaction to that is to maybe push people away a bit. She thinks she's jinxed and she doesn't want to see people get hurt - her friends especially.
Harley has always been the so-called "queen" of Coney Island, where everybody goes to her, but maybe after the events of losing Mason, she doesn't necessarily want that responsibility anymore. She's concerned that she might be responsible for somebody getting hurt, and she doesn't want that.
So when we open, she's still a little depressed and all these things start happening, including Tony being missing. And she has to find Tony.
Nrama: And Inaki Miranda is drawing the Man-Bat arc. What does he bring to the story?
Tieri: Yes, it's Inaki Miranda, who's my old partner in crime from Catwoman. So when we were talking about artists for this, and they mentioned him, I said, oh yeah, of course! We had a nice run together on Catwoman. We liked working with each other. And it was great to get him to work on this.
Nrama: After that, you start a new story arc called "Angry Bird," which might be the best title for a story arc ever. This follows up on something you wrote before for Harley, right?
Tieri: Yeah. You might remember that, with the fill-in issue I did for Jimmy and Amanda, Harley was set up against Penguin. And Penguin was going to put a casino in Coney Island. Harley actually tricked him by making him believe that the Joker was against him doing it.
Well, he since found out that it was all a trick, and he wants vengeance.
Penguin basically declares war on Harley and sets just about every villain in Batman's rogues gallery after her in Coney Island. I mean, we're talking about everybody from Mr. Freeze to Film Freak and Crazy Quilt and Condiment King and everybody in between.
I'm basically emptying out Batman's rogues gallery. The "Angry Bird" arc is really a love letter to Batman's rogues gallery. I've always felt Batman has the best rogues gallery in comics, and also the most fun and versatile.
If you look at Batman's rogues gallery, sure you have the Joker and Penguin and Mr. Freeze and so forth, but then you have ones that are just out-and-out ridiculous, like Egghead and Crazy Quilt and what-not, so it's going to be a lot of fun to play with the serious ones and the ones that are not-so-serious and everything in between.
But Penguin is the main perpetrator. Harley doesn't figure that out right away, but basically his sales pitch to all these rogues is, hey, we've got all these criminals fighting over the same real estate in Gotham - but New York doesn't! So he's saying, "let's go to New York and take over New York!" There's no Batman there, there's no Robin there, there's no Nightwing.
So he says, "all New York has is Harley, and we should be able to handle that, right?" So he's the one who sets everything in motion.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell readers about your plans for Harley Quinn?
Tieri: It's going to be fun. Jimmy and Amanda and I have similar humor, so it's more of the same in that way, plus we'll have more of the DCU in my run. We'll have all these rogues we've talked about, and we might even have Jim Gordon show up. So all the wacky fun but more interaction with the DC Universe.
And you can expect a lot of twists and turns. Everything may not be as straight-forward as it seems.