Breaking the fourth wall might be old hat for Harley Quinn, but writer Sam Humphries has taken the character’s meta-dialogue a step further as Harley actually reads Harley Quinn #50 within the pages of the issue and breaks DC continuity.
What results is a wild journey through the DCU that features a slew of top artists drawing fun Easter eggs for DC fans.
And it’s all surrounding a concept that Humphries and artist John Timms have been hinting about for months in Harley Quinn: a mysterious writer named M. Clatterbuck, and the possibility that Harley’s interaction with this writer’s comic book will change continuity so drastically that Jonni DC will get involved.
Who’s M. Clatterbuck?
Readers have been shown Clatterbuck’s comic books within Harley Quinn since early in the run by Humphries and Timms (who took over the title with issue #45).
“Sweet sassy molassy!” Harley said in issue #48, when she first picked up what appeared to be Harley Quinn #50. “Who th’ heck is M. Clatterbuck?! Though I knew alla th’ big-shot comic geniuses.”
And when Harley even touches an M. Clatterbuck comic book, there’s a strange sound effect: “Shing, Shing, Shing.”
There’s also a mysterious checklist in issue #48, presumably by Clatterbuck as well, listing various issues that make no sense with current continuity but were written by someone who clearly knows the DCU.
Humphries hinted at Comic-Con in San Diego that M. Clatterbuck might be someone who works at DC Entertainment, which would stretch the metatextual narrative pretty far. But that appears to be the point, as Humphries made it clear that not only are all the characters in the DCU potential suspects for the identity of M. Clatterbuck, but everyone in the real world is a suspect too. (Humphries even has me wondering if I might be the writer?)
In fact, it’s improbable that M. Clatterbuck’s identity is a DC character, since the character’s appearance seems to be more about poking fun at the fans and DC staffers who create and maintain Harley’s life than it is a serious in-story crisis.
That said, there is a crisis in issue #50, and many of the top artists at DC participate in the event. And it all starts when Harley opens M. Clatterbuck’s new Harley Quinn comic.
At the end of issue #49, after Harley opens Clatterbuck’s comic book, DC continuity becomes so altered that everything in the DCU is different. The Flash features the “fastest pachyderm alive,” another comic depicts Batman as president, and yet another has Starro as a cosmetic surgeon.
As Harley Quinn #49 concluded, a young woman named Jonni noticed the problem.
“I don’t have time for this,” she said. “I’m still drowning in paperwork from Futures End! And I haven’t had a vacation in three years! But there’s no avoiding it. Harley Quinn must be stopped!”
With a flash of lightning, the woman switched into her superhero identity, shouting, “This is a job for Jonni DC! Continuity Cop!”
Who’s Jonni DC?
Jonni DC first showed up in the pages of Ambush Bug, another comic book that reveled in the joy of breaking the fourth wall. Created by Keith Giffen and Robert Loren Fleming, the character would turn into her superhero form whenever she was needed to correct or double-check a continuity error in DC Comics.
With a body shaped like the DC bullet, she was a sort of manifestation of the uncompromising attitude from fans (and DC editors) about adhering to established DC continuity.
And although she didn’t play much of a role outside the world of Ambush Bug, whenever she showed up, it was usually to poke fun at DC’s continuity mistakes, or the company’s never-ending attempts to clean those mistakes up.
It’s perhaps fitting that Jonni DC would show up now, when Ambush Bug has been revealed in the “Rebirth” universe in Superman (and upcoming Supergirl) books.
Along with the hints about M. Clatterbuck in the Harley Quinn comic book, there’s also been indications that Jonni DC needs to get involved when the comic is around. In a past issue, Jonni DC was briefly shown on one page, stating, “Hey, waitaminit … This isn’t right. What the hell is going on here?!”
When Harley’s foray into the pages of M. Clatterbuck’s comic book start messing with the Multiverse itself, things get ugly and Harley Quinn #50 kicks off.
If the hints about and previews of issue #50 are any indication, the revelation of M. Clatterbuck and the mystery behind Harley “breaking continuity” will be filled with references to various DC timelines and stories, featuring art by some of the most beloved pencilers in the business.
And just like Ambush Bug (and his jabs at DC fans and writers) has become a fan-favorite cameo, Harley’s journey through a twisted DC continuity in issue #50 is almost like a love letter to the people who make and read DC comic books.
This week’s issue is an oversized anniversary issue, and the artists include Timms, Whilce Portacio, Agnes Garbowska, John McCrea, Kelley Jones, Jon Davis-Hunt, Brett Booth, Norm Raymond, Scott Kolins, Dan Jurgens, Guillem March, Mirka Andolfo, Babs Tarr, Tom Grummett and Cam Smith.
As Harley fights through DC continuity to save the DCU, though, it does beg the question: With all the hype surrounding Doomsday Clock and Heroes in Crisis, wouldn’t it be hilarious if the end of the DC Universe actually happened in Harley Quinn?
While that might be unlikely, it won’t be for Harley’s lack of trying.