What if Harley Quinn left the Joker... but ended up in the Legion of Doom? That's what's happening in the upcoming DC Universe animated series Harley Quinn. Scheduled to debut this Friday November 29, Harley Quinn follows Ms. Quinzel into a post-Joker frame of mind thanks to showrunners Patrick Schumacker and Justin Halpern.
Newsarama spoke with the two Powerless alums about Harley Quinn , discussing what went into the first season, how they connected with DC Universe, Amanda Conner's role on the show, and what they've already got in the works for season two.
Newsarama: Patrick and Justin, what characters can you tease about this season coming up?
Patrick Schumacker: We've got so many characters to tease for this season, and I will tease away. We have Dr. Psycho, Clayface, King Shark, Cyborg, Queen of Fables, Kiteman. Who else we got?
Justin Halpern: Scarecrow and Penguin.
Schumacker: Lex Luthor, Superman, Damian Wayne - Robin. Who am I missing? I'm missing a lot - Black Manta, Aquaman, Wonder Woman.
Schumacker: I think I said Superman. We got Bane.
Halpern: A lot of Bane.
Halpern: We said that. Now we're just recycling.
Schumacker: Yeah, we've got Scarecrow, Scarecrow, Scarecrow.
Nrama: Any characters on the bucket list to use? Any characters you couldn’t use?
Schumacker: No, we have everyone in there that we wanted to use. I'm being serious. Yeah, we really did. DC gave us the entire sandbox to play in. Within four episodes we were in Metropolis. It’s a really expansive world. Season two gets into other planets, let’s say. It’s a big universe.
Nrama: When did you know you were getting a season 2?
Halpern: It was a 26 episode order that we decided to break into two seasons, two 13-episode seasons. I don't know if they think it's two 13 episode seasons. I think they do. I think it's going to air - I mean I have no real idea, but I think it'll probably be 13 and 13 and certainly narratively. That's how we broke it.
Nrama: What was the pitching process like for a new streaming service like this?
Schumacker: Originally, it was a gift that dropped in our laps from Warner Brothers and they called us one day and said, “Do you guys want to do a R-rated? Harley Quinn animated show?” We said, yes, of course. It wasn't necessarily initially developed for DC Universe. It's just once we pitched the show, it made a lot of sense.
Halpern: We started developing it before there was a DC Universe. We started developing it in 2016 and then our plan was to take it out everywhere and then DC Universe came up and they were like, "Well obviously this is going to go there."
Like what Pat said, they came to us and asked. “Do you want to do an R rated Harley animated show?” But that was all they knew they wanted. Then we took a long, long time to like figure out what would be our version of this show. Before we even started writing, it was like two years. Because there's a lot there and there's a lot of ways you could go wrong or at least go stale. So, we kind of wanted to kick the tires on every portion of the show before we were like, yeah, we've got to show here.
Nrama: Amanda Conner is also involved in this show. How did that come about? Was Jimmy Palmiotti also involved? Any other Harley creators?
Schumacker: We were fans of Amanda's work. She has a relationship with Warner Brothers animation doing design work and that kind of stuff. So, she was able to help us design the show early on. When we were pitching it, it was like five or six sort of tableaus of like, this is what the show might look like. Here's the whole ensemble of characters in this one scene. Just as we were pitching people, like through the pilot or through just the first season of the show.
And then after that, we hired Jennifer Coyle, who is an animator and she's a producer on the show. She overseas everything aesthetic on Harley. Working under her is Shane Glines who did all the character design for Justice League Action. So, he did his take on all of these characters. He’s our lead character designer. But Amanda was the original inspiration for the look and feel of the show.
Halpern: I mean you can see like how we dress Harley at the end of the pilot, which is how she looks going forward. The series was really like Amanda inspired and then Jen Coyle took that, took Amanda's design, and did some fine tuning for how it should look in an animated series. I mean Patrick and I had never worked in animation before. We'd only done live action, so they paired us with like the best animators possible because we needed that because we were such neophytes.
Nrama: Are there any previous Harley voices you want on the show and as what characters?
Schumacker: That's a great question. If they would to it, we would love to bring back like Tara Strong or Arleen Sorkin or even Melissa Rauch.. That would be awesome to bring her back. As far as characters that they could play, man. I don't know. I mean it would be cool to do like some kind of like...
Halpern: Like cousins of Harley.
Schumacker: Yeah, or like if we ended up doing some multiverse thing, seeing like the old iterations of Harley paired up with the new. I don’t know, we hadn't thought about it, but now we're going to think about it.
Nrama: Speaking of multiverses, would you like to crossover with any of the other DC animated shows?
Schumacker: I mean that would be amazing. We do a in a later episode, that I guess would count as a season two episode, we do a flashback episode to Harleen and Joker’s initial courtship that is much more of an homage to Batman: The Animated Series. Bruce Timm has been a little bit involved with the show in its early days and has seen episodes and it's kind of given his blessing. So, yeah, we'd love to do that. Especially, now that we have 26 episodes under our belt - maybe there's a little bit more room to play and do some things that are a little bit more outside the box. So doing an episode where we just do it, do a pure like aesthetic homage to be Batman: TAS would be appealing.
Halpern: Yeah. We were always kind of living in fear of like, "Will Bruce think this sucks?" And so when he liked it, it felt freeing.
Nrama: Has Paul Dini seen it?
Halpern: I don’t know if Paul has seen it.
Schumacker: Yeah, we don't know. We don’t know where Paul is.
Halpern: I mean I would love to hear what Paul thought of it.
Nrama: Have you guys seen Batman: The Animated Series and read the Harley Quinn comics?
Schumacker: I've been a comic book reader, enthusiast since probably 1990. That predates Harley, but I was a huge avid Batman: The Animated Series fan and then continued to read the Batman comics for years. I don't know, I was an 11-year-old male in the 90s and got hooked on comics through Jim Lee's X-Men as a lot of people my age did.
Halpern: The X-Men cartoon. The X-Men animated show was so good. It was also like one of the first like serialized animated shows that I had seen. This show is heavily serialized - some of the inspiration was taken from that X-Men animated show. Obviously, completely different shows, but I remember waking up on Saturday mornings being like, "What's going to happen?"
Nrama: You also have some romantic tension between Harley and Ivy. Will you dig deeper into this like the comics have?
Schumacker: If you are patient, we may get around to that. We really wanted to spend the first season setting the table for the world of the show - setting up Ivy and Harley's friendship. Also as you were saying before, because it's a breakup story with Harley and the Joker we didn't want her to jump into a relationship immediately. It's not that there's not romance on the show amongst other characters, let's say, and it's not that it's not hinted at as a possibility. We do dangle that I think somewhat early in the show, but we don't get into those sorts of complications in the relationship until later.
Halpern: Yeah, I think it was important for the first season be about self-discovery and not self-discovery in terms of letting someone else define who you are. And if you put her right back in another relationship, then suddenly it muddied that for us. We didn't want her to be defined by whoever she was dating. We wanted her to define herself.
Nrama: One of my favorite episodes of Batman: The Animated Series was “Girls Night Out”. Will we see your version of that on Harley Quinn?
Schumacker: In the second season we have a bachelorette party that is Ivy, Harley, Catwoman and I don't want to give away - there's one character I can't say. And then one of Harley’s childhood friends who's just like a normy from like back home, her friend Jen is on Themyscira because of some villainy had been turned into a resort. It’s a girl's weekend out, let's say.
Halpern: It’s might be our favorite episode, actually.
Schumacker: It's so funny. Sarah Peters wrote that episode. She's a hysterical comedy writer. Um, yeah, it's fun.