The Harley Quinn Team on How to Make Sexy Comics That Aren't Gross

Illustration for article titled The Harley Quinn Team on How to Make Sexy Comics That Aren't Gross

We braved the Comic-Con crush around the awesome DC costume display to talk to the trio behind one of DC Comics’ most exciting series today: Harley Quinn. Artist-writer Amanda Conner; her husband, writer Jimmy Palmiotti; and artist Chad Hardin answered all of our burning questions.


As we approached, the team—whose other titles include Power Girl and Starfire—was admiring a very detailed Harley Quinn ensemble worn by a cosplayer who was thrilled to be meeting her idols. (A costume contest was planned for later in the day, they told us; based on the sheer number of Harleys roaming the floor, it was no doubt a fierce affair.)

io9: It feels like you guys have been at the forefront of making DC comics and characters fun again. Do you agree?

Amanda Conner: I would hope we are. We have fun with it, and we hope it translates.

Jimmy Palmiotti: It’s a fun job! Every book can’t be dark, every book can’t be angst-ridden. Especially when you’re given a character like Harley or even Starfire, there’s a light side to it. It doesn’t have to always be so mean. When we grabbed Harley, we kind of embraced more of what Bruce Timm and Paul Dini were doing, this fun thing without having that horrible relationship with the Joker. We felt like she needed to step out on her own. And in order for us to like writing it, we had to make it a character that we enjoyed writing; in some ways, that’s how the character was created.

Was it hard getting DC to sign off on a more comedic comic?

JP: I don’t think they knew it was going to hit them.

AC: They sort of just shoved it toward us and said, “Here, take care of this,” and didn’t really pay attention to it until it really started [taking off].


JP: I don’t think they thought, in a million years, that it would get like it did. I think it was one of those things like, “Oh, Jimmy and Amanda and Chad are doing Harley. Let’s see what they come up with.”

Chad Hardin: Then, when it came in right underneath Batman, everyone’s like, “WHAT?” That’s when they paid attention.


JP: We always loved the character, but again, we had to find the thing that we would like writing about. I don’t think that I could ever write the Joker-Harley ongoing.

CH: Well, it’s a toxic relationship. Someone’s going to end up dead. Like all abusive relationships, it’s going to end in tragedy.


JP: Grounded comedy, we call it. It’s very grounded, but it has funny stuff in it too.

And it’s sexy without being sexualized, which a lot of other comics try and fail to do. How do you guys succeeded at that so well?


AC: I think being sexy is a lot of an attitude rather than just—you know, I can see a character portrayed in shredded clothing with really big boobs, and if they’re just eye candy, it’s not a turn-on. But if they have attitude and personality, that’s what I think is sexy.

JP: Confidence, too. I think a character who has confidence is very sexy. In life, confidence is a sexy thing. Even when we’re writing Power Girl, we’re not going to apologize for it, because that’s just the way she’s built. Now let’s get into who she is. That’s what we’ve always done with all the characters, about who they are and what they think.


CH: If you think of them as a person and not an object, it’s easy.

JP: At the odd times when it’s a little tease-y, it actually makes sense with the character. It’s not a lecherous thing. It actually makes sense that the character is in that way of thinking. With Harley, there’s a lot of personalities going on at once. It isn’t always obvious. And then when Ivy’s around, it’s a whole other thing. I think we try to explore all the parts of her personality. If you don’t like her, then it’s hard to look at scenes like that, where they’re being pretty sexual or whatever. It comes off as creepy I guess.


CH: It’s a hard road to walk. You want to try and hit all those angles. You want her to be attractive. You don’t want her to look hideous. But at the same time, you don’t want to mae it so she’s objectified. My studio is in my home, and I have three daughters. They’re in and out, and they’re giving me tips all the time, like, “Hey dad, that wouldn’t work.” [Laughs.]

JP: If there’s any problems, though, we say Amanda wrote it. [All laugh.]

What’s next for your characters?

JP: We have the Gang of Harleys, who are dealing with Captain Strong, and we deal with some of the Gang of Harleys getting trimmed down a little bit. Something happens and there’s a little bit less of them. The next coming issues, Harley goes to ... somebody in the hospital’s daughter has joined a cult in California, so Harley takes on the gig to get her daughter back. She flies to LA to get her daughter out of the cult, and it’s not what it appears to be. That’s the one where it looks like Harley’s dressed up like she was just on Melrose, with all the bling and everything, and the Hollywood sign is covered up to say “Harleywood.” She’s there for a couple of issues, then when she’s back in New York, we’re leading events toward the 25th issue, which will be completely insane. It’s top secret, which means we haven’t come up with it yet. [All laugh.]


If you could get your hands on any another DC character, who would you want to do?

AC: Me personally, I’d like to have Big Barda. I’d like to do that for a miniseries.


CH: I’d love Guy Gardner and Booster Gold, that whole trio of troublemakers from JLA in the 1980s. I think that’d be a lot of fun.

JP: I’d like to write Wonder Woman. I’d like to go in and have some fun with her! I think she needs to smile a little more. She’s always being a tough guy, and she needs a break. I’d do a Wonder Woman book that was less about her being Wonder Woman and more about her not being Wonder Woman. Sort of like her downtime. Day-to-day stuff. I don’t know if anyone would buy it...


I’d like to read that!

JP: Well, there you go! One copy sold.

H/T Rob Bricken for question help! Top image: DC Comics.




“I’d love Guy Gardner and Booster Gold, that whole trio of troublemakers from JLA in the 1980s. I think that’d be a lot of fun.“

Trio? does that mean Ted Kord as well?