Kindle Daily Post spent some time at San Diego Comic-Con with "Harley Quinn" creative team Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner (writers) and artist Chad Hardin. They talked about their work on the fan-favorite book, and what makes Harley such a unique character. Palmiotti and Conner also spoke about their newest DC Comics title, "Starfire."
Let’s talk first about HARLEY QUINN. What’s your entry point when writing the character? How do you get inside her head, and determine what you want to do in story terms?
AMANDA CONNER: The most important thing is that Harley is a fun character. I mean, she’s dark in the way that she’s a homicidal maniac, but she’s a homicidal maniac with a heart of gold. She has love and joy in her, so I think that makes her really interesting. You’ve got a psycho killer that wants to save the world.
JIMMY PALMIOTTI: I think the attractive part of the character is the spontaneity. In most comic books, you kinda know where the story’s going, or you expect it to go. With Harley there’s this spontaneous reaction, so at any moment the story might get hijacked and go somewhere else.
I think that’s why every issue is unique, because in some way it goes somewhere you don’t expect it to. We do start with a linear story – and it’s in there, deep down, it’s there – but on the surface, it goes all over the place.
Does that make it easier or harder to put the book together, that spontaneity and sense of not knowing?
PALMIOTTI: I find it’s the easiest book I’ve ever written, because I can get influenced by any silly thing. And because it’s that character, I can get away with it. You don’t question it because she’s kind of insane. So I think it’s an easy book to write, actually.
Is there a different kind of expectation or pressure when you’re writing a character who’s such a big fan-favorite?
CONNER: It’s not hard because we're fans of Harley, too. So we know what the fans feel like, and we know what we want to see in the character. I think us staying true to the character makes the fans happy, because they sort of feel the same way.
Chad, as an artist, do you enjoy the “wild card” nature of the stories, and of Harley herself?
CHAD HARDIN: I think what makes [Harley] visually appealing is the emotions that she goes through – the rages, the anger one second, then happy the next. She’s just a roller coaster, and roller coasters are fun.
With the look of Harley, I like that she’s never wearing the same outfit. Never the same hairdo. So I get to play a little bit more than I would someone like Batman or Superman, who have to look a certain way all the time. Harley, like a real person – as real as we can make her – when she’s on a date, her hair’s different for the date. Her dress is different for the date. When she’s parachuting into a boat, she’s in a wetsuit. When she’s teamed up with Power Girl, she has the buns in her hair. There’s a lot of variations going on. That’s what I think keeps it visually exciting.
When you’re at a show like Comic-Con, do you ever pull inspiration from some of the cosplayers who are dressed up as Harley or any variants of her costume?
HARDIN: Sometimes, yes. Sometimes they mimic what we’re drawing, so that’s pleasing as well.
PALMIOTTI: In the book we have a Gang of Harleys which is, like, 13 Harley Quinns, and we were inspired by cosplayers. We’d see all these different costumes and we said, we have a chance to have some fun with the book and to introduce different ethnic backgrounds and have the designs of the costumes reflect that. So we’re definitely inspired and we love the cosplayers.
Amanda and Jimmy, you also recently relaunched STARFIRE. That’s a character that’s had a lot of different interpretations over the years. Can you describe your take on her?
CONNER: Well, I remember Starfire from the Marv Wolfman/George Perez days, and I loved her back then. There was a lot of stuff in that Starfire that I feel like I was missing now, and I wanted to revisit that again. Jimmy and I, we also love the “Teen Titans Go!” cartoon. It’s so fun!
So when they gave us STARFIRE, I wanted to reintroduce some of that classic stuff that I remember from when I was a kid. And maybe put a little bit of the “Teen titans Go!” personality in it and still keep some of the newer stuff, but to sort of amalgamate everything.
For people who haven’t seen the cartoon or aren’t familiar with the Wolfman/Perez TEEN TITANS era, give me the 30 second pitch on why they should be reading STARFIRE.
CONNER: It’s a fish out of water story. She’s an alien from another planet and she’s trying to learn how to become an Earthling. And it’s not that easy, but it’s a lot of fun.
PALMIOTTI: I also think STARFIRE is a book a mom or a dad can read with their kids. And, although there’s one or two places where they might have to explain it differently [LAUGHS], for the most part they can both enjoy it on different levels. I think that’s an important thing to have.