I had a brilliant time at Denver Comic Con this year, and I was so thrilled to get the opportunity to interview some amazing writers from DC Comics. DC is doing some pretty rad stuff with their comics, and I am so excited to get to dish with you, my shiny readers! I was able to sit down with Becky Cloonan (Gotham Academy), Jim Palmiotti and Amanda Conner (Harley Quinn, Power Girl, Starfire), and Marguerite Bennet (Earth 2, Bombshells). I’ve already shared my interview with Becky Cloonan with you all, and now here’s my chat with Harley Quinn writers Amanda and Jim. These guys were HOOTS. We didn’t really stay on topic, but I had a blast chatting with these two.
Kendall: I have been dying to know, what do you guys think of Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn from the Suicide Squad movie?
Amanda: I’m kind of liking it! I’m sort of reserving judgement until I actually see the film, but I’m liking what I see so far.
Jim: I think the couple of photos I’ve seen, there’s not that many, but the attitude is there. I like the attitude. And, you know, people say to me, “Oh, the costume’s not designed right,” no, it doesn’t matter. How do you know she doesn’t change into fifteen costumes in that movie? You know, I think it looks terrific, actually, with the baseball bat and the umbrella, the black and red umbrella’s pretty cool.
A: I didn’t see that one yet!
J: Yeah, it’s pretty cool, so I think out of everything in that movie, of course I’m hyper-focusing on Harley. I think everybody is, in a way, but I dunno, it looks pretty cool. It could have looked horrible.
K: It could have, definitely.
J: And just the colors, the smear, and the tattoos, I think she has a Bernie the Beaver right around her waist.
A: I think. We can’t really tell what it is, but I think it’s a beaver.
J: It’s a beaver, yeah, it’s a beaver.
A: Yeah, it’s right around her belly button.
J: We have a beaver in our comic, so that made us happy. We were happy to see beaver, if you wanna say that.
A: Is this podcast all-ages?
J: Is this a podcast or a blog?
K: It’s a blog, and no worries. You guys are fine. So you guys don’t really have any involvement in the movie?
J: No, no. We’ll be like everyone else, seeing it when it comes out.
K: Is that kind of weird, seeing, I mean you guys have kind of brought Harley Quinn into [the modern spotlight]…
J: I think it’s probably weirder for Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, since they were the creators, you know? I mean, I look at that and I’m like, why aren’t they doing a Harley cartoon right now based on our books?
A: Yeah! I could see that!
J: Like, while the movies are going you could have the Harley cartoon going there. There should be all kinds of different Harleys. But, you know, it’s cool. If people who don’t know who Harley is see the movie and want to try the comic, I hope they kind of come our way and check it out–and don’t get disappointed. Because it’s probably a little more heavy than what we do.
K: Speaking of newcomers to Harley Quinn, you guys aren’t the first ones to write her, but where would you–especially in your era of Harley Quinn–where would you direct people to kind of jump in? Should you start at the very beginning or is there another place that you think new readers should start?
A: Harley is really “jump inable”, for the most part, but I think to get the whole–it’s probably hard to get issue zero and the first Harley, but I think now that they’ve collected it it’s easy to get, like I said you can jump in and get a good feel for the book. But if you want to get sort of a, you know, all of the characters, to get where they’re coming from, it’s easier if you can have the whole story. Then you don’t have to say, “What’s this guy’s story?” or “Where does this person come from?”
J: I’d say that if you don’t know who Harley is, just get the trade, the Mad Love trade by Bruce and Paul and get that. That’s great. That will give you the Batman-related Harley.
A: It’s a really good background for Harley, Mad Love.
J: Although with Secret Origins #4, we retold the origin, so I don’t know. There’s a lot of stuff to choose from. My bank account says buy anything we did, but my brain says the Bruce Timm, Paul Dini stuff is a great place to start. And then watch the animation, that stuff is amazing. It’s a very rich character. There’s a lot to go out there and get. But, honestly, you can pick up June’s book and you could figure it out pretty quick.
K: I love that about Harley Quinn, she is “jump inable”. Comics can be kind of intimidating to start.
A: Well, that’s the thing, we like to keep the story sort of, I mean, we do have story arcs, but at the same time we like to make it so you don’t have to be so involved with this really complex history. Sometimes you get so convulsed that you don’t know where anything’s going.
J: And it alienates people. That’s not what you want comics to do, alienate the audience.
K: How is writing Harley Quinn–the quintessence of an anti-hero–different from the writing process of writing a more straight down the line masked hero?
A: I think it’s easier. Because with straight heroes, there are limitations. Heroes have things they can and cannot do, but with Harley, there’s nothing she won’t do. So we could go in a million different directions than her. So I find that its easier, don’t you?
J: I do, and I find that any stupid thing we come up with, we can throw in the book. Like yesterday, some kid, do you remember? He said something random…
A: He said something about wearing a thong, and Jimmy said it’d have to be a red thong. And we were like…
J: The Red Thong!
A: We looked at each other and were like, “That’s our new Harley super-villain.”
J and A: The Red Thong.
J: And he’s like, maybe from Russia, maybe he’s not, maybe he’s from Germany.
A: We decided he’s from Germany, because Germans come down here to Clearwater and they wear speedos. Without shame.
J: But the Red Thong is a scary villain because he is wearing almost nothing, and nothing is more scary than a grown, hairy man running at you in just a thong. That’s frightening! That’s more more frightening than a man with a cape and a skull, but if the Red Thong shows up at your house, you’re like, no.
J: So the fans bring us some good ideas, too. Like the Red Thong. You’ll see, the Red Thong will be appearing. That’s the fun of that book, that we can say something that stupid and still work it in there and make it kinda work. You know, I’ve gotta create a logo. Something like that. It’s gotta go behind. Like, where’s the logo? It’s on the back of my thong. It should just be a circle with a red line. That should just be the logo. Like that [draws logo on a napkin]. That’s for you. That’s the first appearance of the Red Thong. What do you think?
K: It’s perfect. I love it.
[Jim asks Amanda to color the logo red with her marker, which she does]
J: This is the website that you go to in order to find the origin of the Red Thong.
K: Yes! This is a Distracted Blogger exclusive!
[lots of thong jokes, a quick consideration of renaming it The Hairy Thong, and imagining potential actors to play the Thong, and other things whose hilarity won’t translate well to this format, and then the DC publicist gets us back on track]
K: So how is writing Starfire different from Harley?
J: Well, Harley’s all about insanity, and Starfire is, because it’s a very established character and with everything that’s been going on in New 52 and then we have the animated series, Teen Titans, so we’re writing it pretty straight. And if I had to use a comparison, I’d say it’s like when we did that Power Girl series a couple of years ago, it’s probably very, very close to that in the way the book moves and the characters play.
A: And flavor.
J: And flavor, yes. And it has a nice bounce to it, but it has a different beat to it, you know, it’s basically about her learning to get along with us–humans.
A: And learning to adapt to the way humans are, and learning to blend in a little more. She likes her new home and she wants to be one of us.
J: It has its super hero parts, but its more soap opera and more stories. But it is more like the Power Girl series, if anybody remembers that.
K: And there’s Harley and Power Girl coming soon.
J: And that’s just insane. We brought Justin Gray in for that one, and it takes place after Harley Quinn #12 where they jump from one dimension ring and come out and Power Girl is wearing a wedding dress and Harley is wearing a superhero suit with cats.
A: And Power Girl says, “That was the longest two weeks of my life!”
J: And it’s basically the time between the those two rings. That’s the whole miniseries. So we learn why she’s in a wedding dress, why Power Girl doesn’t want to talk about Vartox…
A: Yeah, Power Girl says, “Don’t talk about this.”
J: …and it’s very groovy, to use the sixties term. If I had to use one word to describe it, I’d say groovy.
You guys, I was so thrilled to get to talk to Amanda and Jim. They are hilarious, and you have to only hang out with them for a few minutes to see what a killer team they make. And, yes, I definitely still have my first, napkin-edition drawing of the Red Thong logo:
Be sure to check out the latest issue of Harley Quinn, which hits stores June 10, and check out the Harley Quinn and Power Girl miniseries, releasing on June 17. And of course be sure to follow Jim and Amanda on Twitter. I’d also love to hear your Harley thoughts. Are you a fan of the comic? What do you think of the Margot Robbie Harley? Let me know in the comments!