Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner Talk Harley Quinn

Harley Quinn Comic Con
Harley Quinn takes on Comic Con in a special issue. Cover by Amanda Conner. copyright DC Comics

The seventh issue of DC’s Harley Quinn‘s monthly comic was the fourth bestselling comic in the direct market,  according to sales figures compiled by Diamond Comics.

That’s higher than June’s issues of  DC’s Justice League, that’s higher than DC Comic’s flagship, Detective Comics, that’s higher than Superman by comic superstars Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr., and that’s higher than the independent force of nature that is The Walking Dead.

Clearly, there’s a groundswell for  Harley Quinn. She’s not just DC’s top selling female lead. She’s the top selling female lead of the comics world.

Much of the credit for the success of her new book is no doubt due to Harley’s popularity from video games and television shows. But much of it is due to the creative team on the book: writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner and artist Chad Hardin, who portray Harley’s dark, twisted but very funny view of the world. Think Coen Brothers-style humor.

“Yes, she’s a psychopath but, really, she’s very sweet,” Conner said when I spoke to her and her husband, Jimmy Palmiotti at Boston Comic Con last weekend.

Harley Quinn #0
Harley Quinn at the DC offices? From Harley Quinn #0, copyright DC Comics

What Conner means is that Harley, in her own way, tries to do the right thing. Like the time she rescued animals from a research lab and adopted them. When a hit man tried to kill her, she fed them to the animals because they were hungry. That made perfect sense to Harley.

Conner is known more as an artist for such series as Before Watchmen: Silk SpectrePalmiotti has frequently paired up with Justin Grey, as on All-Star Western from DC, and the three of them worked together on Power Girl, so they’re no strangers to collaboration. Together, Palmiotti and Conner are an engaging pair and, while obviously pleased with the success of the Harley series, they didn’t expect it to hit this big.

Aside: I also loved Palmiotti’s Star Spangled War Stories G.I. Zombie #1 that was released last week but, as Palmiotti himself said, nobody read it. You should. He promised in issue #2 that the lead Zombie flies a missile into an animal shelter. “But it’s all okay because they become zombie animals.”

Power Girl Wonder Woman
Amanda Conner art and story, from Wonder Woman #600, copyright DC Comics

Back to Harley Quinn. The couple wanted to do a different take on Harley than her grimmer role in the current Suicide Squad series, reasoning the DC Universe already had a dark Harley. They wanted a fun Harley. Or, at least, Harley’s version of fun.

They decided to launch the series big and the idea for the #0 issue, which featured artwork from the superstars of the comic world, came to Palmiotti when they were attending Comic Con International in San Diego.

“I rolled over and told Amanda that we should get an artist for every page,” Palmiotti said. “We went into the con and terrorized everyone until they agreed,” Palmiotti joked. He said each artist added something unique, though it wasn’t always what they asked for, such as when Darwyn Cooke was assigned a page of Harley riding a moose but instead sent a page of Palmiotti and Conner’s wedding on a boat.

Kidding aside, Palmiotti said they viewed all the efforts by their fellow creators as “everyone’s way of saying good luck to us.”

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The surprise to the comic world wasn’t that the special #0 issue sold well, it was that the series itself continues to sell well. Having enjoyed every issue, I’m not surprised, as it has everything from Harley in the roller derby (Conner’s idea) and the talking stuffed beaver. (Also Conner’s idea.) Palmiotti says all the sickest stuff? That comes from his wife. “Everyone yells at me but it’s her,” he said.

Their idea for the special issue where Harley Quinn goes to Comic Con International also helped boost sales. Harley tries to pitch her story concept of the superhero who throws up, chases around various Joker cosplayers and gets kicked out of the Con at the end of each day, though not before showing some Harley cosplayers how to have fun.

Palmiotti and Conner credited DC Comics with helping them get permission to use the official logos.

“DC’s been great to us,” Palmiotti said.

Now if we can only get some of Harley’s readers to also check out G.I. Zombie.

Writer, Mom, Geek and Superhero. though usually not all four on the same day. Author of the award-winning Phoenix Institute Superhero series and the steampunk novel, The Curse of the Brimstone Contract.