By Cy Beltran
Sunday Morning at C2E2 meant even more panels, and what better way to start the day than with a discussion about comics’ greatest harlequin? Hosted by Newsarama’s Chris Arrant, the Harley Quinn spotlight panel included Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti (Harley Quinn, Birds of Prey) and Stephanie Phillips (Harley Quinn), along with later arrival Kami Garcia (Joker/Harley: Criminal Insanity).
Things started with a conversation about Harley’s transformation from the ’90s to now, with Palmiotti talking about the initial throw away nature of the character. “I never had a sense of who she was or what she wanted… when [DC] offered [her series] to us, the first thing we had to do was get her out of Gotham.”
Palmiotti and Conner were able to move Harley to Brooklyn, the place of her birth, meaning that they had to really hone in and make her voice unique. Conner told the audience “I have all the characters from the movies she sounds like in my head… Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny, Leah Remini in King of Queens.” Palmiotti just said that he “based ’em on all these Brooklyn girls I used to date.”
The pair also revealed that “anytime the characters went anywhere in New York, the book is map accurate,” so when Harley was attacking the DC headquarters (still in NYC at the time), Conner “approximated where the roof of her building would be and where the DC offices would be.” Phillips compared this to the map of Gotham she keeps on her desk, which has helped her write out scenes in the aftermath of Joker War and Fear State where Harley has to reunite with members of her supporting cast.
Phillips wound up thanking Conner and Palmiotti for the move to New York, as “[Harley’s] a very fully formed person that we’re bringing back into Gotham.” Without the character work the duo did to pull her out from under the Joker’s shadow, much of what we know to be current day Harley might not exist. Phillips also touched on how she gets to write Harley as a “jewish bi-sexual PhD,” something she closely related to, so she understands “how you can get a PhD and go a little nuts.”
Garcia appeared at the panel and began to discuss Criminal Insanity and Harley’s plasticity as a character: “I wanted to look at Harley [as] if she was a real person, as a clinical psychologist.” When working on the book, Garcia teamed up with a real psychologist to create a criminal profile of the Joker, something that helped inform her takes on both main characters. “[Harley and Joker] still have a lot of tension, but they don’t love each other,” trying to avoid the in-continuity relationship they had once shared.
Conner talked about pulling Harley out of the Joker’s shadow and their break up, talking about how “most of the time when you’re in an abusive relationship, it’s really hard to pull yourself away from them… we didn’t want it to be easy, it’s not easy in real life.” This is why Conner and Palmiotti chose to wait until the 24th issue for the Joker to appear in their Harley series, so Harley could “say what she wanted to say and not be afraid.”
In the current series, Phillips brought up how much Harley has grown and how she had to “deal with the fear of intimacy” by trying to start another long-term relationship, albeit with Poison Ivy rather than the Joker.
Speaking of Poison Ivy, Palmiotti brought up how much he and Conner “felt like [they] needed a supporting cast to get [them] different sides of Harley,” adding characters like Ivy, the Gang of Harleys, and Bernie the Beaver to really round out the cast. “Supporting characters were so important for us ‘cause they needed to reflect the people she wanted around her,” with Garcia adding that the supporting cast “signals that she’s her own character.”
From here, Arrant opened the floor for a Q&A, starting with a question about what the group thinks about Punchline, the Joker’s newest girlfriend. Palmiotti has never read a Punchline story, but Phillips feels “that there’s more that can be done with her” and wants characters like Punchline and Miracle Molly “fully immersed in [Gotham].”
Garcia was asked about any plans to continue Criminal Insanity, but said “I don’t think it’s something that I could do all the time… I’d have to know someone wanted it to go through that process again,” adding that she wouldn’t make the Joker a main character in a potential spinoff since it’s really a story about Harley.
Arrant asked Palmiotti and Conner if they had any more plans for writing Harley, and they announced a small short story they’ll be releasing at some point next year. Palmiotti remembered doing three books a month for Harley and said that DC had wanted even more out of them, so they couldn’t go back to that way of living, but that writing a short here and there was fun for them.
Things wound down with a question about Harley’s redeemability in the eyes of Batman, to which Phillips explained “‘Is [Harley] redeemable?’ is a focus of my run” making Harley wonder “have I done enough or could I ever possibly do enough?” to be redeemed by the Bat family.
Harley Quinn #10 arrives in comics shops on December 28th.
Miss any of our previous C2E2 ’21 coverage? Find it all here!