“You’ve never seen a party with a guest list like this!”
Harley Quinn is one of the most beloved comic book characters of the last twenty years. That’s in part because of the iconic cartoon Batman: The Animated Series, the excellent work Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner did with the character, and of course her appearance in the hugely successful Suicide Squad.
That character is now in the hands of writer Sam Humphries, who just ended an insanely good run with Harley visiting Apokolips and kicks off a new arc this week with Harley Quinn #48. We got to ask a few questions of Humphries to talk shop about Harley, how many issues he has planned writing her, and more!
AiPT!: Harley is now making her way back to Earth, but how did the reality of Apokolips match up with her expectations, what was it that stirred up feelings of being homesick?
Sam Humphries: One of the things I love about Harley is she contains multitudes. And sometimes, contradictions. She’s exuberant, but also someone with deep scars — a survivor. In this story we saw the contradiction between her love of chaos and the fulfillment of doing the right thing. Apokolips was fun for her, but you can’t eat sugar cereal for every meal, y’know? Playing on these multitudes within Harley is going to be a constant through line in this run.
AiPT!: What are your plans for Petite Tina post-Apokolips? Will we see her again since her and Harley together?
SH: We see more of Tina immediately in issues 48 and 49. The center of this issue is Harley needs money fast, so she picks up a bounty to kill one of the greatest Batman villains ever: LORD DEATH MAN! But as we all know, Lord Death Man is incredibly difficult to kill. Along with that story, we see how someone like Tina — heart of gold in the body of a monster — adjusts to life on Earth. More specifically, the Coney Island of the DCU. We love Tina, we love that the fans have latched on to Tina, and we’ve got plans for her for a long, long time.
AiPT!: Lord Death Man is an inspired choice to use as the villain. What drew you to use this character?
SH: Because Lord Death Man is f-----g awesome! He’s a character who cannot die, so we (well, Harley, heh) can do really nasty things to him and not lose our content rating, haha. That sounded like a lot of fun. Issue #49 has one of the craziest death sequences of any DC comic ever, and we wouldn’t be able to get away with that with anyone else.
AiPT!: Harley Quinn #48 is laugh out loud funny with visual gags, comical ideas, and funny lines. How do you balance out the humor when writing Harley?
SH: Hey, thank you! Harley is a character of dichotomies — she’s caring and she’s violent. She’s a wild card and she’s grounded. She’s funny and she’s emotional. Balancing out the humor with an emotional core is what makes the character and the book tick.
AiPT!: It looks like Harley helms a comic in the DC Universe, “Harley Quinn in the Nightmare Scenario.” The author of the comic book is an unknown M. Clatterbuck — who is he and what is the secret behind this mysterious comic within a comic?
SH: Yes, we’ve seen this in issue #45, and we saw another peek in issue #47. In issue #48 we see that very strange things happen when Harley touches these comics. SOMEONE is making a comic book about Harley in the DCU. All we have is a name: M. Clatterbuck. Almost certainly a pen name. The secret of M. Clatterbuck leads us directly into Harley Quinn #50: “HARLEY DESTROYS DC CONTINUITY.”
AiPT!: Only two issues away from the big #50 where Harley destroys DC continuity. What hurdles will she hit along the way, how will she interact with Jonni DC, who is making a special appearance?
SH: Jonni DC is one of my favorite DC characters of all time, and this book was the perfect place to bring her back. In the Ambush Bug books by Keith Giffen and Robert Loren Fleming, she’s not just a meta-gag, not just a one-dimensional busybody — she’s a real human character with her own feelings about the job of continuity cop. There’s a lot of unexplored potential in this character. Also, working with Harley is gonna drive her nuts. And that makes for a great story.
Did I mention that issue 50 is a GIANT SIZED ART JAM SPECTACULAR? I don’t think I’m allowed to say the names of the all-star artists joining us for this issue. But when continuity starts to collapse, it’s up to these amazing artists to depict what happens! I can say that the artist lineup is insane. Several artists who have been on my bucket list for years. You’ve never seen a party with a guest list like this!
AiPT!: As for the long game, what do you have planned for Harley down the line and after #50?
We’ve got plans that extend past issue 75. We’re swinging big. We’ve got some great guest stars coming up, and some huge challenges for Harley. We’re really going to put her to the test. But that’s when we see her at her best, right?
AiPT!: Lastly, how has your experience been writing for Harley? She’s such an iconic character with a seriously devoted fanbase, I imagine the pressure can be intense.
SH: Overwhelming. People are so invested in Harley, she has a lot of amazing, devoted fans, and we’re paying tribute to them in the book, in our own small way. But the response from them has been so enthusiastic, and happy, and FUN…I love Harley fans! Thank you all for making me and John feel so welcome at the beginning of our run! We won’t let you down.
You can buy Harley Quinn #48 in comic shops tomorrow or preorder it via Amazon.