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Fifty Shades of Black-Grey: How dynamic married duo created Harley Quinn/Batman issue for Valentine’s Day

Harley Quinn special issue (courtesy of DC Comics)
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HAVING WORKED together on multiple issues of Harley Quinn, Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti were the perfect candidates to put together a special Valentine’s Day issue, starring DC Comics’ comedic femme fatale. The fact that the two comics-industry veterans are married to each other just made the collaborative process that much more fun.

So how much of that real-life relationship was incorporated into the Harley Quinn Valentine’s Day Special that came out this week? Palmiotti says the inspiration should be obvious.

“We’re kind of together all of the time. And we’re madly in love,” Palmiotti told The Post’s Comic Riffs. “With Harley, we have to think a little differently, because she is a psycho. Love for her means many different things, but deep down, she’s a really sweet person.

“I kind of model Harley after Amanda a bit. Because she’s quite crazy.”

The couple thought that the relationship between Harley and Batman would be the best focus for a Valentine’s Day theme, but not in the traditional sense. Not seeing much potential for romance, comedy and fun with the Dark Knight swooping down and administering some old-fashioned Gotham justice, the two decided the issue would focus on Harley’s interactions with Bruce Wayne (who Harley confirms is the dreamiest after many Internet photo searches) as opposed to Batman (whom she can’t stand).

“We really tried hard to present a different kind of relationship between the two of them,” Palmiotti said.

Conner agreed that keeping Batman at a distance was the right thing to do, if only just for this themed issue.

“We do have Batman books where we do see a lot of Batman. Sometimes it’s just interesting to see Bruce Wayne and see how he handles a situation and what Bruce thinks about when he’s not being Batman,” Conner told Comic Riffs. “Harley would go for Bruce Wayne, but she wouldn’t go for Batman. We wanted to make sure it was more of a love book than a fight book.”

Fans who have already experienced the creative duo’s run on Harley Quinn should know to expect plenty of humor mixed with all the emotions of this special issue — a slightly lighter tone than normally applied to comics featuring Batman.

Palmiotti employed that humor to address something he’s always had a problem with: how the Batmobile manages to stay so clean, with so many bats hovering around in the Batcave. Palmiotti joked that in an issue where he and Conner could take a few risks, the Batmobile scene is the one thing that artist John Timms had to redo.

“Of all the things that had to be redrawn in the book,” Pamiotti joked. “It was the Batmobile full of crap on it.”

“It’s very important that the gags are drawn just so,” Conner added, with a laugh, about the guano graphics.

In the issue, various guest artist contribute to Harley’s dream sequences, which turn into nightmares quickly when fantasizing about a life with Bruce Wayne gives way to the realities of commitment.

“We couldn’t go super-crazy, so we did have these dream sequences where we were able to unleash the really insane aspects of if [Harley and Bruce together]. In the end, we want to make sure it’s sweet — at least there’s some romance in the air, even if it’s bizarre,” Palmiotti said.

Conner, who co-wrote the Valentine’s Day special issue with Palmiotti, also provided the artwork for the cover, which shows Batman tied upside down, receiving a few smooches from Harley. The image shows something we rarely ever see in a Batman comic: Batman’s eyes, which are typically covered with white lenses. For the cover, Conner decided against the traditional Batman comic-book look. “I wanted to make sure we could see his action and reaction,” she said.

With each of their successful projects, Conner and Palmiotti show that sometimes, you can mix work and relationships.

“When people tell you you can’t do things…,” Palmiotti said — “that’s the first thing that Jimmy wants to do,” Conner said, finishing Palmiotti’s sentence.

So can this Valentine’s Day issue attract new readers to the couple’s ongoing work on the Harley Quinn monthly series? The two are optimistic.

“If every Batman fan picked it up, we’d actually sell more books than Scott Snyder,” Palmiotti said with a laugh. “If [readers] don’t know Harley, it’s a great book to pick up. If they do, we’re hoping all those people that are wearing Harley Quinn pants and shirts and stuff they buy at Hot Topic, say: ‘Hey, maybe I should try a comic book.’ Hopefully this is something they can pick up and get the flavor of the book. I think there’s enough cute and bizarre in there, which is a balance we try to keep. We don’t want to go too cute — we don’t want to go too bizarre. We try to keep a balance in there.”

“A delicate balance,” Conner said, “of sweetness and murderousness.”