Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner’s run co-writing “Harley Quinn” for DC Comics is coming to an end.
The married couple, whose last issue (No. 34) comes out Dec. 20, helped make “Harley Quinn” one of DC’s most popular comics over their four-year run. They were so successful that when DC’s “Rebirth” relaunch began in 2016, taking many of their titles in different directions, they weren’t asked to change anything in “Harley Quinn” other than the numbering of the series. In that time, Harley Quinn has gone from her early 1990s animated origins in “Batman: The Animated Series” to becoming a movie star after actress Margot Robbie debuted as the character in “Suicide Squad.”
With more live-action movies on the way and a comic book that continues to sell, Harley Quinn has never been more popular. Which raises the question, why leave now?
Palmiotti and Conner have been working on “Harley Quinn” “steady” since they married in August of 2013, just a couple of weeks after that year’s San Diego Comic Con. In that time, there have been one-shot specials (A Valentine’s Day issue in 2015), spin-off mini-series (“Harley Quinn and Her Gang of Harleys”) and a change to publishing “Harley Quinn” twice a month in the “Rebirth” era.
“We just felt like maybe it’s a good time to take a break, take a step back, go on a honeymoon, maybe spend some of the money we made on each other and get to know each other,” Palmiotti said. “We love this character, but we felt like, a lot of times you work on books and the sales drop and the character isn’t popular anymore. With [Harley Quinn] we figured, well, let’s take a nice break while the character is essentially as hot as ever.”
Conner admits that leaving “Harley Quinn” was a difficult decision, but one that will put her back in touch with her first creative love: drawing. Co-writing full-time with Palmiotti didn’t leave much time for it. Yes, Conner has drawn 100 “Harley Quinn” covers, while also designing the character’s new look, which aimed to take advantage of the popularity of Robbie’s portrayal on screen.
But various other artists (Stephan Roux, Chad Hardin, Alex Sinclair and many more) handled interior pages duties.
Conner is looking forward to getting back to storytelling more with her art.
“Drawing the interiors is my favorite thing. I love it so much,” Conner said. “And I kind of miss doing that and I’d like to get back into it.”
She’ll remain the cover artist for the series when the new creative team of writer Frank Tieri and artist Inaki Miranda come on board for “Harley Quinn” No. 35.
Palmiotti and Conner’s final issues will see Harley Quinn go the last place anyone expected her to: back home to her parents in Florida after she leaves Brooklyn due to heartbreak. A popular supporting character will die, leaving Harley Quinn trying to figure out her next move.
“She runs to mom and dad down in Florida to take a mental break, to look at her life,” Palmiotti said. “It’s us looking back at what we did, pushing Harley forward to the next team. So it kind of sets up some future stories as well for the next crew.”
Palmiotti says the notebook where Conner keeps her sketches for new ideas for “Harley Quinn” is “the size of a bible” and filled with unused ideas that the two could revisit if they wanted to return. Both say DC Comics has given them an open door to do so.
One of the things Palmiotti and Conner enjoyed most was establishing the character as a solo act and taking her outside the reach of the shadow of classic DC Comics villain the Joker, who appeared in the series but never took it over.
“Whenever she did have a run-in with the Joker or at least referenced him, it was in a way where we wanted to empower her, so we gave her all the power in those scenes,” Palmiotti said. “We just felt like we needed to do that to move the character forward. We tried to show that she’s her own person, she doesn’t really need him.”
Palmiotti and Conner plan to begin plotting some creator-owned comics soon, but they won’t forget the wild ride that was Harley Quinn’s pop-culture ascension.
“We almost got famous on this,” Palmiotti said laughing. “It’s not the end of us. It’s just a nice vacation.”