How Conner And Palmiotti Reinvigorated Harley And Reimagined ‘The Jetsons’ [Interview]
Over the past few years, Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti have carved out their own little corner of the DC Universe and filled it with some of its weirdest antics and strangest characters. The writing team has been responsible for shepherding Harley Quinn through her most popular years in pop culture, and will soon take on the duties of re-inventing The Jetsons for a modern age.
ComicsAlliance caught up with the team, who are also a married couple, to talk about their approach to Harley, their luck with artistic collaborators, and translating millennial fears to a hopeful post-apocalypse.
CA: The new story in Harley Quinn sees Harley taking the case of New York’s missing homeless, and while she does it in classic Harley style, there’s still a deeper message about the problems faced by homeless communities in urban environments. Is it tough to juggle a social message with a slapstick character?
Amanda Conner: That's the thing about Harley, we try and keep her storylines a little bit unexpected. Sometimes, they're very light and ridiculous and sometimes, they tend towards the very dark. It's peaks and valleys, and this is one of those times.
Jimmy Palmiotti: Yeah, the story's themes --- like herself --- have multiple personalities, so this one is dark, and there's some light moments in it, and it's dark again but it was just a crazy idea we had. It's been teasing in the issues before it, a couple of pages here and there, then for the next two or three issues we see Harley dealing with the problem head on; going undercover, setting herself to be abducted and trying to get out of it. She's a little bit over her head with it, and we have the Red Tool character who comes into play. There's a lot of stuff going on, and we have multiple storylines in the book as well, so we have a lot of stuff going on but that's the fun of having the book bi-weekly, that you can go back for your next fix right away.
CA: You’ve been working with John Timms on Harley Quinn for a long stretch now; how has the collaboration grown between the three of you?
AC: He's fantastic, we love him. We met him in Costa Rica.
JP: This is his secret origin!
AC: We were just blown away by him. He was like, "Can I show you some of my artwork?" and we looked at it and were like, "Woah!" So we were trying to figure out ways to work with him.
JP: Yeah, he was an animator before the comics and he wanted to break in, and yeah, we were literally doing a signing in a store and he brought his portfolio. He said, "I wanna draw comics!" and we got him a job right away. He's getting better all the time, he's fast, and he's smart and he does his research.
He went into New York City Comic Con last year and then went to Coney Island and took a bazillion pictures. He really researched the areas where the book was happening, and I think that adds a certain something to the book as well. We got really lucky with him, and we were really lucky with Chad Hardin and even the back-ups in the new issue, we got super lucky getting Bret Blevins, J. Bone and Alex Sinclair on it. We definitely bribe a lot of people and get to work with a lot of great talent, and we hold onto them for as long as we can, so we've been really lucky.
CA: Jimmy, you’re working with Paul Dini and on the "Harley Loves Joker" back-ups, which start this week; are these in the vein of DC Rebirth's mandate to get back to the core of the character, or is it just a fun opportunity to do continuity-lite Harley stories?
JP: We actually were not thinking about Rebirth or any of that stuff. Paul Dini and I got to talking on Twitter about how much fun it would be to work together, and we were talking about the idea that we've moved Harley forward in her life and now The Joker is not the same Joker, but the stories he did with Bruce Timm in the past were so much fun, when they were doing their crime-sprees in Gotham.
So we said, why not do some connecting short-stories for a while, and we'll put them in the back of the book? It'd give John Timms a break in the front so he can keep with the bi-weekly schedule, and also at the same time we get to work with guys like Bret Blevins, J. Bone and Alex Sinclair. We thought that would be a fun thing to pitch, and we pitched it, and DC loved it. Paul and I are writing the sixth part now, and we're having so much fun with it.
Amanda and I also spend a lot of time thinking about the retailers that have to sell the books, and how to get new readers in, and how to keep the book exciting so it's not just business as usual. We're always thinking, when someone picks it up they're not going to know what's next and it's very important to us to keep that going. These back-ups are just another crazy idea we had to keep the series interesting. I think the sad part is when comics get to, "Oh, there's #48, who cares?" and for us it's very important that every issue be something unique, and this is just another idea we're trying out.
AC: [Laughs] This is funny, we were actually at a convention in Italy and we were wracking our brains trying to figure out which character to put Harley with on her last Little Black Book issue, and we couldn't for the life of us figure it out. I would throw a character out there and Jimmy would be like, "Nah, that's not that good" and Jimmy would have an idea for a character and I'd say, "No, that's not really what I'm seeing". At this convention, we ran into Simon, and we hadn't seen Simon in years. We talked to him and then we went back to our table and I think we had the thought --- both at the same time because we looked at each other --- and we were like "Harley and Lobo, and let's see if we can get Simon to do it!"
So later on that day, we approached him and he said, "Yeah, sounds great" and we were like, "Oh, okay, good!"
JP: Then we called up Dan Didio and said that we want to do classic Lobo, with Simon and with Harley, and he started laughing and said, "If you can get him to draw the issue, then great, you guys can do whatever you want," and if you have the book in front of you, you understand that we actually did anything we wanted.
AC: And so did Simon!
JP: So did Simon, and it's probably the craziest book we've all worked on. Simon's kinda like a force of nature, and you kinda just have to let him be Simon. Those pages came back and they were beautiful and crazy; Paul Mounts did a beautiful job coloring it. We're really happy with the book, we can't wait to see the reaction this week of the people that read it. We're waiting for either accolades or pitchforks, we're not sure which, but we're waiting for the reaction.
CA: When it came time to decide how to re-interpret The Jetsons with artists Pier Brito and Alex Sinclair for the back-up in Booster Gold/The Flintstones Special #1, did it help to have each other as a writing partner to bounce ideas off and break down the core of the concept, and what it should be in the 21st century?
JP: Amanda and I both grew up watching The Jetsons cartoon, and when we were offered this series and the short story, we both said that the show did so much and it was from the '60s. Now we're in two-thousand and, what is it?
AC: Seventeen [Laughs]
JP: Is it seventeen? We're in 2017, so we have to take this now into our future and it has to represent how tomorrow is going to be in a couple of hundred years from now. So when we pitched it, we pitched it as its own thing. We followed the cartoon, it's the same characters, it's the same set-up but we pushed the world further, based on what we know. The fact is the Earth is going in a bad direction and all this stuff is going, so this is a post-apocalypse, right Amanda?
AC: Yeah, but it's not a dark post-apocalypse. It's sort of a much lighter post-apocalypse.
JP: A hopeful one?
AC: Yeah, a hopeful one, yeah, I guess so.
JP: We figure the short-story lets us really establish what we're doing quick, and George's mom makes a choice, and we explain the origin of Rosie The Robot. It makes total sense too, if you watch the cartoon too, because Rosie keeps after George all the time, so we thought the idea of having the mother's soul and brain being put into this robot makes complete sense, even if you watch the old ones.
AC: The way we work together, it works really well because we hash out storylines and story ideas when we go get something to eat. It really is helpful to live with your writing partner!
JP: It's true, I think a lot of comics people need to live together and work together. I think that'll be the reality TV show in the making.
Harley's Little Black Book #6 and Booster Gold/The Fintstones Special #1 are on sale now. Harley Quinn #17 is on sale next week.