A Pin to an Overfilled Balloon: Talking Harley Quinn with Sam Humphries

Have I mentioned that Sam Humphries is a delight?  Because it absolutely bears repeating.

The writer has been making his mark across DC Comics over the past few years, from launching the excellent Green Lanterns title to helming a great run on Nightwing, and even teaming up Bugs Bunny with the Legion of Super-Heroes.  We’ve had the distinct pleasure of chatting with him twice before, and we’ve been given the privilege to chat with him once again.

Ahead of his upcoming run on Harley Quinn, which begins with July’s issue 45, we had a chance to chat with Sam about Harley’s popularity, his process in writing such a popular character, and just how crazy-bananas her excursion to Apokolips is going to get.  Check it out below, along with a nice early peak at artist John Timms’ pencils.

Jay Yaws: Sam, it’s always a pleasure to chat.  Thanks for taking the time again to talk with us.

Sam Humphries: Dude, always a pleasure. Thanks for having me.

JY: Of course of course.

So, Harley Quinn has become one of DC’s most popular characters in the past few years.  What about her in particular excites you as a writer?

SH: It’s an honor to take the reigns of such a big, vibrant character and write her nextu chapter. Amanda and Jimmy and friends just closed out a legendary five year run.  Now John Timms and I are building on what they accomplished, while taking Harley to new places, showing you things we’ve never explored, showing you parts of the character we’ve never seen before. As far as creative undertakings go, this one is a thrill…and we’re thinking big! This is where it all begins!

Harley stands for so many things that speak to me — mayhem, loyalty, being yourself, laughing at yourself, taking no prisoners, tenacity in the face of adversity, love of friends, and love of life. The opportunity to take a long, long trip by her side was irresistible.

And getting license to infect the rest of the DCU with her brand of pandemonium is the icing on the cake. No one in the DC Universe is safe!

JY: How were you first introduced to the character, and what were your initial thoughts?

SH: Batman: The Animated Series, just like everyone else, but it took the Mad Love comic book for me to “get it,” to see all the potential of the character.

JY: Do you have a personal idea of “definitive Harley Quinn,” such as from her original appearances on Batman: The Animated Series or from a specific comic run, or do you like to pick and choose elements from all sorts of sources?

SH: I like to pick and choose, not just from past Harleys, but from outside influences too. In my head there’s an eternal girls night out happening with Harley Quinn, Tank Girl, and Haruko from FLCL. And ultimately, if I can’t find a piece of MYSELF in a character, then I probably wouldn’t be good at writing them. And it would be boring, too.

Variant cover for issue 45 from Frank Cho

JY: When you wrote Green Lanterns, much of your focus was on companionship and overcoming personal fears and anxiety.  On Nightwing, there was a prevailing theme of forgiving oneself for things that happened in the past. Are you going to explore some deeper themes with Harley, or just enjoy having her whack people in the face with her mallet?  Because, you know, either way is a winner.

SH: If either way is a winner, then how about BOTH at the same time? One of the first things I knew I wanted to do with Harley was make her deal with FEELINGS. So many great creators have added so much depth and dimension to Harley — I knew immediately I wanted to build on that and take it further. I mean, one of my top Harley moments in any medium is in the Suicide Squad movie, when Margot Robbie is crying in the rain, and then when the others approach, she quickly puts on a smile. Harley may be a clown to some but to me she’s so much more.

And then of course we’ll have lots of bloodshed and butt jokes.

John Timm’s pencils for issue 45, page 12

JY: Whose (brilliant) idea was it to take Harley to Apokolips?

SH: Mine, dude. I love Kirby’s Fourth World. I thought the two of them together could show us some bad ass stuff we’ve never seen before. Harley is a big enough personality, she can be the foil for an entire planet. An entire IDEOLOGY. For the stone cold seriousness of Apokolips, Harley acts like a pin to an overfilled balloon.

JY: Which denizens of the Fourth World can we expect to see?  How about characters you wanted to include but just couldn’t fit?

SH: We’ve got Granny on page one. Female Furies on page 6. After that it just keeps spiraling and spiraling. I’ve got lots of love for the Fourth World so there are literally dozens of characters I couldn’t fit in.

JY: What’s the collaborative process like between you and John Timms?

SH: Amazing. We hit the ground RUNNING. I write loose scripts for him and he takes the ball and runs right down the field, into the stands, and out of the stadium. John is already a fan favorite but he’s coming into his own superstardom here.

JY: How long do you plan on keeping Harley on Apokolips?

SH: Three issues. Then back to Earth, for a surprise guest villain I don’t think I can reveal yet. He’s one of my all-time favorite Bat Villains. Then we have issue 50, which guest stars one of my all-time favorite DC Universe characters. You could guess a million times and never figure it out.

JY: Can you give us any hints about upcoming stories or arcs, either on Harley Quinn or any other DC titles?

SH: We’ve got a lot of big, blockbuster plans coming up for Harleen. We have an OUTRAGEOUS issue 50 planned. I can tell you already it is gonna be unlike any comic you’ve ever seen before. And we’re going long — we’ve already got OUTSTANDING plans for issue 75! In between, me and my amazing editors Alex Antone and Andrea Shea are working out one of the biggest storylines I’ve ever tackled. A true Harley Quinn epic. We started planting the seeds in our first issue. Even in the first five pages! You won’t see it coming.

JY: You know who would make a great partner for Harley?  Tad Ryerstad.

SH: Honestly surprised it took you this long to play the Tad Card, dude.

JY: Sam, it’s always great catching up with you.  Thanks once again for taking the time to chat with us.  We’re excited for what you have in store for Harley Quinn.

SH: Thanks so much dude! Hope you love it.

Harley Quinn #45 will hit comic shops and digital retailers on July 4th.