The Harley Report Part 1: A Cornucopia of Comic Joy

Welcome back to The Harley Report, an ongoing conversation between me and Harley Quinn writer Sam Humphries.  For our first official installment, we talk about Harley Quinn #67 and how there aren’t that many Thanksgiving comics.  Plus, I compare legendary artists Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund to a Thanksgiving feast, and we talk a lot about anime and manga.

Like, a lot.  I have some catching up to do.

Anyway, enjoy, chums.

Photo/wardrobe: Devin Nuzer
Photo/wardrobe/banana: Jay Yaws

Jay Yaws: Alright everybody, welcome back to The Harley Report with Sam Humphries, where we dial ‘H’… for Harley.  Sam, how are you doing today?

Sam Humphries: Dude, I’m good.

JY: Dial H is a great book, if everybody out there isn’t reading it, go ahead and read it.  It has clowning on Snapper Carr and Steve Lombard, which is my favorite thing in the world.

SH: Thank you, man.  Gotta get my dunks in there.

JY: But we are here to talk some more Harley Quinn.  And we also have a couple of questions from you fine readers.  So, yeah, one thing I wanted to mention about Harley Quinn #67: it’s a Thanksgiving issue, and Thanksgiving is this week.  So… you pretty much have the Planes, Trains, and Automobiles of comic book issues.

SH: [laughs] I’ll take that title.  I’ll take that title.  Yeah, I love Christmas comics.  I love Christmas issues, and I got to do my first one last year with Harley, and this year, when looking over the schedule, when I sort of realized where the death of her mom was going to fall, I kind of thought to myself that I couldn’t of very many Thanksgiving comics.  There’s always the JLA and JSA Thanksgiving crossovers, but I felt like maybe Thanksgiving’s a little neglected, maybe because it’s specifically an American holiday, but I wanted to try my hand at doing a Thanksgiving comic, so that’s what we ended up with.  But we also ended up with three flashbacks to three different Crises.

JY: Which is always welcome, especially when you’re parodying said Crisis, and when you have, like, Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund and Aaron Lopresti.  It was an embarrassment of riches, much like Thanksgiving is an embarrassment of food.

SH: [laughs] It really is.  You know, it’s an incredible group of artists, all of whom got into the Holiday spirit right away and understood what we were trying to do, which was a little bit of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead for Crisis on Infinite Earths and Infinite Crisis and Final Crisis, where Harley, with the help of– well, not really with the help, because she just straight up hijacks Booster Gold’s technology to go back in time to try to murder the first crossover event because she’s sick of heroes in crisis.

JY: And, I mean, isn’t that pretty much what Booster Gold did in the first place?  Hijack that technology so he could do what he wanted to do?  I mean, turnabout is fair play.

SH: Yeah!  How good does it feel, Booster?  Not very good, huh?

JY: But no, it’s a great issue, wonderful, wonderful art, and like you said, it’s Thanksgiving.  You don’t get an awful lot of Thanksgiving comics.

SH: Compliments of the season.

JY: Indeed.  A cornucopia of comic joy, if you will.  But it’s funny too, Harley’s brother having a death metal tribute to their mom.

SH: Yeah!

JY: But it’s also heartfelt, which a lot of your Harley run has been.  You know, the Thanksgiving season comes with the joys, and sometimes the sorrows and sadness, and you can experience it all together as a family.

SH: Exactly, and as it happens in real life, death and tragedy and grief don’t schedule themselves around the holidays.  If that’s something you’re going through, you don’t get days off just because it’s Thanksgiving.  And oftentimes, you can find yourself in very awkward situations, or even worse.  Situations where you seem to be all alone in your grief.  And this is something that Harley has to tussle with in this issue.

JY: Yeah, an all-too-familiar feeling and experience for a lot of people… I’ve lost some loved ones, and everyone has at one point or another.  There is this crazy, goofy character like Harley Quinn who can still feel things and will let herself, in the end, feel things because it’s better to commune with others rather than just bottling it all up.  Even though there’s a lot of silliness and craziness going on here, I like that there is that strong emotional core.

SH: Yeah, there’s this… this surface perception of Harley Quinn as always wacky and cartoony and over the top and breaking the fourth wall, and all that stuff is true.  But the best Harley Quinn stories, going all the way back to Batman: The Animated Series, have taken those elements and married them to stories of heartbreak or tragedy or self-exploration.  Like you said, the emotional core.  And I think those have been the best issues of my run so far as well.

JY: I mean, to your point, what’s the one Harley Quinn story that everyone points out and goes back to?  It’s Mad Love, which is a very emotional story.  It’s very much about a person who fell into something she may not have wanted to, but ultimately has to deal with the consequences of going down a path that she shouldn’t have.  Harley is goofy and can be seen as the “Deadpool of DC Comics,” as I’ve seen it thrown out there, which is true in some cases.  That’s part of what the title is going for, just wacky, zany fun.  But I can’t say enough that I do like the fact that you make it more readable because you keep that heart to it and don’t let it get too serious to where the silliness seems out of place, but don’t let it get too silly that the seriousness loses any sincerity.

SH: Yeah, being able to do both is something that Harley can do better than anybody else.

JY: Exactly.  Now I’m assuming that next month we’ll have a Christmas issue, because at the end of this issue there’s a teaser that next month will be “Christmas in California.”  I assume Harley’s going to California for Christmas.  Is that accurate?

SH: That’s correct.  I had such a great time doing the Christmas issue last year, I knew I had to do a Christmas issue this year, particularly because they serve as bookends.  Last year’s Christmas issue was where Harley’s mom told her of her initial cancer diagnosis, and this is Harley’s first Christmas without her mom, and her first time trying to enjoy what is her favorite holiday while still being true to the grief that she’s going through and stays in her life, and trying to marry them.  To that end, she decides to go to a high-end, fully-immersive Christmas resort…

JY: [laughs]

SH: …to try and have the most joyful, merry Christmas of all time.  They have snow, they have massive Christmas trees, they also have a giant robot and there’s also a Christmas ghost who runs around the resort, freaking people out.

JY: That’s awesome.  You had me at “Christmas resort,” and then you had me at “robot…” then you had me at “ghost.”  You had me three times there, Sam.  Three times.

SH: [laughs] There you go.

JY: It comes out next week, shouldn’t it?

SH: Should come out the first Wednesday of December.

JY: On our debut episode, we put up a call for questions from fans, and we have a couple here.  We got a couple questions from fans who love Poison Ivy and wonder where she’s been.

SH: Oh, I love Ivy too, I’m a big fan and I would love to do a story with her and Harley. DC is a shared universe with shared characters, and unfortunately, sometimes that means you don’t always get to use every character you want. Just ask all my Mordru the Merciless pitches. But fortunately we have the awesome Harley and Ivy series by Jody Houser and Adriana Melo right now!

JY: Very cool.  That sounds good.  Our next question is from Sheriff Sully on Twitter, @sullyseptember.  “What are Harley’s top ten anime and manga choices?”

SH: Great question. I could go on at length about Harley’s top ten favorite manga and top ten favorite anime.  Honestly, as I’m thinking about it, ten is not high enough.  Because myself, like Harley, I am a manga and anime fanatic.  So I don’t think we have time for all that, so I’m going to stick to her favorite anime and her favorite manga.

Her favorite anime would definitely be Fooly Cooly, aka FLCL, and that’s because she loves Haruko, the main character.  The girl on the yellow Vespa with the guitar.  And I think in Haruko, Harley sees the sister she never had, because Haruko can also be funny and over the top but also little psychotic and a little monster at times.  A little ruthless.

Her favorite manga would be Princess Jellyfish, which is an outstanding manga by Akiko Higashimura.  Princess Jellyfish is about a group of women who are passionate enthusiasts in very niche interests, and it’s about one character… you know, in a very typical manga fashion, who comes in and upends their entire world.  It’s just such a fantastic manga.  Harley really responds to the fact that everybody there is a weirdo and an outcast in their own way, and she really responds to how all these weirdos and outcasts found their own bonds of friendship and sisterhood.

JY: We got another question on the site, from Heather B., asking “Are you excited for the Harley animated series, and if so, tell us how amazing it is.” We talk about all things Harley here, isn’t that right?

SH: A hundred percent. Nothing escapes our notice. I can say that they showed the pilot to use at DC Daily. And it’s so awesome. I loved it so much. It’s violent, and it’s hilarious. The show had us howling with laughter, and let me tell you, we’re a really tough room. Most of all, it nails the heart of Harley. That emotional core. It’s also, like, R-rated as f***. I’m so jealous of all the things they get to do that I don’t get to do in the comic. It’s out on Black Friday on DC Universe, so…get the whole family together and watch a bloody, hilarious cartoon! [laughs]

JY: Well, this was another fun chat, another good chat, and hey!  I went an entire conversation without bringing up Tad Ryerstad, Sam!

SH: I am so proud of you.  You’ve really come so far.

JY: I know.

SH: And all the work and therapy you’ve put in has really paid off.  Congrats, and I know your family is thrilled and relieved as well.

JY: I know.  They have been working with me and, patiently, trying to see me through this difficult time, where I am stuck on this one character from Chuck Dixon’s run on Nightwing.  And with the help of you, Sam, and all of you, dear Batman News readers, I can get through this.  So thank you, and have a happy Thanksgiving.

SH: [laughs] Thank you.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone who celebrates, have a wonderful time with family or friends or all of the above.  And Jay, I hope that you and everybody there has a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Thanks for checking out the first official entry for The Harley Report.  We’re having fun doing it, and I hope you’re having fun reading it.  Like before, leave any questions or comments you have for us below, and have a happy Thanksgiving, friends.