Few comic book characters have broken out in recent years quite like Harley Quinn. Abigail Chandler investigates the secret of the character’s success with her current artist...
Harley Quinn’s artist on the loveable loon.
Comic Heroes: What do you think it is about Harley that makes so many comic fans embrace her?
Chad Hardin: Well essentially, Harley’s just her own force of nature. She’s completely lovable, completely toxic and does whatever she wants and somehow manages to get away with it. I think there’s a lot of appeal to that. Especially for some girls who maybe struggle to have that in their lives, sometimes things are pushed upon them, roles and things like that. Maybe they get that wish fulfilment through a character like Harley.
CH: The comic has been a massive success for you all...
Chad: I know! We’re doing better than we ever dreamed, which is great.
CH: You, Amanda and Jimmy keep such a fun tone to Harley Quinn, but there’s the potential to go very dark with her, especially regarding her origin story. How do you keep the balance?
Chad: If you go back to Mad Love, which is Paul Dini and Bruce Timm’s origin story for her, originally she was there to take advantage of the Joker and the Joker flipped that on her, you know what I mean? And so really it’s an abusive, toxic relationship, and like all abusive, toxic relationships it’s doomed to end in failure. And I think the thing we’re doing with Harley in this book is that she realises that. And she’s basically getting out from underneath the Joker’s shadow and being her own person. She’s no longer just his sidekick doing the things that he wants her to do. She’s out doing things completely autonomously and for herself. And so that’s a good message too. We’ve all been in
bad relationships and we just need to learn to let go.
And here’s the thing, every now and then it’s fun to revisit it as well. We revisited the relationship for “Futures End” and we basically had them both trying to kill each other at the same time they’re getting married, so I mean it’s good in the fact that it’s cartoon, we can poke fun at it, but it’s also good that it’s not a real life situation. You know – the anvil falling on Wile E Coyote’s head.
CH: There are so many versions of Harley across different media – does that feed into your interpretation of the character, or do you keep her separate?
Chad: You know, we’ve really just wanted to basically play with the character that Bruce and Paul created for the animated series. That’s the character we’re playing with. If you look at the Harley that’s in Suicide Squad, [she’s] completely different to our one. Different tone, different sensibilities. They’ve created this weird situation where I would never go with the character just because... well, let’s face it, where Harley first appeared was the animated series. If you’re talking about the core of the character, I think that’s it. I was at Comic Con and I saw the Suicide Squad Harley – really dark. Really dark, really menacing, more evil. Whereas in the animated series, she’s not that bad, she’s just sort of misguided.
CH: What do you think makes a character break out in the way Harley has?
Chad: There’s probably thousands of characters that anyone who was passionate about could take and bring to the forefront. And that’s what it takes. I think one of the things that makes Harley successful is that Jimmy and Amanda basically said “We’re going to do Harley, but we’re going to do Harley our way.” They really just said “We’re not going to pay any attention to what people have done before, we’re going to do this the way we want to do it.” I think more creators need to roll the dice like that, because sometimes you get so caught up in paying homage to what’s been done in the past that you become the cliché. It would be nice to see some new life brought into some of the DC characters and played with a bit more.
We really wanted to play with the character from the animated series
Right: HarleyQuinn compellingly explores a range of relationships very different from the toxic one between Harley and the Joker..
Born Las Vegas, USA
High Blu e Beetle, Dr Fate
Now Harley Quinn
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Above: Harley Quinn is the best-selling female character in comics, thanks in no small part to her freewheeling, unpredictable style.