When writer Adam Glass took on the writing chores for the latest incarnation of DC Comic’s cult favorite, Suicide Squad, he was taking on his very own suicide mission. As one of the flagship titles of the DCnU, before the first issue hit the stands, Suicide Squad became one of most controversial titles in the company’s attempt to relaunch the entire line of books and make their comics more assessable to a modern audience. The reason for the immediate uproar was the redesign of Harley Quinn. One of the most popular comic book creations of the modern age, Harley Quinn has a very passionate and loyal fan base. Fans had a difficult time recognizing the Harley they knew and loved, and this appeared to increase the sense of fear and uncertainty surrounding the entire DC revamp that was being felt by many DC fans. Gone was the red and black harlequin costume designed by Bruce Timm and, in its place, stood a vamped up vixen with a sadistic grin and hot pants. For many fans, the new Harley Quinn was a bit too much change.
Six months later, the debate on the new Harley Quinn has only intensified, as an opposing loyal fan base has grown around Adam Glass’ version of Suicide Squad. One of the most exciting and fast paced book in the DCnU lineup, Suicide Squad has become one of the “new 52’s” surprise hit books! Harnessing the skills that have made him a successful writer and producer on TV series such as Supernaturals and Cold Case, Adam has created his own dark and deadly pocket of the DC Universe, filled with action, betrayal, intrigue, interesting characters and even a bit of sadistic humor. Slowly he has managed to win readers over to realizing that instead of judging a book by its cover, it’s much better to look at the quality of the story inside; when it comes to quality, Suicide Squad delivers issue after issue. Now Adam Glass faces his most dangerous mission – retelling the origin of Harley Quinn and winning over her legion of fans. On February 8th Glass’s two part The Hunt for Harley begins in the pages of Suicide Squad #6, exploring secrets about Harley’s past that readers have never seen before, and revealing just who the new Harley Quinn is, and just how much different, or perhaps the same, she is from the character that Flashpoint left behind.
Personally, as both a fan and a professional, I am a man with divided loyalties. As an old school Harley Quinn fan, I can understand and emphasize with the legion of fans that don’t want to accept change. However, as someone who appreciates cutting edge storytelling, excellent character interaction and an entertaining read, Adam Glass has proven to me that he knows how to write one hell of a story. My inner fan boy may want to reject things like an Amanda Waller who looks more like Halle Berry then Chandra Wilson, or a Deadshot without a handlebar moustache, but my personal sensibilities and love for comics tell me that Adam’s vision might be worth it. When I wrote Adam Glass I told him that I’d be asking the hard assed questions that every Harley Quinn fan wants to ask. He promised me that he could take it.
CONFESSIONS OF A POP CULTURE ADDICT PRESENTS
THE HUNT FOR HARLEY:
A CONVERSATION WITH ADAM GLASS
Sam Tweedle: So what is your personal history with comics?
Adam Glass: I’ve been reading comic books pretty much religiously for pretty much over thirty years. Only once I started writing them did I not have time to read them anymore. I grew up in the 70’s which was a great time for comics, and I had older cousins, so I was hooked by the time I was four [years old]. I loved Batman and Spiderman, but then the book that started to form me as a kid was Wolfman and Perez’s New Teen Titans. The book that worked for me, and I still have the book, was New Teen Titans #13. I still remember the title – Quest for the Killers of the Legendary Doom Patrol. Robin, Kid Flash and Cyborg find Robotman hanging on some vines in the jungle, and from there on it just grabbed me. Then I moved into the end of the John Byrne and the beginning of the Chris Claremont run on Uncanny X-Men. So team books have always had a special place in my heart. I remember being flat broke out here in California, and I was struggling to make it in the business, and I found three different bookstands so I could keep up with my books. I’d go to the bookstands and read the books. I knew the date they’d be coming out, and I would go stand to stand and you’d have to move around. I would spend a whole day doing nothing but going to stand to stand.
Sam: Did you ever get those shop keepers that yelled “Hey kid! You gonna buy that book” at you?
Adam: Oh yeah. And you bring up another great point. When I grew up you went to a candy store to buy comic books. There were no comic book stores. I have young kids and they are just loving the comic books. Especially my son Aidan. To see it through his eyes, he’s growing up in such a great time. I remember my wife being pregnant with my daughter Josephine, and taking her to see the first X-Men movie. We went to a midnight screening and they do that whole opening sequence with the concentration camp and I remember just thinking to myself “Oh my God. It’s here. We’re going to finally see films about these books we read and see characters come alive. Seeing Wolverine being played so awesome.”
Sam: So what attracted you to Suicide Squad?
Adam: Well, before I was writing for Supernaturals, I came out of cop shows and I really like writing down and dirty books. I think of the stuff that I enjoy writing most, and the stuff I write very well, and I like it down and dirty. I’m not as much a super power guy as I am about interesting characters. I always loved John Osterander’s run on [Suicide Squad]. I remember reading all those books when I was a kid. I just really thought that it was a book that’s perfect for these times. The world is just so crazy that it needs a Suicide Squad. They are probably out there too.
Sam: What attracted you to the characters that you chose to make up your team?
Adam: Well, with the New 52, we were taking the familiar but putting a fresh take on these characters. Deadshot’s a hold over from the old Squad, but I felt that we had to put him in a new light. Here’s a guy who’s the ultimate loner, and a guy who couldn’t give a shit about anything or anyone, and make him the leader – which he doesn’t want, but is put into the position. I remember pitching Harley Quinn to Pat McCallum and he said, “Harley Quinn? Really?” I started to tell him my vision for her, saying, “I think she could be a real bad ass.” Well, I got permission to use her and I was really glad, because I thought that she was someone who I really liked and [wondered] what would she be like if we made her a little more dangerous and sexy and lethal? You don’t lose the sense of humor, but that’s not what you lead with. What happens when the Joker’s away? When she’s not around the Joker who does she become? She becomes her own person. She’s no longer trying to make him happy and to be on the side. Who is she? That was really interesting for me to explore. As for King Shark, you needed a big guy. At first I wanted Killer Croc, but they weren’t going to give me that many Batman characters. But I loved what Gail Simone did with [King Shark]. Once again, you are following in these great footsteps – John Ostlander is amazing and Gail Simone is amazing. What do I do? Both of them advised me to do the same thing, which was make the book your own. That’s what they did, and that’s what [I needed] to do and they’ve both been able to speak to both of them about these things and they’ve both been very cool. So I had to go in a little different [direction] with King Shark too, and this will get revealed a little more as the book goes on, but something happened and he’s evolving. He’s not as smart as he used to be.
Sam: King Shark has become one of my favorite characters in the book. He’s much needed humor relief at times.
Adam: The other character I was able to get was Black Spider. Here’s The Punisher of DC Comics who has never really been utilized, but we’re trying to utilize him in this book. I think the Squad always has this one character who is not really a bad guy but is thought of as a bad guy because he is a vigilante, because he kills drug dealers and bad people, but in reality he really is a hero to some. That’s an interesting guy to have on the Squad. He’s kind of our Rick Flag in a way.
Sam: Another character I really dig is Diablo. I’ve never seen the character until I started reading Suicide Squad and I find him very intriguing.
Adam: Yeah. I always liked the idea of the warrior priest I always think that’s an interesting character. [He is] a guy who utilizes God but has all these powers. He’s trying to fight the good fight but is surrounded by nothing but bad people. He’s trying to be moral and wants to try to save everybody. But Deadshot is looking at this guy and saying “Come on Preacher Boy.” He just wants to put a bullet through his eyes because he can’t take him anymore. It’s putting [that kind] of dynamic on the team. That’s my Wolverine/Cyclops. Buddha says, “To achieve balance you must be knocked off balance.” So I think that, as you saw in the prison riot, that when he lights everybody up and he’s been pushed to that point when we move forward with Diablo is that [we explore] where his head is at. He probably hasn’t killed anyone since he’s been thrown into prison, but now he’s lit all these people on fire. Where is his head? Is he questioning where is God? Why has he forsaken him? Or has he? We have a lot of interesting places to go with Diablo.
Sam: Well, probably the most anticipated storyline so far is the upcoming Hunt for Harley, which reveals the origins of Harley Quinn. This is something that has been really controversial since the cover of the first issue of Suicide Squad was revealed.
Sam: Harley Quinn has one of the biggest fan bases in comics today. Did you have any idea just how big it was when you took on the character? Did you know that the fans would be so vocal and passionate about the character?
Adam: Yeah. This isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve been to enough comic conventions and seen the girls dressed up. I knew there was a big cosplay group of them. I wasn’t aware, maybe, how vocal they would be on-line, but I knew there was a big fan base. And for the record, I love how passionate they are about Harley. Some of the girls who are the leaders of that group have reached out to me, and we’ve had our discussions off-line. And as I told them, and I continue to say, is that knowing we were leading up to this [story], is that when people’s first thought of the book is “I don’t like skinny Amanda Waller and I don’t like Deadshot without a moustache and I don’t like the way Harley looks,” well, I get all that. But at the end of the day let’s judge the book on the story.
Sam: You just described how I feel about Suicide Squad perfectly. As a fan boy I have had a lot of trouble with many of the changes that have been made in the book, but the story and the writing is so good, and the cliffhangers so well executed, that it has become one of my favorite books currently being published by DC. It is an exciting read and totally delivers every month.
Adam: Well, it’s a great team. Federicco Dallocchio, Patrick McCallum and Shawn Mackiewitz. Everyone has really stepped up. I’d really like to take the credit, but it is a really good team around me.
Sam: Now if Harley Quinn is such a popular character, why do you feel that you needed to reinvent her?
Adam: Look. I’m not reinventing Harley. I don’t have to. All the people before me did a great job on Harley. All we’re doing is adding to her storyline. We are deepening her story. I think what’s going to happen in Hunt for Harley is a lot of Harley fans are going to go “Oh, he didn’t change everything. He just gave us another piece of the puzzle.” When I was growing up, I remember waiting twenty years to know what was going on with Wolverine. You’d get a piece of the puzzle here and a piece of the puzzle there. Now, everybody knows everything, but for twenty years we had no idea. We didn’t know anything about him. That’s all I’m doing with Harley Quinn. I’m giving you more pieces to the puzzle.
Sam: So you’re saying that this Harley Quinn is the same one we always knew, but with a bit more depth.
Adam: We’re digging a little deeper. Defining things a little more. You’re going to walk out of here and know a little more.
Sam: So in Hunt for Harley, do you feel that you are staying true to the Paul Dini character?
Adam: Yeah. I think so. I think the difference between the Harley in my book and what Paul Dini did is that I’m writing a Harley that is not about the Joker. Now I’ll go on record for saying this, but I think that Harley Quinn will always be loyal and faithful to the Joker when he is around. But when the Joker is not around she’s a young woman who is very capable of doing many things, and she is her own person. I think she’s going to explore those things, which leads her to someplace very human and very interesting. If the Joker was to show up tomorrow, she would run and jump into his arms and call him Mr. J and “Puddin’”, and what you’re going to see in Hunt for Harley is that her love for him is still very strong. But, [Suicide Squad] is like Harley’s solo album. This is Harley going out and seeing what’s out there and giving it a shot. The Joker is gone. She thought that he’s forsaken her and, obviously, through a bigger story in Detective Comics and Batman, is that [The Joker] is off the map. So that’s what we are dealing with. My goal is for Harley to walk out of this and not just be a supporting character anymore.
Sam: I want to change the focus for just a moment. My favorite moment so far was when you reintroduced possibly one of the lamest DC creations of all time, Wild Dog, in a hilarious situation, but killed him off as quickly as you brought him back. What inspired you to return Wild Dog to comics?
Adam: Well, Mad Dog is a character I always liked and I thought that he’d fit into the mythos of our world. It felt like he was moving into the fabric of our society and when I pitched him he was one guy who I thought Deadshot would cross paths with.
Sam: Well if you liked him, why did you kill him off in the same issue? I would have loved to have seen the Squad face off with him again.
Adam: Well one of the challenges of Suicide Squad is: How do you bring characters in that are “red shirts.” I heard people say “Oh, he brings in Yo-Yo and then he kills off Yo-Yo.” Of course Yo-Yo gets killed. Just remember with the Squad, when someone’s dead, it doesn’t mean their gone forever. This is espionage. It’s down and dirty and there is always going to be a play. Some people will die and really be dead, and some people might not be dead.
Sam: Who are some of the characters that you would like to use?
Adam: There are tons of great villains, but they are tied into bigger books. Would I love to eventually down the line use The Joker? Of course I’d love to use The Joker! Imagine The Joker on the Suicide Squad! That would be insane! Imagine putting a nanonite bomb in his neck! That, in itself, would be off the wall! I guess what I’m trying to say is that the list is so long, but I have to obviously play within my little wagon wheel and eventually they’ll give me some other great characters, but I’ll be honest with you that I think I got five great ones already.
Sam: Finally, the one question that I think most readers want to know. Will Deadshot every be reunited with his moustache?
Adam: (Laughs) All I’ll say is stay tuned.
Winning over Harley Quinn’s fans may prove to be Adam Glass’ biggest challenge yet, and his mission starts in the pages of Suicide Squad #6, on sale January 7th. However, I believe by what I’ve read so far in the pages of Suicide Squad that this may be a battle that Adam may very well win. With an open mind, perhaps Harley’s legion of followers might come to realize that the Harley Quinn in the pages of Suicide Squad is closer to the character they love then they think. For now, Adam Glass is still the guy that has his hand on the button that controls all the nanonite bombs, and he’s not quite ready to press it yet.