What can you tell us about Harley
Karl Kesel: Its gonna be a lot of fun. This an interesting assignment
because the main character is a) insane and b) a criminal, and both of
these things are pretty essential to the character, so we dont want
to get rid of either of them. On the other hand, this books got to
have some good reason to exist [laughs]. I cant reveal too much, but
between artist Terry Dodson, editor Matt Idelson and I, we hammered out
a direction for the book which, within 6 to 8 months, will establish a
motivation and agenda for Harley. Depending on the storyline, she will
be on the side of the angels sometimes, and on the side of the demons
and devils on others. Like most great crime characters, shes not
concerned with the law. What concerns her is something totally
different. What that is will be revealed as the first half dozen issues
I think weve got a
great art team on the book, Terry Dodson and his wife, Rachel Dodson.
Theyre just amazing artists. Terrys really taken steps forward on
this book. I cant tell you how much Terry is contributing. Its
really great to watch him grow as an artist. Terrys got all these
great ideas for score cards and all these weird little things he wants
to draw all over the book. Its really great.
: Has he contributed to plotting the stories?
I always work really closely on that level with the artist. Usually
Ill figure out the beats of the story and then call the artist and
talk it over. Terry is still getting used to this process. Usually, when
I talk a plot over with Terry, Terry goes, that sounds really
good. Then, a few days later, Terry will call back and say, I was
thinking about that story, and hell have an idea or two. I really
enjoy working with an artist like that. Its worked really well with
Tom Grummett and I.
: Was it difficult turning Harley, whos basically a supporting character, into a lead character?
That was one of the big problems. Not only is she a villain, and insane,
she was a second banana and we had to figure out how to change a second
banana to a first banana. Someone who could support her own book. In a
way, this is the exact problem Harley has to face over the first few
issues. She is with the Joker in the first issue. He goes to prison, she
doesnt. They kind of break up. She has to figure out who she is
without the Joker. What shes going through is kinda what we were
going through too. [laughter] Over the first half dozen issues, she
finds her unique niche.
: Will other characters from the DC Universe be appearing in the book?
The first nine issues or so will be in the Gotham City area. Even though
we move the Joker out of the book in the first issue, since this book is
not called The Joker, hes like a magnet in Harleys life. Shell move
away from him, then shes slowly and inevitably drawn back to him
again. Thats how we plan to play with the Joker in this book. Hes
kinda like the Haleys Comet in her orbit. Weve got Two-Face in
issue 2. Harley tries working for another crime boss. The third issue is
a slumber party. We get a lot of bad girls from across the DC Universe
who drop in on this slumber party, not really sure what it is of course,
and hilarity results. [laughter] Terrys done a great cover of
Catwoman, Harley and Poison Ivy in a pillow fight. In fact, the whole
slumber party idea was Terrys. In the fourth issue, Harley has
finally decided to become her own crime boss, so she gets her own
henchmen. She gets five henchmen call the Quintets, and this is
basically going to be her supporting cast. Im really intrigued by
this because were going to see her recruit them, were going to
spend time with them. This is, at least in my limited comic book
knowledge, not something thats been covered a lot; the life of these
criminals. What do they do when theyre not pulling that heist? It
should be a lot of fun. Weve got a storyline coming up where Harley
and the Quintets will rob a place just as another thief is robbing it,
so of course they run into problems there.
At the same time, we
introduce a character in the first issue named Jack Happy who kinda gets
a bee in his bonnet over Harley and he hires some private eyes to go
after her. Those guys are another side of the supporting cast in many
ways. All of this stuff should come to a head around issue 9 or 12 or
something in a big explosive, end of the first year story sort of thing.
After that, we do
want to move her beyond Gotham and explore the rest of the DC Universe a
: It sounds like youre having a lot of fun on the book.
Its a ton of fun. Getting Terrys pages really inspires me to
dialogue it. And working with Matt is great too. Matt has been really
helpful in keeping a focus on the character and where were taking the
: Is it more difficult writing a villain as the lead character as opposed to writing a hero?
In some ways, its really liberating because you dont have to worry
about the character being heroic. [laughter] This character does not
have to rescue everybody, does she? What it comes down to is, I remember
a long time ago, Frank Miller once said that he thought the Punisher was
a hero but not a role model. I think with Harley, to some degree, we
walk that same line.
There are a number of events in the Batman books. How closely will Harley
Quinn be tied to the Batman books?
If there was another earthquake or a flood in Gotham, Im sure wed
have to reflect something like that. But as long as I know about it far
enough in advance, Ill bend over backwards to play along.
: Have you had any contact with Harleys creators, Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, about the book?
I read Pauls notes about bringing Harley into the DC Universe and I
know he read my proposal for the series, but thats about it. When I
read Mad Love, I thought it was the best comic of the decade. Its a
bit daunting to live up to the standard they set.
: You started out in comics as an inker. How did you jump over to writing, and do you enjoy one over the other?
It depends on the day of the week. There are days when I would like
nothing better than to just simply ink. Inking is, quite honestly,
really relaxing and therapeutic for me. Writing is really difficult.
Ive talked to the other great writer/inkers of our industry, like Al
Gordon and Terry Austin, and both of them have said writin is real
work, inkin is fun. [laughter] And its really true. Inking can
leave me physically exhausted, just because of being hunched over the
drawing board. Writing never leaves me physically exhausted, but it
leaves me emotionally drained. So one rejuvenates me for the other.
But from the very beginning, even when I broke in as an inker,
Ive always wanted to have a finger in and somehow start writing. When
I was inking Suicide Squad, I think once a day Id send John Ostrander these
14-page long letters about ideas about what to do with Captain
Boomerang. He was really, really patient and understanding. [laughter]
Every so often, hed actually use one of my ideas and that would
thrill me to pieces. I did similar things on Superman.
John Byrne actually called me Karl The Kibitzer Kesel. And once
again, he used one or two small ideas and it was thrilling. Eventually,
I got my shot at writing and I was real lucky.
Youre also working on your creator-owned book, Section Zero, which is part of the Gorilla line from Image. What can you tell us about that book?
Section Zero refers to a secret section of the United Nations charter
which perpetually funds a team to investigate the unexplained and
unknown. The way I describe it is Jack Kirby does the X-Files.
Theres a lot of sneaking around at night with flashlights, but at
some point, they flip on the lights in the room and they hit the
monster! [laughter] Thats what this book is about.
: Who are the main characters in the book?
The team is led by the smartest woman in the world. Her name is Doc
Challenger. She belongs to a long lineage of adventurers. Her right hand
man is Sam Wildman, whos our loveable rogue character. Everything
comes effortlessly to Doc Challenger and everything is a struggle for
Sam. He cant walk across the street without getting beat up by
ninjas. Thats the sort of life he leads. Adding spice to the
relationship is that they are ex-husband and wife. As the series
progresses, well learn more about the backstory there. Theres also
a childlike alien being named Tesla who has vast, vast, vast powers but,
thank God, he only has the mentality of a 6-year-old, otherwise hed
be running the world. We also have a 14-year-old Cambodian boy who has
one of those cursed tattoos. You know all about those! If he rubs this
bug tattoo on his arm, he becomes a bug boy character for exactly one
day, so his names the 24 Hour Bug. He gets a big bug head and these
big bug arms grow out of his back. Obviously, hes not really thrilled
with this power. Its not a power that really wins the girls. Thats
kinda where we start and we move off from there. Theres a few other
members wholl join the team as the 6-issue mini-series progresses.
Its one of those stories that starts out pretty small. Theres some
sort of animal or creature killing sheep in the Australian Outback, and
they go to investigate this. But as it often happens in comics, this is
a small pebble that creates massive ripples. By the end of the
mini-series, nothing is the same.
: Is this a co-creation of yours and artist Tom Grummetts?
Tom has brought an awful lot to it and we are certainly equal partners,
theres no doubt about it, in this process and in this book. I would
have to say theres a lot more of my idiosyncratic likes and dislikes
in this book than Toms. This is the sort of book Ive always wanted
to do. Its got a little bit of the Fantastic Four, a little bit of the Challengers of the Unknown, a little bit of Ghostbusters, a little bit of Indiana Jones, a little bit of the
Kirby Marvel monster comics that I have an insane, stupid love for.
Its like you throw them all in a big pot, then you throw in a bunch
of books about UFOs and Bigfoot and you hit the blender button and this
is what you come out with.
: And this is a mini-series?
Yeah. Its a 6-issue mini-series, until we see how much you guys like
us [laughter]. If you guys like us, well keep giving you guys more Section Zero stories. From
the beginning, we thought of this more along the lines of a series of
movies or specials. We have ideas for a 24 Hour Bug one-shot. We have
another idea for another character who will be introduced in the
mini-series and it would be his biography. That would probably be a
12-issue mini-series. Thats how wed approach it; depending on what
kind of story we want to tell, that would dictate the format we present
: Do you have anything else coming up?
Dont you think thats enough? [laughter] Believe me, between
and writing and inking Section Zero and doing a lot of the trafficking work, that fills my day.