Harley Quinn first made her debut in Batman: The Animated Series in 1992. She has become an icon – at this point, who doesn’t know who Harley is? We’ve seen her go through so much! Sometimes, we’ve wanted to reach into the comics and give her a Harley so she could get away from the Joker.
Well, she finally left the Joker and is now the star of her own animated series produced by DC Universe for their streaming service. Titled Harley Quinn: The Animated Series, the show is debuting almost 20 years after the original Batman series. In the show, she may or may not be with Poison Ivy. You’ll have to read below to see). The best part? There is a spin-off comic! It’s called Harley Quinn: The Animated Series – The Eat. Bang! Kill. Tour.
While I haven’t finished the series yet, I was able to talk to the amazing Tee Franklin, the writer of the upcoming comic. Tee Franklin is queer, Black, and disabled and showcases her talent in these comics. She’s also the first Black woman writer with a series at Image. Her writing career began with a bang after she crowdfunded for her first book, Bingo Love, produced by Image Comics. Harley Quinn is her latest book.
The Tempest: What do you think of the evolution of Harley from Batman: The Animated Series, a character who started out as Joker’s sidesick and a temporary character but now has her own identity?
Tee: When Harley was first introduced in Batman: The Animated Series, I remember being so hyped to see a female villain. I got a love for Wonder Woman, you know? I love her. I love superheroes, but I like the nasty, mean streak side. They were all men, so seeing Harley was like oh, OKAY. Of course, seeing how the Joker treated her and everything… your heart would break for Harley. And she’s just something else. She is a symbol for domestic violence survivors. And she has come so far from being this side character, this sidekick, someone who is used and abused and treated and abused, to just someone who is owning every single thing about her. Her flaws and all. And she is just amazing. I love the fact she finally left the Joker. Because she doesn’t need that raggedy man who steals her lipstick… like what? Find your own!
We discussed how passionate Harley fans are and Tee Franklin shares her love for the fans. She speaks of them with enthusiasm and fervor. We discussed how fans love seeing Margot Robbie as Harley on screen. She was unaware of how much love Harley got before writing the comic. Harley is one of the few characters to stir such a fanbase despite not being in the original comics. “Seeing her translate from the animated series to the comics is a really, really big deal,” she said.
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The Tempest: Do you consider Harley to be an anti-hero? Especially given her role in Suicide Squad?
Tee: She has a line, right? In the animated series, she has a line. The queen of fables had to end the bloodline. That was just something you had to do. And Harley was like, nah, we not doing that. And she has a line. She was like yeah; we could hang people by their underwear but we’re not going to kill anybody. Especially the people who don’t deserve it. So, she is a villain, you know, but she has a line she’s not willing to cross. And I hope she doesn’t cross it. You know, she just wants love, she wants to lay up with her girls. She wants to pop a few bangs and steal a freaking tomb. An Egyptian Tomb. I don’t know what that was for; Harley could’ve stolen a regular Ottoman, I guess she just wanted an Egyptian tomb. And she still isn’t hurting people. She’s not like killing anyone. So I can see maybe Harley being a hero eventually but for now, she’s an antihero. That is her deal, that’s her lane and she’s sticking to it.
The Tempest: What do you wish to see for Harley as a character?
Tee: Listen, if Harley is in love and she’s happy and has a healthy relationship with whomever she’s with, then I’m good. Honestly. We just want somebody to be there for us; we want to have money, but we all know money isn’t happiness, and it’s good as long and she has self-love. To be with someone who does not make her feel, like, subpar, and less than human; that is my future for her, that is my hope for her, nothing but peace and happiness, whatever that is for her. I just want her to be happy, I really do.
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The Tempest: Where do you draw your inspiration from when you’re writing?
Tee: For this series, I did watch Thelma and Louise for the first time. Back when it came out, I was like “yeah, it’s just white women running from the police”, so my thought process was just like “I’m not interested”. Now, here I am writing about two white women, one is green, running from the police… must be nice, I can’t do that, but Harley and Poison Ivy absolutely can. So, I drew on the film Thelma and Louise somewhat, the relationship, the love, the hurt. The deep stuff that, I daw on the inspiration of my life, how I wish things would have gone. The reaction I would’ve heard or said. And the zaniness? Yeah, I don’t know about that, I just think about the wildest thing and say, “well, let’s go for it.” You know, I’ve been having a complete blast working on this book. I really have. I love it. It’s so much fun.
Tee Franklin is autistic in a world that does not show autistic people kindness. It’s wonderful that there is an openly autistic comic book writer who is shattering so many barriers. She believes that there should be more representation. She didn’t know of many autistic characters: “there is only one comic off the top of my head that I know of. Postal by Bryan Edward Hill and Isaac Goodhart. There should be more representation.” For now, there are characters that are coded as disabled.
Tee: While Harley is not autistic, that girl is neurodivergent She is all over the place. I really feel like she has ADHD. I’ve always seen it even in the cartoon. I’m like, yeah, you remind me of me. So, I do think that there are characters in comics that are coded as autistic. As you know, ADHD, there aren’t many characters open about it. It should change. And I’m pretty happy to you know, that I’m autistic and I’m writing Harley Quinn.
The Tempest: Is there anything about Harley as a character that you would change?
Tee: I love her fashion. Like, she is something else from the comics and the animated series. In the freaking movies, she is badass. Her fashion designer? I need to know who they are. She is a ball of energy. And sometimes, I just wish she would kick up her feet and just chill out. She can be overwhelming like, “girl, what are you doing? Why are you sending para demons to Gotham because you were friend-zoned? Go read a book!” You know, I love that. So that would be something I would change about her but then she wouldn’t be Harley. Do you know what I’m saying? It wouldn’t be Harley. I am glad that she has changed, and she now sticks up for herself. So, I think that is great character development for her. But I mean honestly, even though she does too much I wouldn’t change anything about her. I love her. She is something else. She really is.
The Tempest: If you could write your ideal superhero, what would that look like?
Tee: Not sure… but they will be Black and disabled and queer. I love that. Yeah, that’s pretty much it. So don’t know about the powers, don’t know about any of that stuff. But if I was to create a hero, they would be Black, queer, and disabled.
The Tempest: Ivy is also queer in the series and begins a relationship with Harley Quinn. What do you hope to see in their relationship?
Tee: I love their relationship. And I want their relationship to last. Obviously, this is something that the fans have been waiting for a very long time. And they are finally getting it. Justin and Dean and Patrick were very adamant about not breaking up Harley and Ivy for the next season. So far, you know, they are together. And I hope they stay that way. They have an interesting relationship. I wish them nothing but the best. And if you read the comic, you can see exactly where their relationship goes. You could tell from Episode 1 that there was something there. Everybody who worked on animated series is played all along the way for this amazing relationship that we’re going to see in the upcoming season and I can’t wait.
The Tempest: Is there anything else you want us to know about the comic?
Tee: Okay, well, the comic drops on September 14 everywhere. It is currently out digitally on the DC Universe app. The artist is Max Sarin. The colors are done by Marissa Louise and the letters are done by Taylor Esposito. The entire team kicks all of the ass and I am so, so happy to be working with all of them.
Harley Quinn’s story is about self-love and freedom from abuse. Who is she when she breaks up with the Joker? Find out in the comic!
Editor’s note: this interview was edited for length and clarity.
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