I’ve touched on this in prior posts about Harley Fuckin’ Quinn — as I will never, ever shut up about Harley Fuckin’ Quinn — but I refuse to read or watch or listen to works that involve her in a relationship with the Joker.

It’s a coercion/abuse thing. My Harley — because there are many different Harleys because she is nothing but mercurial and has had many writers — has (mostly) moved beyond that. Read into that as you will.

As usual, I picked up HARLEY QUINN: BREAKING GLASS — penned by Mariko Tamaki (SKIM, THIS ONE SUMMER) with art by Steve Pugh (ANIMAL MAN, HELLBLAZER) — without knowing jackshit about it. It was about Harley and it looked like fun.

I didn’t realize it was considered part of DC’s non-canon young adults imprint which, uh, is boringly named ‘DC: Graphic Novels for Young Adults’. That said, it’s more adult than a number of ‘mature’ comics I’ve read. Also, probably something that if it were on more garbage folks radars, it would probably be banned due to Harleen/Harley being part of a queer found family.

BREAKING GLASS is a twisted fairy tale-ish take an alternate Harleen/Harley’s teen years (hence the YA label). She was sent by her mother to Gotham City to live with her grandmother because, well Harleen doesn’t take shit and we’ll leave it at that.

(Not-so-brief note: I will be switching between Harleen/Harley to match the use in the book as the best that I can. As someone who did draw a line in the sand at a certain point in my life as to which name I would utilize, most Harley-centric works don’t have to juggle that, so I appreciate that Tamaki respects that and I will as well.)

Harleen found her way to the address of her grandmother’s house, only to discover that her grandmother had died, but had been overseen by the minder of the building called Mama, an older queer who oversees a number of misfits. Gotham City’s YA take on TALES OF THE CITY, if you will.

“And yes indeed, our happy heroine Harleen was happy as a kitten on a radiator.

“She had everything she needed.”

Mama takes Harleen in and Harleen starts attending high school with a bunch of — to use her phrase — boogers, boogers that disgust her because “boogers will always act like boogers.” As Harleen is prone to do here, she acts out, and gets punished for pushing against the bullies and jerks— I mean boogers — of her high school.

However, she does find solace in Mama’s queer community, as well as one fellow student: Ivy, a vegan, anti-establishment activist, and the two form a fast, if somewhat combative bond. Harley learns from her, she grows, she tries to do better and to do more and to be more supportive. (There’s nothing more Harley than her trying to grow from terrible situations, even if she consistently fucks up.)

Eventually, due to her urban reactionary behavior, she’s eventually spotted by ‘The Joker’, basically a similarly ostracized youth who has managed to wrangle a bunch of other youths to do slight terrorist actions to Gotham.

(I will note: his face is not physically altered like in the canon. He wears a mask that exaggerates the already exaggerated canonical Joker look.)

Matters escalate in the way that teen dramas do, and it’s quite fulfilling. This is a fully realized work, from the framing device of Harleen’s scattered fairy tale rendition to the exacting dialogue, to Pugh’s amazing command of color depending on Harleen/Harley’s situation, often only utilizing primary colors, and explode into vibrancy when her emotions rise.

Like all of the best young adult works it transcends ages. If I had nieces? I would totally hand a copy to them. (Not that I wouldn’t hand it off to nephews, but I know my nephews and haven’t handed off a copy.) Harley isn’t exactly the best role model but Ivy is and Harleen is improved by being in her orbit and simply listening to her.

While this isn’t the cavalier Harley of Conner/Palmiotti, it is a great take on the character and an extraordinarily well-executed and well-plotted and well-penned and dynamically illustrated and vividly colored work that deserves all of the eyeballs.

You can purchase HARLEY QUINN: BREAKING GLASS via bookshop.org!


As always, I’ll preface this by saying that I will never, ever shut up about Harley Fuckin’ Quinn.

That said, there’s so much Quinn content that I have no idea where I even am in her storyline now.

Apparently she’s hooking up with Ivy now, which yes — her one true love! — and that’s great! But somehow I missed that along the way of oh, say, the number of collections I’ve already read (except for NO GOOD DEED, which takes place far later and I still have no idea what happened there). I recently was under the impression that apart from the animated series (and the animated series comics) that they were never formally partners. Nonetheless, no complaints here!

I realize I brought this upon myself by willfully ignoring the numbers on the spines of the collections, but it used to be that comics followed a pretty straight-forward numbering system: #1, then increment that number until you’re cancelled. It’s how DETECTIVE COMICS (you know: exactly what DC’s acronym stands for?) has over 700 issues.

Nowadays, it’s reboot upon reboot and apart from creative teams and endlessly trawling comic book websites — which I do not have the time for — it’s very difficult to figure out exactly how to follow along with these storylines unless you’re buying them each-and-every-month.

(Also something I don’t have the patience or attention span for.)

Regardless, a book that features Harley Quinn doesn’t quite care about continuity. It’s reckless, prior actions are hand-waved away, and it’s simply chaotic fun. That said: while I’ve been digging into just how many Quinn collection I have left to read, it is daunting and confusing in a way that could be made far more simpler. I love comics, and every time I dive back into them I wonder why I ever stopped, but geez, I’m well-versed in this publishing world and if I’m confused, just wonder about those who are newbies.

With that rant out of the way, this is yet another banger from Conner & Palmiotti and artist John Timms. There are mobsters, corrupt mayors, surprisingly uncorrupt cops, a lot of a violence and dismemberment, and all of the puns and verbosity from Harley you’d expect. However, it also features an entire issue that — unless I’m wrong — owes a significant debt to the very memorable anime series MAZINGER G, even down to uh, bombs and missiles being launched from body parts you ordinarily wouldn’t expect to serve up loaded vehicles of gunpowder.

As always, it’s a joyful thrill ride, and exactly why I always look for Conner & Palmiotti’s names when trawling through my local comic book shop’s back-catalog.


As I’ve stated before: I will never, ever shut up about Harley Fuckin’ Quinn. Also, I’m reading all of the Harley Quinn works out-of-order. At first it wasn’t intentional, but now I’m reveling in it! It’s a weird sort of fun, this sort of fractured storytelling.

Frankly, I expected RED MEAT to be mostly filler material. Between reading the first and then fourth volume, I could see the progression of Harley and crew, but didn’t quite see how it could those volumes could fill six-to-twelve issues.

Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti proved me wrong. This is a fucking wild ride. While it doesn’t quite concentrate on Harley’s progression from villain to anti-hero or whatever you want to label her, it does surround her with a number of absolutely brazen, bat-shit-crazy circumstances that endlessly entertain.

For one: there’s the mayor and his assistant employing cannibals to eat the homeless. Then there’s also a Terminator-esque antagonist, sent back in time to kill Harley because, apparently she killed Batman in the future.

Yes. Killed Batman. In the future.

Also? This terminator? She wasn’t the first one sent back to kill Harley.

And that plotline is dropped like a fucking anvil and is never spoken of again, at least to my knowledge. (I’ll note once again: I have not read all of the oeuvre that consists of Harley Quinn, so I am probably wrong about this, but I really hope I am not.)

[UPDATE: I’m currently replaying the Arkham Trilogy and apparently that’s semi-canon, but not really? Either way, the fact that folks accept that Harley could kill Bats is pretty awesome, especially considering later storylines.]

Comics! God bless ‘em. There’s no other form that audiences accept this sort of lunacy from, and I fucking revel in it.


Yet again, I will never, ever shut up about Harley Fuckin’ Quinn, and this Conner & Palmiotti volume (number five, for those keeping score at home) is one of the best of I’ve theirs I’ve read. (I’ll note: I haven’t even come close to reading their oeuvre, much less the entire panopticon of other Harley works, so please bear that in mind.)

I’ll admit: I have no fucking clue where Harley and Ive are relationship-wise in this series. Ivy seems to be very invested in Harley, but Harley is off fucking Madame Macabre’s son and Ivy is visibly very happy for her. They talk to each other like a couple, but apparently they aren’t? Maybe I’m dumb at interpreting this — wouldn’t be the first time — but it’s hard to tell solely based on this volume.

Yeah, I probably shouldn’t have skipped volumes number two and three — inevitably I’ll circle back — but it’s more fun this way.

All joking aside, this volume is not flip. I will not spoil anything but it goes dark and Harley goes through a lot of shit. Tonally, VOTE HARLEY departs quite a bit from the Conner & Palmiotti Harley works I’ve previously read. Actions have significant consequences, Harley tries to rectify them and, in traditional Harley manner, it falls apart.

The six issues of this arc takes turn after turn, culminating in a wild fourth-wall breaking scenario that I did not see coming, and it was utterly delightful while also being quite disturbing.

While I always miss Connor’s pencil work, I always welcome John Timm. His renditions are always vibrantly expressive, focusing more on eyes and grins than T&A, although his fluid body language also helps to amplify some of this volume’s heavier moments.

I don’t want to say that this is a great introduction to Harley — after all, it is the fifth volume of a long-running character — and while it’s far more somber than we normally see Harley, it’s a very well-crafted story that, while not exactly self-contained, also isn’t inaccessible for newer readers. It’s a hell of a ride, albeit probably not one Harley wanted to take.



In honor of the latest season drop of HARLEY QUINN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, I couldn’t help but make another Harley Quinn post because I will never, ever shut up about Harley Fuckin’ Quinn.

It was my birthday recently and I traditionally treat myself to some new books. This year, I dropped into my local comic book store — I’m lucky enough to live in an area that still has one within walking distance: Alleycat Comics and they’re fantastic — and I perused the Harley Quinn section because, yet again, I will never, ever shut up about Harley Fuckin’ Quinn. (So much so that I’m thinking of making this a weekly feature, as there’s certainly enough Harley Quinn material out there.)

They had re-stocked Conner & Pamiotti’s Vol. 2 and Vol. 3 — which I have yet to read — but then I saw it, something I didn’t even know existed. (I’ll note that’s not out of laziness or a lack of research, but simple willful ignorance as I like to have some small surprises in my life.)


THE HUNT FOR HARLEY is from spouses Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, who penned and Conner often illustrated Harley Quinn’s iconic run, the run that let Harley be her best self. (Well, at least a better self.)

I’ll note: their Harley, while being very close to the recent animated Harley I hold near-and-dear, is not my favorite Harley, but it is a very quality Harley and my favorite Harley wouldn’t exist without them. Yay, comics!

This collection consists of four issues of the DC Black Label mini-series, and it is a gorgeous collection. Super-luxurious paper stock, brilliant and vivid colors, and it’s gleefully over-sized. I am always a sucker for magazine-sized graphic novels. I felt like I was reading an EIGHTBALL collection as opposed to what’s normally a substandard comic trade paperback.

If you aren’t familiar with DC’s Black Label, it’s yet another attempt to recreate DC’s Vertigo imprint; it’s ‘for mature readers’ and leans heavily on pre-established characters. In the case of Harley, it means she’s not Harley Frickin’ Quinn or $#@!ing Harley Quinn, but Harley Fuckin’ Quinn, and there are even more beaver jokes. (So many beaver jokes.) Also, a lot of bloodshed. (So much blood.)

This is Conner & Palmiotti unbridled, and it’s glorious. Conner is (mostly) back on artist duty and it’s a comfort to see her Harley renditions. However, the real pleasure of this series is the character work and the humor. Conner & Palmiotti leaned on a lot of innuendo in their initial Quinn run to barely be PG-13 smut; there was a lot of tip-toeing around language and acts, but they were very good at doing so in a winking manner.

They no longer have to hold back with THE HUNT FOR HARLEY.

What I really appreciate about Conner & Palmiotti is how they delicately thread the needle between fun lewd and outrageous lewd, without ever actually being distasteful or exploitative. Are they mostly portraying deviant folks on the outskirts of society that don’t feel bound by societal norms? Yes. Do they still portray them as humans, and Conner do so in a way that is visually striking and isn’t just for the male gaze? Yes.

Anyway. I’m getting sidetracked.

THE HUNT FOR HARLEY reads like an Earth-2 version of the film BIRDS OF PREY. (I’d normally say that HUNT is the Earth-1, but the film BIRDS OF PREY predates it.)

(Yet again, I’ll note: I’m still working my way through all of the Harley Quinn stuff, so please don’t fault me for not knowing the entire history. There is a lot of Quinn material out there!)

The gang’s all here: Montoya, Huntress, Cassandra Cain, and Harley is — as noted in the title — being hunted. Cassandra Cain and Montoya are …different. Costumes and backgrounds do not necessarily match. However, at the heart of it of the tale is what I know and love as Quinn and her interactions with The Birds of Prey.

It’s a sparky lark and relentless fun. My only quibble is: I’m so fucking sick of the Joker showing up in Quinn’s tales, especially to re-introduce her trauma. (A brief aside: that’s one facet I love about HARLEY QUINN: THE ANIMATED SERIES; they quickly dispense with him being Harley’s edgelord. While he does pop up most unexpectedly in Season Three, he is, well, I won’t spoil matters but he is radically different.)

THE HUNT FOR HARLEY is a spectacular and mostly self-contained work that I would recommend to anyone of age to read it. (Or, hell, anyone who isn’t of age because youths will discover this stuff on their own.) Everyone is firing on all pistons and it’s such a propulsive, while also heartfelt, work.

If you’d like to read Conner’s thoughts on the work, I highly suggest this BUST interview!


I’ve penned this many a time before, and I think some don’t believe me but: I will never, ever shut up about Harley Fuckin’ Quinn, and now is yet another one of those times.

(I’ll note: I’m still working my way through a lot of Harley works, so I may get a few facts or matters wrong. Please bear with me — there’s only so much time in the day!)

A CALL TO ARMS is the fourth collection of Amanda Conner and spouse Jimmy Palmiotti’s run on the second HARLEY QUINN monthly series, the first of which I previously posted about. Have I read the second or third volumes? No, because they weren’t available at the comic book store after I attended Chicago’s Pride parade and wanted to treat myself. Also: it doesn’t really matter because, well, comics are fluid like that.

In this collection, Harley is mostly in charge of a bunch of other variant Harleys, all of which have very uninspired names. (Harvey Quinn, for example.) However, it is very endearing and the final reveal for a cluster of her members is quite something.

One caveat: Conner is no longer on pencil duty and it suffers for that, because while Conner does have a certain flair for cheesecake, not every panel of hers was reveling in T&A, as opposed to some of the art in this collection. I’ll note: I have nothing against cheesecake or pin-up works or anything like that! However, when every fucking panel is constructed around Harley/Ivy/Catwoman taking on absurd contortions to revel in a perky breast or bountiful ass, it does a disservice to the characters and story. It’s not like that with every artist in the collection, but it is very overt at times.

Way back in college, many years ago, I was taking a post-graduate-level film theory course. My undergrad film history teacher suggested it for me and got me in. One day, the topic of the male gaze came up. Being a young punk who knew very little of the world or gender studies — again, at this point I’m a very young, dumb undergrad — I bristled against that idea.

After the class let out, one of the older classmates approached me. She said to me — not judgmentally or with malice — “The male gaze absolutely exists.” We discussed it a bit, but I mostly held my ground because at that time I was a self-righteous idiot.

I think about that exchange a lot, because obviously: I was absolutely and totally wrong, and I wish I could go back and correct how I dealt with those exchanges. It does exist, and it certainly exists in this work which is a shame because most of the artwork in the Harley Quinn comic collections I’ve read have not been like that. But, hey, I guess that’s part of the baggage that comes with reading comics.

Apologies for the digression! Apart from that, it’s a fine and funny and intriguing take on the characters that does a great job creating a broader ensemble. As usual with Conner and Palmiotti’s work, it’s fast, energetic, and hilarious, and well-worth your time.



Why, yes, even more Harley Quinn. I shouldn’t be surprised there’s so much Harley work out there, but I am slightly. I believe she has as many monthly comics as Batman does now. (Also, kind of hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that the character was created over 30 years ago.)

However! This is all about HARLEY QUINN: NO GOOD DEED, the first HARLEY QUINN monthly comic arc from writer Stephanie Phillips who has penned the trifecta of DC heroes: Supes, Bats, and Wonder Woman. (Sorry, Wonds or Wonders just doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.)

Like Quinn would do, I am definitely going about reading all of her books all wrong and out-of-order. At this point in Harley’s life, her and Poison Ivy were entangled, but now Red is gone. Harley’s back in Gotham and, as she’s no longer embroiled with The Joker, everyone wants her dead, especially since she’s decided to be a force of good in the world and teamed up with Bats.

Predictably, Harley being Harley, despite bringing a litany of apologies along the way, all of it goes horribly awry.

It’s an absolutely thrilling ride, particularly because of Riley Rossmo’s exaggerated, thick-but-energetic line and paneling work. Harley leaps and bounces through the pages, her face glowing in way that could feel cartoonish, but feels more welcoming than that. Additionally, the color work from Ivan Plascencia and Arif Prianto is so sharp and vibrant and pops in a way that few Gotham comics are.

I’ll note that this isn’t as easy to jump into as other Harley works if you aren’t familiar with Gotham’s lesser villains. It features a cavalcade of slightly-more esoteric folks that you may not be aware of if you’ve mostly just watched the films: Doctor Hugo Strange, Solomon Grundy, and Hush. But, hey, it’s comics; let it just wash over you and you’ll be fine!



I’ve repeatedly said that I will never, ever shut up about Harley Fuckin’ Quinn.

However, I’ve never quite said why.

It’s been rare for me to identify with a fictional comic book character. (Yes, I know Harley started off in the animated Batman TV series. That’s not my Harley.) Aspects of ‘em, sure, but fully? No, not at all. (Silver Surfer came close, though!)

Seeing Harley in BIRDS OF PREY was like watching a sunrise. The light took a while to hit me, but when it did, I was gloriously blinded. (Then I was completely floored by HARLEY QUINN: ‘Being Harley Quinn’.)

While BIRDS OF PREY and the animated Harley Quinn series is essentially an ensemble action/adventure tale, it’s mostly about Harley Quinn — an ex-psychologist who has been consistently hypomanic since her acid bath — coping with a toxic, bad, breakup from a terribly abusive relationship and finding a quality support network.

I’ve been through enough shit to relate and I stumbled off of the ride each time and hated myself after. I won’t go into the details — they’re boring to anyone but me, and I will note that I’m not nearly as much fun as Harley but I do love to throw myself around like she does. Related: when I was tasked to pen my trauma list, it was far longer than I expected.

What’s different about Harley than other tales of this sort is: she doesn’t want to be normal. She wants to be Harley, not Dr. Harleen Quinzel. She wants to be weird and lean into her wants and literally finds herself as a transformed person. She doesn’t want to return to her old self; she can’t, not after what she’s been through.

That’s what I appreciate about her, because so many stories about trauma are about restoring what most consider normalcy — attempting to be the person you were before your traumatic experiences — and that’s simply not going to happen. Harley’s experiences fundamentally changed her, and she’s not capable of going back (although she realizes she needs to reel certain facets in a bit).

As you might have surmised, I’ve been seeing a trauma therapist. Upon our initial meeting she asked me: “What do you expect from seeing me?” I responded: “I honestly don’t know. I can’t forget what I’ve lived through. I am the person I am today because of those experiences, and I’m just here, trying to get help and trying to continue to exist.”

Harley Fuckin’ Quinn provides a balm. Is her story a fictional superhero redemption fantasy? Sure, but fictional stories and characters constantly prop people up — it’s part of why I write — and she’s a damn inspiration for me, obviously mostly due to the amazing team of writers who have made her the person she is today.

Which leads me to this very stupid endeavor. I have no tattoos. (Yeah, again, I am a misfit but while you might think I’m covered in ink? Nothing. Not even a self-inflicted ankle ankh.) For my first (probably not last) tattoo, I opted for Harley’s wraparound-arm. (See above.) I even got a temporary tattoo, just to test it out — because I’m taking this seriously, oddly more seriously than I normally treat my skin — and I couldn’t stop glowing and staring at it.

I’m thankful that my wife has patiently listened to me hash this out — she even found me the temps — and has been very accepting, as she’ll have to see it quite a bit and I feel better talking about potential body modification with a partner than solo. Also, I am middle-aged dude who will be wearing a tattoo that mostly teenage girls identify with so, uh, I know that’s not great. However, I’ve made my peace with that! I just know that I would regret not attempting this task, as inane as it may sound.

I am not proud of it, but I feel the need to hold onto the symbols and icons that aid a life’s journey, as pseudo-spiritual as that may sound.



As I’ve noted before, I will never, ever shut up about the animated HARLEY QUINN show.

However, this is about the off-shoot comic series: HARLEY QUINN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, of which the first volume — “The Eat. BANG! Kill. Tour” — fills in the space between the second and third seasons, fleshing out the honeymoon period between Harley and Ivy. It’s penned by Tee Franklin (who willed the amazing Black elder queer comic BINGO LOVE into the world) with art by Max Sarin (John Allison’s GIANT DAYS — whose BOBBINS webcomic I dearly miss but also, goddamn, just let your eyes stare at how brilliantly that cover is designed), colors by Marissa Louise and lettered by Taylor Esposito, all working at the height of their powers.

I’ve spilled a lot of words about the TV show, but I came to this off-shoot with a bit of reluctance. I’ve been burned by so many opportunistic print cash-ins so many times, but figured I’d give it a go.

Reader: it’s amazing.

It’s even filthier and sexier and emotional than the show, but still sensitive and never exploitative. Franklin knows how to handle intimacy and physical wants and needs and exploration in a mannered way that feels both controlled but also raw.

While the show’s visuals are far more expressive than most animated shows, Sarin takes this to the next level. Everyone speaks through their eyes and mouths and arms, and Harley is constantly throwing herself around, and both Harles’ and Ive’s hair curls so beautifully and I sparkle through each and every page. Every panel is something I revel to.

I don’t want to ignore Marissa Lousie’s work, which is marvelously restrained while also being vibrant, or Esposito’s work, which is significantly nuanced until it shouldn’t be.

However, what’s most notable is that, while Harley’s name is on the cover, this is mostly about telling Ivy’s side of their romance and detailing how she feels about (spoiler alert) Kite Man and her breaking up at their own wedding, and reconciling her own personal trauma via her childhood, the latter of which is never quite touched on in the show (and Harley is too myopic to ask about). It’s a perfect exploration of an already brilliant journey.

If you are a fan of the show, or even if you aren’t — you can go in completely blind and they’ll explicitly catch you up — it’s an absolute delight of a read.



As I’ve been easing myself back into the world of comic books for the third or fourth time in my life, I forgot that there are some protagonists who are malleable, vessels for a writer to explore their own issues and fixations.

This won’t quite happen to iconic characters like Batman — who will always be a self-serious, but angsty, vigilante — but it happens often with other peripheral characters.

Harley Quinn is one of those characters. The Harley I love from the Harley Quinn animated series is far removed from the one I first saw on the animated Batman show, and also quite different from the one I saw in BIRDS OF PREY, and also a bit skewed in the first HARLEY QUINN: HOT IN THE CITY collection I picked up, not to mention the BATMAN / HARLEY & IVY deluxe collection I just read.

Granted, it makes sense; Harley is mercurial and impetuous. Her flights of fancy will always work from a character perspective because she’s goddamn manic and easily influenced, but still smart enough to shut shit down when necessary.

At least, that’s the Harley I like most. That’s the Harley I identify most with.

The opening salvo in HOT IN THE CITY underscores her versatility: it features a litany of different artists given two or so pages to detail their own specific take on Harley, although it was all penned by writer/artist Amanda Conner and writer/inker Jimmy Palmiotti. (I’ll note that they’re married, so a perfect creative team!)

Reader: it gave me whiplash.

I realize that was the intent, but this was the first Harley Quinn book for me, and it felt like I was reading Keith Giffen’s AMBUSH BUG. (Yeah, I realize I’m doing no favors with that deep cut.)

Thankfully, the remaining issues fall into something closer to the Harley I’m familiar with: she’s coupled up with Ivy and they meet Sy and matters delightfully escalate in violent, but amusing ways. I can see how much the animated show leaned on Conner & Palmiotti’s groundwork, however, they still managed to make it their own by digging into more interpersonal dynamics.

While I do grouse about the introductory issue — I just wish they’d just moved it to the end of the collection, because it does feel like self-indulgent back-matter — this is a great way to dip your toes into this world and I don’t regret it.