Harley Quinn: The Animated Series is by far my favorite DC Comics medium. The show’s sharp and scorching writing, along with its thoughtful characterizations of Harley and the rest of Batman’s rogue gallery, breathed new life into these once-familiar characters to me. It also doesn’t hurt that the characters swear, the action dips into ultra-violence, and the show isn’t afraid to call it sexy.
Season 2 is in the books and season 3 is on its way, but fans won’t have to wait for her to arrive to fill the mallet-shaped hole left by the Clown Princess of Crime TV show. In fact, Harley’s misadventures have already continued in a new comedic spin-off, Harley Quinn: The Animated Series: The Eat. Snap! To kill. To visit.
The comic not only serves as an offshoot for the TV show, but also a DC Comics debut from its writer, Tee Franklin. I spoke to Franklin about her journey in the comic book industry as a black, queer, disabled, and autistic woman, and how she used her portrayal of Harley Quinn to challenge the way comics have often perpetuated harmful stereotypes of ableists.
The food. Snap! To kill. To visit takes place right after the show’s Season 2 finale, in which Harley and his new girlfriend Poisonous sumac run away from Jim gordon after Ivy was left at the altar by kite man. In an effort to cheer up her herbal sweetheart, Harley decides to take her on an old-fashioned road trip. Of course, chaos ensues.
Franklin got his start in comics by interviewing comic book authors and artists and promoting their work through Black cartoon month, a recurring panel that she would host during comic book conventions. She cut her teeth as a writer with “The Outfit”, a short story in Image Comics ‘issue 27’ nail rodent, after interviewing one of the show’s writers, Joshua Williamson, at New York Comic Con. She also wrote the critically acclaimed comic Love Bingo, about two black women in their sixties rekindling their teenage romance.
Franklin said she was drawn to his concept for a Harley quinn comical after seeing how The animated series addressed the Joker’s abuse of Harley and his response. As a domestic violence survivor, Franklin said she lived vicariously with Harley’s handling of her breakup, especially the momentous moment when she smashed Joker’s nuts with a bat. Franklin wanted to focus on the emotional trauma Harley and Ivy went through throughout the series, something the characters treated prejudicially.
âWe all have our trauma,â she said, âand we have to deal with it in one way or another. Some of us suffocate it, which Ivy currently does. When you stuff it down. continually things, it’s the little things that get on your nerves.
The dynamics provided Franklin with the opportunity to explore ways in which unexamined trauma can interfere with our efforts to form new, healthy relationships. She said Harley wanted to help Ivy so badly, but initially if Harley snores too loudly, that is enough to make Ivy angry because she hasn’t faced the trauma of her last relationship in a real way.
Harley and Ivy are longtime friends on the show, but when it comes to their budding romance, Franklin said they still have a lot to find out. Especially considering they had drunk sex for the first time during Ivy’s bachelorette party.
âI really wanted to show that this will ultimately be a happy time for Harley and Ivy, but it’s going to take a minute to get there,â she said. The comic book format allowed her to take a different and more introspective approach than the series, an approach that takes its time with the couple’s new emotional intimacy. Franklin was delighted to write down what she wanted to see from the couple, how their relationship develops, and with her, how they express their love for each other in healthier ways.
The double meaning you might find in the title of the comic is not a mistake. There is a lot of “eating” and “bumping” to get around here. âI am more than shocked at the things I was able to do in this comic. I mean the first problem [Harley] cartwheels on the coochie, âFranklin said.
While the scorching heat of the comic rivals that of the series, Franklin didn’t push the envelope until DC called him and said “Tee, you’re tripping.” Any disappointed reader may need to campaign for a director. Nonetheless, it’s wonderful to see queer female sexuality portrayed openly and shamelessly, especially for Harlivy. Such depictions always seem rare and almost revolutionary to come across in mainstream comics.
Franklin was also very determined to make the supporting comic book cast a diverse bunch, and not just in terms of race. The cast includes people with disabilities, neurodivergent people, sex workers, and the elderly (including a possible cameo from Love of bingo Hazel and Mari in number two).
When given the opportunity to write Harley quinnFranklin said she was going to have âeveryone and their momâ portrayed in the comics. As a disabled and autistic woman, she said it was important to portray a world that looks like her. Having a diverse cast of characters also meant avoiding the racial and ableist stereotypes that are often thoughtlessly included in the comics.
âWhen you think of Harley, there’s always that adjective that says she’s ‘crazy’. It is a very harmful word. I have depression. I have PTSD. I have the alphabet, but am I crazy? No, âFranklin said. “I wanted to use this book to show, not only to people reading, but to editors and writers at all levels that you don’t need to use this empowering language to get your point across.”
Although Franklin admits to not being a “$ 10 girl” or even a “$ 5 girl,” she said the comic book industry needs to develop the adjectives it uses regularly and avoid using adjectives. terms like “lame” and “silly”. as insults because of the ableist nature of doing so.
“I am lame. I use a walker [and] I use a wheelchair. Lame doesn’t mean nerdy because I’m far from nerdy, baby. That this book does not contain any of these capacity terms is revolutionary because you can do so much more without demeaning people with disabilities, âshe said.
While Franklin wishes she could fully celebrate her accomplishment of writing for an iconic comic book character, her joy has been tarnished by the torrent of online harassment that hostile comic book “fans” sent her. This harassment is something black designers often experience when they step into a mainstream space that doesn’t have a lot of people looking like them.
If given another chance to write for DC, she said the only thing she would do differently would be not to interact with fans. “Black people always piss off,” she said. âSomeone telling me I can’t write white characters because I’m black really hurt me because on the other hand, white people can write every character under the sun, every race. But I can not. Why can’t I?
The harassment and death threats caused Franklin so much hell that she sometimes wished she had ever agreed to write the comic.
âI see why a lot of comic book creators, they dive in and quit social media because it’s too much. The stuff I was getting I wouldn’t wish on anyone, âshe said. She was able to weather the storm of hate thanks to her editors and fans who have been kind to her throughout her journey. While in the hospital for heart surgery, she said her editors and staff were especially supportive when she wrote the comic’s third issue.
âThey could easily have said, ‘Peace Tee, we’re not committing to this,’ but they didn’t. My editor, Katie Kubert [asked], ‘What can we do?’ ‘How can I help you?’ ‘What do you need?’ And this is something that as a person with a disability you are not used to. We are used to making ourselves smaller [and] Apologize profusely when things are out of our control, âshe said.
Like a black girl from the Pa neighborhoodTerson, New Jersey, writing a story about two gay women running away from cops for such a prominent comic book publisher was a surreal experience for Franklin. She hopes this signals bigger changes to come in the comic book industry.
âI’ve been getting messages from gay kids and I’m like ‘you shouldn’t all be reading this book, but okay.’ But that impact is good, “she said.” I really hope DC, Marvel, Image, everyone starts to realize and hire talent with disabilities. As long as you make things accessible to us, we will give you the best of us.