Fans of the Harley Quinn animated television show have even more to enjoy thanks to Tee Franklin and Max Sarin’s new series Harley Quinn: The Animated Series: The Eat. Bang! Kill. Tour. The first issue is available now on DC Infinite (it arrives in comic book shops on September 14). The comics series takes place between seasons two and three of the cartoon, and issue #2 — out in October — sees Catwoman pop up in an already hugely chaotic road trip between Harley and Poison Ivy.
To shed some light on the series, Franklin spoke in a press roundtable last week about what went into writing the first issue, her approach to the story, working with Sarin, and much more. Franklin also discusses how the series breaks new ground — she’s the first black woman to write a Harley Quinn title — but how it also aims to better represent disabled people.
At its core, it’s a comic about a queer romance between Harley and Ivy, but also the trauma Ivy and Harley Quinn lived through and how they in turn can help each other. After hearing what Franklin had to say about her work on the series, it’s more clear than ever that this is a vital and deeply important effort. Not to mention super weird and funny.
These are edited excerpts from the larger conversation.
What do you feel the comics medium gives you in terms of expressing these characters and this world that maybe the show doesn’t?
Tee Franklin: I don’t really feel like there is a massive difference. I’m surprised that I got some curse words in there.
At this point, we’ve seen several interpretations of Harley and Ivy’s relationship. So what about the relationship spoke to you the most and what excited you the most about expanding on their romance in season two?
TF: Well, season two, they stuck the toe in? Right? It was just like okay, they’re kissing. We’re not really seeing the sex. We get to see a lot more here. I do hope we’ll be in season three. Their relationship is needed. It is important to talk about and I’m really grateful to be the one to tell this love story.
There is a lot of will-they-won’t-they in the comics. And when they do it’s not as beautifully shown. Having Harley and Ivy in bed naked together under the covers, or Harley doing a cartwheel onto Ivy’s vagina, right, that is really cool. And it’s just fun to be able to tell this type of story in this medium that people can just hold on to forever versus, a show you got to keep on watching.
Did you have a checklist of things you wanted to get into the first issue?
TF: Yes, I did. There’s a ton of Easter eggs, especially in Harley’s room. I was always curious when I would watch the show. Like what is upstairs? We see this escalator, so what’s upstairs? Where you living at? I know you’re not living down there by the fountain. I wanted to explore what was upstairs in the mall. And of course, you gotta have the nod to the Batman the Animated Series, the Birds of Prey, like all of the places where Harley has been. So I tried to throw in as much as I could without it being a little too much.
Also, there are some characters that we will eventually see that I was able to use and I’m really hyped about that. Of course, as much kissing and sex as possible, like it’s called the “Eat Bang Kill Tour” so I’m trying to get as much eating and banging as I can in each issue.
Are you planning to introduce any new characters to the Harley Quinn fold that we perhaps haven’t seen in the animated series?
TF: Oh, hell yeah. The ensemble is nice, right? We have Livewire on the cover. She made a little brief appearance, but she did not have any words. There are others. The solicit came out so Hush is in there. You see him in issue three. There are some new characters that we have not seen on the show in here, and I hope y’all really like them.
Will the series feature the return of the internet’s favorite boy King Shark?
TF: No comment. No comment doesn’t mean yes and it doesn’t mean no — it just means no comment.
It feels like Gordon is going on a deranged journey of his own, parallel to Harley and Ivy’s. What’s in store for him?
TF: He needs to get laid. He’s doing so much. He’s actually being a Harley right now doing some impetuous s--t, not caring about all the stuff he’s leaving in his wake. In issue two, we see a side of Gordon that has not been explored in the show. But ultimately, Gordon wants to have Gotham back in the United States. So he’s gonna do whatever he can regardless of what and who he hurts, just to bring Harley to quote-unquote justice. He really needs some counseling but not from Dr. Harleen. But he does need some counseling right about now.
Max’s art is so expressive and imaginative. Did you ever rewrite or adjust things from a scripting perspective after seeing Max’s work?
TF: I was not expecting what Max did at all. When I first saw those pages, I was just like, “oh s--t!” It was just so cool to see. I mean, come on heart eyes, like literally heart eyes, m----------r. That s--t was so cool. Like it was really dope to see Max’s take on these characters. And I did not adjust the script. I let Max do what they want to do. You’ll see some memes, you’ll see some iconic memes throughout the series that just fit perfectly and Max took these memes and just turned it up. I can’t wait for y’all to see it. I’m so grateful to them.
What parts of the animated series did you feel were the most important to capture when adding your voice to this version of the characters?
TF: Besides the Harley and Ivy relationship, that was a no-brainer, but I wanted to explore the aftermath. Like there are tons of emotions and trauma that were already touched on in the animated series. But I wanted to delve deeper and turn it up a notch because both of these women have these traumatic experiences from men in their lives. Ivy’s dad, Harley’s parents, and her man. Harley has been through a lot as has Ivy.
Even though Ivy really wasn’t beat to marry Kiteman, my girl still got left at the altar. I mean, I’m sure she’s grateful but she’s also dealing with the hurt of, “damn I hurt this guy who I really really loved. And that’s on me and I need to fix that.” So she’s got to go through a bunch of emotions to try to handle this. I love the character Tawny, I think Tawny is so dope and I wanted to use her Wendy Williams influence to just bug and irritate Gordon as well as call Ivy out on her s--t. She ultimately did something foul. There were a few things that were really important that you will see as the book goes on of what needed to be touched on. Having Catwoman, a black Catwoman, was really cool. So I was glad to be able to have a whole issue with her because I’m all for Black representation.
How deep can we expect the book to go into what’s eating at Ivy and clearly giving her pause in this relationship?
TF: We are going deep-sea diving. And you can take that in whatever way you want to. We definitely go deep. Ivy gets real with herself. Ivy needs to get real with herself otherwise who wants to stay miserable? Being miserable for a few days is good, but ultimately you need to pull yourself out of the hole and the girl is depressed. She’s depressed so it’s gonna take her a minute to try to find some light at the end of this tunnel. We are gonna go deep. I explore a lot of mental health issues in this series.
Harley and Ivy are quite the power couple. What about their relationship do you think resonates so well with readers?
TF: So when you go back to the animated series, the Harley and Joker dynamic is straight-up domestic violence no matter what way you slice it. And I feel, personally, that seeing someone who finally decides to leave resonates so much with people. We go back, unfortunately, I have gone back to a s----y DV (domestic violence) situation. And when you’re tired and done and enough is enough you’re out. Until you are in a DV situation and you finally see somebody getting out, it’s like s--t, maybe I have a chance. I really feel like that is why Harley, finally breaking free and being with somebody who she loves, who she wants to spend the rest of her life with. Because now you know, there’s happiness, there’s love after being put down, abused, ridiculed, assaulted, like all of that stuff. When you finally decide to break free, and you have that time where you need to figure out how you can move on with your life, how you can find a little bit of joy, because there’s no joy, right? It’s just darkness.
And in those moments, you’re like, s--t, I should go back. Because this is what I’m used to. Being on your own after being with somebody because it’s not just physical. It’s mental, it’s emotional, and it’s financial. So when you finally break free, and you’re sitting home alone, in your room with your thoughts, those thoughts can get really really s----y and you feel like you’re not worthy of love, because that was beaten into you. And you start to believe it. So when you see Harley, even though again, fictional character, she’s been through every f-----g thing, but now she is free of this person and she finds love and happiness.
Is there anything else that you wanted to talk about in regards to issue one in the series?
TF: The title “Eat Bang Kill” is obviously a triple entendre. We’re gonna explore a lot of queer love between the two ladies. This whole series is freaking groundbreaking. I am the first black woman to write Harley Quinn. Like that, in itself is just like holy s--t. And then you add that I’m queer, disabled, right? I’m a whole wheelchair user. And I’m autistic. Like that is really cool. We all know representation matters.
I’m truly grateful for the opportunity for one, this is my first DC but it’s cool. I’m showing that autistic people are talented. And we can do so much, disabled people are not just here to inspire you. Right? We are people with villains who deserve love. Who are talented, and I’m hoping that these ushers in a new generation of disabled comic writers and autistic comic writers. Because it’s needed. Usually, in comics, we do not see disabled characters and definitely not in the background. So in this whole series, you can see so many disabled characters, right, just roaming the streets, blowing my nose, whatever, like you’re gonna see disabled people. Because when I leave my home I see disabled people.
And I’m really grateful to editor Katie [Kubert] for being cool with how many disabled people are on these pages. We see people with mobility aids, we see people with service dogs, we see so many people. Facial disfigurements, birthmarks, like these are people who exist and they need to see themselves in the comics, right in any medium period. So I would not be doing justice as a disabled person to not have other disabled people in something that I write. I’m really hoping that this might start conversations. When you see yourself in a medium, that’s the feeling that you will always remember.