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SYFY WIRE New York Comic Con 2021

Harley Quinn, Superman writers talk why they won't do 'evil Superman' & Harley's 'M*A*S*H' vibe at NYCC

By James Comtois
Action Comics 1035 Cover

Although Harley Quinn and Superman could not be more different as characters, the one thing the current writers of their titles have in common is that they love their respective hero (and anti-hero) — and take them quite seriously. 

Speaking at the DC Comics writers panel at New York Comic Con 2021 on Thursday, which SYFY WIRE attended, Phillip Kennedy Johnson (Action Comics, Superman) and Stephanie Phillips (Harley Quinn, Detective Comics) discussed their current projects, their love for the characters they write, and what it would be like if their takes on Harley Quinn and Superman were to team-up. 

“I absolutely adore Harley. I feel really connected to this character,” said Phillips before adding: “It may be too dangerous to look into that.” 

Phillips, who discovered the character of Harley Quinn and the world of comics through her obsession with Batman: The Animated Series at a young age, explained that her goal with her book is to have it take place “at the intersection of funny and sad;” comparing it to the series M*A*S*H (a comedy taking place in a literal war zone). “She’s hilarious, but she’s also in Gotham, so we need to remember where she is,” she said. “A lot of bad things have happened to her there.”

“There’s something to be said about using humor as a mask,” she added.

Meanwhile, Action Comics writer Johnson has just as much love and reverence for the Man of Steel that Phillips has for Dr. Quinzel. Recalling being blown away when he first saw the Christopher Reeve-led Superman film when he was three years old, he admitted that he still gets chills hearing John Williams’ score. And while he acknowledges that many fans like the conflicted and imperfect Superman that Henry Cavill portrayed in Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League, Johnson said that that’s not his Superman.

“I want to see a Superman that shows us the way,” Johnson said. “He always knows what the right thing is. He’s the best version of humanity.” 

Johnson also said not to expect an “evil version” of Superman during his run on the comic.

“An ‘evil Superman’ is an easy pitch to a Hollywood studio exec,” he said, recalling Brightburn and Homelander from The Boys (and even Superman III). However, with his take on Superman, Johnson insists: “It's possible to have that power and not be corrupt.”

After the panel discussion, one fan asked the two authors what they think it would be like if Harley and Clark Kent met. In response, Phillips asked jokingly, “I have to psychoanalyze Superman?” before answering: “First, she wouldn’t believe that he’s that good, so I think she’d want to push his buttons. She would have fun with that until she realized that she can’t.” 

“Superman sees the best in everyone,” Johnson said, adding that he would know that Harley is this capable talented person “who was corrupted by circumstances. But he’d be confident she could get back to being her best self.”

Phillips revealed through a note on her website that she’s currently “working on a new secret book that won’t be out until summer of 2022,” and “signed a new contract for a book that” she can only describe for the moment as “spooky” and “with a company [she hasn’t] worked with yet.” 

Before then, not only can fans enjoy her work in Harley Quinn, but also the upcoming Wonder Woman: Evolution, set to be released in November. 

Meanwhile, Johnson announced that the Warworld Rising arc within Action Comics has wrapped, leading up to the Warworld Saga, which is launching this month. 

“We want to see how epic we can get,” Johnson explained. “We want to put the ‘Super’ in Superman [and] see what he can do in the multiverse.” 

Click here for SYFY WIRE’s full coverage of New York Comic Con 2021