Harley Quinn is sometimes a hero, and sometimes a villain - and her knowledge of both sides will make her a valuable pawn - and prisoner - in the early 2021 DC event 'Future State.'
In the two-part series Future State: Harley Quinn by writer Stephanie Phillips and artist Simone Di Meo, she finds herself the prisoner of the Magistrate - a domineering private military force that has taken over Gotham City. While many people might want Harleen Quinzel behind bars for the crimes she's done in the past, she's their prisoner because of what she knows about Batman and Batman's rogue's gallery - and that knowledge could help the Magistrate strengthen its stranglehold on Gotham.
Phillips spoke with Newsarama about what to expect with Future State: Harley Quinn ahead of its January 5 debut, as well as the involvement of Scarecrow and Black Mask, why Harley isn't in Gotham City Sirens, and if this title is a portent for what's to come in Harley Quinn in the modern-day continue after 'Future State' ends.
Newsarama: Stephanie, you've worked with DC before on smaller projects, but what was it like working on a wide-line event like 'Future State'?
Stephanie Phillips: It's really exciting to get to be a part of something this large that involves just the entire universe of characters. Moving from shorter stories at DC to a more expansive take on Harley has also really given me the opportunity to do a lot more with the character and Gotham, which has been a ton of fun.
Nrama: What made you want to work on Harley Quinn in particular?
Phillips: I absolutely adore Harley. She's got a really vibrant personality but she's also one of the smartest people in the room. I think that gets forgotten a lot about the character and I am excited for the opportunity to demonstrate just how intelligent and clever Harley can be, especially when she's dealing with an issue that can't easily be solved with a mallet or hammer.
Future State: Harley Quinn #1 unlettered preview
Nrama: We've seen both Harley as a hero and a villain - most recently leaning more towards heroism. What side of the law can we expect Harley on in Future State?
Phillips: I think Harley is questioning both sides here. The Magistrate is representing the law, but there are clearly some issues with the law that the magistrate is choosing to enforce. With all masked heroes and villains seen as outlaws, there's also not a really clear place that Harley fits into, so she's really carving out her own place while questioning what it means to be good or bad under the current conditions.
Nrama: Since Harley doesn't have her own ongoing series right now - what version of Harley do you feel like you've embraced the most?
Phillips: There's inspiration from all over. I love the work of Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, and Sam Humphries, and these creators have definitely influenced my take on Harley. At the same time, I hope I am able to bring something a little new to the character as we are seeing her at a really pivotal point in her life - she has left the Joker and returned to Gotham. She's far more independent than I think we have ever seen her before.
Nrama: What do you think makes this version of Harley Quinn different from ones we've seen in the past?
Phillips: Harley has now returned to a city that she helped the Joker destroy and, well, she doesn't exactly have a lot of friends here. While we will definitely see some of the classic personality and humor that makes Harley so much fun, I think we're entering a darker era in Harley's history with some new problems that she will struggle to navigate.
Nrama: And how did you know you wanted Black Mask and Scarecrow to be the big bads?
Phillips: Our two real 'villains' - Black Mask and Scarecrow - represent the two sides that Harley is really caught between in the story. Jonathan Crane has given up his mask to work with the Magistrate, and Black Mask is literally distributing masks in hopes of creating chaos and rebellion against the Magistrate.
I really loved the idea of Harley caught between these two characters and their unique motivations. Throughout the story we get to see how all of these different motivations really clash and eventually come to a head.
Nrama: I know you're aren't writing this book, but did your run affect Harley Quinn not being in Gotham City Sirens?
Phillips: I think we're really seeing Harley brought back more into the Gotham fold lately as she makes her own path, trying to navigate the hero/villain dynamics of a city that has just been rocked by the events of 'The Joker War.' While Future State is taking place some years after this, I think it's important to see Harley really forging a unique path that we haven't seen for her yet, and I think we will continue to see more of that in 2021.
Nrama: Do you see any of your Future State story dictating what comes next for Harley Quinn?
Phillips: Yes! I can't say much more about this yet, but I'm really excited for where Harley is headed next.
Nrama: Would you like to write more Harley Quinn in the future?
Phillips: Absolutely. Again, there will definitely be some fun new things coming after Future State and can't wait to talk more about what we have planned!
Nrama: Are there any other DC characters you are dying to tackle?
Phillips: I'm really excited that I'm currently writing my dream characters (announcements coming!), but I'm also a huge Green Arrow fan and feel like I'd love a stab at Ollie one day!