Harley Quinn Takes on SDCC and Shows Us How to Laugh at Ourselves.
It seems that the crazy, quirky, villain Harley Quinn has found her way to this year’s long anticipated SDCC event in the recently released “Harley Quinn Invades Sand Diego Comic-Con International #1”. Harley has hitched a ride with her roommates/employees who are bringing their show of oddities to the Con. She can’t get her hands on a retailers pass so she’s on her own for much of the issue, which of course leads to Harley-esque hilarity and mayhem. Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, Harley’s writing team, help the Clown Princess of Crime take on everything that Con has to experience. From pushing her very own comic to attacking a flasher with her mallet, from a room full of Mistah J look alikes to frequent fangirl freakouts, Harley and her team manage to deliver a con experience we all can relate to, including some witty and good-natured pokes at the fans, the retailers, and the industry.
The first thing to notice about HQ Invades SDCC is that it is one of those multi-artist type of issues. While this approach can be beneficial in some instances, like the #0 issue of Harley Quinn where she chooses her own artist, it can also be distracting to the audience. In an issue where there is already so much happening, it was challenging to experience a new art style every 6-10 pages or so. SDCC is a very hectic and fast-paced event with some very busy panels and it might have been more aesthetically pleasing to slim down the artists. Multitude of artists aside, those busy, zoomed out panels of the con were clever and incredibly accurate. It is often astonishing to see the attention to detail the artists take when illustrating this type of story, when you look closely you can see that they have inserted actual comic book covers and posters in panels all over the place, and with some heavy searching you can find plenty of other gems as well.
Cosplayers were of course featured throughout the issue, as they are a very pronounced presence at any Con, SDCC especially. They are featured waiting patiently in the panels showcasing the lines that con attendees sacrifice hours of their lives to get through. They are featured posing for pictures and moseying through the crowds. They are featured doing all of the stereotypical cosplayer things that one can imagine. They also present quite a challenge to Harley because she just does not seem to understand that they are people wearing costumes, no matter how many times it proves to be true.
There are three really cute and clever instances where Harley’s confusion creates trouble for her. First, when she runs into a Batman cosplayer and pulls his pants down in an effort to shame her foe, she finds that he is wearing adorable HQ underwear and winds up removed from the premises while nursing the idea that the B-Man may have a crush on her. Even though this run-in is important to the plot, and also amusing, it is a smidge bizarre that Harley’s reaction to seeing Batman at Comic-Con is to immediately take his pants off.
Next, she is teased by a cosplayer, who leaves her misled to believe that the Joker is looking for her. Though it isn’t her darling Puddin’ awaiting her, she finds Joker cosplay meeting and breaks the fourth wall to tell the reader to scram while she checks to be absolutely sure. While the idea of Harley alone in a room of Joker look-alikes is entertaining, and a little saucy, it also makes Harley look pretty slutty (because her costume doesn’t already?) and hurts the new independent woman image she has been going for in her new book. Resist the abuser Harley, resist!
The next night, after being removed from the Con again, Harley runs into a cosplay club all dressed as her and when they tell her they are out for “Murder and mayhem” she delivers! Leave it to Harley Quinn to land a group of innocent women in jail. John Timms did an excellent job illustrating this portion of Harley’s adventure. The cosplayers have all chosen to dress as different versions of their favorite villainess. Everything from her debut look to the ever popular video game versions can be seen, and on an array of body types as well. While most of the girls of the cosplay group are petite white women with boobs galore, there is a heavy-set woman, a black Harley, and even a whiskery old man. It is awesome to see such diversity, but it also seems as if they were mocking the trend of Harley Quinn cosplay that seems to have its hold on fans.
Actually, the art throughout the book displays a variety of races/body-types/social-types etc. While of course acknowledging the diversity of their fan base is incredibly important for DC and the artists, they managed to do it in a way that also pokes a little bit of fun at Comic-Con attendees. Cosplay is only the tip of the iceberg here; on the backside of the cover, Conner features the quintessential comic collector snobs, complete with grumpy upturned expression and longbox in tow. Of course, Con can’t be complete without at least one slave Lea, who can be found taking cover as Harley falls through the venue ceiling during her break-in. There are the camera yielding paparazzi types, the lazy cosplayers who only threw on a mask, families in matching comic themed attire, and of course your general nerd types. All comic fan stereotype bases have been covered!
Being able to laugh at yourself seems to be a theme in this issue. Retailers may enjoy the panel where Harley tries to help her roomies run their booth, only to encounter nightmare customers who want “long sleeves? Or three-quarter sleeves like a baseball shirt?” or who “can’t wear anything unless it’s 100% cotton”. In her frustration, she does as many would love to do at times, and knocks those guys out cold. Shop owners and their employees will find the situation and her reaction very relatable.
Speaking of relatable, hasn’t everyone had a crazy star-struck “oh my goodness this can’t be happening” fan moment at a con? Well of course so does Harley! Popular actor Stephen Amell from the CW’s show Arrow has a cameo, he is of course surrounded by paparazzi, and an abundance of Black Canary cosplayers (again there’s that attention to detail and tiny bit of mocking). When Harley cries out in a fangirl moment Amell believes she is referring to him when in fact she has spotted none other than Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, her very own creators. Even better, they assume she’s a cosplayer and when she pronounces how pleased she is that the know her the audience gets to have a little chuckle on her behalf.
Carrying on the theme of being able to laugh at yourself, Conner and Palmiotti end the issue with Harley doing a little shopping. Here the writers tackle the issue of inflation, and it is funny. Harley asks for a Batman Adventures #12, because of course that book is all the rage right now, the retailer asks a steep $300 for an 8.5 (ok seriously guys who is paying this?!) and even Harley herself doesn’t think that her very first appearance is worth that much! When he tells her to “take it or leave it”, she takes him by his word and runs off with an armful of all of her own books.
“Harley Quinn invades San Diego Comic Con #1” is exactly what fans should expect out of a Harley Quinn title; she’s quirky and crazy, she delivers madness and mayhem everywhere she goes, and she reminds us all that it is ok to let go and have a little laugh at ourselves.