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Stjepan Sejic Reimagines Harley Quinn's Tragic Origin in Harleen

Stjepan Sejic Reimagines Harley Quinn's Tragic Origin...

By Albert Ching Wednesday, September 25th, 2019

DC Nation caught up with Harleen writer/artist Stjepan Sejic to learn more about his three-issue DC Black Label series presenting a captivating new take on Harley Quinn’s formative years.

What inspired you to tell this story?

It started just after I saw Batman: Assault on Arkham. I remember looking at Harley Quinn and the Joker; these two are like a romance novel taken to its logical conclusion instead of an ideal one. She is there to save him from the darkness. In the romance novels she succeeds. Here it is the opposite.

Fans of your work know you’re passionate about Harley Quinn. What’s compelling to you about the character?

She is a psychiatrist who can recognize and understand her psychosis, but is unable and at times unwilling to do anything about it. I see her like The Godfather’s Michael Corleone. He is pulled into a life of crime out of love for his family. She is pulled out of love for the Joker. Both harbor dreams of getting out; dreams of salvation for themselves and those they care about. But ultimately, those dreams are drowned in violence and disappointment.

What does this story reveal about Harley and her origin that readers haven’t seen?

Harleen Quinzel is flawed. She made some bad decisions in life that have followed her ever since. But the most important and defining quality of her in this story is, she means well. She is a doctor. She is here to help. She has good intentions, but as the old saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

In Harleen we follow the story of a promising psychiatrist with a theory. What if sociopathic behavior is physically caused by deterioration of empathy centers of the brain? Her theory attracts the funding of Wayne Enterprises, but also the ire of District Attorney Dent’s office.

Harleen crosses paths with the Joker. This experience leaves her alive but suffering from chronic nightmares. Still she persists in her research that ultimately brings her to Arkham, and there, she finally meets the man she fears, the man she would grow to understand, the man she would fall in love with.

At the end of it all, she could say one thing and mean it: I meant well…

What’s your approach to illustrating Harley and the Joker in your distinct style?

Harleen is not Harley Quinn. Not yet. She is not wearing tight spandex or anything like that. She is reserved, but even so, in this twisted romance of theirs I must sell you on their chemistry. I must make you understand how this relationship of theirs could possibly work, before I show you why it was always doomed. And so as usual I will rely on body language intensively, facial expressions, the works. 

Joker in my version is a rock star. Wall-to-wall charisma when he wants to be, but cross him, and he is the stuff of nightmares. Your dangerous love interest that everyone warns you against, but in a romance you don’t listen. You can make him see colors and hear the music. You can help him.

Or so you’d believe…

This is your first writing work for DC. What’s it like writing these characters for the first time?

Great. I thrive on characters that rely on chemistry to fuel the story. And this story will have a whole lot of chemistry. This is a story of bad people and soon-to-be bad people. And it is going to be a wild ride.

Beyond Harley and the Joker, what other Batman characters play a part in the story?

Harvey Dent/Two-Face as the de facto antagonist, Poison Ivy, Commissioner Gordon, Batman, and a whole menagerie of Arkham inmates.
 

Harleen #1, written and illustrated by Stjepan Sejic, is now available in print and as a digital download.