Paul Dini
"It's no secret that I love Harley Quinn."
Emru Townsend: Are you a fan of Japanese animation at all?

Paul Dini: I don't watch everything that comes out of Japanese animation. For me personally, it's not the most aesthetically pleasing style for me to look at. It's just a thing for me personally. It all tends to run together: big robots, Bambi-eyed superhero-type characters. Most of the stuff that's Japanese action/adventure, I've seen a fair amount of it, but I don't love it the way that I love old classic Warner Bros. or Disney stuff from the '40s.

I do love [Hayao] Miyazaki's movies, I think he's terrific. I think he's a filmmaker who just transcends live-action and animation. His stuff is beautiful. I love the way it's paced, I love the way it sounds, I love the way it looks. The emotional heart that drives each one of his movies--I think he's phenomenal.

In all the time you've worked on Batman, which would you say is your favorite episode to have worked on?

The Mr. Freeze one was pretty great, Heart of Ice. I loved writing that, because it was the first one I was doing, it was brand new, it was really a challenge to try and reinvent the Mr. Freeze character as something other than just a stock bad guy, to try and give him a little emotional heart from which to grow his character. The idea that we had made him this emotionless character... [and] underneath that icy exterior he's probably the most human of all of Batman's villains. And trying to get to that was a lot of fun. And also, I think that Bruce did a phenomenal job directing that episode. He storyboarded a big chunk of that episode himself, and he put a lot of heart and emotion [in it]. And I'll tell you, when you see that, that's one the most gratifying thing for a writer in this medium to do, is to see the creation of a story go from an idea in his head onto the page, and then just watch the director craft it himself and storyboard it and have it just be emotional. I remember watching the rough cut of it in Bruce's office, and we were thrilled that it came out that way. That was great. That one will always have a favorite place in my heart.

It's [also] no secret that I love Harley Quinn. I added her to the little Batman family of villains, so there are a lot of episodes about her that I like. I was writing this show called "Joker's Favor", and we were figuring out what kind of gang the Joker should have, and I said "How about a girl?" and Alan Burnett said "Great!" And then I went back to my office and I was thinking what kind of girl she should be. She could just be a generic babe in a leather jacket and dark glasses and sort of "Yeah, boss." And then I thought, well, how about if we make her funny, and how about we make her somebody who might tell jokes that are even funnier than Joker's and he'd get all angry at her. I began thinking of this friend of mine, Arleen Sorkin, who does Harley's voice, and I thought, I'll make her like Arleen. And it was such a perfect fit that I brought her in and said, "How about doing the voice?" and she said "Sure." So she did the voice, and that just sort of made the character live for me, the fact that I sort of based her on a friend of mine, someone whose voice I could hear in my head. So she got to be a fun character and then one day Bruce and I mapped out her origin story, which became the Mad Love comic book and then we subsequently did that as an episode. She's just a character that has a lot of life to me.

And now of course Harley's also been added to the comic-book Batman universe. Which must be particularly gratifying.

It's fun. Now she's "real". She's one of the "real" characters. I don't know what she was before. Just a 'toon, I suppose.

It's too bad we won't be seeing Harley anymore if it's just Batman Beyond at this point.

Well, yeah. But Harley's got a very special place in my mind, and she'll always be in those old shows, and she'll show up in the comic books. You never know. You never know when Harley might pop up. Maybe someday, [in] years to come, she'll popular enough to get her own comic book or cartoon series or something like that.

And that brings me to my closing question: if you could make any cartoon right now based on a DC character, and they said "Go right ahead, do what you want!"... what would you pick?

I don't know. I'm torn between doing the Justice League series that everybody wants, or doing more Batman episodes, or just making a personal choice and making the Zatanna/Black Canary team-up show, where they do nothing except try on stockings all day.

[laughs] That would be really popular.

Yeah, in my household.

Quite truthfully, I think I would like to do Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn teamed up in their own series, where they're sort of bad girls on the go. I've done that in a comic-book series that's going to come out probably [around] the end of this year or the beginning of next year, which is three issues of them just out and causing a lot of trouble. That's really a family-run comic, because I wrote it, Bruce drew it, Shane Glines--one of our designers--is inking it, and Glen Murakami is going to color it. I look at those pages, and I--two of the pages are reproduced in the Batman Animated book--and I can't wait for those books to see print.

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A Critical Eye exclusive (May 17, 1999)