If you’re afraid of clowns, you may not want to leave the house this week. Whether they’re motivated by a nation-wide cult, deranged pranks, or viral marketing for the It remake, creepy clowns have been reported across the country scaring people out of their wits. But all sinister clowns owe a debt to pop culture’s most fearsome jester, the Joker, and to a lesser extent, his girlfriend Harley Quinn.
Margot Robbie’s version of Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad is the nation’s number-one Halloween costume, so it’s high time for Harley to enter Injustice: Ground Zero, an adaptation of the 2013 DC Comics game Injustice: Gods Among Us from Christopher Sebela. Following the three-year run of Injustice comic prequels, Sebela’s Ground Zero retells the game from Harley’s perspective, as she leads the Joker gang to help Batman’s Insurgency, a rebel faction against a tyrannical Superman and his Earth One Regime.
Though most of America are wary of clowns, Sebela — who once spent thirty days in a Nevada clown motel — finds them annoying. “Which is why I can get into Harley and Joker because at least they’re annoying for a reason,” Sebela tells Inverse. “You spend thirty days in a deserted desert town and you do a lot of thinking. I feel like it made me — my capacity to accept weird things — a lot higher. So with a book like this, how weird can I make things and still have it fly with everybody reading it?”
A mainstream comic book based on a mainstream video game can’t be that weird, can it? With Joker’s puddin’ headlining the series, Sebela says it “takes a lot of the fear off the table” so that he “can just go for it.” Buckle up.
So, why was Harley Quinn’s point of view chosen for *Injustice: Ground Zero?
The thinking was that people knew the story of the game, [so] we were going to be telling it to them in a completely different way from a sort of ground-level perspective. And for people who have no idea what the game is, we’re filling them in on everything. But we’re doing it in a way I feel is a bit more accessible. Like we just have one character and she’s our narrator who takes us through this world rather than the entire JLA at each other’s throats.
Was it helpful that people now more than ever know who Harley Quinn is?
Yeah, definitely. She’s getting bigger by the day. But also she’s a 180-degree turn from everyone in Injustice. She’s sort of stumbling through all of this and she’s not super concerned about the war to control Earth. She’s got her own issues going on. That’s the thing that concerns her. But as she’s retelling events of the war, it’s clear that she has a really messed-up view of how these things happened. Which I think makes it fun.
What does a writer have to have to tell a story with Harley Quinn’s voice?
The first step is to get chatty. It has a constant stream going and it can switch gears at the drop of a hat. She can be talking about the death of the Joker and in the next sentence be talking about groceries. It’s really like getting into a bit of a manic state and just kind of following the tiniest notion that might pop into your head when you write.
What is supposed to be a serious line or a serious panel recounting the war, and that triggers something really dumb in your head, follow that. Whereas most people think it, Harley speaks it. It’s a little bit difficult because my scripts tend to come in really packed with dialogue because it’s hard to turn Harley Quinn down. She just talks and talks.
Besides Harley you obviously include the vast DC Universe. What was it like having to juggle so many different characters at once?
Super intimidating. Like I’ve never written any of these characters before and suddenly I’m writing the huge characters of DC, and there’s a lot of them. [But] because Harley is the main character, that made it easier for me as a writer to deal with it because I just had to see everything through Harley’s eyes. I felt like if I got Harley right, the rest would all fall into place and that’s been the case so far.
Injustice: Ground Zero bridges the gap from the last Injustice to Injustice 2 coming next year. Is there anything fans should be on the lookout for that sets up the new comic and game?
Actually, I don’t know what’s happening in Injustice 2. We’re sticking with the story of the Injustice game, where the game ends is where the story ends. I’m as curious as everyone else to see what happens in Injustice 2, but we’ve kind of got our own sandbox here, so we’re going to keep it inside.
The first chapter of Injustice: Ground Zero releases October 4.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.