Love, luck & Harley Quinn: Amanda Conner at Tucson Comic-Con

Comic book illustrator Amanda Conner’s 35-year career has taught her that although following a passion may be challenging, nothing is impossible.

“The comic book industry is moving in the right direction,” Conner said. “There’s more women in the industry now than there were when I started, which is so great.”

Conner grew up reading comic books and when she decided she wanted to pursue a career drawing them, her parents were supportive of her dream.

“You know, my dad brags about me all the time,” Conner said. “My dad wanted to be a comic book artist when he was younger too and his parents weren’t very supportive. They were more so encouraging him to not pursue it. So, he is so genuinely happy for me. And then when I did my first job for MAD Magazine, which was his favorite thing, he bragged even more.”

Conner has done work for Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Archie Comics, Last Gasp, Image Comics and more. Some of her works include “Vampirella,” “The Pro,” “Power Girl” and “Painkiller Jane.” She attended the Kubert School to further her education.

“My first actual printed piece of work was the cover for my 6th-grade play, which was ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ and I got to do the cover, a skull with a pirate hat and a sword between his teeth,” Conner said. “But when I was 23, my first professional comic book hob was ‘Solo Avengers #12’ and it was about the female Yellowjacket and I got to draw her. The Wasp too. But I was very new to it and I wasn’t as polished but I got really lucky because my editor asked Stan Drake to ink for me, which made me look so much better than I really was.”

She said her career has “treated her so well.” She met her husband Jimmy Palmiotti as they worked together. As her career developed, she found not only romantic love, but also love from her supporters.

“That’s one of the reasons why I love comics — there’s so many reasons to love it. And comic book fans are so cool,” Conner said. “They’re the kids who grew up getting picked on in high school and junior high but they were reading these stories about good vs. evil and they were the kindest with a good sense of morality and emotional intelligence. The only reason we got to do this is because of the support.”

Conner has done cover art for multiple comics but Harley Quinn is a character she is able to draw time and time again. The character has undergone an evolution from her first appearance in the DC Comics universe to the latest big-screen iterations of “Suicide Squad” and “Birds of Prey.” The sexualization of women in comic books continues to be a topic of conversation.

“I think Power Girl is a great example as well as Harley Quinn. Power Girl has always been a super-sexy character with her figure and her boobs but you know, yes, she is all that but she also had a personality and loves and fears,” Conner said. “Harley looks completely different than Power Girl. She’s got a different body shape and a different personality. But what makes sexy male and female characters appealing is feeling like you can know them.”

Conner is looking forward to furthering “The Pro” storyline. She had worked on it with Palmiotti and Garth Ennis in the early 2000s. The comic follow the story of a sex worker who is also a superhero.

“It was one of the most fun books I’d ever worked on,” Conner said. “So we’re getting ready to continue it 21 years later. And I can’t say too much but the main character is like a fish out of water. There are these astronauts doing whatever astronauts do and they find her, floating in space – and she’s still alive. And the story will continue on from there. I’ve been pestering Garth for 20 years and I think I finally wore him down.”

Conner will be at Tucson Comic-Con for the weekend.