Lady of Lunacy: Twelve Moments that Defined Harley Quinn

How does a psychiatrist turned henchgirl develop into one of the most well-liked characters within the DC Universe? This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of Harley Quinn’s debut, and it’s superb to consider the legacy she’s had. She’s stepped out of the Joker and Batman’s shadows to star in her personal comics, TV reveals and films. How did we get right here? To rejoice three a long time or Harley’s marvelous mayhem, let’s check out twelve of the moments that made her the celebrity she is right this moment.

Her First Appearance

On the eleventh of September within the 12 months 1992, followers all over the world tuned in to look at Batman: The Animated Series, unaware of the historical past that was being made earlier than them. The episode was referred to as “Joker’s Favor” and it centered across the Clown Prince manipulating a mean man named Charlie. When breaking the story, author Paul Dini thought it could be enjoyable to place a lady within the Joker’s gang, just like the moll characters from the Adam West Batman collection.

Dini acquired the thought to solid his pal Arleen Sorkin after seeing her in a jester outfit on the cleaning soap opera Days of our Lives. It was an ideal selection. Sorkin’s vocals gave Harley the comedically anarchic persona that helped flip the character right into a celebrity.

It’s exceptional how a lot the character has developed since this debut look. In “Joker’s Favor,” Harley Quinn and the Joker present no signal of being a pair. Harley references magnificence faculty reasonably than medical faculty. There’s additionally a second the place she quotes The Arsenio Hall Show (ask your mother and father about it).

This was initially meant to be Harley’s solely look, however there was one thing magical about Sorkin’s efficiency. Nobody might overlook the way in which she stated “Mistah Jay” or landed a superbly timed punchline. Harley Quinn had arrived and the DC Universe would by no means be the identical. 

Harley Meets Ivy

A couple of months later, on January 18th, 1993, viewers witnessed the start of an attractive relationship. Batman: The Animated Series paired Harley Quinn with Poison Ivy in an episode appropriately titled “Harley and Ivy.” The relaxation is historical past.

After being kicked out by the Joker, Harley has an opportunity assembly with Poison Ivy and the 2 femme fatales start a Thelma and Louise-style crime spree. The chemistry between the 2 characters was sturdy from the beginning, with Harley because the comedic foil to Ivy’s straight lady. In truth, the dynamic was so enjoyable that writers continued to pair the 2 up in future episodes, tie-in comics and extra.

Harley’s friendship with Ivy basically modified her character, serving to her evolve as a person, and have become one of DC’s loveliest feminine duos.

Harley Gets an Origin

On December thirteenth, 1993, DC printed The Batman Adventures: Mad Love, a status one-shot that revealed Harley’s origin for the primary time. Flashbacks confirmed how the Joker’s now-infamous companion was as soon as a psychiatrist named Dr. Harleen Quinzel. After touchdown a residency at Arkham Asylum, Dr. Quinzel started periods with the Joker and the Clown Prince used the chance to emotionally manipulate her. A romance bloomed, with Harleen leaving her outdated life behind to develop into Harley Quinn—a charismatic agent of chaos who solely had eyes for “her puddin’.”

The one-shot was written by Dini and Bruce Timm, two of the long-lasting creators behind some of the best Batman: The Animated Series episodes. Freed of the constraints of community tv, the comedian allowed for a deep exploration of what drives Harley in addition to the darkish aspect of her relationship with the Joker, and readers responded strongly. The e book received an Eisner Award for Best Single Issue and was later tailored right into a 1999 episode of The New Batman Adventures. If you need to perceive Harley Quinn as a personality, Mad Love is crucial studying.

Harley’s First Action Figure

In 1997, Kenner launched a Harley Quinn motion determine as half of their The Adventures of Batman and Robin toyline. Why is that this a giant deal? Because in 2022, Harley merchandise is in all places, with a whole bunch of motion figures, statues, dolls, t-shirts, backpacks and just about each different product you’ll be able to think about out there in some type or different. If you’ve ever been to a comic book conference (or a Hot Topic), you’ve most likely seen it.

This humble motion determine is the place all of it started, making this five-inch magnificence traditionally vital. Harley’s first determine got here with a boxing glove rocket launcher and a flag gun. If you have been among the many younger followers who snagged it when it was first launched, take excellent care of it, since you personal a chunk of Harley Quinn historical past.

Harley Heads to Mainstream Continuity

By 1999, it was clear that Harley added one thing really distinctive to Gotham City. The solely drawback was that one thing was lacking from mainstream continuity. That modified when the nonetheless highly-read Batman: Harley Quinn #1 was printed as half of the Bat-Family’s yearlong “No Man’s Land” storyline, establishing Harleen’s place within the DCU. Dini, Harley’s co-creator, as soon as once more wrote the script, giving her an origin that was fairly just like the one she had within the animated collection. In the method, the comedian additionally arrange her friendship with Poison Ivy and her poisonous relationship with the Joker. Harley Quinn was lastly canon and Gotham City was a greater place for it. (Well, for anybody who wasn’t one of her victims.)

The Arkham Games

In 2009, Rocksteady Games launched Batman: Arkham Asylum, a groundbreaking action-adventure console sport that adopted a very gritty strategy to the Dark Knight’s world. In a nod to Batman: The Animated Series and its now fully-grown followers, Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprised their roles as Batman and Joker, so it was solely pure that Arleen Sorkin would additionally return to voice Harley Quinn.

The Maid of Mischief was given a completely new search for the online game, dropping her jester outfit in favor of a red-and-blue bodice and thigh-high boots. Batman: Arkham Asylum and eventual franchise it birthed would show to be so fashionable that Harley’s comics and merchandise started to take their cues from this new design, all whereas introducing our favourite Gotham troublemaker to a wider viewers than ever earlier than. Most thrilling of all, Harley’s confirmed to be one of essentially the most enduring parts of the franchise, along with her most up-to-date Arkham Universe journey, Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, due on consoles subsequent 12 months.

Harley Quinn Gets Taken to Task

When the DC Universe was reinvented for the New 52 relaunch, Harley Quinn was given a dramatically totally different new look, a brand new origin and an all-new crew. 2011’s The Suicide Squad #1 positioned Harley on Task Force X and he or she’s been attempting to ditch the lethal crew ever since. Since this preliminary outing, Harley Quinn has develop into an iconic half of the Suicide Squad, showing in a number of runs of the comedian and each Suicide Squad movies (extra on that later).

As a component of the relaunch, Harley’s origin was additionally reworked. Most of the weather from Mad Love have been preserved, however now, in a reference to his origin, the Joker additionally pushed Harleen right into a vat of chemical substances to finish her transformation. Along with altering her mentally, the acid additionally bleached Harleen’s pores and skin, creating her acquainted white pallor, which before now was created by make-up. The New 52 additionally retired Harley’s jester outfit for good, giving her an ensemble just like the one she wore within the Arkham online game collection.

These adjustments proved to be controversial, however the New 52 did introduce one other change that nearly all followers have rallied behind—it completely separated Harley from the Joker. In 2012’s Suicide Squad #15, she even went so far as biting off a chunk of his tongue, proclaiming that she didn’t belong to him. Harley and the Joker had damaged up many instances earlier than, nevertheless it often wasn’t lengthy earlier than Harley got here again, repeating the cycle of toxicity and abuse. Now, her emancipation from the Joker has develop into an accepted—and anticipated—half of her story.

Injustice For All

In 2013, NetherRealm Studios launched the online game Injustice: Gods Among Us. The preventing sport from the minds behind the Mortal Kombat collection would go on to spawn a franchise that included a sequel sport, a well-liked comedian collection and a 2021 animated movie.

Injustice tells the story of a superhero civil battle that ignites between Batman and Superman after the Man of Steel murders the Joker. Yet, between the surprising betrayals and dramatic deaths of beloved characters, it’s simple to miss the actual fact that Injustice places Harley Quinn entrance and middle in a method no different DC occasion ever actually has earlier than. The first sport has her be part of Batman’s military, preventing alongside the Dark Knight and his allies. The sequel follows Harley as Batman’s most trusted companion and ends along with her turning into a component of the Justice League. The tie-in comedian Injustice: Ground Zero is instructed from Harley’s perspective, giving readers a firsthand have a look at how she got here to phrases with the Joker’s loss of life, her PTSD stemming from his previous abuse of her and her gradual journey to heroism. And then there’s the now-iconic trade between Harley and Green Arrow.

The story could also be referred to as Injustice, nevertheless it introduced nothing BUT justice to Harley followers hoping to see her tackle a much less villainous function.

Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner

Also in 2013, the inventive husband and spouse crew of Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner started a four-year run on Harley Quinn that would go on to redefine the character even additional, introducing new parts to Harley’s world that would have life outdoors the comedian web page.

Palmiotti and Conner co-wrote the tales throughout their time on the e book, with Conner additionally illustrating the dynamic covers.

Conner and Palmiotti’s Harley Quinn noticed their protagonist depart Gotham behind for a brand new life on Coney Island, the place she joined a curler derby crew and have become a landlady to a gaggle of eccentric tenants. Harley’s outfit was as soon as once more redesigned, this time to include parts from her unique jester outfit blended with the bustier and hotpants launched within the Arkham video games. The collection was a top-seller for DC, which continued when it was relaunched in 2016 as a component of DC’s Rebirth occasion. In truth, Conner and Palmiotti’s mark on the character was so distinct and defining, that it may be argued that they’re essentially the most consequential creators Harley has had since Paul Dini and Bruce Timm.

Harley and Ivy’s First Kiss

Since the day they met—again in 1993, for these following alongside—Harleen Quinzel and Pamela Isley have been inseparable. By 2016, they’d appeared in numerous comics collectively, headlined their very own restricted collection and had been members of the Gotham City Sirens alongside Catwoman. It had all the time been clear that they have been one of the best of mates, however there remained hypothesis that there could be one thing extra there. 1997’s Batgirl Adventures hinted on the notion, however for years, the thought of Harley and Ivy as a pair was one thing that solely existed in fanfiction or on message boards. Something hinted at, however by no means formally confirmed. That all modified with Bombshells.

Based on a bestselling line of DC collectible statues, DC Comics: Bombshells was an alt-universe collection that reimagined DC’s best feminine characters as WWII-era heroes and villains. In DC Comics: Bombshells #42, Harley and Ivy share a romantic stroll via the streets of Berlin. The moon is shining, the snow is falling and the 2 start flirting. After some playful banter, Ivy invitations Harley in for a kiss and the couple embrace in an attractive splash web page. This wasn’t fanart, this was Harley and Ivy kissing in an official DC publication. This perpetually modified their relationship, with a kiss following in mainstream continuity (2017’s Harley Quinn #25) and their love story turning into a cornerstone of the 2019 animated collection.

Enter Margot Robbie

In some ways, Margot Robbie will be thought of the casting that launched a thousand cosplays. In 2016, Task Force X got here to the large display for the primary time within the David Ayer-directed Suicide Squad…and of course, Harley Quinn was on the roster.

Robbie’s portrayal as Harley was a gamechanger for the character. From head to toe, the gifted actress embodied Harley in each single body in her massive display debut, and the followers took discover. Step into any comedian conference and also you’re more likely to see a number of Robbie-inspired Harleys…possibly even a military of them.

Robbie’s tackle Harley was so fashionable that she was later given her personal film in 2020, Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), and as soon as once more joined the ranks of Task Force X for James Gunn’s 2021 movie, The Suicide Squad, giving viewers extra laughs, motion and gratuitous violence.

Her Own &%#@ing TV Show

In 2019, Harley Quinn got here full circle by returning to animation, however this time, she was the star.

Harley Quinn (which simply completed its third season on HBO Max) stars Kaley Cuoco as a Maid of Mischief who’s on a hilarious, usually explosive journey of self-discovery. The present’s grownup humor takes no prisoners, nevertheless it’s greater than a comedy. Harley’s journey is an emotional one as she leaves the Joker and involves phrases with the abuse she suffered at his palms and ultimately falls for her finest pal Poison Ivy. There’s additionally a septuagenarian cyborg (who first appeared within the Conner/Palmiotti comedian) with a sea monster for a sister, a Joker redemption subplot, a still-can’t-believe-we-saw-that Court of Owls orgy and a few billion jokes made at poor Bane’s expense. In quick, it’s every part we love about Harley—pure, joyful, unadulterated chaos. And it’s not stopping any time quickly. The collection is getting a fourth season AND an animated spinoff centering round Kite Man, one of the present’s standout characters.

Not dangerous for a personality who was initially solely supposed to seem in a single episode!

Lots of folks hope to develop into profitable earlier than they flip thirty, and Harley Quinn can relaxation simple understanding she’s completed that. In the three a long time since her debut, Harley’s grown as a personality, stepping out from the shadow of the Joker and blazing a remarkably unbiased path that continues to shock us. Plus, and that is exceptional for a thirty-year-old character, it actually does seem to be her journey’s simply starting. Will she develop into one of Gotham’s best heroes? Will she revert again to her personal model of villainy? Will her relationship with Poison Ivy develop into one of DC’s most enduring pairings? Will we get extra motion pictures? More video video games? A live-action TV present, maybe? (She’s already getting her personal audio collection.)

We can’t say what might lie forward, but when there’s one factor we’ve realized from Harley, it’s that she by no means fails to shock us in essentially the most great methods.

Harley Quinn thirtieth Anniversary Special by Paul Dini, Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Chad Hardin, Stjepan Sejic, Stephanie Phillips, Riley Rossmo and extra is now out there in print and as a digital comedian e book.

Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, motion pictures and comics for, is an everyday contributor to the Couch Club and writes our month-to-month Batman column, “Gotham Gazette.” Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed on this column are solely these of Joshua Lapin-Bertone and don’t essentially replicate these of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.


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