This week in comics, now 22 years ago, saw the debut of the one and only Harley Quinn. The Joker’s favourite gal, but so much more than simply just another underling, her appeal and zany nature made her a fan favourite from the very beginning.
Created by the now-legendary pairing of Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, Harley made her first appearance anywhere in the iconic1990s Batman Animated Series episode “The Joker’s Favor,” as the cooky female hench-girl of the Clown Prince of Crime. In the show’s original run, Arleen
Sorkin voiced Quinn, who Dini has often stated as an influence on the character’s origin.
Her popularity in the TV series led to further appearances, and the jump to appearing in the comics was inevitable. This push came on 3rd August 1993, with the release of Batman Adventures issue 3, by Mike Parobeck and Kelley Puckett. The story within sees Batgirl take on the new adversary, starting a rivalry that runs to this day.
Quinn’s transition from screen to page was a simple one, with the character’s number one rule being laid down from the very beginning; he total fascination with The Joker. Never straying far from “Mistah J,” though the pair sometimes exhibit a real love/hate kinda relationship. In fact it’s upon meeting The Joker for the first time, while working as a psychiatrist in Arkham Asylum, that then Dr Harleen Quinzel becomes obsessed with him, falling in love along the way. It’s this mad love that causes her to don the red and black jester catsuit we all know and love, helping him escape, and bonding a connection that is sometimes bent, but never broken. To say the relationship is complex is putting it lightly, but after every twist and turn and heartbreak, it’s still one of the most interesting villain dynamic comics can offer.
As with so many of DC’s origins, things were shaken up for Harley with her most recent incarnation, as part of The New 52. As a top-class psychology student, Harley had the pick of whatever career move she wanted; not one to play it safe, she goes for a position at Arkham Asylum, where her drive to be the best soon lands her in hot water. In order to better understand her patients, she disguises herself as an inmate, and an interaction with The Joker leads her to abandon reason, with a chemical bath similar to Mr J’s origins giving her a distinctive new look. A falling out though splits the pair, and she has been left to blaze her own path since.
In the past, she isn’t just a one trick pony when it comes to pairings. Harley has also had her connections with Poison Ivy. Going back to a pair-up episode of Batman The Animated Series (simply titled “Harley and Ivy”) the two have been regular acquaintances since, usually seen together when Dini is behind the helm. The couple are usually out causing chaos and mischief, but have been known – with the help of Catwoman – to occasionally help out the work of heroes, under the team name of Gotham City Sirens.
So what’s next for Quinzel? Well, as a central character in the pages of Suicide Squad she continues to grow outside of her previous supporting role. And she’s about to make her first big screen appearance in next year’s live action Suicide Squad film. A team of anti-heroes sent out to do the dirty deeds no one else will, the recent trailer from this year’s Comic Con suggests that the movie belongs – quite rightly – to Harley, being played by the stunning Margot Robbie. At the point where the trailer picks up, it seems Quinn has already gone full Joker fan girl, with her attire resembling – almost in worship – to that of Jared Leto’s Joker. We’re going to have to wait till next August to see just how this pans out for her, but it’s nice to know the character has room to breathe in the ensemble environment, instead of being lost in the shuffle of a Batman solo film.
So that’s just a little bit on Arkham’s favourite first lady of the funhouse. From all of us here at Follow The Nerd, happy birthday Harley Quinn!