Beginning life as the Joker’s marginally less psychopathic girlfriend/side-kick, Harley Quinn might even been verging on a similar level of popularity to the Clown Prince Of Crime: her solo comic book series is a huge seller for DC, she garnered fans thanks to her appearances in the Arkham series of Batman video games, and she’s got a starring role in the upcoming “Suicide Squad” film, played by Margot Robbie.
Harley Quinn is a simple, somewhat troubled psychiatrist Dr Harleen Quinzel. It remains to be seen if “Suicide Squad” follows the same pattern, but almost every version of Harley’s origin up until now has her assigned to be the Joker’s therapist, only to fall in love with him and his madness.
The character has great appeal because dudes like her costume to gawp at, girls like her costume to cosplay in, readers love her as the lighter side of the Joker who’s usually okay to laugh along with, and who you can actually sympathise with. And if the leaked “Suicide Squad” premise is true, the Joker (played by Jared Leto) is more of a secondary character while Harley takes centre stage.
In case you missed it, here are the “Suicide Squad” supervillains in their costumes, in their first look picture. Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn is in the middle, by the way:
It’s safe to say that all lights are on the former Dr Quinzel right now, but what is there about the character that “Suicide Squad” won’t tell you? What’s the mysterious past that doesn’t get explored in her wacky comic?
Here are 7 things you didn’t know about Harley Quinn:
1. She first appeared in the animated series
Harley Quinn (real name Harleen Quinzel) became such an integral part of the Batman comics – as a member of the Suicide Squad, appearing in her own hit monthly series and, as a result, being a key part of the Arkham video games as well – that it’s hard to imagine a time when she wasn’t part of his rogues gallery. Even more surprising is that she only debuted in comic book form in 1993. Created by DC Animated heralds Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, her first ever appearance in any medium was in a “Joker’s Favor” episode of “Batman: The Animated Series”. It was originally supposed to be the animated equivalent of a walk-on role; a number of police officers were to be taken hostage by someone jumping out of a cake and it was decided that to have the Joker do so himself would be too bizarre (although he ended up doing so anyway). Dini thus created a female sidekick for the Joker.
2. She went on to have her own spin-off cartoon
After her part in “Batman: The Animated Series”, Harley got significantly more fleshed out when Warner Bros deigned her worthy of a spin-off show with a couple of other female villains – “Gotham Girls”. It was a series of animated shorts teaming Harley with Poisin Ivy and Catwoman that you could watch on the Warner Bros site back then. The show also featured Batgirl, Renee Montoya, and Zatanna, with most of the voice cast from the Batman cartoon reprising their roles. Whilst a load of other women in Batman’s life appeared throughout the 3 seasons of 10 short episodes, Harley was the real star. Later episodes tied into the direct-to-video movie “Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero”, working as a 30-minute whodunit, with Dr Quinn at the centre of it all. You can still watch the whole series online, if you’d like.
3. Her first comic book appearances were Elseworlds stories
Harley Quinn’s first major appearance outside the Batman animated world was in the Elseworlds miniseries Thrillkiller. Just in case you didn’t know, the Thrillkiller books are said to be some of the best comics DC have ever published and their Elseworlds line of titles allow creators to craft stories that are set outside the usual DC continuity, which has lead to all sorts of weird and wacky ideas like an all-vampire Justice League and a Victorian-era Batman who hunts Jack The Ripper in “Gotham By Gaslight”. This version of Harley is a schoolgirl named Hayley Fitzpatrick who dresses up in order to help a female version of the Joker called Bianca Steeplechase. The relationship between this lesbian or bisexual Joker and Harley Quinn is short-lived but noticeably more egalitarian than its heterosexual counterpart in mainstream DC continuity. After Batgirl kills Bianca, Harley is shown killing her own family, intent on revenge in the final frames of the story.
4. It was Batman who helped her get parole
Of course, in the main DC Universe, Harley went on to be much the same as she was in the animated series, only more so. She was not only madly in love (madly being the operative word) with the Joker, she was also as violent and psychopathic as he was. The Clown Prince Of Crime always manages to get away from Arkham sooner or later but Harley, herself formerly a psychiatrist at the sanatorium for the criminally insane, tends to be less lucky. She has spent long stretches under lock and key for her Mr J. In fact, she languished in jail for a long while, her parole requests rejected by Arkham board member Bruce Wayne. A new female Ventriloquist turns up and tries to recruit Harley from her jail cell, which she turns down; Harley then tips Batman and Commissioner Gordon off to her schemes, which is apparently enough for Bruce to see she’s reformed, granting her parole after all.
5. She fell in love with the Joker after ONE interview
She actually met the Joker while she was an intern at Arkham Asylum as she organised regular therapy sessions with him. During which, the Joker manipulated the inexperienced Harleen by telling her tales of a cruel father and an abusive childhood, mixed in with his early attempts at comedy. He made her laugh as much as he made her cry, and she fell hopelessly in love with him largely based on sympathy. She then helped facilitate the first of many escapes. Later on Joker is brought back to Arkham beaten and dying, and Harley Quinn is born as she felt she could help the Joker with his many crime sprees. It is a known fact that Joker and Harley’s relationship is rocky at best as she is constantly leaving and returning to him.
6. After she died, she tried to get psychiatric help
Death doesn’t mean anything in comic books. Batman himself has “died” and come back numerous times. In light of all that, perhaps it’s not surprising that Harley Quinn has suffered the same fate. Her story got fleshed out a lot in her first solo series, which involved her chilling with Poison Ivy in Metropolis before carking it soon after. As is the manner of superhero comics, she soon got resurrected by amorphous mysterious forces and went back to Gotham City, where she finally turned herself in. Unlike the Joker, who is widely believed to be beyond help, Harley started off as his psychiatrist so there was still some rationality in Dr Quinzel’s brain. And for a time she did seriously seek to reform herself, voluntarily being committed to Arkham Asylum for further treatment. Then Mr J shows up again and ruins the whole thing.
7. The Harley Quinn suicide contest controversy
In September 2013, DC Comics announced a contest for fans and artists, “Break into comics with Harley Quinn!“, in which contestants were to draw Harley in 4 different suicide scenarios. It drew controversy because it was announced close to National Suicide Prevention Week and because some artists didn’t like the sexualised portrayal of Harley in the 4th scenario, in which Harley attempts suicide while naked in her bath tub. Further exacerbating the already questionable integrity of the contest was the unveiling of the winning submission, drawn by artist Jeremy Roberts. His winning drew the ire of the other submitting artists and comic fans because the entire contest was promoted by DC’s claim, “Beginning this November, Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner will be writing the madcap adventures of Harley Quinn and they’ll need all the help they can get to handle her, so they’re opening the invitation to one undiscovered talent to join them.” and “We are looking for new, talented artists who believe they can bring something special to one of our favorite characters…” The reason for the outrage was that Jeremy Roberts is a professional comic book artist, with over 70 comics credits to his name at publishers Marvel, Dark Horse, Devil’s Due, and DC themselves at the time of his winning the contest.
Filmmaker and comic book fan Kevin Smith (“Mallrats”, “Chasing Amy”, “Dogma”) named his daughter after Harley Quinn; she made a cameo appearance in “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” as an infant Silent Bob in the opening scene, and was recently featured in his reality television show, “Comic Book Men”. She will appear alongside Johnny Depp’s daughter Lily-Rose Depp in the 2015 comedy horror film, “Yoga Hosers”.
We know, right? How cute are they? 😀
Don’t forget! “Suicide Squad” is currently in production and is slated for release on 5th August 2016.