One of the most sought after of all the DC comic book characters is one who was actually created in 1992 by artists Paul Dini and Bruce Timm for the Batman: Animated Series cartoon, and whose popularity led to her later becoming a part of the comics. I am speaking of course about none other than Joker’s girlfriend, side-kick and soulmate: Harley Quinn.
In the cartoon, Harley was originally Joker’s psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum, Dr. Harleen Quinzel. She falls in love with Joker and one night loses her mind, deciding to transform herself and break him out of the asylum. Here is a short clip of that defining moment.
The comics have altered her backstory a bit showing her as a genius college student on a gymnastics scholarship who graduates with a degree in psychiatry and begins interviewing Joker for a book she’s writing on serial killers. Of course, delving into the mind of a serial killer is dangerous territory as Quinn is slowly manipulated and brainwashed into thinking she’s in love with Joker. Their relationship has been far from ideal as Joker always has the upper-hand and not really being the romantic type, has even been quite abusive.
One friendship for Harley that’s been widely enjoyed by fans has been her relationship with Poison Ivy, who actually saved Harley’s life once when Joker left her for dead. They were never shown as openly having a sexual relationship but it was hinted at over the years, with Ivy probably having either stronger feelings or being more aware of them as Harley’s always had her head too far up Joker’s butt to notice.
Although DC hasn’t yet dedicated an entire series to her character, she has appeared across multiple media formats, including a a live-action but ill-fated TV show called Birds of Prey, appearances in the Batman, Detective comics and the Arkham City game, and more recently the New 52’s Suicide Squad.
Mia Sara as Harleen in Birds of Prey (2002)
Sadly, the Dark Knight films missed their chance to have a Harley Quinn character when Heath Ledger did his amazing turn as Joker. She almost made it into the Batman & Robin film in 1997 as one of the villains, with Madonna being rumored to play her. Thank God that never happened.
Timm and Dini recounted Quinn’s origin in a 1994 graphic novel titled Mad Love. It received awards and was highly praised by critics. You can find it on ebay going anywhere from $20 bucks to $150 for a rated copy.
Over the years, Harley Quinn’s image has seen many transformations. For years she appeared in the harlequin style costume but has gradually become more sexualized and sinister-looking, undergoing probably her most extreme style changes through the Arkham City video game. Here is a brief look at the evolution of this most beloved character.
Gotham City Sirens
The New 52 Suicide Squad #1
From the Batman: Arkham Asylum video game
From the Batman: Arkham City video game
The Arkham City Game of the Year Edition
DC’s new Mortal Kombat-style fighting game to be released in 2013 called Injustice: Gods Among Us.