When it comes to bridging the gap between crazy and lovable, nobody does it better than Harley Quinn. This popular character was first introduced to audiences 25 years ago, and has since topped the charts as one of “the bestselling female characters in comics.” In honor of the Clown Princess’ 25th anniversary, why not reminisce over her colorful history?
The brainchild of Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, Harley Quinn made her debut appearance on Fox’s Batman: The Animated Series in September 1992. The Joker’s sidekick and love interest was initially voiced by Arleen Sorkin, a former soap opera star whose role on Days of Our Lives actually inspired Harley’s original costume. This jester-style costume included a black domino mask, white facial makeup, and a one-piece, black and red motley outfit with a cap. Nearly every adaptation of Harley has also featured her weapon of choice, an oversized wooden mallet. Harley proved so popular that she was immediately added to the Batman comic book canon in 1993. The following year, The Batman Adventures: Mad Love dived deeper into the bubbly villain’s origin story. This graphic novel, written and drawn by Dini and Timm, was told in the style and continuity of Batman: The Animated Series.
This one-shot story revealed that Harley Quinn, whose real name is Dr. Harleen Frances Quinzel, was working as a psychologist at Arkham Asylum when she met the Joker. While attempting to treat the Joker, Harleen ended up falling in love with him and even helped him escape. After donning her jester costume, Harleen officially marked her transition into Harley Quinn – the Joker’s main accomplice and on-again, off-again girlfriend. Throughout their relationship, the Joker continually insults, ignores, hurts, and even tries to kill Harley. However, Harley always comes back, convinced that they are soulmates. Over the years, many critics have labeled the Joker and Harley as having an abusive relationship.
Unlike the humorously quirky Harley seen in the animated series, the comic book version of the character has a noticeably more violent demeanor. Although from time to time, Harley has been known to show mercy and compassion. In addition to her own ongoing series, Harley has made appearances in Hush, Villains United Infinite Crisis, One Year Later, Batman, Detective Comics, Birds of Prey, and Countdown. The series, Gotham City Sirens, sees Harley team up with Catwoman and Poison Ivy – the latter was even revealed to be her love interest by current Harley Quinn series writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner. During DC Comics New 52 event, Harley received a revamped look consisting of a black and red outfit with a sleeveless top, elbow pads, tight shorts, knee pads, and boots. Her hair was also altered to half-red and half-black.
Harley’s most recent look debuted in 2016 for DC Rebirth, appearing in both the third volume of her eponymous series, as well as the fifth volume of Suicide Squad. In this series, Harley joins select villains in a secret government agency to execute dangerous black ops missions. Now her hair is blonde with pink and blue dip dye, and she sports blue and red shorts, a ripped tee shirt, satin jacket, fingerless gloves, fishnet stockings, studded belt, and lace-up boots. A version of this Harley, portrayed by Margot Robbie, was represented in the Oscar-winning Suicide Squad film. Robbie’s portrayal of the clown princess was so well received that Warner Bros. is already planning a Harley-focused film as well as a Gotham City Sirens adaptation with Robbie.
Harley is considered one of DC Comics most popular characters, a fair statement given you can’t walk into a convention without seeing at least a dozen Harley cosplayers. Across comics, animation, collectibles, video games, webseries, and live action films, Harley continues to be one of comics most enduring characters. In honor of Harley Quinn, DC has even declared September 23, 2017 to be “Harley Quinn’s Batman Day Takeover.” While this annual event is typically dedicated to the caped crusader, this year Harley is shaking things up. Read more about this upcoming event, and how you can celebrate 25 years with the Queen of Arkham, in Scoop.