How does a psychiatrist turned henchgirl grow to be one of the crucial well-liked characters within the DC Universe? This month marks the 30th 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 flicks. How did we get right here? To have fun three many years or Harley’s marvelous mayhem, let’s check out twelve of the moments that made her the celebrity she is at this time.
Her First Look
On the 11th of September within the yr 1992, followers around the globe tuned in to observe Batman: The Animated Collection, unaware of the historical past that was being made earlier than them. The episode was known 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 might be enjoyable to place a girl within the Joker’s gang, much like the moll characters from the Adam West Batman sequence.
Dini obtained the concept to forged his good friend 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 college somewhat than medical college. There’s additionally a second the place she quotes The Arsenio Corridor Present (ask your dad and mom about it).
This was initially meant to be Harley’s solely look, however there was one thing magical about Sorkin’s efficiency. No person may neglect the best way 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 a ravishing relationship. Batman: The Animated Collection paired Harley Quinn with Poison Ivy in an episode appropriately titled “Harley and Ivy.” The remainder 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 robust from the beginning, with Harley because the comedic foil to Ivy’s straight girl. In actual fact, 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 essentially modified her character, serving to her evolve as a person, and have become one in all DC’s most adorable feminine duos.
Harley Will get an Origin
On December 13th, 1993, DC revealed The Batman Adventures: Mad Love, a status one-shot that exposed 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 classes 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 grow to be 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 enduring creators behind a few of the biggest Batman: The Animated Collection 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 gained an Eisner Award for Greatest Single Challenge and was later tailored right into a 1999 episode of The New Batman Adventures. If you wish to perceive Harley Quinn as a personality, Mad Love is important studying.
Harley’s First Motion Determine
In 1997, Kenner launched a Harley Quinn motion determine as a part of their The Adventures of Batman and Robin toyline. Why is that this an enormous deal? As a result of in 2022, Harley merchandise is in every single place, 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 accessible in some kind or different. In the event you’ve ever been to a comic book conference (or a Scorching Matter), 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. In the event 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 Metropolis. The one downside was that one thing was lacking from mainstream continuity. That modified when the nonetheless highly-read Batman: Harley Quinn #1 was revealed as a part of the Bat-Household’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 much like the one she had within the animated sequence. Within the course of, the comedian additionally arrange her friendship with Poison Ivy and her poisonous relationship with the Joker. Harley Quinn was lastly canon and Gotham Metropolis was a greater place for it. (Nicely, for anybody who wasn’t one in all her victims.)
The Arkham Video games
In 2009, Rocksteady Video games launched Batman: Arkham Asylum, a groundbreaking action-adventure console sport that adopted a very gritty strategy to the Darkish Knight’s world. In a nod to Batman: The Animated Collection 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 wholly 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 well-liked 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 fun of all, Harley’s confirmed to be one of the crucial enduring components of the franchise, along with her most up-to-date Arkham Universe journey, Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, due on consoles subsequent yr.
Harley Quinn Will get Taken to Process
When the DC Universe was reinvented for the New 52 relaunch, Harley Quinn was given a dramatically completely different new look, a brand new origin and an all-new staff. 2011’s The Suicide Squad #1 positioned Harley on Process Power X and she or he’s been making an attempt to ditch the lethal staff ever since. Since this preliminary outing, Harley Quinn has grow to be an iconic a part of the Suicide Squad, showing in a number of runs of the comedian and each Suicide Squad movies (extra on that later).
As part of the relaunch, Harley’s origin was additionally reworked. Many of the components 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 compounds to finish her transformation. Together 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 much like the one she wore within the Arkham online game sequence.
These adjustments proved to be controversial, however the New 52 did introduce one other change that virtually 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, however 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 grow to be an accepted—and anticipated—a part of her story.
Injustice For All
In 2013, NetherRealm Studios launched the online game Injustice: Gods Amongst Us. The preventing sport from the minds behind the Mortal Kombat sequence would go on to spawn a franchise that included a sequel sport, a preferred comedian sequence and a 2021 animated movie.
Injustice tells the story of a superhero civil conflict that ignites between Batman and Superman after the Man of Metal murders the Joker. But, between the stunning betrayals and dramatic deaths of beloved characters, it’s straightforward to miss the truth that Injustice places Harley Quinn entrance and middle in a approach no different DC occasion ever actually has earlier than. The primary sport has her be a part of Batman’s military, preventing alongside the Darkish Knight and his allies. The sequel follows Harley as Batman’s most trusted companion and ends along with her turning into part of the Justice League. The tie-in comedian Injustice: Floor Zero is informed from Harley’s perspective, giving readers a firsthand take 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. After which there’s the now-iconic change between Harley and Inexperienced Arrow.
The story could also be known as Injustice, however it introduced nothing BUT justice to Harley followers hoping to see her tackle a much less villainous function.
Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner
Additionally in 2013, the artistic husband and spouse staff of Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner started a four-year run on Harley Quinn that might go on to redefine the character even additional, introducing new components to Harley’s world that might have life exterior 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 go away Gotham behind for a brand new life on Coney Island, the place she joined a curler derby staff 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 components from her authentic jester outfit blended with the bustier and hotpants launched within the Arkham video games. The sequence was a top-seller for DC, which continued when it was relaunched in 2016 as part of DC’s Rebirth occasion. In actual fact, Conner and Palmiotti’s mark on the character was so distinct and defining, that it may be argued that they’re probably the most consequential creators Harley has had since Paul Dini and Bruce Timm.
Harley and Ivy’s First Kiss
For the reason that 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 sequence and had been members of the Gotham Metropolis Sirens alongside Catwoman. It had all the time been clear that they have been the very best of buddies, however there remained hypothesis that there is perhaps one thing extra there. 1997’s Batgirl Adventures hinted on the notion, however for years, the concept of Harley and Ivy as a pair was one thing that solely existed in fanfiction or on message boards. One thing hinted at, however by no means formally confirmed. That each one modified with Bombshells.
Based mostly on a bestselling line of DC collectible statues, DC Comics: Bombshells was an alt-universe sequence that reimagined DC’s biggest feminine characters as WWII-era heroes and villains. In DC Comics: Bombshells #42, Harley and Ivy share a romantic stroll by 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 a ravishing splash web page. This wasn’t fanart, this was Harley and Ivy kissing in an official DC publication. This eternally 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 sequence.
Enter Margot Robbie
In some ways, Margot Robbie will be thought-about the casting that launched a thousand cosplays. In 2016, Process Power X got here to the massive display for the primary time within the David Ayer-directed Suicide Squad…and naturally, 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 huge 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…perhaps even a military of them.
Robbie’s tackle Harley was so well-liked 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 Process Power X for James Gunn’s 2021 movie, The Suicide Squad, giving viewers extra laughs, motion and gratuitous violence.
Her Personal &%#@ing TV Present
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, however 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 fingers and ultimately falls for her finest good friend 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 Courtroom of Owls orgy and a few billion jokes made at poor Bane’s expense. In brief, it’s all the things we love about Harley—pure, joyful, unadulterated chaos. And it’s not stopping any time quickly. The sequence is getting a fourth season AND an animated spinoff centering round Kite Man, one of many present’s standout characters.
Not dangerous for a personality who was initially solely supposed to seem in a single episode!
Numerous individuals hope to grow to be profitable earlier than they flip thirty, and Harley Quinn can relaxation straightforward realizing she’s achieved that. Within the three many years since her debut, Harley’s grown as a personality, stepping out from the shadow of the Joker and blazing a remarkably impartial path that continues to shock us. Plus, and that is exceptional for a thirty-year-old character, it actually does look like her journey’s simply starting. Will she grow to be one in all Gotham’s biggest heroes? Will she revert again to her personal model of villainy? Will her relationship with Poison Ivy grow to be one in all DC’s most enduring pairings? Will we get extra motion pictures? Extra video video games? A live-action TV present, maybe? (She’s already getting her personal audio sequence.)
We are able to’t say what might lie forward, but when there’s one factor we’ve discovered from Harley, it’s that she by no means fails to shock us in probably the most great methods.
Harley Quinn thirtieth Anniversary Particular by Paul Dini, Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Chad Hardin, Stjepan Sejic, Stephanie Phillips, Riley Rossmo and extra is now accessible in print and as a digital comedian e-book.
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, motion pictures and comics for DCComics.com, is a daily contributor to the Sofa Membership and writes our month-to-month Batman column, “Gotham Gazette.” Observe 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 mirror these of DC Leisure or Warner Bros.