Ahead of Suicide Squad, I was a guest writer on Geeks are Sexy to discuss my love for Harley Quinn. See the original article here.
With each Suicide Squad trailer release it becomes increasingly obvious that we’re all in this for one reason – Harley Quinn. She’s sassy, sexy, hilarious and has a serious dark side. Harley has been adored by DC fans for decades, and it seems she’s finally finding her place in the broader spotlight of mainstream pop culture. From humble henchwoman beginnings, harley has risen through the ranks to become one of the DC universe’s most popular female characters. Out of a deep love of her character, and multiple requests from friends to just put on paper so I can stop bringing it up all the time, I’ve put together a few things I think you need to know about Harley Quinn before Suicide Squad’s release.
Harley Is Not a Comic Book Character
Well, not originally. Harley Quinn originated in the classic TV show Batman: The Animated Series when creator Paul Dini decided that Joker needed a female henchman. Harley’s first appearance was in the episode “Joker’s Favor” in September of 1992.
Originally intended to be nothing beyond a walk-on, Harley (in her typical stubborn fashion) defied expectations. Resonating with viewers and writers alike, Harley earned her own origin story in the now classic Mad Love comic (which was later adapted into an episode of the New Batman Adventures in 1999) and has since become a fan favorite, going on to appear as a side character in a multitude of animated series, features and comics, (e.g. Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Batman: Assault on Arkham, Injustice: Gods Among Us) and been given her own solo runs with heavyweight contributors the likes of Terry Dodson, Karl Kesel and Amanda Conner. Harley just won’t quit.
She’s Based On a Days of Our Lives Actress
Harley’s creator Paul Dini was lifelong friends with ex-Days of Our Lives actress Arleen Sorkin, and based Harley’s personality on her. Harley’s iconic jester costume was even inspired by a strange, glittery clown costume worn by Sorkin in a dream sequence in Days of Our Lives. Sorkin would go on to voice Harley in her first appearances, defining the classic “Miss-tah-jay” exaggerated New York accent that would become an integral part of Harley’s character.
Margot Robbie is Not the First Live-Action Harley
Though she could possibly be the best – the competition isn’t fierce. Harley Quinn was the antagonist in the 2002 live action TV adaptation of Birds of Prey. While she stuck to her signature color scheme, this Harley was a much more reserved and methodical interpretation of our crazed maniac and retained few of her beloved characteristics. It should be noted that Birds of Prey wasn’t all bad, as it did feature a dramatic girl gang fight scene to t.A.T.u’s “All the Things She Said” – which is, scientifically speaking, the most 2002 thing that has ever happened.
Harley was also thrown an all too brief nod in one the Suicide Squad episodes of CW’s Arrow. Blink and you’ll miss it, but her signature voice can be heard offering her psychological expertise through a cell door in A.R.G.U.S. It’s a shame we didn’t get to see Harley in action in CW’s DC universe, and by that I mean it’s a shame we didn’t get to see Harley and Felicity Smoak have the most adorable quirk-off on television history.
She’s the Source of Great Controversy
It wouldn’t be Harley Quinn without a little drama, and the HQ fandom doesn’t disappoint.
One of the most impactful and controversial changes to Harley Quinn’s character is her origin. The original and most fan-loved origin for Harley paints her as an Arkham Asylum psychiatrist who falls madly in love with the Joker, and then takes on her harlequin persona to mirror the clown prince of crime. In the New 52 reboot, Harley’s appearance is not a choice she makes to transform herself, but the result of being kicked into a vat of acid by the Joker. Many hardcore Harley fans felt that by taking away her decision to become Harley Quinn and giving it to the Joker, Harley’s agency and self-determination were removed, depriving her of her celebrated ambition.
Beyond that, Harley fans feel particularly strongly about her wardrobe. As with most comic heroes and villains, Harley’s look has changed significantly since her first appearances to much contention. Harley’s first controversial change came about with the Batman: Arkham Asylum video games, where Harley donned a much skimpier outfit featuring a leather corset and knee-high boots, and has only escalated since with her increasingly revealing costumes in the New 52 Suicide Squad comics and the Injustice: Gods Among Us fighting game and prequel comics. Margot Robbie’s recent appearances in sequined hot pants and fishnets have only added fuel to the Harley purist fire, with many fans taking the costume choices as cause to be concerned for the portrayal of her character.
It has to be noted in this debate that the quality of writing of Harley’s character does not seem to be intrinsically linked to the amount of flesh shown in her costume. Harley’s gravity-defying barely-there Injustice tunic features in some of her most touching comic panels, including her groundbreaking conversations with Black Canary revealing (spoilers) her experiences with motherhood and the struggles of her life post-Joker.
All this said, as far as aesthetics go, it’s hard to beat Bruce Timm’s classic Harley Quinn bodysuit.
…And Some Seriously Great Lines
Harley’s looks have always been attention-grabbing, but where she really shines is her dialogue. Harley’s sassy, quirky and sometimes outright disturbing comments make her one of DC’s most entertaining female characters. Here are four of her perfectly Harley highlights:
- When she gave Green Arrow brand advice:
Harley Quinn: “Arrow Cave” is a pretty stupid name, though.
Green Arrow: Hey!
Harley Quinn: I know Batman has a Bat Cave but that makes sense, bats live in caves. Arrows don’t live in caves. They’re inanimate objects, they don’t live at all. Why don’t you call it, like, “The Quiver”?
Green Arrow: That… is actually better.
Source: Injustice: Year One #005
- When she made this perfectly logical protest:
Joker: Time to go.
Harley Quinn: We’re just going to leave? But this is the first submarine I’ve ever owned…
Source: Injustice: Gods Among Us #003
- When she designed her own Power Girl-style butt window:
Harley Quinn: *Gesturing to butt window* I’m sure you’ll be mesmerized by my resplendent rear end!
Thug: I, uhh…
Power Girl: Seriously, Harley?
Source: Harley Quinn Vol 2 #013
- When she was endlessly wise:
Harley Quinn: Hi, Kenneth.
Kenneth: Hi, Harley. Why do you have a fake moustache?
Harley Quinn: No one should ever have to justify a fake moustache.
She Dated Bruce Wayne
Okay, so it was just one time, but I can’t recommend the Palmiotti/Conner Harley Quinn Valentine’s Day holiday special enough. Harley hatches an elaborate plan to steal enough money (and beat up enough competitors) to buy a date with Bruce Wayne in a charity auction. In typical Amanda Conner Harley Quinn fashion, it’s heartwarming, bizarre, and hilarious, culminating in Harley doling out the loaded advice that Batman should really take kissing lessons from his millionaire friend Bruce Wayne. Fans of cheesy, Looney Tunes-esque winks to the audience will adore this book.
Harley’s love life beyond Mister J also includes her Suicide Squad co-star Deadshot, so naturally the speculation of a potential Margot Robbie and Will Smith love story is running rampant in the lead up to the film’s release. Smith’s “love triangle” comments only fuel Harley fan’s suspicions.
She’s the Greatest BFF a Girl Could Have
While Harley is often defined by her Stockholm Syndrome-esque relationship with the Joker, her friendships (and more?) with other female characters are something truly special. Harley’s relationship with fellow DC villainess/sexy plant goddess Poison Ivy is perhaps the most notable pairing in the Harley Quinn fandom. In her original timeline, Ivy is the first friend Harley makes after being kicked out by the Joker. Cue the most badass two-woman girl gang adventures ever known to mankind. Writers Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti delighted fans and sent fanfic sites into overdrive when they confirmed during a Twitter Q&A that, “Yes, they are Girlfriends without the jealousy of monogamy” – making Harley and Ivy’s complex, supportive relationship a groundbreaking step for same-sex couples in comics.
Harley has also shared a beautiful friendship with Power Girl, (in a hilariously offbeat buddy-cop comic addressing the important matters of boob-windows and giant talking pizza slices) teamed up with Ivy and Catwoman to be the Gotham City Sirens, and bonded over heartbreak and mocking Oliver Queen with Black Canary in Injustice.
She Ain’t What She Used To Be
Harley started life as a throwaway henchwoman, and has risen to make her mark on comic book history. Once defined simply as the Joker’s girlfriend, Harley has developed her own identity, forged friendships, found love, experienced great loss and survived horrific abuse to determine her own future. Doing it all with wit, grace and a (literally) killer wardrobe, Harley is a true original. Here’s to hoping that Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn shows us some of the heart and complexity that she so deserves.