Harleen Quinzel: Never again. No more obsession, no more craziness, no more Joker. I finally see that slime for what he is: a murderous, manipulative, irredeemable…
(notices a flower and get well card on the nightstand)
Harley Quinn: …Angel! – Batman: The Animated Series
A young woman walks through a mental asylum. It’s early in her psychiatric career and she’s finally getting to meet their most notorious patient. She opens the door and finds him; skin white as a bone, hair an emerald hue, and a brilliant smile seemingly affixed to his face doing nothing to hide his mind-boggling insanity. This is Arkham’s most insidious occupant, Gotham’s Clown Prince of Crime, The Joker. At that moment, Dr. Harleen Quinzel’s destiny was set in stone.
Running The Asylum: Harley’s History
“Dr. Leland: So, tell me, Harley—how did it feel to be so dependent on a man that you’d give up everything for him, gaining nothing in return?”
Harley: “It felt like… It felt like a kiss.* – Batman: Mad Love
Harley Quinn was created in 1992 for an episode of television’s Batman: The Animated Series. The writers wanted a scene where Joker jumped out of a pop-out cake, but the executives decided that was a little too creepy. The writers then pitched a new idea: a female Joker. Harley served as Joker’s sidekick/henchgirl and was popular enough to become a recurring character before she was brought into the comics.
Dr. Harleen Quinzel was a psychiatrist who was assigned to work with Joker and seemed to be making progress. Joker opened up to her and told her about his tragic past. She slowly started sympathizing with him, eventually opening up to him as well. Think Hannibal Lecter and Clarice. As time went on, Harleen began seeing Joker as a wronged victim and Batman as cruel for hurting him. She snapped, breaking Joker out of Arkham Asylum, and finally adopting the name Harley Quinn.
Her devotion to Joker caused Harley to help him steal and slaughter, even though he abused her. Trapped in an abusive relationship, she stuck by Joker’s side. Even Batman revelation that Joker’s ‘tragic past’ was a lie that he ensnared others with and Joker pushing Harley out a window didn’t break his hold on her. When Joker was in Arkham or the abuse became overwhelming, Harley sought refuge with her friend and other lover, Poison Ivy (voiced by Diane Pershing).
For years Harley struggled with her relationship with Joker, but with DC’s “New 52” reboot, she has managed to break free from Joker and is determined to stay that way. She was forced to join the U.S. government’s Task Force X, colloquially referred to as “The Suicide Squad“. While a member, she started forming a relationship with the assassin Deadshot (played by Will Smith in the movie).
Putting The Laughter In Slaughter: Harley’s Powers and Personality
Harley: Ya know what? I’ve just come out of a pretty abusive relationship. I’ve had a bit of time. I’m starting to come to terms with a life without my puddin’. And, you know what I’ve decided? No one gets to lay a hand on me ever again. – Injustice: Gods Among Us [videogame]
Harley has become more of an antihero who values life, but will still hurt or kill if she feels like it. She could be seen as a somewhat more heroic counterpart to Marvel’s Deadpool. While she doesn’t have superpowers, she is a brilliant psychiatrist/psychologist (Don’t yell at me. The authors can’t decide which one and might not know the difference!) and can find or make several useful tools or weapons, commonly using a handgun or an oversized mallet a la Gallagher.**
Her insanity also gives Harley an edge in fights by making her difficult to predict. She is noted to be an Olympic-level athlete and acrobat. Poison Ivy gave Harley a ‘potion’ that makes her immune to poisons and toxins while also increasing her physical abilities and giving her a relatively weak healing factor***.
Harley was originally voiced by Arleen Sorkin and has also been voiced by Hynden Walch, Laura Bailey and Tara Strong in various movies and video games. In the short-lived WB series Birds of Prey, (based on the DC team of the same name) Harley was the main villain (or Big Bad) and was played by Mia Sara. For some reason, she was going to appear on Arrow until executives decided to make her a main character in Suicide Squad where she will be played by Margot Robbie before getting her own movie.
Finally, she was originally planned to be be one of the villains alongside Scarecrow in the unmade sequel to Batman and Robin, Batman Triumphant. Strangely enough, in the unmade film she would not have been Joker’s lover, but his daughter, seeking revenge for her father’s death. With a new direction in the movies, that is one messed-up change that shouldn’t happen.
Didya Get all That?
She might be sympathetic, but this crazy clown’s no laughing matter.
* A reference to the song “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)” written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin for a doo-wop girl group decades ago called “The Crystals”.
**A comedian known for smashing watermelons with an oversized mallet.
***She heals faster than most people, but it’s not regrowing limbs or instant like Wolverine or Deadpool.