There is no denying that Harley Quinn has soared in terms of popularity since her first appearance in 1992. 28 years ago. Since her first appearance in Batman: The Animated Series, Harleen Quinzel has dominated the super villain world, despite being Joker’s accomplice and occasional pain in the neck.
After appearing in the animated show, Harley then appeared in many Batman comics and other crossovers. She soon got her own comic book series, then appeared in the animated films, and now she has her own animated series and is the star of Suicide Squad, the upcoming Birds of Prey and the 2021 Suicide Squad. She has certainly come a long way from being a mere sidekick. What we have seen in recent years is a massive growth and expansion of her character, she is able to carry a series on her own and mix with other characters and now she is able to function brilliantly without relying on Joker.
To celebrate the release of *takes deep breath* Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, we’re going back and selecting some of out favourite Harley Quinn moments. Now, before I do that I have a confession…
I don’t know the character all that well. I’ve dipped and dived in and out of comics for a while now so what I know of Harley comes from the games, films, and the series. I have very limited knowledge regarding her stories in the comics, however I have had some excellent recommendations. Having said that, I do believe the games and animated series in particular do a great job of offering an overview of the character. Right, lets get into it.
1) Arkham Games
When I was young, I wasn’t really a Batman fan. This changed in roughly 2006 when I was able to watch Batman Begins. For me, Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy acted as a gateway to a whole new world. With The Dark Knight coursing through my veins and being in the centre of my early teenage years (I was 11 when The Dark Knight came out), I hungered for more. I needed more Batman and so I read, I drew, I watched and finally in 2009… I played.
To this day, Arkham Asylum and Arkham City are still among my top games. They are fantastic. Anyway. Harley Quinn in Arkham Asylum was one of my earliest introductions to the character. While she didn’t have a massive role in the first game, she certainly left her mark with her witty charm and her flamboyant uniform. As the series continued, so did her ability to make me laugh. What made me incredibly happy was that she got her own DLC packs. Harley Quinn’s Revenge was definitely a highlight since it dealt with the aftermath of Arkham City and it actually put her on the centre stage. Harley was always a side character but she was able to flourish a lot more in this short but sweet expansion.
In Arkham Knight one of Harley Quinn’s ‘Game Over’ cutscenes included her saying “Joker always told me Robins die easy”. Ouch. That one stung a little bit.
2) Batman Animated Series
Harley Quinn was first introduced in the Animated Series in the 22nd episode of Season 1- “Joker’s Favor“. Her very limited role in the series from 1992 was pivotal in her ascension to immense popularity. Despite appearing in only 9 episodes, Harley Quinn had a massive impact. While her role was, at its core, pretty tragic due to the abuse she received from Joker, she added an interesting dynamic to the series. Someone actually loved the Joker. Considering the Joker’s history, it’s pretty hard to imagine the Clown Prince of Crime having an admirer. Whenever she appeared, Harley was always funny, quirky and silly. The Harley Quinn we see now is a complete binary opposite of the Harley we were first introduced to- While she can still make us laugh, Harley has become a much larger threat who is a lot more independent.
My favourite episode is “Harley’s Holiday”. I watched it very recently and I couldn’t help but smile. Harley is incredibly charming and sweet in this episode. Her bid to return to a normal life goes terribly wrong so you can’t help but feel sorry for her. She tries her absolute best but unfortunately she cascades out of control and is returned to Arkham Asylum. However, she successfully brings out a version of Batman that we’re not entirely used to- a compassionate one. It really is a charming episode. It’s crazy to think that without these 9 short episodes, Harley Quinn and her iconic outfit would not exist… I’m sure the Joker would have preferred it that way but we love Harley.
As someone who absolutely loves the con experience, cosplay has become a very big thing for me- I’ve dressed as Arrow, Aizawa from My Hero Academia, Deadpool, Daredevil and soon Kylo Ren. Cosplay brings out everyone’s creative spark. Whether you’re recreating your favourite iteration of a character or combining them, cosplay allows people to be creative and free.
No matter where you are in the world or what convention you go to you will always find an army of Harley Quinns. Harley Quinn from the animated series, Harley Quinn from Suicide Squad, Harley Quinn from the comics, and even combinations. My personal favourite was seeing a cross between Harley Quinn and Deadpool… HarleyPool or DeadQuinn?
The reason why I put this in my list is because I love to see what people can do with a character. The skill, the craft, and dedication to a single character is incredibly admirable. What I love most is that it’s not just dressing up to some people. When people cosplay they become that character and I have had some truly wonderful experiences meeting people who are no longer themselves, but the character they love. Harley Quinn is a character who will always pop up at any con and it is amazing to see not just how many Harley Quinns there are but how many versions. After Birds of Prey is released, I’m willing to bet that future cons are dominated by an armada of Quinns.
4) Harley Quinn #25
As I have said before, comic books have always been in my life, they just haven’t had a prominent role. I tend to find keeping up is very difficult so I will typically gravitate towards limited series. However, there have been exceptions. Harley Quinn #25, by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Chad Hardin, Alex Sinclair, and Tom Napolitano, was an issue that garnered the attention of many fans. For me, the series was going great, I was enjoying it a lot. But then issue 25 was released.
In a large majority of the Harley Quinn-centered things that I have engaged with, she has always been a bird in a cage, trapped and abused by the Joker. On occasion, like the DLC and ‘Harley’s Holiday’, Harley has been allowed to roam free but the Joker’s presence is usually still there like a looming shadow. What this series did was allow her to move on from the Joker and it was so refreshing to see.
When trying to rescue her current boyfriend from Arkham, Harley hears a familiar voice. It’s Joker. Uh oh.
Joker attempts to manipulate and control Harley like he used to but Harley has freed herself and a fight soon erupts. Just when you think Joker is winning, Harley turns it around and boy does it get ugly. This isn’t just a physical fight, it is a mental fight. Harley has come a long way from being the Joker’s pet and has come to realise how poisonous he is. As much as I love the Joker as a villain, I was ecstatic to see him get a taste of his own medicine and for Harley to find some form of closure, even if it did involve ripping Joker’s lip off and a few punches to the face.
It was a fascinating, visceral, hard hitting and triumphant read.
So there you have it. These are the moments I think about when someone mentions Harley Quinn. Harley Quinn has had a fantastic run of growth and with more shows and films surfacing, I can’t wait to see where she goes next. We would love to hear about your top Harley moments so leave them in the comments.
Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) stars Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Huntress, Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Black Canary and Rosie Perez as Renee Montoya. The movie has been directed by Cathy Yan and arrives in cinemas on February 7, 2020.