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The Complicated History of the Mad Jester Harley Quinn

Margot Robbie with mallet

The mad Doctor Harleen Frances Quinzel also known as Harley Quinn was created by DC comic writers that Paul Dini and Bruce Tim, over the years the story of Harley would change in many different ways, but we are first introduced to her in a 1992 episode of Batman: The Animated Series dubbed “Joker’s Favour”. The mad jester’s introduction wasn’t quite as elaborate as we would have expected as she was unglamorously introduced as one of the Joker’s henchwomen. Despite the boring introduction, Harley would go to make subsequent performances in Batman: The Animated Series, appearances that would see her become a popularised character. A year after her introduction Harley and her ever-growing popularity would be rewarded with a well-deserved comic debut in The Batman Adventures #12. Harley’s first few appearances had given us little information who she was and where she had come from in fact she would remain a mystical character up until the release of 1994 comic.

In the comic extension The Batman Adventures: Mad Love, Harley was introduced as a phycologist intern who worked at the Arkham Asylum. In Mad Love, we also learnt that Harley had first met the homicidal maniac Joker who was a patient at Arkham Asylum. Harley who became fascinated by the Joker’s aura decided to analyse him in a one to one session, it is here where The Joker lays it all on Harley and reveals his past of misfortune and childhood abuse. The Joker’s sob story led to Harley gaining a sympathetic type of love for the Joker. The newly acquired love for the Joker turned into an obsession which made her don her iconic red and black jester suit to help him break out of the Asylum. The breakout would be the start of a road which would see Harley become the sidekick, toxic lover and eventual nemesis of the Joker.

The original story of Harley would see its first change in the 1999 Batman comic No Man’s Land. The tone of her story remains the same apart from the fact that an audacious escape attempt with the Joker landed her the Asylum herself. Harleys saving grace would come when a massive earthquake allowed all the patients of the Asylum to escape. Once she escaped and found her “Puddin” she set out on a quest for The Joker’s love. Despite her acts of faithfulness, the Joker’s love wasn’t reciprocated, and the Joker repaid her love by sending close to death in a rocket crash which he had remotely controlled. Poison Ivy who will become a long-time friend and an integral part of Harley’s story would be the woman rescue Harley and nurse her back to health.

Harley’s very own independent comic would come in 2000 and would carry on the story from No Man’s Land. It’s here was Poison Ivy tries to help Harley realise that her love wasn’t being appreciated by the Joker. Poison Ivy’s words of wisdom would work wonders as Harley would signal the end of her relationship unequivocally by plunging the Joker into a sign. The breakup did, however, make Harley that bit more unhinged and by the end of the Harley comic series, she would voluntarily be led back to an Arkham Asylum cell.

In September 2011 DC announced a revamp of its entire comics. The revamp named The New 52 gave us a new look Harley and yet another twist in her complicated story. The new widely accepted story of Harley’s origins is that that from a young age her family was unsupportive of her education and career choice. Lack of parental support which gave her determination to graduate with a doctorate in criminal phycology, after graduating Harley would take up a role at the Arkham Asylum and again manages to help the Joker escape from Arkham only this time the Joker callously throws Harley into acid which permanently bleaches her skin to a pale white as opposed to previous editions where Harley had painted her skin in white.

With The New 52 storylines, we are also informed that a massive breakup was the reason Harley is as deranged she is. This break up is also the reason we see Harley on more solo ventures after the “new 52” revamp. More independent ventures from Harley saw her introduced to the Task Force X in the third edition of the Suicide Squad. Harley looked like natural on our screens and her performance warranted her more appearances on the big screen down the line. Along with her induction into Task Force X, The New 52 comic line allowed Harley to get a second version of her own independent comic, named Harley Volume 2. This comic was a lighter/funnier version of the Harley story and this was down to the fact that she had hilarious supporting acts such as Borgman. Around this time DC writers would finally confirm that Harley and Poison Ivy had finally become a thing. Although the interesting relationship of Harley and Poison Ivy was quickly put to an end when Poison Ivy died during the 2019 Heroes in Crisis miniseries. After the death of Poison Ivy, Harley’s hurting heart would lead her on a road to rampage which saw go up against the likes of Batman. Harley wouldn’t stop on her rampage. Until it was discovered that Poison Ivy had planted a clone of herself at the end of the Heroes in Crisis series.

Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy

In 2016 Harley made a central appearance in Suicide Squad, donning her renowned jester look. Actress Margot Robbie played the role fantastically well as the mentally unstable character teamed up with the Task Force X for a big-screen appearance. Margot was a perfect match for the role as she brought an intriguing side to the character. Eventually, writers at DC would give us Harley fans what we all wanted when Harley was given a big-screen lead role in the 2020 Birds of Prey. In Birds of Prey, we see Harley take a more independent role after the toxic break up with the Joker. She links up with Black Canary, Renee Montoya and Huntress to avoid death by the hands of Black Mask. With DC also confirming Harley’s inclusion in the upcoming The Suicide Squad, it seems that Birds of Prey won’t be the last we see of Harley and we can’t wait to see what DC have in store for the next chapter of the deranged maniac.

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David Fakeye

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