Real Name: Harleen Quinzel
First Appearance: Batman: The Animated Series Ep. 22 (September, 1992)
Fight Club Ranking: #328
- vs BATMAN: Batman #614 (Jun 2003)
- vs BATMAN: Batman #663 (Apr 2007)
So they're going to give The Joker a wacky, gal pal sidekick...
I wonder what the backlash would be like if that were a leading headline today. I wonder what it would've been like back in 1992! There really wasn't any time to huff and puff about an intrusion on classic comics mythology! Harley Quinn clapped and whistled her way into the Batman universe with little to no warning. She even appeared without explanation! Just a harlequin-suited, sycophantic sounding board (and accomplice) for the legendary Clown Prince of Crime!
More moll than sidekick, but more Daffy Duck than Betty Boo -- Harley Quinn fit right in with the blackboard art deco world of comics-inspired Batman: The Animated Series!
It's not hard to see how the character would be quickly accepted, ultimately embraced. Brimming with more personality than the usual costume-appropriate henchwoman; Harl' completed a double act that gave Joker somebody to play off, while offering plenty of her own schtick to boot! The signs were there in her debut appearance of Episode 22, but things only got better from there.
When DC Comics finally made the call in 1999 to fold her into the Batman comics proper - history was made! Rare is it that a cross-media contribution can thrive in the comic book world, but her 2001 on-going series cemented the character as must-read! With fantastic, madcap adventures that made use of the exciting "new" addition, Harley Quinn's comic book credentials were secured!
Flash forward to 2016 and Harley Quinn is now a marquee character lending name value to the oddball cadre of the live-action theatrical Suicide Squad.
For that reason alone she'd be our Hero of the Week, but there's clearly more at play here than a live-action debut. Harley Quinn is becoming an all-out pop culture phenomenon! A slapstick sub-cultural icon splashed across the mainstream with similar notes to Deadpool! DC Publisher Jim Lee is even being quoted as calling her one of the company's "four pillars" -- eclipsing The Joker himself!
Of course, much like Jared Leto's Joker [HOTW 08/01/2016]; the Harley Quinn seen in Suicide Squad (and related merchandising) isn't exactly the character that fans originally fell in love with.
For me, the loss of that iconic harlequin costume is a real shame. Sexed up t-shirt and hotpants just don't speak to the heart of the character I grew to enjoy. It's a different kind of crazy, marketed to a different kind of fan. At least some of that blame can fall on Hollywood, whose tenuous relationships with "reality" and superheroes have never been spectacular. Like a lot of long time readers, I pine for the days when comics were confident in the culture they'd built up over many decades. Alas; the iconic costume started disappearing from the comics even before The New 52 muddied the waters.
I'll be very interested to see where Harley Quinn ends up next, and how Rebirth and further cross-media properties further shape the character. Will she remain the fourth pillar alongside the trinity of DC legends: Superman, Batman & Wonder Woman? If initial reaction to the film is anything to go by, they're certainly in mutual company. We'll be watching.
Can't get enough Harley Quinn? Be watching Friday Night Fights as we celebrate the Suicide Squad in updates throughout the month of August!