ByKit Simpson Browne, writer at
Writer-at-large. Bad jokes aplenty. Can be gently prodded on Twitter at @kitsb1
Kit Simpson Browne

Now, comic books don't really - as a rule - have the best track record when it comes to their portrayal of...well, pretty much anyone who isn't a heterosexual white male. Whether we're talking the long-standing lack of equal representation, generations of stereotyped portrayals of race and gender, or even the noticeable lack of non-white, straight males behind the scenes, it's fair to say that things are still a ways off of how they ought to be.

That, though, doesn't mean that progress isn't being made - with one of the most notable steps forward coming back in June this year, when the Harley Quinn comic book's writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner revealed that Harley and Poison Ivy are very much an item:

Which, in one tweet, pretty much confirmed that - after years of fan speculation and in-comic innuendo - two of DC comics' most iconic characters are officially in a same-sex relationship with one another.

Why Does Harley and Ivy's Relationship Matter So Much, Though?

Well, for one thing, in an era in which the recognition of same-sex couples as being equal to any other is still controversial in many places, there's certainly an important political side to the reveal - but there's also a bunch of more comic book-centric elements to the pair's relationship that mean a whole, whole lot.

Here are five of them:

First up?

5. Harley and Ivy Have an Unusually Complex Relationship

One, notably, that doesn't include endless agonizing over whether or not their choice to be with one another is somehow wrong. Instead, they're a pair of emotionally complicated, funny, intelligent and highly skilled women who just so happen to be in a relationship...and be supervillains.

Now, there's nothing wrong with telling a story about struggling with sexuality - especially since that's a genuine issue millions go through every day - but it's still incredibly refreshing to see a mainstream comic book treat the duo as simply just another mildly dysfunctional couple, rather than as being defined by their gender or sexual preference.

4. Ivy Offers a Perfect Example of a Support System

Now, with both Ivy and Harley having suffered significant abuse in the past, it's likely not coincidental that the pair have been shown to still be dealing with its after effects.

That being said, though, it's noticeable that Ivy - far further down the line in dealing with her past trauma - has offered Harley a supportive shoulder to lean on, and actively helped her to cope with the overwhelming emotional distress that her highly abusive relationship with The Joker caused.

It's never politicized, and rarely put front and center, but the very act of having two strong, independent female characters - who happen to be in a relationship together - deal with the aftermath of abuse is still something of a rarity in modern day comic book-dom.

3. Harley and Ivy are Both Notably Badass

Now, in fairness, there's also a distinct possibility that both of them are somewhat criminally insane, but that doesn't lessen the fact that they both also have doctorates.

That's right - it's Doctor Harleen Quinzel, and Doctor Pamela Isley. They are - for all their other faults - deeply intelligent and capable professionals...albeit ones with a slight tendency towards murder.

Add in a slew of powers and heightened abilities, and they're arguably one of the most equally matched superhero couples around - which makes a change from the usual pairing of queer superheroes with non-powered civilians who rarely appear.

2. Harley and Ivy Offer an Alternative View of Relationships That's Rarely Seen in Mainstream Culture

Specifically, as Palmiotti and Conner pointed out in that tweet, the pair have a devoted and loving relationship that isn't defined by monogamy.

Now, for many millions of people throughout history, monogamy has proven to be a successful and emotionally fulfilling way of going about relationships - but in the modern day, it isn't the only way that people find works. The increasing cultural acceptance of polyamory - the open and honest maintaining of multiple intimate relationships - is rarely depicted in popular culture, making Harley and Ivy's relationship something of a trailblazer for yet another often marginalized group.

Most of all, though?

1. They Genuinely Love Each Other

And apolitical as Harley and Ivy may be - barring environmental issues, of course - it's nice to see that means just as much in comic books as it does in the real world...

What do you reckon, though?


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