Supervillain Spotlight: Harley Quinn
Harley Quinn is a female antagonist in the Batman universe. Originally created for 1992’s Batman: The Animated Series by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, Harley began as the Joker’s girlfriend and accomplice. Harley is a character who largely came into her own over a short period of time, branching out from animated television to comics, and video games. She will be making her film debut this year in the live action film Suicide Squad. Though she is frequently the source of comic relief and serves to prop up the Joker, Harley Quinn has branched out in her own universe as well, working with Poison Ivy, Catwoman, and Livewire. While she may be whimsical and endearing, Harley Quinn is also a character of darkness dealing with addiction, codependence, and domestic violence.
Face it, Harl, this stinks! You're a certified nutso wanted in 12 states and hopelessly in love with a psychopathic clown. At what point did my life go Looney Tunes? How did it happen? Who's to blame?... Batman, that's who. Batman! It's always been Batman! Ruining my life, spoiling my fun! Coming between me and my Puddin' from the very beginning...
Not much is known about Harley Quinn before she arrived at Arkham Asylum as the young and enthusiastic psychiatrist, Dr. Harleen Quinzel. Dr. Quinzel took an interest in the Joker, who was in custody at Arkham when she arrived. She started seeing him for therapy sessions and began to fall in love with him. The Joker escaped and was brought back to Arkham by Batman. When Dr. Quinzel saw the beaten Joker returned by the Dark Knight, she went insane. She adopted the name Harley Quinn and took on the look of a jester before breaking the Joker out of Arkham. The transition that Harley went through affected her to her core, changing aspects of her personality and even the way she speaks. She became an entirely new person, completely infatuated with the Joker and seeking his love and approval endlessly.
Harley Quinn quickly became a character of note in the DC universe. She worked with the Joker and Lex Luthor in the World’s Finest story arc to try and take out Superman. She also teamed up with Poison Ivy and Livewire to take on Batgirl and Supergirl. Harley and Ivy have been known to live together and work as accomplices on more than one occasion. There relationship is such that Ivy is the “straight man" and Harley is her fun-loving opposite. These two have also teamed up with Catwoman to form the Gotham Sirens. While these alliances allow Harley to shine, she can primarily be found alongside the Joker in a relationship that is entertaining, though also heartbreaking and unhealthy to say the least.
Harley Quinn illustrates how fast and profoundly an addiction can manifest. It took little time for Dr. Quinzel to meet the Joker and become Harley Quinn. Harley is addicted to the Joker and, as a result, is blind to the destructive nature of their abusive relationship. Both the strength of Harley’s addiction and the extent of the domestic abuse in their relationship is depicted prominently in the story Mad Love. In this narrative, Harley succeeds in capturing Batman where the Joker can’t. This emasculates and irritates the Joker who, as a result, belittles Harley, assaults her, and even tries to kill her. Harley goes so far to believe the Joker loves her that she blames Batman for the way she is treated. Beaten and broken, Harley finally realized the true nature of her relationship with the Joker. But, the Joker manages to win her over, yet again, and her moment of clarity is extinguished by love and addiction.
Why would the Joker reach out to her after trying to kill her? Is it a power play or because he really is that insane? Both are probably accurate. Still, the Joker has shown his own tendencies to enable their codependent relationship. He once tried to replace Harley when she left him, but he found he could never settle for anyone else. Despite everything, he established a bond with Harley that is harder to sever than he would like. After all, who else could love the Joker?
You little fool. The Joker doesn't love anything except himself. Wake up, Harleen. He had you pegged for hired help the minute you walked into Arkham. - Batman
Never again. No more obsession, no more craziness, no more Joker. I finally see that slime for what he is: a murderous, manipulative, irredeemable... Angel!
Harley Quinn is a character full of humor and a deceiving innocence that causes many fans to fall in love with her. She is used to address issues that many readers can identify with, from female empowerment to abuse and addiction. Harley is not only a great addition to the Batman universe, but she is a transformative character that continues to grow into her own and spread across all forms of media. Whether she is working with the Joker to take down Batman, or in cahoots with Poison Ivy to rob a bank, Harley Quinn is loved by many and continues to be essential to her world.