While Marvel became a household name by publishing relatable heroes that are flawed like us mere mortals, DC has always prided itself on championing virtuous comic book characters who possess god-like power.
Nowhere is this more evident than the so-called pillars of the DC universe; these heroes represent the very best that the publisher has to offer and represent the brand worldwide. Just the days of yore when mythological gods were our chosen idols, people aspire to become more like modern superheroes such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and — erm, Harley Quinn?
Harley Quinn Has Become A Pillar Of DC
In an interview with Vulture, DC Comics writer and all-round legend Jim Lee revealed that the Clown Princess of Crime has become more important to DC than ever before, stating that:
"I refer to her as the fourth pillar in our publishing line, behind Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman."
This may come as a shock to those who are used to seeing DC's Trinity at the forefront of the company. Though in recent years, Harley Quinn has cartwheeled her way into pole position, selling more comics than both Superman and Wonder Woman, making her DC's most bankable female character today.
Not bad for someone who started out as a villainous sidekick on a Saturday morning kids cartoon! What does this mean for Margot Robbie's portrayal of Harley Quinn on film though? Could the Clown Princess of Crime become the most important character in the DCEU?
Harley Quinn Is THE Face of Suicide Squad
Will Smith's Deadshot may be the most recognisable star of David Ayer's Suicide Squad adaptation and the Joker is clearly the most iconic character, but who did everyone rave about when that first trailer hit back in 2015?
That's right. The Joker certainly took an important role in the film's promotional material, even if that did ultimately prove to be rather misleading. Yet it was Margot Robbie's portrayal of Harley Quinn which was all anyone could talk about after each new trailer was released.
It's funny to think now that the Clown Princess of Crime only joined the comic book version of Suicide Squad recently in 2011, years after the team were first formed by Amanda Waller, which makes it even more impressive that Harley became a prominent member in such a short time. While her appearances across a range of media certainly helped raise Quinn's profile tenfold, it was Robbie's dedication to the role that finally catapulted Harley to new levels of fame.
But Isn't Harley Quinn Just The Joker's Girlfriend?
When Harley Quinn first appeared in Batman: The Animated Series, the Clown Princess of Crime was just designed to be Mistah J's girlfriend/sidekick, and nothing more. However, Harley became so renowned that she eventually made the rare move from the cartoons to the comics, steadily growing more and more popular as a character in her own right.
In every cinematic version of Batman to date, the Joker has featured prominently as the Dark Knight's arch nemesis. But Suicide Squad marks the first time ever that the Clown Prince has been overshadowed by Harley, who takes a far more central role in the film than Jared Leto's Joker.
Sure, the stories of both Harley and the Joker will always be inseparable to a point, but rather than chase her puddin' around for the whole of Suicide Squad, Quinn now has new motivations that define her separately, relegating the Joker to a footnote in her back story (albeit, a very important footnote).
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Plus, when it comes down to it, which one of the two is in talks to star in their own solo spin-off? Robbie or Leto? It seems like Harley had the last laugh here, but does that mean she deserves to be considered as a pillar of the DCEU up there alongside Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman?
Harley Quinn Is The Anti-Hero That The DCEU Needs Right Now
It's hard to exaggerate the extent to which Deadpool changed the superhero game. Before Fox took a chance on Marvel's Merc with a Mouth, studios were wary of releasing R-rated superhero movies that pushed the boundaries of sex and violence on screen. Children's merchandising has always been a cornerstone of the superhero movie business, and R-rated movies risk losing out on this key segment of the market.
While Suicide Squad was less bold with its PG-13 rating, the film nonetheless took the premise of anti-heroes in the lead and ran with it. The DCEU version of Harley Quinn is a truly mad creation whose off-kilter quips and violent delusions feel fresh and exciting in the face of grim, dour heroes like Batman and Superman.
Yes, Harley Quinn is DC's answer to Deadpool, but she's also so much more than that — she epitomises the female anti-hero. Not only will Quinn's burgeoning popularity help DC compete with Marvel and Fox in the future, it also raises a surprisingly important question that has far-reaching societal consequences, namely: Why should the guys have all the fun?
Harley Quinn Appeals To All Demographics
The three recognisable pillars of DC all have their loyal fans and entire demographics devoted to their adventures. For every boy who aspires to be as strong as Superman, there's another who wants to dress up like Batman. While it's somewhat reductionist to describe the Trinity's appeal purely in terms of gender, Wonder Woman's presence also provide a role model for girls who are tired of not seeing femininity reflected in their favorite heroes.
When you throw Harley Quinn in the ring, things get interesting. While the former villain turned anti-hero had her origins in children's animation, Harley's appeal has extended to a large adult fan base as well. Women respect Quinn's headstrong independence, men are sexually infatuated with her and then there's the spectrum of LGBT fans who love Harley for these reasons, and her obvious bisexuality too.
Let's face it. Despite their enduring legacies, none of the Trinity currently hold the same fresh, widespread appeal that the Clown Princess of Crime enjoys.
We Haven't Seen A 'Hero' Like Harley Quinn On This Scale Before
Quick question — How many comic book characters can you name who made their debut within the last twenty-five years and have become popular outside of the comics? It's not an easy task (Deadpool, perhaps Spawn spring to mind), and once you narrow that field down to solely female characters, the question becomes almost impossible to answer.
This is what makes Harley Quinn so important. Sure, she's batshit crazy, but the Clown Princess of Crime is also a modern woman whose ideals are far more relevant than heroes like Superman and Batman who first appeared in the '40s.
Sure, it's impressive that decades-old characters have remained relevant and even grown in popularity, but it's about time that newer 'heroes' arrived on the scene to reinvigorate the genre. We all know the origin stories of Kal-El and Bruce Wayne like the back of our hands and quite frankly, fans are quickly growing weary of seeing these origins recycled on-screen. However, general audiences are far less clear about what makes Harley tick (aside from some sort of association with the Joker), and this provides filmmakers with scope to play around with her back story to keep things fresh.
Is Harley Quinn The Most Important Character In The DCEU?
Let's face it. If the citizens of the DCEU need saving, Harley Quinn probably wouldn't be the first person they turn to. After all, why choose a psychopathic criminal to defend them when super-powered aliens and Amazonian warriors are on hand to help?
However, Harley Quinn's influence outside of the DCEU itself is far more important than anything that her character could do in the films themselves. While Batman has become instrumental in forming the Justice League, Harley's the one who has helped Suicide Squad become one of Warner Bros.' most talked about movies in over a decade.
The amount of Harley merchandise alone is astounding, easily going toe to toe with the likes of Batman, and Quinn's unique position as a female anti-hero appeals to wider demographics than any of DC's other three pillars ever could.
Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel may be starring in their own solo movies first, but Harley's planned spin-off has developed far quicker than any other female 'hero'. While some may argue that the Clown Princess of Crime isn't necessarily more important than Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman just yet, she certainly deserves to be ranked alongside the Trinity as a pillar of DC. Five years down the line, Harley could very well be the clear moneymaker of the DCEU.
If you can't get enough of Harley Quinn, check out some of her best moments in the video below!
Who do you think is the most important character in the DCEU? Is it Harley Quinn?