By Nikki Jamieson
With the release of the new ‘Suicide Squad’ trailer this past week, I thought it would be only fitting to write about my favourite anti-hero.
For those not familiar with the character, she was originally created in September 1992 for ‘Batman: the Animated Series’ by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, and was intended to be a walk-on role, as henchgirl for the Joker. The character proved popular, and she made her comic debut a year later.
In the mainstream continuity, her original origin story had Dr. Harleen Quinzel as a psychologist at Arkham Asylum, where she met and fell in love with the Joker, eventually helping him escape, launching her into life as the villainess Harley Quinn and an abusive relationship with the Joker. During her comic run, she left the Joker and has been associated with the Suicide Squad, Poison Ivy and Catwoman, and has featured in her own comic title.
With the New 52 title relaunch, the Joker is missing from a fair bit of her on-comic story, and her origin has changed a little; Dr. Harleen Quinzel still worked at Arkham, although she dressed up as an inmate to understand her patients better, with the Joker seeing through her act and opening up to her. When caught by her supervisor, she breaks the Joker out of Arkham and he throws her into the same vat of chemicals that changed him.
This incarnation was introduced in the relaunch of the Suicide Squad, and, although she initially had feelings for the Joker, in the ‘Death of the Family’ storyline she noted that he had changed and wasn’t ‘her’ Joker anymore, and left the squad (and him) behind.
She then received her own series by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmotti and Chad Hardwin, one that was more separate from the Batman franchise – although Batman was featured in a Valentine special and other DC characters such as Power Girl and Poison Ivy make appearances. In this series, she is transformed into an anti-hero, inherited an apartment complex in Coney Island and, in the last story-arch I’ve read, has started her own crime-fighting group. One notable difference is that she could walk around without people recognizing her – I guess her villainess alter ego wasn’t all that well known outside of Gotham.
Why do I like Harley so much? By no means is she a beacon of justice – under many comic titles she has committed murder, arson, stolen, assaulted, poisoned and acted as an accomplice in the Joker’s plans to cause mass chaos and torment, to say the least. Her morality compass can be best described as crooked, and she will never be the one to save the day. At her best she is a comic relief with dubious intent that tries to stay on the straight and narrow, and at her worst she is a crazy hybristophiliac clown who is a willing victim of abuse – neither of which is particularly awe-inspiring.
But in many cases, she is more real then any other DC character; she admits that she isn’t perfect, she has body issues, she has no super-powers (toxin proof aside, thanks to Poison Ivy) and she is continually working to get better. Her craziness and her flaws are what make her so loveable to her fans.
Compared to many other females in the DC lineup, she is someone that you can relate to. Granted, she starts off as an obsessed clown with no qualms in blowing up you up, but as she progresses throughout the publications, you see her realizing ‘I can’t continue on like this’ and she seeks helps. For instance, in her first self-titled series, she turns herself into Arkham at the end, after realizing that she needs help to get better. There is genuine emotion behind the character, and while she will start off nuts, she always becomes more humanized.
Harley would not be herself if she wasn’t a little bit crazy – it’s part of her personality now. But it’s how she progresses throughout the stories that makes you love her.
Unfortunately, as one of the fairly new characters in the DC lineup, she is often under-rated, especially when compared to more established heros and villains like Wonder Woman – who had her own TV show and has her own movie coming out – or Deadshot – a fellow suicide squad member who has made appearances in episodes of ‘Smallville’ and ‘Arrow’. It has only just been in recent years that she has started entering mainstream pop-culture – although mainly for her iconic black and red look. But she has been featured in animated films like ‘Batman: Assault on Arkham’, and video games such as ‘Injustice: Gods Among Us’.
However, having been featured heavily in the Comic-Con 2015 trailer for ‘Suicide Squad’, maybe there’ll finally be some attention for the character herself, and not just her style, once the film comes out. The recently released 2016 trailer also hints at her origin and promises to deliver onto us some goodies in her scenes, and it appears that actress Margot Robbie is giving the character the credit she is due.
As long as the writers portrays her as something more then a crazed clown, then all Quinn fans should be appeased. Who knows, it might launch our dear Harley into a movie of her own.
Otherwise, many will be taking up the proverbial mallet in outrage.