The Clown Princess of Crime Harley Quinn may be one of the most beloved characters in the Batman universe (and the DC universe, for that matter) these days, but she’s also one of the newest characters to haunt Arkham Asylum. While Batman, Robin, Catwoman, the Joker, and the like have existed since the 1940s and have had dozens and dozens of different looks from that time until today, Harley was nowhere to be found. Somehow, the Joker lived for 52 years without being called puddin’ or Mistah J. Heartbreaking, right?
In 1989, Tim Burton’s Batman film, starring Michael Keaton as the Caped Crusader, brought Batman back into the pop culture collective consciousness for the first time since the 1960s when ABC aired its version of Batman. The film was so wildly successful that Burton and Keaton were signed on to do a sequel called Batman Returns, released in 1992. With Batman such a heroic icon again, it was the perfect time for Eric Radomski and Bruce Timm to propose Batman: The Animated Series to Fox Network. This was where Harley was born.
Harley’s life is really pretty much an open book. She’s emotional, fiercely loyal to those she loves (like Poison Ivy and regrettably even the Joker), impulsive, and oh so whacko. When she was all but forgotten about, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Rocksteady Studios revived her in 2009 with the hit game Batman: Arkham Asylum, which saw Harley shed her black and red skintight jester’s outfit for a nurse’s getup instead. She was an integral player in sequels Arkham City and Arkham Knight, and with tons of comics featuring her playing the leading role, Harley Mania is at an all-time high. Are you a hardcore enough fan to know these 15 facts?
15. She Wasn’t Supposed to Be a Recurring Character
As mentioned, Harley’s first appearance on Batman: The Animated Series was in the 22nd episode entitled “Joker’s Favor.” Airing in September 1992, the Joker was of course pulling off another of his crazy capers. In this scheme, the plan called for him to dress as a woman and pop out of a cake. While the issue of cross-dressing wasn’t the problem, Radomski and Timm did question what the likelihood was of Joker wearing women’s clothing. They eventually decided to revise the storyline, adding in a henchwoman.
That henchwoman was none other than Harley Quinn. She was only intended to be used for that one part of the episode just that time. However, fans reacted very strongly to Harley. They loved her quirky attitude and Brooklyn accent. Radomski and Timm wisely decided to listen to fan outcry, and Harley was soon written into future episodes of The Animated Series as a regular character. Oh, and Joker popped out of the cake anyway.
14. However, She Quickly Got Her Own Cartoon
If you don’t remember ever seeing the listing for Gotham Girls in your TV Guide in the 1990s, don’t despair. While Harley quickly became a mainstay on The Animated Series and Warner Bros. Animation did decide to give her a cartoon of her very own, it wasn’t one that ever aired on television. Instead, it was a flash animated series. In conjunction with Noodle Soup Productions, the premise of Gotham Girls is pretty simple: the women of Gotham City, like Harley, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and even some good gals like Zatanna, Renee Montoya, and Batgirl are the prime focus.
Debuting in 2000, several years after The Animated Series sadly wrapped up, the art style is pretty much identical to that show. A lot of the same voice talent, like Arleen Sorkin (more on her later) as Harley, signed on. There are three seasons and 30 total episodes of Gotham Girls, most with a runtime of two to five minutes. The episodes even let you do a kind of “choose your own adventure” and each features tie-in games that you can play. Although a bit dated by today’s standards, you can find Gotham Girls online to watch for free, so do yourself a favor.
13. Harley’s Origin Story Came After Her TV Debut
As mentioned, when Harley was written into “Joker’s Favor” on The Animated Series, she wasn’t supposed to be on the hit cartoon ever again. What did Harley need with a backstory? It’s a wonder that she even had a name. At the height of the popularity of the animated Batman show, Paul Dini took the reigns and wrote Harley an origin story. Since Dini had worked on The Animated Series, he was able to mimic the art style with 100 percent accuracy. It’s no wonder then that the comic, named The Batman Adventures: Mad Love, won 1994’s “Best Single Story” Eisner Award.
Many fans know Harley’s origins like the backs of their own hands. Once a promising psychiatrist, Ms. Harleen Quinzel threw her career aspirations away when she landed a job treating the Joker at Arkham Asylum. She quickly fell in love with the madman, who manipulates her affections to get her to do his bidding. It’s a sad story for sure, but luckily, in more recent comics, Harley has had a successful, almost happy life away from Mistah J.
12. That Wasn’t Her First Comic
DC Comics released a series of comics produced by Elseworlds, a company that existed solely to go outside of canon and come up with as many interesting re-brandings for your favorite DC characters as possible. In 1997 and 1998, Elseworlds artists Daniel Brereton and Howard V. Chaykin published Thrillkiller, which takes place in 1961 in a Gotham City overrun by crime. Bruce Wayne doesn’t have his riches, but he is a detective who works with Jim Gordon. He’s also still somehow Batman. Robin and Batgirl are the vigilante heroes. The Joker is a woman named Bianca Steeplechase and Harley is just Harley, although her name is Hayley Fitzpatrick in this book. She’s also a student and not a psychiatrist.
Yes, it is an insanely interesting alternate DC universe. The good news is that the comics are being re-printed, so you can read them today. A same-sex relationship between the woman Joker and Harley was hugely radical back in the late 1990s. It’s also refreshing to see that in this alternate universe that Joker treats Harley with respect and love and isn’t abusive and overeager to put her in harm’s way.
11. She Was Set to Have Her Live Action Movie Debut in the 1990s
It’s no secret that after Batman Returns, the Batman live action films were put in different hands. Tim Burton let Joel Schumacher take over, and Michael Keaton gave up the cowl, which Val Kilmer then wore (and later George Clooney, shudder). What resulted was 1994’s Batman Forever with Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey, which was panned for being too campy but wasn’t a total franchise killer. That honor is bestowed upon 1997’s Batman and Robin, where Arnold Schwarzenegger stepped in as Mr. Freeze.
The movie did so horrendously bad at the box office that Warner Bros. fired Schumacher. Before the film was released though, the director was already planning a sequel to Batman and Robin called Batman: Triumphant. The Scarecrow and Harley were to star as the movie’s villains, and supposedly, Madonna would be slipping into the red and black harlequin gear. Naturally, Warner Bros. didn’t want to tarnish the Batman name even further after the commercial failure of Batman and Robin, and so Batman: Triumphant never got past the planning stages.
10. She Tries to Play on the Good Side… Sometimes
Harley will be the first to admit that she’s crazy, but compared to many of the villains roaming Gotham City, she seems relatively well-adjusted. She doesn’t have some giant chip on her shoulder and she isn’t out to destroy the world. She’s just in love with Joker and will pretty much follow his footsteps verbatim to win his affections and stay on his good side. Unsurprisingly then, comic book writers have flirted with the idea of Harley becoming a good girl for quite a while now. In Batman: The Animated Series, Batman actually helps her get parole when he sees that she’s ready to give up the life of crime.
Then there was Gotham City Sirens, where she shares an apartment with Poison Ivy and Catwoman. The three women, although not entirely reformed themselves, band together to fight against evil forces trying to destroy Gotham City. Of course, in every instance when it seems like Harley has turned over a new leaf, something or someone (usually the Joker) reminds her that she’s better-suited for the life of crime. Harley without any mischief just really wouldn’t be Harley anyway.
9. Harley Quinn Is Immune to Toxins
Plant mistress Poison Ivy possesses the power of pheromones and plant toxins, which she can use to make men bend to her will. Of course, she can kill as well, which she’s sometimes been known to do. However, Ivy’s not the only woman in Gotham City who is immune to any kind of toxins or acids. The relationship between Harley and Ivy is a pretty cute one. Although barely outright confirmed by DC, the two villains have shared a relationship that’s a lot more than platonic. Whatever they are, Ivy is a grounded voice of reason, which is definitely what Harley needs more than anything after spending years with the Joker.
Naturally, since Ivy cares for Harley so much, she was able to give the crazy clown a serum that prevents any kind of negative reaction should Harley be exposed to toxins. It’s not necessarily a storyline aspect that’s exploited too much, but at least if Harls was to have a serious accident, she’d come out of it unscathed.
8. She’s Good with Weapons
When you think of Harley, the first weapon that comes to mind is probably her oversized wooden mallet, right? After all, she practically never leaves home without it. While the hammer is certainly partially for comical effect, she also knows how to whack her opponents with it and leave them bloodied and battered. However, the mallet is far from the only offense that Harley has. She’s also been known to carry around a pistol that has a cork stuffed in it, so when she shoots it the cork comes flying at you.
Of course, she has no problem toting real guns, and has plenty of murders racked up on her criminal record. Her Animated Series days also saw her using oversized boxing gloves that packed quite a punch. In Injustice: Gods Among Us the video game, one of her costumes includes a sheath for a series of knives, including one particularly long one with a jester’s face on it. In a world where a lot of Batman villains rely on hand-to-hand combat or guns, Harley shows some pretty good range.
7. Her Existence Is Based on Arleen Sorkin
While aspects of Harley’s character seem obvious enough (Harley Quinn = harlequin, hence the gear), she wasn’t created completely out of thin air. Paul Dini, one of the producers for Batman: The Animated Series, actually based dear Harley off a close friend of his, actor Arleen Sorkin. Dini checked out Sorkin on her sitcom Days of Our Lives. During one flashback scene, Sorkin’s character Calliope Jones plays a clown and wears a sparkly pink and purple suit and white face makeup. Sound familiar yet?
Of course, Sorkin’s involvement with Harley went further than that. After fleshing out Harley for The Animated Series, Dini decided that he liked Sorkin’s work as a clown well enough that he asked for her to be the first voice of Harley Quinn. She’s also done voice work for Harley in Superman: The Animated Series, The New Batman Adventures, Gotham Girls, Static Shock, and Justice League. She was even a part of the voice cast for Batman: Arkham Asylum, but Tara Strong stepped in for Harley in Arkham City and Arkham Knight.
6. Margot Robbie Won’t Be the First Live Action Harley Actor
Next year, Suicide Squad will rock movie theaters nationwide. The film, an adaption of the insanely popular comic series, stars Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Jared Leto as the Joker, Will Smith as Deadshot, Cara Delevingne as Enchantress, Jai Courtney as Captain Boomerang, Karen Fukuhara as Katana, Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag, and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Killer Croc. With some Joker/Harley drama promised, there’s a lot that this movie has to offer. However, while Robbie will be the first actor to portray Harley on the big screen, she’s not the first who has done a live action adaption of the character.
In 2002, the WB aired a DC series called Birds of Prey, which was inspired by the comics of the same name and focused on Black Canary, Huntress, and Batgirl as they kept Gotham City safe in a post-Batman world. The show only had 13 episodes before being canceled due to bad ratings, but there was still enough time to squeeze in a Harley played by Mia Sara. More recently, she had a brief cameo on Arrow, the CW show centering around Green Arrow, which saw Cassidy Alexa as Harley. The show wanted more of her, but due to Suicide Squad, decided against it.
5. She Was Once an Amazon
In the current New 52 reboot, Harley has her own series where she lives in Brooklyn, New York, working as a psychiatrist in a nursing home (which is a far cry from Arkham Asylum), participating in a roller derby team, and managing tenants that are human, animal, and everything in between at her own Coney Island apartment. However, this isn’t the first attempt DC has made at a life for Harley outside of the Joker’s evil grasp.
In the Countdown comic series, Harley eventually earns herself parole and starts her life over. She gets involved in the Secret Six, a group like the Suicide Squad, but then she decides that even that’s too much for her. Instead, she ends up in the Amazon on a secluded island with women inhabitants. Oh, and she’s an Amazonian warrior for a while too. Well, that is, until she realizes that life on the island is just a ploy set up by a New Gods evildoer, and then she hightails it.
4. She Was Once a… Folk Singer?
Don’t worry. If you stick solely to canon, you likely missed Harley’s short-term stint as a folk singer with her lady love Poison Ivy. Yet another Elseworlds masterpiece, Elseworlds 80-Page Giant is chock full of weird iterations of your favorite DC heroes and villains. One of them, by Anibal Rodriguez, Greg Luzniak, and Bronwyn Carlton called “Rockumentary” is at least a little more lighthearted in pages full of stories of spooky Batman and Superman moving to space because he can’t get a watch to stop going off.
In “Rockumentary,” Lex Luthor plays a pop music producer whose past clients include Superman and Batman (just go with it). He also finds that he really enjoys the musical talents of Ivy and Harley, a folk duo who are also noted for their “alternative lifestyle,” which is yet another confirmation that the two villains really are a couple. While this one doesn’t have panels full of heart-pounding action, you should still give it a read.
3. Harley Was Once Really, Really Dark
We just talked about how differently Elseworlds pictures the DC Universe. Bruce Timm and the company are working on a movie called Justice League: Gods and Monsters, where Batman is a vampire. There is one particular short called Twisted, which just so happens to be Harley’s darkest appearance yet. Despite her familiar and sweet voice, her face paint makes her look positively deranged and her outfit is unsettling too (she’s wearing little more than a corset, white panties, and tights). She also has one hell of a secret layer.
There’s chopped up frozen bodies in the freezer, corpses decapitated to become jack in the boxes, and a deceased family with their mouths stitched into smiles gathered around a television set. After Batman frees a female hostage who was going to be the sister in Harley’s eerie family, the Clown Princess of Crime goes after Batman with a sledgehammer and then a chainsaw. However, she cuts herself open with the weapon, slicing through her own abdomen. The most chilling part though? When Harley surrenders to let Batman cart her off to jail, he sucks her blood and kills her. Since Kirk Langstrom (aka Man-Bat) is Batman instead of Bruce Wayne, it’s not breaking Batman’s code or anything.
2. She Tried to Make a Mini Joker
You remember that scene in Batman: Arkham Knight where Harley is obsessed with the few victims of the Titan formula because they have taken on Joker’s appearance and mannerisms, right? Well that’s not the first time that her overwhelming passion for Mistah J has gotten very, very creepy. After Batman: The Animated Series wrapped up and Batman Beyond took its place, there was a 2000 feature-length movie that never hit theaters called Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.
This movie has a scene in it so crazy that it was originally taken out. It involves Harley nabbing Tim Drake, who fought crime as Robin, with the intention of making him into a mini Joker. Yes, that’s right. They would cut and change him up to look just like the Clown Prince of Crime himself. With enough drugs pumping through his system, Tim has no choice but to go with it. It’s all alright in the end though because even though he’s supposed to be going after Batman, Tim accidentally kills the Joker instead. Whoops.
1. Harley Has a Daughter
The life of a superhero doesn’t really have much room for children. The same can be said of being a bad guy. However, that hasn’t stopped comic book writers from toying with the idea of our favorite couples having offspring before. While there’s Damian Wayne, the son of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul, there’s also Lucy Quinn. Yes. Believe it or not, Harley actually has a daughter, and the baby daddy is-who else?-the Joker.
Revealed in the comic book series Injustice: Gods Among Us, which is based off the best-selling game, Harley is fighting with Black Canary when the hero has to stop because she’s having a bout of morning sickness. Harley puts two and two together and then sits down, having forgotten about the fight. In a tearjerker moment, she describes her daughter Lucy, who lives with Harley’s sister and thinks it’s only right to put ballerina tutus on toy cars. She also mentions that the Joker has no idea that the child exists.