Harley Quinn and the Joker are the most messed up, twisted, self-destructive couple in the entire DC Universe. Their violent, dependent, obsessive relationship has resulted in them doing some pretty dark things to one another. They have murdered for each other and they have tried to murder each other. But, it wasn’t always this way in the DCU.
Once upon a time in the DCU, there was just the Joker, who made his first appearance sans Harley Quinn. In 1940’s Batman (the debut solo comic book of Batman), the Joker was introduced. Yes, the Joker was in the debut comic book of Batman, which means that means that the Joker has, more or less, been Batman’s enemy since day one. After decades of trying to take down Batman, the Joker finally had a love interest – Harley Quinn. She was introduced through Batman: The Animated Series in 1992, and has since gained many fans of her own. Following 2016’s Suicide Squad, Harley Quinn’s presence in pop culture has never been stronger and we can probably thank Margot Robbie’s darkly fun performance for that.
Since 1992, the Joker and Harley Quinn’s relationship has been portrayed on television, in comic books, in video games, and in feature films. There have been many reinventions of the relationship between Harley Quinn and the Joker, but one thing that always remains the same is that this relationship is not healthy. At its best, the relationship encourages them both to be their worst selves. At its worst, the relationship is both emotionally and physically abusive, making their worst selves even worse.
Below are the 15 darkest, most twisted moments in Harley Quinn and the Joker’s relationship. Let’s just say they’re not #relationshipgoals. They’re, like, the total opposite of #relationshipgoals.
15. All The Psychological Manipulation
Let us not forget, Harley Quinn was not always Harley Quinn. She was once Dr. Harleen Quinzel, an esteemed psychiatrist. She had become a psychiatrist in an effort to understand the mindset of her abusive, criminal father, because of friggin’ course Harley Quinn has daddy issues.
While working at Arkham Asylum, Dr. Quinzel became interested in the Joker, most likely because the criminal mastermind reminded her of her criminal father. However, the roles were soon flipped and the Joker was the one pulling all the strings. The Joker manipulated Dr. Quinzel by telling her stories about his own abusive father, which may be (and probably are) totally false. The Joker gained Dr. Quinzel’s sympathy, which resulted in her falling in love with him and helping break him out of Arkham Asylum.
In Suicide Squad, audiences were shown just the tip of the iceberg in regards to the way the Joker manipulated Dr. Quinzel. The levels of manipulation and gaslighting done by the Joker are pretty disturbing. I mean, this was a successful psychiatrist who was seemingly pretty sane, and the Joker made her crazy. This was the beginning of the Joker’s emotional manipulation and Harley Quinn’s obsessive behavior.
14. The Vat Of Chemicals
Origin stories for Harley Quinn differ, which can happen for comic book characters. In 1994’s The Batman Adventures: Mad Love, Harley Quinn’s origin story was first recounted. In this version, it’s simply that the Joker deeply manipulated Dr. Quinzel and then she became Harley Quinn on her own accord.
During The New 52 reboot, Harley Quinn’s origin story was changed a bit. In this version, the Joker dumps Harley Quinn into a vat of chemicals, the same vat of chemicals that once bleached his own skin, dyed his hair green and turned his lips red. Guys, just think about that for a minute. The Joker was like “I’m just going to throw you into a vat of chemicals for funsies and see what happens.” That is pretty messed up. Fans were not totally down with the new backstory, as it took away the fact that Dr. Quinzel had decided on her own to be Harley Quinn. In this new version, the Joker does the deciding for her.
13. All The “Other” Harleys
The other Harleys… This may be one of the Joker’s darkest moments, and that’s saying a lot.
The Joker drags Harley Quinn down to a cellar and chains her to a wall, y’know like all boyfriends do to their girlfriends. The Joker then tells Harley that she’ll be locked down there with the others.When Harley asks what others, the Joker clarifies and tells her the other Harleys. The Joker then lights a torch, which illuminates the cellar… the cellar filled with corpses all wearing Harley’s black and red style outfit. The Joker explains that there’s been many Harleys before her and there will be many Harleys after her too. This is a major WTF moment.
Unpacking this scene, it means one of two things. The first option is that the Joker is telling the truth and he just throws any ol’ person into a vat of chemicals in hopes they’ll be the perfect sidekick. More likely though, the Joker is lying to Harley. Having seen enough of the Joker’s backstory, we know that there has never been another Harley Quinn that the audience has seen. This would mean that the Joker dragged down these corpses and dressed them up like Harley, all so he could emotionally abuse her in this specific and twisted way. The amount of effort the Joker put into the stunt – all to screw with Harley – is really shocking.
12. The Joker Doesn’t Want To Rev Up His Harley
Since the “other Harleys” thing was pretty dark, we’ll keep this one lighter, or at least as light as it can get from the Joker and Harley Quinn.
After a failed attempt to kill Commissioner Gordon, the Joker returns to his hideout to think up his next great scheme. While the Joker is brainstorming, Harley Quinn wants some attention, because Harley Quinn pretty much always wants some attention. The lingerie-clad Harley climbs on the Joker’s desk and asks if he wants to rev up his Harley. The double entendre Harley uses is pretty hilarious, but the Joker is not amused. He pushes her off his desk and ends up kicking her out of his hideout all together.
This specific scene is often referred to as a great example of the Joker and Harley Quinn’s relationship dynamic. It shows Harley’s personality – sexualized, funny, attention seeking, and obsessed with the Joker – but also shows the great divide in Harley and the Joker’s relationship, as she’s in love with him but he’s in love with taking down Batman. Actually, the Joker may really just be flat-out in love with Batman. We’re not really sure.
11. When Harley Didn’t Get The Joke
Harley Quinn may be madly in love with the Joker, but she also doesn’t fully understand the Joker. Case in point, she planned to get rid of Batman herself so that the Joker and her could live happily ever after. Only, that’s not what the Joker wanted, not one bit.
In Mad Love, Harley Quinn succeeds in capturing Batman, positioning him dangling above a pool of piranhas. She is going to kill Batman. It’s a big, big deal, so she calls the Joker, who she thought would be proud of her success. But, the Joker has a different take on it. He is furious. How dare she kill Batman herself! Killing Batman is the Joker’s thing and he’s royally pissed that Harley got in between his relationship with Batman. If this all seems kind of weird, that’s because it is. The Joker is obsessed with Batman in a way that transcends love or sexuality. There will never be anyone else in his life that he cares about as much as he cares about Batman, not even Harley.
At this point, the Joker throws Harley Quinn out the window. When Harley lands, she simply says, “I didn’t get the joke.” Poor Harley. No, she didn’t get the joke. But, she’d go on to forgive the Joker for throwing her out of a window, all because he sent her a get well soon card. It would take a little more than that for me to forgive someone for throwing me out of a window, but that’s just me.
10. The One Time The Joker Gave Harley Roses
In the last item, we mentioned that the Joker sent Harley a get well soon card so we’ll keep running with the Joker giving Harley gifts theme. This time, the Joker gave Harley Quinn a bouquet of roses, which is pretty normal. In this moment, they were like any ol’ average couple. Well, except for the fact that the Joker planted lit TNT in the bouquet for Harley. Harley realized just in time and was able to get away before the explosion killed her.
You’d think that the Joker’s murder attempt might be Harley Quinn’s final straw, but Harley simply rationalizes that the Joker must have commitment issues and that’s why he tried to kill her. In this case, we really don’t know which one of them is more twisted – the Joker or Harley Quinn. Sure, the Joker tried to murder his girlfriend and that’s pretty twisted, but then Harley rationalized it because she’s so in love with the Joker and that’s pretty twisted too.
9. The Creation Of Joker Boy
You know that moment in a relationship when two people look at each other and decide that they want to make a baby together? Well, it was a little bit different for Harley Quinn and the Joker.
In Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, Harley Quinn and the Joker come up with one of their most twisted plans to date. They kidnap Tim Drake, aka Robin. Then, through physical, mental and emotional torture, they turn Tim Drake into a mini-Joker. Joker Jr., or J.J. for short. The plan was to have Joker Jr. kill Batman for them, but the plan was foiled when Joker Jr. turned on them. Still, the plan was pretty messed up. I mean, having Robin kill Batman. That’s wrong. Also, the way they treated Joker Jr. – or their precious J.J. – was really creepy.
8. Harley Didn’t Tell Joker About Their Baby
Since we’re talking about kids, we’ll keep going with that line of thought and talk about their actual baby. Yes, there is offspring of the Joker and Harley Quinn in the world and yes, that’s kind of terrifying.
Technically, the Joker and Harley Quinn only have a baby in Injustice: Gods Among Us, which is a “darkest timeline” story. In the reveal, Harley fights Black Canary, but when Black Canary stops to vomit during the fight, Harley realizes Black Canary is pregnant. Harley then stops fighting Black Canary all together, stating that she knows how hard pregnancy is. Yep, then Harley drops some major truth bombs – that she has a daughter who is named Lucy. Little Lucy lives with Harley’s sister and she likes tutus and toy cars.
Harley goes on to reveal that the baby was the Joker’s, but she says the Joker is too busy for a child. Although, the way Harley stumbles over her explanation makes it seem like perhaps she knows the Joker would have been a horrible father and so she didn’t let that happen. This is one of the saddest Harley Quinn moments, hands down. In Suicide Squad, there are a few hints towards this reveal. Most obviously, there was the heart’s desire sequence in which Harley imagines living a suburban life with the Joker and a baby.
7. Harley’s Relationship With Poison Ivy
First and foremost, I think everyone can agree that they are totally down with Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy having a relationship. They are two smokin’ hot supervillains/anti-heroes, who actually seem like they have a close and semi-functional relationship. However, the fact that Harley Quinn is kind of in a lesbian relationship makes her relationship with the Joker all the more complicated.
In Batman: The Animated Series, Harley forms a quick friendship with Poison Ivy that has grown through the years. Since both characters are very sexual beings who are highly flirtatious, scenes between them often had a certain sexual undertone for some time. They have even been roommates, with some seriously hinting towards then hooking up. Throughout the years some versions have made their relationship more obvious, while other have toned it down a bit. Finally in Bombshell #42, the audience finally got what it wanted – a lip lock.
6. When Harley Quinn Kissed Batman
Harley Quinn may have kissed Poison Ivy, but we’re betting the kiss that the Joker would be really mad about is Harley Quinn’s kiss with Batman. Err, kisses with Batman.
In an episode of Batman: The Animated Series, Harley gets a clean bill of health from the hospital and gets to leave. She shops for a dress and gets herself into trouble, y’know typical Harley Quinn type stuff. Batman, of all people, helps her out.When she asks Batman why he helped her, being that she’s such a problem for him, Batman says, “I know what it’s like to try to rebuild a life.” The two share… a moment! And then Harley kisses Batman. The Joker would not be okay with this.
In Suicide Squad, we saw another weird Harley Quinn and Batman kiss scene. When Batman rescued Harley from her submerged car, he kind of, sort of kissed her, gave her CPR, and then punched her. It’s weird and, frankly, a lot to take in. I mean, a kiss-CPR-punch combo is always a lot to take it.
What’s so very messed up about this is just how much it would piss off the Joker. It’s the one way Harley Quinn can get to Batman that the Joker can’t. If we want to see Gotham go nuclear, Harley Quinn and Batman should really hook up. The Joker would… well, it would be bad.
5. Harley Quinn Made Deadshot Wear The Joker’s Face
Welcome to one of the weirdest things Harley Quinn had ever done, and she’s done a lot of weird things.
Deadshot (played by Will Smith in Suicide Squad) is yet another love interest for Harley Quinn. While we only saw a little bit of their chemistry in Suicide Squad, they’re kind of a thing in the comic books. During their time together on the Suicide Squad together, they grow closer and eventually they have sex. Deadshot claims that their attraction is purely physical but, even so, Harley’s obsession with her clown-face boyfriend keeps her from getting too serious with anyone else.
In this particular story, the Joker manages to rip off his face and escape prison, because in comic books people can do things like that. Believing the Joker is really dead, Harley takes the Joker’s face and puts it on Deadshot. She makes Deadshot WEAR the Joker’s face, guys. So, it’s already weird, but then she starts talking to Deadshot as if he is the Joker. But, then things get even weirder when she straddles Deadshot. The scene’s uncomfortable for both Deadshot and for the readers.
4. The Joker Skinned A Guy Just For Looking At Harley
Now that we’ve talked about all the people Harley has kissed who aren’t the Joker, let’s talk about the Joker does when he sees someone is interested in his girl.
In the 2008 graphic novel Joker, Harley Quinn gets hired to work at a strip club. This wasn’t what set the Joker off, though. While Harley Quinn was working, the club owner looked at Harley Quinn for just a stitch too long. That’s what set the Joker off. The Joker could not tolerate that. To punish the club owner, the Joker skins him alive and throws his skinless body onto the stage. It’s pretty gruesome.
3. When The Joker Sent Harley To Space
We’ll switch to a slightly tamer example of the Joker’s affections for Harley Quinn – that time the Joker sent Harley Quinn into space.
In this story, the Joker leaves Harley a note telling her to meet him at a rocket ship ride in an amusement park. Upon entering the rocket, the door closes behind Harley and a video starts playing on the screen. The video is of the Joker and Harley Quinn is overjoyed to see her puddin’ on the screen. The Joker tells Harley the changes he’s noticed in himself since letting her into his life. It’s weird for him to… have feelings. This is sweet, until the Joker follows his declaration of love up by saying how much he hates these feelings. Feelings distract him from his devious plans. At this point the rocket launches into space. It’s the Joker’s attempt to rid himself of Harley and his feelings for her.
Harley somehow figures out how to control the rocket and everything ends up fine, but this is still a seriously twisted plan. Basically, the Joker loves Harley Quinn so much that he feels he must kill her.
2. Their Very Twisted Wedding
Weddings are supposed to be a happily ever after moment, but not for Harley Quinn and the Joker.
In the video game Injustice: Gods Among Us, everyone’s favorite unhealthy couple hears wedding bells ringing. After defeating Superman, Harley breaks the Joker out of jail so the two can finally make it official. And, they do make it official. They have a wedding. At the wedding reception, the Joker smashes Harley’ face into the cake, which – you know by now – is not even close to the worse thing the Joker had ever done to Harley. But, for whatever reason, this is the final straw. Harley Quinn takes a knife and slits the Joker’s throat, right there at their wedding. So, that’s probably the most disturbing wedding scene of all time.
1. When Harley Quinn Doesn’t Kill The Joker
In Harley Quinn #25, it seems that Harley Quinn is finally done with the Joker once and for all. Because, y’know, after a guy tries to kill you over and over again, you sometimes start to feel like maybe the relationship is a little toxic.
When Harley Quinn confronts the Joker in his prison cell, he tries to manipulate her the way he’s always done, even back when she was Harleen Quinzel. With the Joker manipulating the conversation and trying to assert his dominance, Harley is fed up. In fact, Harley is so fed up that they kiss and she bites off a chunk of the Joker’s lip. Like, an actual chunk of his lip. The scene turns violent as the two fight, which ends with Harley holding a gun to the Joker’s head. In this moment, Harley Quinn decides not to kill the Joker because, she realizes, that’s what he’s wanted all along. Deep down, he’s a sad, suicidal coward. This realization is sad for both of them, as that does seem to be the tragic truth of the Joker, but Harley also has to deal with knowing the guy she’s worshiped is not a god after all.
There you have it, the 15 most twisted moments in the Joker and Harley Quinn’s relationship. We wonder if these two crazy kids will ever be able to work it out in a functional way. Probably not, but that’s the beauty of them together.