Harleen Frances Quinzel has become one of the most popular DC characters of the past few decades, often seen at the side of her beloved Joker under the guise of the villainous Harley Quinn.
Having more recently floated between villainy and being an anti hero, Quinn is a character who is more multi-layered than many of her cohorts. In fact, her story is often a rather tragic one, with her unrelenting love of Mr. J proving her undoing as she blindly waits on his ever order, allowing him to abuse her in a multitude of disturbing ways.
That's not to say that Harley is purely an innocent party, though, for she has got up to her fair share of horrible happenings since debuting back in Batman: The Animated Series in 1992.
Whilst she's not on the same level as her puddin', Harleen has a twisted past and history all of her own. And with David Ayer's Suicide Squad movie now having thrown Harley into the mainstream spotlight, what better time to take a look at the 15 most disturbing moments from the life of Harley Quinn.
15 Kisses Bruce Wayne
This entry on the list isn’t necessarily disturbing for evil, twisted, cruel reasons, more so just for the surprising and random nature of it.
In 2015’s Harley Quinn Valentine’s Day Special, Harley has her eyes set on winning a date with Bruce Wayne. Following such a date being auctioned off to benefit an animal charity, Quinn, who by this point in time had been well established as a major animal lover (hey, Bernie the Beaver!), starts to dream over a future with Bruce. Seeing him as an animal lover of his own, not to mention being impressed by his buff physique, Harleen imagines herself as running Wayne Manor, fighting bad guys on its gardens, and getting freaked out by the prospect of having 36 kids.
As Quinn herself puts it, “Bruce Wayne, yer millionaire butt is sooo mine!”
Whilst Harley would indeed manage to shockingly get a kiss from Bruce Wayne, as ever with Quinn there was humour around the corner. Later in the same tale stealing a kiss from Batman, Harleen quips that the Dark Knight could learn a thing or two about kissing from Bruce Wayne… even bringing a smirk to the ever-dour face of the Caped Crusader.
Whatever would Mr. J say...
14 An Obsession Starts
Whilst Harley Quinn’s debut in Batman: The Animated Series was done in a relatively light and fluffy way to fit in with the tone of the ever-stunning show, the comic book backstory of Harley was a far more dark and twisted one than what the famed cartoon series could ever show.
In the Harley Quinn comic title that ran from 2001 to 2003, readers were given the disturbing reveal as to just how Harley’s obsession with The Joker began.
The pages of this early-2000s book explained that it was actually the suicide of her then-partner that sent Harleen Quinzel further down the path of villainy. When Guy Kopski took his own life, it was this grim act that caused a part of Harleen to be lost, with her fascination with the Clown Prince of Crime bizarrely coming out of this most tragic of events.
Harleen, of course, wouldn’t become The Joker’s main squeeze until later in life and once she was a trained doctor working at Arkham, but the seeds of her lust for the Jester of Genocide were revealed in the pages of the Harley Quinn book that was used to give a look at aspects of Harley Quinn that readers had yet to see by that point.
13 Helped Send Superman Over The Edge
In the Injustice: Gods Among Us prequel comic, we all famously saw how The Joker caused Superman to snap and turn the world as we know it on its head. What many forget, though, is the role that Harley Quinn also had in the Man of Steel’s descent into madness.
For those unfamiliar with the Injustice video game or its comic book precursor, The Joker dupes the Last Son of Krypton into killing the pregnant Lois Lane and destroying Metropolis. Striking out in anger, Superman actually kills The Joker and begins his own slide into a world of insanity and power-hungry decisions.
Where Harley Quinn comes in is that she assists her Mr. J in surgically implanting a trigger to Lois’ heart. If Lois’ heart stops then a nuclear bomb will be set off, wiping out Metropolis. From there on out, The Joker and Harley end up fooling the Big Blue Boy Scout into thinking Lois is actually Doomsday. Supes kills this faux Doomsday (aka Lois Lane) and The Joker and Harley’s twisted plan plays out perfectly as they’d intended.
12 Her New 52 Origin
Whilst we’d previously seen Harley Quinn’s backstory fleshed out in both animated and comic book form – with Dr. Harleen Quinzel being a member of staff at Arkham Asylum who has an obsession with The Joker and who ends up donning her own villainous outfit and becoming his main squeeze – but in DC’s New 52 Quinn was given, like many a character, a refresh.
Certain parts of Harley’s origins were still present in The New 52, but there was one main difference: she now had bleached skin.
At the hands of her puddin’, Harleen found herself booted into a vat of acid, much like how The Joker got his twisted complexion. Again, this was yet another cruel act in a long list of cruel acts that Mr. J had carried out on the love-struck Quinn.
What was even more disturbing – or some may say dementedly predictable – was that Harley really didn’t seem all that phased by this, instead seeing it as a creepy way of being even more like the love of her life, The Joker.
11 Sacrifices Her Sanity
Clearly the Adam West-starring ‘60s Batman TV show was way, way before Harley Quinn’s time, but that’s not to say that she’s not been incorporated into that world in later years.
In the fan favourite Batman ’66 comic book title that saw the campy TV world of the 1960s continuing beyond the show, readers were given a character by the name of Dr. Holly Quinn, aka Harlequin. This unwitting soul was duped into making a hysteria-creating device for Catwoman and, you guessed it, The Joker.
What was the big surprise about this “Harlequin” was that she was genuinely wanting to be a good citizen who does the right thing by others, becoming a completely unwilling wheel in the plan of the two aforementioned rogues. In fact, hit so hard by her involvement in this crime, Dr. Holly Quinn does the only thing that can save the residents of Gotham City - she sacrifices her own sanity for the greater good.
10 Family Ties
Despite debuting in 1992 (in animated form, at least), it took until February 2010 for fans to get their first real glimpse at the family of Harleen Quinzel.
In Gotham City Sirens #7, we were given a look into the sad, shocking family life of Harleen, giving readers an indication of where things started to go wrong for Quinn and why she maybe ended up veering off into the realm of villainy in later life.
This particular issue of Gotham City Sirens revealed how Harley was a chip off the old block where her pops was concerned, with him being shown to be a career criminal con man who had been locked up for years. Then there was her slob of a brother who saw himself as a faux rock star, not to mention a mother who massively disapproved of what Harley did.
Harleen Quinzel may not have had a tragic upbringing ala Bruce Wayne’s parents being killed or Barry Allen’s mother being murdered, but it was still a shocker to get an insight into the family life that Harley grew up in.
9 Bumping Uglies With Deadshot
Sure, two consenting adults having sex with each other isn’t exactly a surprising or disturbing happening, particularly in the ever-expressive world we live in, but seeing Harley Quinn and Deadshot bumping uglies in the animated Assault on Arkham movie was a shock to many viewers.
After some playful banter and excessive flirting, it always seemed as if these two rogues would get it on… just audiences were shocked by how much we actually saw.
With Floyd Lawton, aka Deadshot, returning to his room following a shower, he’s welcomed by the naked form of none other than Harley Quinn. Harley explains how she has an, err, itch that she thinks he can help her with. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Lawton gets on with the job at hand.
Whilst the sex scene was carefully shot as to not show too much for an animated 15-rated movie about comic book heroes and villains, it was still something that took many aback. And, of course, in typical Harley Quinn fashion, she celebrated arriving at her “special place” by giving out a scream of “Yahtzee!”
8 Break Into Comics
With this entry on this list, it’s actually readers themselves that are responsible for the disturbing element of things.
DC Comics decided to run a competition of sorts for fans, titled Break into Comics with Harley Quinn. Fans were tasked with drawing Harley in four different suicide scenarios... leading to some traumatic, twisted and terrifying images being churned out by longtime comic book aficionados.
What was really most shocking about this whole thing was just how insensitive DC were. Not only did they start the competition distastefully close to National Suicide Prevention Week, but the final suicide scenario for Harley required entrants to draw her in the bath. Of course, a whole host of fans needed no second invitation to draw the naked, wet Harley Quinn, with many choosing to sexualize the rogue for this part of the “competition”.
All in all, this was an all-out shocking, disturbing moment in Harley Quinn history, largely just down to the utter bad taste involved from whoever at DC Comics decided that this was a good idea in the first place.
7 She’s Not The First “Harley”
Whether it’s been playfully done in animation or more emotionally abusive and intense in comic book form, The Joker has tormented Harley Quinn ever since she made her debut. Sure, Harley may be more than happy to block out all of the pain as she relentlessly dotes on her puddin’, but their relationship took an even darker turn during Mr. J’s return in The New 52.
As part of this relaunch from DC Comics, The Joker returned in a huge way, with his face severed and with renewed sense of dedication and vigour when it came to truly destroying Batman and, in particular, his supporting characters.
Upon being reunited her beloved Joker, Harley was ecstatic. Unfortunately, the Clown Prince of Crime would return the favour by punching Quinn square in the face. Things then took a turn for the extreme, though.
In one of the most shocking moments in Harley Quinn’s history, and in modern-day Joker history too, the Jester of Genocide tied up Harleen and mentally and physically abused her, proclaiming to her how she actually wasn’t the first “Harley”. To back up his point, Quinzel found herself surrounded by skeletons who were supposedly the former Harley Quinns.
According to The Joker, in a disturbing shock to Harley and a major shock to readers, Harleen Quinzel isn’t the first Harley Quinn, nor will she be the last.
6 Shoots The Joker
2007’s Batman #663 was a tragic, disturbing and shocking issue for Harley Quinn, for it saw one of the few times where she came to the sad realisation of just how her beloved Mr. J really viewed her.
Ever since Harley debuted, she’s been constantly used and abused by The Joker, yet so rarely has she had any clarity on any and all matters concerning the Clown Prince of Crime. Regardless of whatever he does to her or whatever he puts her through, Quinn just can’t help but dote over Batman’s greatest nemesis.
In Batman #663, however, readers finally saw Harley Quinn have the unsettling realisation of just how The Joker envisioned her. After she’d help carry out a plan for her on-off other half that was aimed at wiping out any of The Joker’s former associates, it became painfully clear that the Harlequin of Hate’s plan also involved him ultimately killing Harley Quinn, too.
Even when Batman arrived to save the day, Harley still fought the truth. No longer able to convince herself that The Joker actually cared for her, though, Quinn relented and shot her ‘one true’ through the shoulder, placing him firmly in the clutches of the Caped Crusader.
5 Kills Her Own Family
Technically, this shocking moment is non-canon… but that still doesn’t make it any less messed up and disturbing.
In the Thrillkiller Elseworld's tale, Harley Quinn is actually a schoolgirl by the name of Hayley Fitzpatrick. And much like this alternative world story has a Harley, it also has a Joker. This time out, though, The Joker is a female known as Bianca.
Obsessed with The Joker, young Hayley starts to dress up in her own outfit in order to help out her idol. Unfortunately, The Joker is killed at the hands of Batgirl, which sends Harley Quinn into a downward spiral of rage. How much of a downward spiral, you may ask? Well, in some form of twisted and illogical revenge on the world, Hayley Fitzpatrick massacres her own entire family.
Whilst truly disturbing, the heinous act doesn’t make sense to the sane ones of us out there, it was still an absolutely brutal and shocking moment nonetheless.
4 Stealing The Joker’s Face
When The Joker famously returned to action in DC’s relaunched New 52 initiative, there was a major, major notable difference to the Clown Prince of Crime: his face had been cut off.
With Mr. J’s face being kept under lock and key by the GCPD, Harley had her eyes set on this most disturbing of prizes. Betraying the Suicide Squad, Quinn breaks into GCPD HQ and collects her beloved’s severed face. Hey, it sure beats Pokémon Go, right?
But Harley wasn’t quite through with the gross-out behaviour, for she would then place The Joker’s face over Deadshot and begin to actually have a conversation with “The Joker”. Yep, it was as messed up as it sounds.
Unfortunately for Harley Quinn, Deadshot wasn’t exactly keen on this little arrangement, luring her in close enough to unload several bullets into her.
3 Torturing Tim Drake
Poor, poor Tim Drake.
The third Robin, following in the footsteps of Dick Grayson and Jason Todd, young Tim fell afoul of The Joker and Harley Quinn in the most demented and disturbing way possible during the animated Batman Beyond: Return of The Joker movie.
During this fan favourite movie, flashbacks regale viewers with the ultimate fate of The Joker from the days that Bruce Wayne was Batman before he handed over the cape and cowl to Terry McGuinness. In these scenes, we find out how The Joker and his main squeeze kidnapped the third Robin and tortured him for weeks, even going as far as to brainwash him in to actually becoming a mini Joker of sorts.
We’d soon find out that in a bizarre twist, the distraught Tim Drake would turn on his new mentor and fire a harpoon gun through The Joker, killing him in the process, but this didn’t make the actions of Mr. J and Harley Quinn any less disturbing.
As far as messed up acts go, Harley’s role in torturing a young child is right up there with the most heinous acts Quinn has ever committed.
In 2015’s animated Justice League: Gods and Monsters Chronicles web series (made to accompany the Gods and Monsters movie), viewers were given a look at an alternative world complete with alternative takes on many a hero and villain. And one such villain was none other than Harley Quinn… or Harleyquin, as she was known in this other universe.
Whilst the central premise of the film and its offshoot surrounded the questionable actions of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, Harley was getting up to her own twisted antics as well. Extremely twisted antics, in fact.
Visually, this world’s Harley had a far more shocking appearance to what fans were used to, with her maniacal makeup and relative lack of clothing proving pretty demented in and of itself, but her actions were even more messed up.
The biggest shocker here was that this incarnation of the beloved rogue was a tad Leatherface-lite in how she’d kidnap, kill and mutilate countless people, turning them into dolls or toys in the process.
Safe to say, Gods and Monsters, whilst only giving us minimal Harley, certainly gave us one of the freakiest versions of the character to date.
1 She Has A Daughter
The most shocking (and heartbreaking) moment in Harley Quinn history is when she reveals to Black Canary that she actually has a daughter.
In Injustice: Gods Among Us - Year 2, Harley drops the bombshell that she has a four-year-old by the name of Lucy. And yes, the father is indeed The Joker.
Having stopped fighting with Canary when she realised that the heroine was pregnant, Harley tells the traumatic tale of how she is a mother herself. She also reveals how the Clown Prince of Crime is completely in the dark that he has an offspring, with Quinn choosing to keep this information from him because his work is far, far too important.
Even in this time where she needed support the most, Harley was still more focused on not wanting to distract her puddin’ from his own plans. As such, she disappeared for a year to give birth, then left her daughter in the care of her sister. What’s even more tragic about this is that Harley adds how the Jester of Genocide didn’t even miss her while she was gone.