Who the Hell is: Harley Quinn?!

OH GUWAD MISTAH JAY

EDIT TYPE THING: Sorry this one’s late, a lot of personal stuff cropped up in my life and writing sort of got lost in the fold for a while. This is here now though! Hooray! And not to worry, I promise you there’ll be a regularly scheduled article up this Friday as well, so really, you’re getting two articles for the price of one.

 

Heeeeey, it’s Harley! Everyone’s favorite red and black wearing, wisecracking comic book antihero! I mean… um… Everyone’s favorite female Deadpool? Wait, no, that’s not true either, Lady Deadpool is a thing. Uh… Clowns?

But seriously folks, we’re doing Harley Quinn this week. Harley is… well, she’s something. For me, she’s a very hit or miss character, with most of the people who write her missing what makes her a good character. For example, most of the New 52/DCYou interpretations so far. Of course, she also has some incredible ones, but we’ll get to that later. Point is, she’s finally getting into a movie soon, and a lot of people are justifiably excited about that prospect. Granted, we should all be cautiously optimistic at best, but damn if that last trailer didn’t pique my interest. The real issue here, however, is sort of like a reverse of the situation with Batman I described in my last article. See, as the trend of progressivism has, well, progressed in comics, Harley Quinn has become one of the poster children of that movement, right up there with Squirrel Girl and whatever the hell happens in Lumberjanes. Actually, I should probably read Lumberjanes. Ah well. What are you gonna do, talk shit at me on the internet? We’ll all be fine.

Anyways, as a result of this sort of thing, Harley Quinn has soared to meteoric heights of popularity. This, coupled with her already obscene popularity with the same Hot Topic, edge lord crowd that seems to keep misunderstanding why she’s a great character in the first place, has made her one of the biggest characters in comics today. This is… ok, I guess. Don’t get me wrong, I like that one of my favorite Bat-characters is getting this kind of exposure, but I just wish that more people knew how to handle her properly. So, without further ado, let’s get into… whatever the hell it is we’re about to get into here. Let’s fake an education in comics.

Oh boy puns ahoy

SCENARIO: You and two friends, let’s say the same ones from last time, just got finished watching the new(ish) Suicide Squad trailer! And hey, look at that, it actually looks pretty cool! But both of your friends have to ruin everything by opening their stupid idiot mouths.

“So who was that one chick with the ass at the end? FemJoker? Joker 2?”

“Oh, that’s Harley Quinn.” Your other friend says excitedly. “She’s a great character, much better than most of the horrible cis scum characters we get in comics.” (Yeah, I know that I’m pandering a little there, but hey, I do what I must to get my points across). To further cement how much they absolutely suck, you friend then goes on to say that they with they had put in Joker’s Daughter instead.

“Really?” Your friend sneers. “That’s dumb. That’s a dumb, gimmicky rule 63 character and I am having none of it. I do want to see that one shot again though.”

You all then spend the next 35 minutes furiously replaying that one shot of Margot Robbie bending over slowly in hot pants, for various reasons.

Now, uncharacteristically for you, might I add, you’ve remained tastefully silent up to this point. But now it’s time to open the floodgates of your impotent nerd rage and educate these insolent fools! YOU ARE THE ROCKS OF THE ETERNAL SHORE! THEY WILL CRASH AGAINST YOU AND BE BROKEN!

Ahem. Let’s get to work.

Step One: Getting Shit Straight

HarleyQuinn_03

Man, there’s gonna come a day when the original Harley isn’t god damn adorable, but that is not this day.

Ok, so let’s just get this stuff out of the way first, because hey, guess what, not only are people often uneducated on how most characters came about, but it is actually kind of fun to learn about this stuff, so here we go. Harley Quinn, real name Harleen Quinzel (yeah, I know, it’s dumb, but we’re just gonna roll with that), is actually really, really unique as far as Batman characters go. Originating from Batman: The Animated Series, WHICH IS REALLY GOOD IF YOU’VE NEVER SEEN IT YOU GUYS, Harley was an ambitious young psychiatrist who decide that her claim to fame would be to cure the Joker of his own specific brand of insanity (or super-sanity, depending on how much Grant Morrison you read). This went about exactly as well as one could reasonably expect from such an endeavor. To put it briefly and succinctly, the Joker concocts a bullshit story about a lifetime of abuse as a child, with his only happy moment being when his dad taking him to the circus, and Harley totally falls for both the story and the Joker, helping him break out of Arkham Asylum and devoting her life to working at the Joker’s side. Now ordinarily I would go into more of her backstory here, but a lot of what I want to talk about ties into that directly, so I’ll save it for later stages of the article. But, to go over a brief, brief history of the character, she spends a lot of time going back and forth between hero and villain, serving with the Gotham City Sirens, the Suicide Squad, Joker, and Poison Ivy (but more on that later). These days, she’s her own woman, more or less, operating as an antihero out of Coney Island, playing in a roller derby league, and getting a day job as a therapist. So in other words, shit’s going pretty well for good old Harley.

As far as powers go, she doesn’t really have much going for her outside of high intelligence, agility and strength. Sure, they go to impressive amounts, but they’re still within the realms of human possibility. However, she is also immune to almost all poisons due to a serum Poison Ivy injected her with, so that’s cool. On a brief side note, have you ever noticed how many female supporting Batman characters are like, crazy smart geniuses? Or hell, how many of them are scientists or doctors in general? For a perpetual shithole on par with Pre-Robocop Detroit, Gotham has a pretty great public education system, I guess. That’s probably where all the police funding went, so mystery solved on that count.

To placate both sides of the camp here, yes, Harley has been in a relationship with both the Joker and Poison Ivy. Again, more on that in a bit.

Step Two: Shut the Hell up About Joker/Harley Already

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Hey, guess what? You should probably get some counseling, because that’s really, really bad.

Ok, so first of all, that art is great except for the caption. I would just like to point that out. Always look for the positives, kids. Now, on to the rant.

So a loooooooot of people tend to look at Joker and Harley’s relationship as a sweet, romantic thing featuring crazy people. Typically, these are the same people who see Joker’s brand of crazy as “super cool, you guys” instead of “oh JESUS, did he just throw a baby at that lady and then shoot her?”. These people are god damned idiots, because hey, guess what, the whole point of their relationship is that it’s supposed to be TRAGIC AND MESSED UP, YOU ASSHOLES. They aren’t in a unique and beautiful special relationship like you think you are, you stupid, idiot children, Joker has Harley trapped in a vicious, brutal cycle of both physical and emotional abuse. Remember the iconic “rev up your Harley” scene from the cartoon? Yeah, Harley was cute and inappropriately sexy for a cartoon, right? Remember how Joker responds to that by grabbing her face and violently throwing her to the floor? No? You blocked it out because you hate confronting ugly truths, don’t you? That’s what I thought.

Joker spurns her advances in that scene because the only person he really cares about is Batman. That’s all it’s ever been about with him, and that’s what Harley fails to understand for a long time. If the same people who think that Joker and Harley are an ideal couple had actually read Mad Love, the issue that first explores Harley’s origin, they would understand this, as well as actually see the scene where Batman gets Harley to see the light.

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Pictured: not a woman in a healthy relationship, thats for god damn sure.

For those of you haven’t/won’t read the issue (or watch the episode of the animated series that’s based off of it), Harley goes through a great deal of trouble to actually manage to successfully trap Batman for the Joker, all because she loves him. Sweet, right? But Batman, caught in an inescapable death trap, laughs at her, and retells a story that the Joker told his parole officer. Can you guess what it was? That’s right, favorite student, it was the same exact story that Joker told Harley, except instead of the circus, he told the parole officer that his father took him ice skating. Harley dejectedly says that Joker told her it was the circus. It is one of the most perfect, heartrending moments in comics. And you know how Joker thanks her for all her hard work trapping Batman? He instantly tries to murder her for stealing his moment of glory.

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NO! GOD DAMN IT! SHUT UP YOU STUPID IDIOTS, THIS IS BAD

God, sometimes I hate people. For the record, I’m keeping a veritable torrent of swearing and fury under wraps right now.

Anyways, Joker and Harley are bad for each other, but Harley freeing herself from him (eventually) with the help of Ivy, Catwoman, Bats, and others is a major part of reinforcing her as a strong female character. So suck on that, guy who thinks that all she is is a female joker.

Step Three: LESBIANS CONFIRMED, GET HYPE

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I’ll take “what is the best page in Harley Quinn history” for $200, Alex.

HARLEY AND IVY ARE A COUPLE

SHE MADE HARLEY IMMUNE TO POISONS SO THEY COULD DIDDLE EACH OTHER

I DON’T HAVE MUCH OF A POINT HERE, I JUST REALLY LOVE THIS PAIRING YOU GUYS

Anyways, Ivy takes Harley under her wing (vines?) after she is finally kicked out by the Joker, and eventually they totally become a thing, and it’s great.

“But wait”, you say, “isn’t this not canon? And even if that did carry over into the main universe, isn’t it still not canon?”

Yes, you’re right. But you know what is canon?

THIS

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Look, it’s the least blatantly sexualized one I could find, ok? Just appreciate the joke.

I love that scene so much it’s not even funny.

Anyways, a lot of DC characters kind of got their gay couplings shitcanned when the New 52 rolled around, but after some… unfortunate writing on the Suicide Squad comic, Harley got Ivy back, and it was all happily ever after. More or less.

But yeah, Harley’s a pretty progressive character in terms of romance, as long as writers (and fans) can manage to keep her away from the Joker. *sigh* Or Deadshot, I guess, but that’s one of the worst parts of that run of Suicide Squad. And you know what, Harley and Ivy are a great couple, and even just great as friends. Just as long as there isn’t a horrible joke about robot beavers happening. Otherwise it’s fine though.

Moving on!

Step Four: Why New 52 Harley is such a Problem

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Yeah, yeah, we get it, tits. I’m actually way more interested in what appears to be Headshot riding King Shark like a horse in the background there, but this is alright, I guess.

So the New 52 happened, and, well, it was… Well, it was. No one was really overjoyed by it, it shut down a lot of good storylines in favor of some awful ones, and everyone got a redesign, to varying degrees of success. Batman, for example, not only got great writing and art, but the Batsuit had never looked better before. Hell, Flash looked great, Nightwing looked pretty good, King Shark looked awesome… there were some good character designs. And then there were all the other ones. You’ll notice, by the way, that Harley has been tarted up in order to live up to the grim n’ gritty aesthetic that DC seems to keep tricking itself into thinking is a surefire ticket for sales. Spoilers: it kind of isn’t.

So Harley’s physical appearance may have been put through the meat grinder, but hey, at least her character made it out intact, right?

…right?

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WHY DO YOU HATE ME

Oh also she puts Joker’s severed face on Deadshot in this run.

No, really.

Also, looks like Deadshot is gonna get some Headshot. HOOOOOOOOOOOO

Ahem. But seriously, that’s the god damn worst. Also, what is she talking about with the clown car? Like, does Deadshot have 30 dicks? Are dicks coming out of Harley’s vagina? Does she just keep them in there like the hot dog rotator thing at 7/11? I have so many questions that I don’t want answered, yet cannot resist wanting to know the answers to. Truly, this is the sort of thing that H.P. Lovecraft warned us about.

See, now all this is bad enough. And granted, the new 52 version got much better over time, but it’s still worrying that the Suicide Squad movie seems to be taking cues from this interpretation of the character, presumably under the impression that that’s the only way to make her character “realistic” or “gritty” enough. Sure, I won’t argue that the original interpretation of Harley should be what they use, because it definitely wouldn’t work in live action, but they could take elements of her characterization and fuse that with, say, her newer roller derby girl look, or maybe her look from Arkham City. There’s no reason to stoop to “crazy slutty murder girl” for her. Shit, you already got perfect casting for her, use it to the fullest! Break free from the shackles of the Snyderverse! Save DC movies before they are ever truly in danger!

In Conclusion

Basically, all you need to do here is tell them everything there is to know about Harley Quinn, because when the character is done and interpreted correctly, she really speaks for herself. If they can’t get on board with that, then they can put on a frilly dress and blow me, because there shouldn’t be anything keeping you from selling people on a character this good.

If you want to read more about her, pretty much just read Mad Love. It’s one issue, and it’s sublime in every way. Seriously, it’s perfect. You can look into other comics of hers if she grabs your attention, but honestly, all that matters is that you watch the Batman animated series. No one will ever understand Harley better than her creators. You can also read the comics based off the series, but that’s mostly optional. Ooh, and she’s not really fantastic in them, but I take every opportunity to push the Arkham games on people, so you can totally play those too.

Not really much in the way of crazy facts for her, as she’s only been around since the 90s, so… yeah. There you have it. See you next time!

 

EDIT 2: Sorry this article is shorter guys. Like I said earlier, this one kind of got lost in the fold as a bunch of pretty serious stuff happened in my life, so it got a bit rushed out so that I could get back on schedule. Worry not, there will be a regular length, regularly scheduled article up this Friday in celebration of a  certain movie we’re all very excited about! See you next time!

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