Superhero Saturday #2: Harley Quinn

Welcome to Nerd Lowdown’s Superhero Saturday #2! We do realise it’s been a while, but we’ve been busy little nerdy bees plotting and planning, but we bring you our second instalment in our comic book history series in which we look at the ever popular Harley Quinn!

Harleen Quinzel, better known as Harley Quinn, is a maniacal villain who is most often seen alongside her “Puddin” The Joker causing havoc in Gotham City & being an eternal pain in the Batman’s neck. She has become one of the most popular comic book characters of recent times, even stepping put of The Jokers shadow with her own solo comic runs and appearing in Taskforce X/Suicide Squad on occasions too. Margot Robbie is also set to bring the character to the big screen in Suicide Squad and will presumably go on to star in future Batman movies too.

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The world of Batman has always had very popular & very strong characters both good and evil such as Nightwing, Bat-Girl, Red Hood, Poison Ivy, The Penguin, Two-Face, The Riddler, Catwoman etc. but few have managed to get themselves onto the same pedestal of Batman and The Joker. Harley Quinn has.

Created by Bruce Timm & Paul Dini, Harley made her first appearance in Batman: The Animated Series in 1992. That’s right, she wasn’t originally intended for the comics. Her role was to be more of a comedic cameo where she would burst out of a cake, taking Gotham City Police officers hostage. She continued to appear as The Joker’s sidekick & girlfriend throughout the series becoming a humourous staple of the show. Her comic-book debut in The Batman Adventures: Mad-Love detailed her origin story further.

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Harleen Francis Quinzel M.D. was an intern at Arkham Asylum (nothing ends well there, does it?). This is where she became obsessed with The Joker, fixated with Batman’s arch-nemisis, she volunteered to study him but ended up falling madly in love with him as a result. Quinn helped the Clown Prince of Crime escape Arkham on several occasions and ended up on the other side of the Arkham cells for her efforts and had her medical licence revoked. Of course, as with every super-prison facility, they have walls like paper & Harley escaped to be reunited with her love.

Harley’s relationship with The Joker is probably the single most dysfunctional partnership in the history of all written literature, never mind just comic books. Despite the fact that she is the only person The Joker has let become close to him, and does show genuine affection from time to time, he does take Harley’s love and uses it against her abusively and manipulatively.  At one point in time, The Joker does have a moment of realisation that he does truly love Harley Quinn. This resulted in him putting her in a rocket and blasting her off.

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The rocket however did not travel very far, landing in the centre of Gotham City and it led to the formation of another devious alliance and Harley gaining one of her few powers. Harley was found unconscious by Poison Ivy, and despite intending on killing Quinn, Ivy asks her to tell her story. Ivy felt sorry for Harley, let her live, helped her recover and formed a friendship in a bid to take down The Joker and Batman. To further assist Harley, Ivy injects her with a serum that makes her immune to toxins. Quite useful considering The Joker’s fondness of a good toxin & it is one of Harley’s few actual powers alongside her incredible gymnast skills, which were also enhanced by the serum. This partnership doesn’t last long though, with Harley ending up back with The Joker, even though she intended to kill him.

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It’s easy to see what makes Harley Quinn so popular, and the Batman Arkham game series probably displays this best. She is absolutely bonkers, maybe even more psychotic than The Joker himself. Her unpredictability is a blast to watch on-screen or read in comic panels, you never quite know what she will do next but you can guarantee it will be hilarious. At the same time, there is always part of you that sympathises for Harley when she is put through the ringer by The Joker, but despite her best attempts she cannot escape the obsession she holds for him. Even though she is a strong-willed character in one sense, there is often a damsel in distress aura about her best summed up by Poison Ivy when Harley stated that she is nobodies doormat: “If you had a middle name, it would be ‘Welcome’.”

Of course, while Harley’s past has shot her to stardom among the A-List comic book names, it is her future that will be most interesting. With her live action debut coming in Suicide Squad and presumably further in the DC Cinematic Universe played by Margot Robbie, its prime time for Harley Quinn to well and truly take front and centre stage. Watch as Comic-Cons are even further over run with Harleys, comics, shirts and other merchandise flies off the shelves even quicker than before. And long may it last!

So that’s a wrap for Superhero Saturday #2! We promise we won’t leave it this long until #3 and if you missed #1 check it out here!

If there is any aspect of the comic book world you would like us to cover in a Superhero Saturday post, do let us know!

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