Harley Quinn (Dr. Harleen Quinzel) is a fictional character, a supervillainess, in the animated series Batman: The Animated Series, later adapted into DC Comics' Batman comic books. As suggested by her name (a play on the word "harlequin"), she is clad in the manner of a traditional harlequin jester. The character is a frequent accomplice and love interest, and now wife of Batman's nemesis the Joker, and is also a close ally of supervillainess Poison Ivy.
The character was created by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm and was voiced in the Batman: The Animated Series and its tie-ins by Arleen Sorkin, and most recently by Hynden Walch on The Batman. In the Birds of Prey series, she was portrayed by actress Mia Sara.
The 1994 graphic novel Mad Love recounts the character's origin. It reveals that Joker intended to twist her mind as a joke because her name was close sounding to the word harlequin, a French clown character, but in his joke he found some affection for her. Told in the style and continuity of Batman: The Animated Series and written and drawn by Dini and Timm, the comic book describes Harley as an Arkham Asylum psychiatrist who falls in love with the Joker and becomes his accomplice and on-again, off-again girlfriend. The story received wide praise and won the Eisner and Harvey Awards for Best Single Issue Comic of the Year. The New Batman Adventures series adapted Mad Love as the episode "Mad Love" in 1999, making it the second "animated style" comic book adapted for the series (the other being Holiday Knights).
As portrayed in the comic, she becomes fascinated with the Joker while interning at Arkham, and volunteers to analyze him. She falls in love nearly instantly with the Joker during their sessions. After helping him escape from the asylum more than once, she is caught by her superiors, who revoke her license and put her in her own cell. During an earthquake in Gotham City, she flees and becomes Harley Quinn, the Joker's partner-in-crime.
She appeared in World's Finest: The Batman/Superman Movie as a rival and foil of sorts for Lex Luthor's assistant Mercy Graves; each has a mutual immediate dislike for the other, at one point fighting brutally with each other as Luthor and the Joker have a business meeting. In the film's climax, Harley nearly kills Mercy when she duct tapes her mouth shut and tapes her to the top of a gigantic killer android, although she is rescued and untied by Batman and Superman. At the conclusion, Harley is taken away in a padded ambulance screaming, "I want a lawyer! I want a doctor! I want a cheese sandwich!"; Mercy chuckles "Now that's funny!" as she watches Harley get locked away on TV.
In issue #16 of the Batman Adventures comic series, Harley is almost married to the Joker. Ivy crashes the wedding and tries to kill the Joker, only to be stopped by Batgirl. At the end of the comic, Harley vows to kill Ivy, thus apparently ending their partnership.
Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker depicts Quinn's ultimate fate. After a dramatic battle with Batgirl, Harley falls into a deep chasm, and Batman presumes her dead. However, bottomless pits are a notoriously unreliable means of death in comic books. A scene toward the end of the film reveals that she survived to start a family, with her twin granddaughters Delia and Deidre Dennis eventually joining the Jokerz gang, something which, ironically, the elderly Harley does not appreciate.
A Harley Quinn ongoing series was published monthly by DC Comics for 38 issues from 2001 to 2003. Creators who contributed to the title included Karl Kesel, Terry Dodson, A.J. Lieberman and Mike Huddleston. The series ends with Harley turning herself in to Arkham Asylum. She then appears in the Jeph Loeb series Hush. She is next seen in Villains United Infinite Crisis special, where she is one of the many villains who escape from Arkham. (She is, however, knocked unconscious the moment she escapes).
Harley next appeared in Batman #663, in which she helps the Joker with a plan to kill all his former henchmen, unaware that the "punchline" to the scheme is her own death. Upon realizing this, she shoots him in the shoulder.
Harley resurfaces in Detective Comics #831, written by Paul Dini. She is still a borderline psychotic, but has apparently reformed. Harley has spent the last year applying for parole, only to see her request systematically rejected by Bruce Wayne, the layman member of Arkham's medical commission. She is kidnapped by Sugar, the new female Ventriloquist, who offers her a job; Harley turns the job down out of respect for the memory of Arnold Wesker, the original Ventriloquist, and helps Batman and Commissioner Gordon foil the imposter's plans. Although Sugar escapes, Bruce Wayne is impressed with Harley's effort at redemption, and agrees with granting her parole.
In Birds of Prey #105, Harley Quinn is revealed as the sixth member of the Secret Six. In issue #108, upon hearing that Oracle has sent the Russian authorities footage of teammate Deadshot murdering the Six's employer as payback for double-crossing them, Harley asks, "Is it a bad time to say 'I quit'?", thus leaving the team.
In Countdown #43, Harleen Quinzel appears to have reformed and is shown to be residing in an Amazon-run women's shelter. Having abandoned her jester costume and clown make-up, Harley now only wears an Amazonian stola or chiton. She befriends the former Catwoman replacement Holly Robinson, and then succeeds in persuading her to join her at the shelter, where she is working as an assistant. They are both brought to Themiscyra by "Athena" (really Granny Goodness) and begin Amazon training. Holly and Harley then meet the real Athena, and encounter Mary Marvel. The group reveal Granny's deception, and Holly, Harley and Mary follow her as she retreats to Apokolips. Mary finds the Athenian gods, whom Granny had been holding prisoner, and the group frees them. Harley is granted powers by Thalia as a reward. Upon return to earth, the powers vanish, and Harley and Holly return to Gotham.
In Batman Confidential's version of the Joker's origin, Harley meets the Joker when he is still "Jack". She is working her way through college as a cocktail waitress, and goes by the nickname of Leeny. She convinces him that whatever life he is running from is a gift and deserves a second chance. This sets in motion the chain of events that leads to the Joker's transformation. In gratitude, Joker secretly pays off Harley's college bills.
Harley's relationship with the Joker is one of the most complex in the DC Universe. While he often abuses her, sometimes near the point of death, there are as many instances that show a mutually affectionate side to their bizarre relationship. Certain stories imply that the Joker wrestles with the confusing reality of actually caring for someone, giving in to the sentiment more or less at times depending on his mood or state of mind.
In the book Batman: Animated, Mark Hamill (who provided the voice of the Joker in Batman: the Animated Series) says "Expressing emotion in any way that's real and meaningful is alien to the Joker, but he's learning those parts of himself, however unconsciously, through Harley."
Sorkin adds, "Everyone else sees the Joker laugh; Only Harley has ever seen him cry."
One example of this affectionate bend in their rollercoaster relationship comes from the Emperor Joker series (Action Comics #770) where Joker shares with Harley his deeply personal reasons for destroying the universe. Instead of destroying her with it, he gives her a last kiss and turns her into a constellation, saying "You get the best seat in the house for Armageddon. Say goodnight, Harley. I always wanted to see my dame in lights. Heh. Even in a moment of abject saccharine, I still got it."
A more in-depth look at the early stages of their DC Universe relationship is provided in Greg Rucka's No Man's Land novel. In the book Joker's initial reaction to Harley in her new mental state is a mixture of fascination and annoyance. Something that he can only seem to guess at causes him to not kill her and to keep her around, and as they spend more time together he begins to enjoy her more in spite of himself. One part describes Joker observing Harley during one of their outings, "Harley, he had discovered, had tricks. One of her favorites involved a rusty cheese grater and a stapler. It didn't always work, mostly because people didn't tend to sit still for that sort of thing, but it gave Joker a consistent laugh, and he figured in time Harley would have it down to a science."
Another part describes Joker choking Harley in frustration, and then a quick thought or two later grabbing her, kissing and licking her, and saying to her excitedly "Harley. You are the greatest, you know that?"
In Batman #663, it is revealed that Harley included in her college thesis the theory that the Joker is constantly reinventing his personality; After she is corrupted, however, she refuses to accept that his love for her is not a constant. Furthermore, Joker relents after Harley defends herself against him, saying he will let her live, but that it would be better if she were disfigured. She apparently consents, but Batman attacks as Joker traces a razor against her cheek. The issue ends with Harley putting a bullet through Joker's shoulder. However, in Paul Dini's Detective run, Harley tells the Riddler that she's broken up with the Joker; confirming that they are no longer "on speaking terms". From this point onwards, Harley goes solo, and downplays her past affair with the Joker. Her once manic love for him has waned, and Harley seems at ease with herself and content in her current state.
In the episode "Harley and Ivy", the Joker, frustrated with Quinn, kicks her out, so she steals a Harlequin Diamond in a museum to prove her worth. At the same time, Poison Ivy robs the museum of plant toxins. The two become quick friends and Ivy takes her back to her lair in a toxic waste dump where she nurses her back to health and injects her with a serum which has given Harley an immunity to all toxins and poisons. Harley and Ivy team up for a number of successful capers, becoming Gotham City's "Queens of Crime".
Their partnership ends temporarily after the Joker welcomes Harley back. Ivy is continually frustrated by Harley's lingering feelings for the Joker. However, the friendship survives, and Ivy remains Harley's first port of call when she and The Joker go through a rough patch. She adopts the role of older sister and teller of harsh truths to Harley about her helpless infatuation with the Joker. When Ivy demands during "Harley and Ivy" that Harley stand up for herself, Harley says "I'm not a doormat — am I?" Ivy replies, "If you had a middle name, it would be 'Welcome'."
While she frequently refers to the Joker as "Puddin'" and "Mr. J", she refers to Poison Ivy as "Red" (a reference to her red hair).
The rocket lands in Robinson Park, where Harley first meets Poison Ivy. Ivy saves her, but after taking her in, recognizes Harley as Dr. Quinzel from the Arkham staff. When Harley regains consciousness, Ivy initially plans to kill her. The prospect of her own death totally fails to move Harley, and Ivy is curious as to why. She convinces Harley to tell her story, and comes to feel a kinship with Harley. Considering her another castoff, Ivy offers to help Harley take her revenge on both Batman and the Joker.
Ivy gives Quinn a treatment that immunizes her to various assorted toxins and Ivy's own poisonous touch. It also dramatically enhances Harley's strength and speed. Ivy intends this to give her new friend an edge on Batman and the Joker. Hot-blooded Harley, however, is angrier at the Joker than at Batman, and even initially works with the Dark Knight to help bring down the Clown Prince of Crime. While Batman eliminates the villain's muscle, Quinn chases the Joker up a damaged building, intending to send him falling to his death. Before she can do so, however, the Joker apologizes. Falling in love with him again, she forgives him on the spot, and serves as his lieutenant throughout the rest of No Man's Land, as well as the Emperor Joker storyline. Ivy tries to stop Harley and Joker from marrying but fails.
In order to enter Gotham State University's graduate program, Harley performs an experiment in which she tests her boyfriend's love by claiming to have committed a crime to see how he'd react. She does not get the results that she hoped for; Kopski picks up a loaded gun and goes after the 'perpetrator' that tried to kill his girlfriend. She goes after Kopski to stop him from killing someone, but arrives too late; he has accidentally killed a homeless man. Upon learning the truth, Kopski becomes hysterical and turns the gun on himself.
Harley trashes her dorm room in her despair and decides right then and there that she wants to meet with the Joker in person by interning at Arkham Asylum. She then blackmails her Department Head into passing her so that she can go to grad school and get her internship at Arkham.
Years later, Harley finds out that her Department Head was actually using them both to test out his own theories and that her experiment was really his. Harley avenges her boyfriend's death by tormenting her former Department Head, leaving him to his fate when he accidentally gets Joker venom on himself.
In 2002, a live-action television series called Birds of Prey, loosely based on the comic of the same name, included Harley Quinn as a psychotic psychiatrist and main villain. The character was portrayed by actress Mia Sara, who replaced Sherilyn Fenn (originator of the role in an unaired pilot episode). The show aired only 13 episodes. In this show, Harley is portrayed as an older, far more calculating and sinister character than her bubbly comic and cartoon personas. She also does not wear a costume, although she does wear an outfit that is reminiscent of her cartoon costume in the series finale, "Devil's Eyes". In that episode, she used experimental technology to transfer metahuman mind control powers to herself.
Introduced in the episode Two of a Kind in The Batman TV series, _2006-2007, she was originally Harlene Quinzelle, a host of a pop psychology TV show Heart to Heart with Harley, a favorite show of the Joker. Claiming to have obtained an online degree for psychology, she gave off-the-cuff advice to her callers. Her bosses, fed up with her irresponsible behavior, canceled the show after she staged an ambush on Bruce Wayne during her show, after falsely promising she would allow him to promote a charity drive on crime victims. The process of her sacking was caught on air, and watched by the Joker, who proceeded to take advantage of the situation. Initially thinking getting a tell-all from the Joker would restore her career, Harlene ended up rampaging the town with the Joker. She was recognized by the Batman. Eventually, she was arrested after being deserted by the Joker, and seemingly regretted taking up with the Joker. In an ending similar to her debut's in Batman: TAS, a note sent from the Joker as she was driven away in a police car drove her back from the regained sanity. She was voiced by Hynden Walch and, though the episode was written by Paul Dini, she more resembles her comics personality than her original animated series one, more dangerously psychotic and on slightly more equal terms to the Joker.