The supervillain has a fascinating history.
Some characters are meant to be the main focus of a story. Then there are the characters who support the main characters, either as friends or the antagonist. After that tie of characters, is one that is not expected to make much of a wave.
Harley Quinn was originally on the third tier of characters. Her invention was just to give the Joker a love interest and add another dimension to him. However, she soon proved to be just as popular as the man she loved. Adding another supervillain to the DC canon.
How did that happen?
Days Of Our Comics
One of the most fascinating parts of Harley Quinn’s history is she debuted on a cartoon and not in comic books like most of her brethren. Paul Dini created the character for Batman: The Animated Series. She was originally a henchwoman obsessed with the Joker, who didn’t pay her much attention at first.
Inspiration for the character came from an unexpected source. Dini was watching his friend Arleen Sorkin perform a scene for Days Of Our Lives. In the scene, Sorkin was dressed in a jesters outfit. This gave Dini the idea to create Harley Quinn and ask Sorkin to provide the voice for her.
The character proved to be a massive hit when she debuted in the episode, “Joker’s Favor.” Instead of being the one-off character that she was originally intended to be, Harley Quinn would end up becoming a major supporting character on the show. Sorkin provided her voice for the entire rest of the run of the series, as well as videogames and other appearances of the character.
Into The Comics
While Harley Quinn was super popular in TV and videogames, she had yet to make her first appearance in the DC comic books. That changed in 1994 when she was written into the miniseries, The Batman Adventures: Mad Love. This created the backstory of Harley Quinn being the Joker’s psychiatrist, who is (wait for it) madly in love with him.
After a few years, Harley was given her own comic series. This happened in Batman: Harley Quinn #1. Crazily enough, this is not considered her canonical debut for the DC Comic universe. That would happen with 1999’s No Man’s Land series.
In that series, Harley takes on the Penguin and even Batman for her love. Her actions allow Joker to escape. He rewards her with a trick. She gets into a rocket, that crashes. However, it leads to a friendship with Poison Ivy, who nurses her back to health.
End Of Joker, Beginning Of Harley
In late 2000, Harley was given her own title, Harley Quinn. At the start of the first issue, Harley and Joker are very much coupled up. The abusive relationship seems solid upon first glance, but there is a challenge to it.
Poison Ivy talks to her friend and convinces her to dump the jerk. Poison Ivy helps Harley see how Joker and his henchmen treat her. This leads to a climax of the relationship that has the feisty lady throwing her former beau into a neon sign.
The series would run for 38 issues. It ended on a bleak but predictable note for the character. She is shown in the rain, outside of Arkham Asylum. Harley smiles as she is led to a cell.
Team Up In The Center
The first time Harley Quinn was part of a team was in Gotham City Sirens. She was paired with Catwoman and bestie, Poison Ivy. This was the first time Harley had appeared with other women as the protagonists. The series would last for 26 issues.
After the shuttering of Sirens, Harley Quinn would again be put in the center of a team. This time it would be the established team, Suicide Squad. While there had already been three volumes of the series, Harley’s addition helped create a wave of popularity for the team of villains that would help cement themselves as the go-to team.
As with the Suicide Squad, Harley’s addition to Birds of Prey took that series to a whole new pop culture level. Though not in the way one would think. In comic books, there is no mention of Harley on the team. Her joining the team is a big screen storyline, so far. Though if the movie does well, expect to see her join the team in the comic books.
New Love, Who Dis?
Once again Harley Quinn’s love life was at the center of controversy. Fans were clamoring for her to be paired with fellow Siren and best friend Poison Ivy. After the abusive relationship with the Joker, fans wanted to see their favorite character in a loving relationship.
Fueling the fans’ belief that there was something more between the two ladies was the fact that there was some flirting and dirty talk. In 2017, Poison Ivy and Harley finally shared a kiss that would go down in the DC canon.
However, tragedy struck. In the mini-series, Heroes In Crisis, Poison Ivy is killed. This leads Harley down a dark path and ready to take on Batman, among other heroes.
But this isn’t the end of the supercouple. Poison Ivy planned for her death by leaving behind her clone. This has led to an upcoming miniseries, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy.