One of the big highlights of the recent four-day New York Comic Con, which is one of my very favorite conventions all year, was DC and Warner Bros. shining their light on everyone’s madcap crazy girl, Harley Quinn!
I’ve been watching Harleen’s progress over the years, and she’s done quite well for herself!
A BLANK SLATE
When I come across someone who’s a fan of the Joker’s former sidekick and love interest, I like to ask if they know where she came from. Often, they don’t. So I tell them that Harley Quinn was invented to do just one thing… wheel an exploding cake into a gathering of Gotham City’s finest during an episode of Batman: The Animated Series. After all, the Joker would be pretty obvious, as would most of his gang. So Paul Dini created someone to set the Joker’s plan in motion. Has she taken off since then!
This has been quite an accomplishment, given that one of the big goals of many a Batman writer is to come up with a character to continues to live on after they’ve been developed. Another good example is Magpie, a creation of John Byrne, who’s been getting some love recently as well. But she’s not yet in Harley’s league!
There are some interesting aspects to HQ, as I like to call her. Like Batman, she’s gone through many different versions over the years. For Harley, that means a variety of costume changes, from the original playing card homage, to the current one.
But I think the biggest element in her success is that she was created as a blank slate. We had no idea who she was or what she would do. To writers, that was an open invitation to fill in the blanks, and they’ve done it quite well. She appeared during an episode of Justice League Action in which she had cared for the baby Titano at one point. I enjoyed that story!
She’s also very adaptable. She went from Batman: The Animated Series to the comics to other shows like DC Super Hero Girls. To continue with the playing card allusions, she’s a wild card—someone who literally could do just about anything when the circumstances warrant it.
And, like the Joker, she’s genuinely funny. Part of the character that makes him “horrible” is the fact that Mistah J, as she calls him, is really-and-truly funny. You almost want to laugh as he’s taking you down. The same applies to Harley, although she’s not quite on the Joker’s level. Still, even if she isn’t as funny, she inspires humor all around her, including the current ongoing comic book series starring her.
She also inspires creators. Not very long ago, I interviewed Karl Kesel, who wrote Harley not that long ago. He missed her so much that he created a character somewhat like her called Impossible Jones. Apparently, once you go Harley, you can never go back!
“Harley is allowed to be human, just like the rest of us. She can have fun, make mistakes, throw tantrums… you have a lot of characters that have to be perfect, but she can be imperfect. And what’s really fun is she gets to do all the mischievous and fiendish things that the rest of us can only fantasize about doing,” said Amanda Conner, legendary comic book artist and concept artist on the Harley Quinn animated series on DCU in a recent news release. I think she hits it spot on!
SHE’S GOT THINGS TO DO
And if you think everything that possibly could be done with Harley has already happened, think again!
She has an original animated series airing on DC UNIVERSE now. She’s also part of the Birds of Prey live-action film we’ll be treated to soon.
Of course, she’s still active in the comics, including:
- Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass – Written by Mariko Tamaki, with art by Steve Pugh. This young adult graphic novel is on sale now!
- Harley Quinn monthly series – Written by Sam Humphries, with art by Sami Basri; Issue #66 went on sale in October
- Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity – Written by Kami Garcia; art by Mico Suayan and Mike Mayhew; Issue #1 went on sale October 9
- Harley Quinn: Villain of the Year – Written by Mark Russell; issue #1 went on sale December 18
- Birds of Prey – Written by Brian Azzarello; Art by Emanuela Lupacchino and Ray McCarthy; Issue #1 on sale in February 2020
- Harleen – Written by and Art by Stjepan Sejic; issue #1 from DC’s Black Label imprint for sale now
And that’s just likely scratching the surface. I just hope Mr. Dini gets a share of some of all this loot!
SHE CONTINUES TO SURPRISE US
I often talk about how Superman is a very tough character to write successfully because he’s so very moral and, thus, predictable. We KNOW what the Man of Steel will do because it is the right thing to do.
With Harley, as with Batman, we simply do NOT know what she will do, and that’s part of the fun of this loony lady.
When I talk with female fans of comics, they often say her ability to surprise us is something they see in themselves… at least, they hope that’s there. And in a world that’s often very regimented and stable, a little instability can make someone more interesting!
I don’t think we’ve even begun to come to the limits of what Harley can and will do. She’s got a lot going for her, and I believe she’s going to be an even-bigger star moving forward.