Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Query: Harley Quinn

Okay, there's something I'm curious about...

Am I the only one who really, really doesn't care for Harley Quinn?

I do like villains to have a certain joie de vivre in their evil, but she grates on me, and I don't think it's the accent. I remember thinking she was funny enough in the animated universe, but I don't really tend to think she translates well to the main comic universe.

Also I tend to think her presence tends to rob the Joker of a certain sort of menace, which might just be that I've been reading the wrong comics with her in it.

I won't deny that her design's cute, but I really don't get the rest of the appeal.

Are there any Harley fans out there who might recommend certain issues with Harley in them at her best so I can try to better understand what I'm missing?


  • At July 26, 2007 6:06 AM, Blogger Jaap said…

    Well, I think a lot of her appeal comes from the whole sexual tension between her and Poison Ivy. Almost any fan-art piece I've seen features Ivy and Harley almostmaybe kissing or sexing, or whatever.

    I doubt you'll have to look any further than "lesbens r hot"

  • At July 26, 2007 7:25 AM, Blogger JYD said…

    Much like Mr. Freeze 95% of the appeal of Harley comes from the animated series and the comics based on them. I guess the best ones are the TPB "Mad Love" and Gotham Adventures #10.

    For actual DCU appearances the only ones of note that I can think of are #23 and #24 in her own comic which make the best attempt to show why I like the character.

    Personally, I see the appeal of Harley being much the same as that of Thanos - being in love with the wrong person sucks and the best stories that feature her are the ones that focus on this.

  • At July 26, 2007 9:40 AM, Blogger Ferrous Buller said…

    I really like Harley in the animated series and the associated comic-book spinoffs - the Timm / Dini Harley & Ivy mini-series was a hoot and not just because of the implied hijinks jaap mentions - but I don't think she works nearly as well within the actual mainstream comic books. Two reasons:

    First, the B:TAS continuity is obviously more light-hearted and kid-friendly than the actual comic books. B:TAS Joker never actually kills anyone, while in the comic books he's a psychopathic mass murderer. So having this bubbly yet deranged blond sidekick works a lot better for animated Joker; in the comic books it just seems a lot more incongruous. [For one thing, it's just hard for me to believe any version of Harley would condone Joker's murderous ways; she loses a lot of sympathy that way.]

    Second, in B:TAS Harley is introduced early on in the show's continuity (I think she's with Joker from the very beginning, but I won't swear to that), whereas she's obviously a latecomer to the comic books. [Was she retconned in, or did she simply pop up and says, "Hi, I'm Harley!"?] She just fits more naturally into B:TAS, as she's been a part of its history all along.

  • At July 26, 2007 10:36 AM, Blogger Filby said…

    I liked Harley at first, but after she showed up in every single episode I just got sick of her, including her comics appearances. Now I can't look at Harley without groaning.

  • At July 26, 2007 11:01 AM, Anonymous david brothers said…

    Harley's one of my favorite characters, but I think her appeal comes almost wholly from the toon. There are a few good issues with her, but she is definitely symptomatic of a kinder, gentler Joker like you say.

    I just realized that another of my favorite characters, Typhoid Mary, also rocks facepaint. I... I think I have a type :(

    Check out the Justice League episode Wild Cards or her appearance in season 4 of The Batman to see some of her finest moments.

    The first year of her comic, with words by Karl Kesel and art by the Dodsons, was quite good. That may be worth looking up. The series kind of got derailed as time went on, though Mike Huddleston's art in the last few issues was great, but that first year was rock solid.

  • At July 26, 2007 11:16 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    Don't ask me, I'm a King Tut fan myself.

    Yes, I'm old.

  • At July 26, 2007 11:24 AM, Anonymous Aaron Nowack said…

    [Was she retconned in, or did she simply pop up and says, "Hi, I'm Harley!"?]

    Half and half, if I recall correctly. There was a one shot during No Man's Land that retconned into comics continuity her history of meeting and falling in love with the Joker and her going insane, and then it and later No Man's Land stories had her joining the Joker's gang, meeting Poison Ivy and getting metahuman enhancements from her, and starting the cycle of breaking up and getting back together with the Joker.

  • At July 26, 2007 1:36 PM, Blogger Matthew E said…

    I don't know why I didn't make this connection before.

    She's the DC version of Harmony.

  • At July 26, 2007 1:43 PM, Blogger Anthony Strand said…

    Harmony the vampire?

    How so?

  • At July 26, 2007 1:49 PM, Blogger Julio Oliveira said…

    I actually like her solo series a lot. Alone, she was able to not hinder the joker and also show a more rounded character. And what was actually displayed was a person that for all the joy of living, all the fun and games, was a broken person, without any moral compass but still deluded herself a good person. I specially liked the Harley goes to Hell and the last one with girl with a bar code on the eyes.

    As always, I lament the fact that stories don't end in the superhero genre, because if there was a fitting end to the character was the last story of her series. As it stands, that end was forgotten, never to be referenced again, and that is just sad.

  • At July 26, 2007 3:23 PM, Anonymous Dan Coyle said…

    I think part of the problem might be that the she's still essentially the character from the animated series... paired up with the deranged, mass murdering, post-Miller, post-O'Neil Joker. And it just comes off as wrong and creepy sometimes.

  • At July 26, 2007 3:56 PM, Blogger Patrick said…

    In Morrison's Batman he had Harley and Joker meet, and basically the Joker tries to kill her and lets her know that he's done with her. Harley's completely irrational and non-comprehensible love for the Joker that causes her to be who she is though.

  • At July 26, 2007 6:15 PM, Anonymous Stacy Dooks said…

    Harley is a character that can't stand on her own two feet. She's the Joker's moll, his flunky and sexual plaything, and that aspect of her character hobbles any chance of real growth and development she can have in my opinion. She's visually arresting and can be quite cunning when on her own ('Mad Love' shows that she can trump the Joker at his own game), but the simple fact of the matter is that she's a moll and not meant to be anything else but. That's why compared to the other femme fatales of Gotham City, strong women all, she comes up short.


  • At July 26, 2007 7:02 PM, Blogger Shelly said…

    I'm not fond of her, either.

  • At July 26, 2007 9:57 PM, Blogger Ununnilium said…

    My opinion is the opposite of Stacy's; that Harley is *more* interesting when outside the Batverse. (Seriously, I want her to become a recurring Birds of Prey antagonist. But not with the Secret Six, because while I like them, the styles don't mesh.)

  • At July 27, 2007 12:46 AM, Blogger Ami Angelwings said…

    I think Harley's good in small doses :o

    They keep trying to redeem her, but it's a little creepy how after her huge abusive relationship under the Joker (which they play up A LOT :\), she's just so happy and bubbly. :|

  • At July 27, 2007 11:19 AM, Anonymous Jack Potts said…

    Would the character work better with the Joker if they were both fully engaged in their destructive relationship?

    What if Harley gave as good as she got from the Joker, and he liked it? If every verbal jab from Mr. J. was met by a giddy right cross or an elbow to the temple from Harley, I think her relationship with the Joker would still be disturbing, but more tolerable and understandable.

    Imagine if the Joker had a victim trussed up, then casually hurled off an insult to Harley. She kicks him in the jaw. Joker hops up with a wicked grin, takes a step closer to Harley, and lobs off another insult. She smashes a bottle over his head and takes him down in an armbar. He howls in pain and delight and then they end up passionately rolling around on the floor. As the Joker furiously peppers Harley's neck with kisses, she whispers something to him which causes the Joker to pause, and then start giggling uncontrollably. Harley looks up lasciviously at the almost-forgotten victim, pops a switchblade and asks "Ya wanna join in?" The guy screams into his gag and strains at his bonds as the insane duo move in on him.

    Having Harley an active, co-conspirator instead of an adoring sycophant might make her less sympathetic, but it would make her stronger and more interesting.

  • At July 27, 2007 11:38 AM, Anonymous Stacy Dooks said…

    I like that idea Jack; Harley would be infinitely more terrifying if she seemed as sweet and bubbly and 'right-a-roonie!', but was in fact as completely depraved as the Joker himself. You either have her be a villainess in her own right or she's just a hench-wench with a sympathetic streak. You can't have it both ways.

  • At July 27, 2007 3:55 PM, Blogger CalvinPitt said…

    Harley probably does work better in either the animated universe, with a less murderous Joker, or on her own, where she can seem less out of place being lighthearted.

    It seems like, based on that issue of Detective Comics, Dini has gotten her past the Joker. She's still goofy, but self-aware enough to see the mistakes she made hanging out with that loon. So maybe that'll help. I liked her portrayal in that issue.

  • At July 27, 2007 5:03 PM, Blogger Filby said…

    What if Harley gave as good as she got from the Joker, and he liked it?

    Then they'd be Punch and Jewlee...

  • At July 27, 2007 9:12 PM, Blogger Lis Riba said…

    First, the B:TAS continuity is obviously more light-hearted and kid-friendly than the actual comic books. B:TAS Joker never actually kills anyone, while in the comic books he's a psychopathic mass murderer.

    That's moving in the right direction.

    Timm & Dini found that -- because it was a kids show and there were limits to how evil the Joker could be -- having him clown around diminished his menace.
    So they effectively outsourced the silliness to Harley, letting the Joker appear more menacing in comparison.

    That given, while watching one episode of the animated series, I realized the true crux of her character. She's not the Joker's sidekick or girlfriend -- she's his stalker

    But others are right; she doesn't really work with the DCU Joker, and iwthout him, she loses much of her motivation.

  • At July 29, 2007 7:52 PM, Blogger Ormondroyd's Encyclopedia Esoterica said…

    Eva Braun, anyone? Or Magda Goebbels? Carole Boone, the woman who married Ted Bundy AFTER he was caught? Michelle Malkin? If they don't overuse her, there's all kinds of ways the "creepy/cute" psychiatrist over-identifying with her patients could work. I like Julio and Stacy's idea of a bubbly modern girl with no moral compass. I bet she loves "Grand Theft Auto", reality TV, dating serial killers on Death Row.


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