The Ever Maddening History Of Everyone’s Favorite Psycho: Harley Quinn

The Ever Maddening History Of Everyone’s Favorite Psycho: Harley Quinn

Picture by Brandon Kim

Although she didn’t officially make her comic debut until 1994, the quirky former psychiatrist made her TV debut in a 1992 episode of Batman: The animated series titled “Joker’s favor.” The show’s animator, Paul Dini, took inspiration from his friend Arleen Sorkin’s audition tape. And thus, the supervillain sidekick Harley Quinn was born. 


Over the years, Harley has made many tv appearances as well as backstory theories. The original being a young bright, promising psychology intern at Arkham Asylum assigned to Gotham Clown Prince. Over time, Harley fell in love and eventually broke the Joker out of prison, which sent the two lovebirds to rule a life of crime throughout the city. Although the clown princess is always goofy and up for a good time, she has a darker side. At first glance, the relationship between the Joker and Harley is new, dangerous, and exciting; it is also quite dysfunctional.  But throughout the comics, Harley always comes back to the Joker. 


With the revamp of The New 52, Harley got a new look. Gone was the jester costume replaced by a crop top, shorts, and two-toned pigtails, along with her pale look courtesy of “Mista J” kicking her into an acid vat (it’s the little things in romance, ya know?). This version of Harley has always been controversial to fans. And over the years, it only seemed she fell deeper and deeper into the male gaze of her character. With each revamp, her tops got shorter, and her clothes no longer seemed appropriate for hand-to-hand combat. 


Quinn finally made her film debut in 2016 in Suicide Squad. Although reviews were mixed, Harley Quinn has internationally launched into the spotlight once again. Her character became essential when naming DC villains. Even in the 2016 film, Harley returns to the Joker. But soon, with her heart broken, she joined Gothams very own girl gang: the Sirens. The Sirens starred in their very own movie in 2020, Birds of Prey. 


Finally, Harley was given the proper opportunity to show herself as an independent woman who owned full-length shirts. It seemed that Birds of Prey was a tipping point for her character to grow into something more than she was before. And this carried into the brand new The Suicide Squad released this year. She gets a new look, new friends, and some personal growth. 


Harley started as a side character and love interest but blossomed into the lovable and murderous woman we know today. Each time she returns to the big screen or comics, the fans universally support her. Her life has been one confetti explosion of a good time. Although, at times, she is wild, most can relate to her. She has hit the highs and lows every girl has in life: Liking a guy that is completely wrong for you, who then tricks you into breaking him out of an asylum. Letting that same man throw you into a vat of acid that chemically changes you. Terrorizing an entire city with your life of crime, getting dumped by said boyfriend. Dealing with that heartbreak by getting together with your girlfriends to save the world. Then joining a band of criminals to take on an evil enchantress and an alien starfish sent to destroy the earth, and live to tell the tale!


Illustration by Brandon Kim