- "You'd think after living with Mr. J I'd be used to a little pain."
- ―Harley Quinn[src]
Dr. Harleen Frances Quinzel, also known as Harley Quinn (a pun on the word "harlequin"), first appeared in the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Joker's Favor", where she served as a humorous female sidekick to the Joker. In her first appearances she was depicted as a character completely devoted to the Joker, totally oblivious to his psychotic nature and obvious lack of affection for her; this characterization has remained more or less consistent throughout her subsequent appearances.
The origin of the character was recounted in a 1994 graphic novel The Batman Adventures: Mad Love. Told in the style and continuity of Batman: The Animated Series and written and drawn by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm (two of the producers of the animated series and Harley's creators), the comic book reveals Harley's origins as an Arkham Asylum psychiatrist who falls in love with the Joker. The story was widely praised and won the Eisner and Harvey Awards for Best Single Issue Comic of the Year.
The Mad Love story was originally thought too violent for the animated series, but was eventually used in the New Batman Adventures episode "Mad Love" in 1999. This made it the first "animation-style" comic book to be adapted for the series, a practice that would be continued for the episode "Holiday Knights".
Dr. Harleen Quinzel was a psychiatric intern at Arkham Asylum. A model student, in addition to receiving high grades in college, she was also a dedicated gymnast, winning a scholarship to Gotham City University. While researching the lunatics at Arkham, she became fascinated with one particular inmate. Ambitiously volunteering to analyze him, she pleaded with the doctors at Arkham for three months before she could treat him. After he gained her sympathy during their sessions, he seduced her, causing her to fall madly in love with him. After helping him escape from the asylum more than once, Harleen was suspected by the authorities, who revoked her license and placed her in her own cell. During an earthquake in Gotham City, she fled and became Harley Quinn, the sidekick of the Clown Prince of Crime himself.
Quinn's relationship with the Joker is one of the most complex and twisted love affairs in comics: as with all people, the Joker is abusive and manipulative towards Harley, but, just as often, there's evidence of camaraderie, playfulness, and genuine affection towards her. The Joker would only use Harley for intense sexual intercourse and her body. She's the only person who's managed to become intimate on such a long term basis with the Joker, who, in turn, displays occasional moments of confusion and discomfort which results in attempts to kill her.
One time, when the Joker realized he had very deeply hidden feelings of love, he sent Harley off in a rocket.She crash landed in Robinson Park in the center of Gotham and was found by Poison Ivy. When Harley regained consciousness, Ivy initially planned 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 soon feels a kinship to her. Considering her another castoff, Ivy offers to help Harley take her revenge on both Batman and the Joker. Ivy took her back to her lair in a toxic waste dump and nursed her back to health. This included injecting Harley with a serum that Ivy had developed which has given Harley immunity to various assorted toxins and Ivy's own poisonous touch and also dramatically enhances Harley's strength and speed. Ivy intends to give her new friend an edge on Batman and the Joker. Quinn and Ivy teamed up and conducted a number of successful capers. 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. After this, Ivy dissolved the partnership in disgust. Ivy remains, however, her usual first point of call when she and The Joker are going through a rough patch. Ivy adopted the role of older sister and teller of harsh truths to Quinn about her helpless infatuation with The Joker. She frequently refers to the Joker as "Puddin" and "Mr. J." and she refers to Poison Ivy as "Red" (a reference to her red hair).
In the One Year Later storyline, Harley Quinn resurfaces as an inmate at Arkham Asylum, glimpsed briefly in Detective Comics #823.
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.
In Birds of Prey #105, Harley Quinn joins the Secret Six as the sixth member. 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'?"
Gotham City Sirens
Harley Quinn has joined forces with Poison Ivy and Catwoman in Gotham City Sirens. Having moved in with Poison Ivy at The Riddler's townhouse, she meets up with Catwoman who offers for the three of them to live and work together. Ivy resolves that she and Harley would provide Catwoman with "positive female reinforcement", and the three then agree to become a team. However, Harley and Ivy have one condition: they demand that Catwoman reveal to them the true identity of the original Batman. Suddenly, however, a new villain who tried to take down Selina Kyle named Boneblaster breaks into the apartment and the three of them have to move after they defeat him.
Later, after a chance encounter with who she thought was Bruce Wayne (but was really disguised Hush), the Joker attempts to kill Harley, apparently out of jealousy. Quinn is rescued by Ivy and Selina, and it is later revealed that her attacker wasn't the real Joker, but one of his old henchmen impersonating him.
During the Holidays, Harley travels to Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, where she visits her family. Her brother seems to be lazy and unwilling to work, causing Harley to fuss at him about the situation. Her mother also voices her disapproval for Harley's status as a wanted criminal, even though her daughter tries to say that she has changed her ways. The meeting leads to Harley going to visit her father in prison. She and her dad talk of why he is in jail once again, and he tries to tell her that he will also change his path if Harley has done so. They share a moment, but Harley realizes that her 'Pop' is trying to find out where she has stashed money away for him. As Harley goes to exit the building, a guard asks for a picture. She tries to refuse, but the guard claims that her father promised she would and he had given him money for the photo: This angers Harley even further.
Quinn soon returns to Gotham City, not wanting to stay anywhere near her family. She then goes back to living with Catwoman and Poison Ivy in an abandoned animal kennel, which she warmly regards as her new home. Following a number of adventures with Catwoman and Ivy, Harley betrays them and breaks into Arkham with the goal of killing the Joker for abusing her as often as he did. However, Harley ultimately chooses to instead release Joker from his cell, and together the two orchestrate a violent takeover of the facility that results in most of the guards and staff members either being killed or taken hostage by the inmates. Harley and the Joker are eventually defeated by Batman and Catwoman, and Harley is last seen being wheeled away while bound in a straitjacket and muzzle. Shortly after this, Poison Ivy breaks into Harley's cell and attempts to kill her for her betrayal, but instead offers to free her if she helps kill Catwoman, who had left both of her fellow Sirens behind in Arkham. Harley agrees, and the two set out to trap Catwoman.
During the ensuing fight, Catwoman says that she saw good in them and really only wanted to help. Just as Batman is about to arrest them, Catwoman helps the two of them escape.
The New 52
Now sporting a new costume, Harley is later arrested by Black Canary after murdering one of the prosecutors who put the Joker behind bars. She is then tortured and forcibly inducted into the Suicide Squad by Amanda Waller. It is eventually revealed that she no longer wears face paint, and that her bleached skin is now part of a permanent condition. She also seems to be attracted to Deadshot, as she sees an abusive leader in him just as she saw in the Joker. Despite having no powers at all, she proves to be a valuable asset to the Squad, though she is easily the most mentally unstable (Deadshot described her as "cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs). Surprisingly, she does not show any visible reaction upon hearing of the Joker's "death" beyond stopping in her tracks and staring off into space, though after Deadshot snaps her out of her day dream and tells her to focus she replies "Focus. Yeah. Consider me very focused right now". In the fourth issue she is moved into isolation and separated from the rest of the Suicide Squad, which confuses the Belle Reeve guards as she is a powerless unstable woman, though as her guards ask what she could possibly do Waller insults the guard's intelligence and Quinn smiles at the guard. She is not seen with the rest of the Suicide Squad when they are sent to put down the break out at Belle Reeve. It's revealed at the end of the fifth issue that Quinn somehow orchestrated the breakout and deactivated her bomb as a diversion to escape from Belle Reeve, and is shown to be going to Gotham City to learn about Joker's death.
Quinn returns to Gotham and begins a crime spree with henchmen in her image. During the issue Quinn flashbacks to her first meetings with Joker, though her origins have been slightly altered as of the reboot. Unlike her DCAU counterpart and previous versions, Harleen never believed any of the Joker's tales about his childhood and is shown to be both incredibly intelligent and has some fighting proficiency as shown when she threatened the Joker upon realizing he has brought a knife into their first session. In their tenth session Joker reveals what he learned about Harley, that her father had been killed in a hit-and-run by a drunk, wealthy rich man who had enough connections to escape the charges and jail time. Joker then presents her with the man's finger, explaining it would be difficult to sneak the man's fat corpse into the Asylum, but that he had already tried as much. She tortures a psychologist and former friend for the location of Joker's body before slitting the woman's throat. In order to get to his face Harley allows herself to be arrested by the GCPD and brought into their building.
Inside the GCPD, Harley retrieves Joker's face and tries to escape with it, to go to Arkham, but is stopped by Savant. She and Savant fight, until she outsmarts Savant by trapping him in a pressure cell rigged to explode should he attempt to escape, and mockingly says to stay there. As she tries to escape from the GCPD, she notices Deadshot. She drops infrared bombs, blinding Deadshot, and sneaks up behind him, knocking him out with her sledgehammer. He wakes up unmasked and is forced to wear Joker's face. Harley, now believing that Deadshot is Joker, asks him why he didn't come back for her. Going along, he asks her that if she truly loves him, she would try to kill the Bat family. So happily, she runs towards 'the Joker', but Deadshot shoots her in the gut. Quinn survived, but requires surgery to recover from her grievous wounds. Amanda Waller still considers Harley as part of the Suicide Squad despite what had happened, but threatens her not to pull this kind of stunt again.
Harley's near brush with death seemed to have cured her of her psychosis, and for a time, she refers to herself as 'Dr Harleen Quinzel' again. Later in the series it is revealed that this was only temporary. It is possible Harley has developed multiple personality disorder.
Harley returned to the team after her betrayal, but Deadshot seems to be against her returning to the squad. When Harley tries to 'make it up to him' she receives a punch in the face.
When a gunman working for Basilisk who was being taken in for interrogation was poisoned, a traitor was suspected in the group. Deadshot appears to believe the traitor to be Harley Quinn after her rampage earlier on in the series.
When the plane they are flying on is destroyed by a member of Basilisk, the Suicide Squad lands somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico where a tribe of Mayans capture them and get ready to sacrifice many of the members.
Sometime later Harley is seen in a storage unit with many of her "treasures" talking to her stuffed beaver. She is thinking about what it would be like for her to have her own comic book. When she hears some voices who offer to depict her in her comics. First Becky Cloonan depicts her as a rock star in the middle of a concert, but she gets booed off stage resulting in her shooting her band, and asked to see another author. Tony Daniel draws her as a giant robot dubbed "Harley-Zilla" by Harley, she goes around destroying the town but eventually decides to go with someone else. Next she is riding a dolphin and saves a cruise ship from some pirates, she was drawn as a businesswoman, and then a ninja who kills the previous artist that drew her. Jim Lee then depicts Harley fighting Batman in the opera house from the Hush arc in the new style, but Harley doesn't want a reprint so she moves on, and is drawn doing her "rev up your Harley" scene from the animated series but she forgets her lines. She goes through being a soccer player, Miss Gotham winner, and ends up in the Tiny titans comic, but she attacks them with her hammer for their "sugarcoated nonsense". Harley is then put into a car with Poison Ivy as they drive towards a cliff after they go over she gets moved into another car by Dave Johnson, which crashes into the Hollywood sign. Jeremy Roberts, then makes fun of her time in the suicide squad by depicting Harley in many dangerous situations, afterwards she is put into a swamp where she is attacked by a monster version of The Joker, she kills it with her hammer and is happy after she gets transported to a sonny yacht by Darwyn Cooke. Where she and Catwoman plan to rob the people on board but they get defeated by Amanda Conner. She wakes up and finds a bomb left by the Joker which subsequently destroys her home, she survives and finds a comic of her whose art she likes. Then a man in a car comes up to her and tells her that one of her former patients from Arkham left her some real estate in his will. Causing Harley to say "This is gonna be fun."
Harley rides her motorcycle through Coney Island with the remainder of her treasures on the back of it. When she sees a man walking a sad dog through the street, causing her to attack the man with a whip and drag him down the street. Where she is spotted by a bounty hunter who tries to kill her, causing her to crash in the middle of a bridge, her new dog fetches her hammer and she proceeds to knock the guys head off for the trouble he caused. Some time later she arrives at the apartment she meets Big Tony, Queenie, and the other tenants of the apartment. Then goes on a tour of her new four floor building, but soon learns she has to cover the expenses prompting her to get a job. She uses make up to cover up her dyed skin so she can appear as her "normal" self to get a job working as a therapist, then goes for try outs at a roller derby, where -after brutally beating up the other entrants- she gets a position on the team. Later that night while relaxing on her rooftop a woman attempts to stab her but is shot by Big Tony. Afterwards they find a poster offering a two-million dollar reward for Harley dead or alive.
Powers and Abilities:
Gifted Intellect: Despite being somewhat absent-minded, she is shown to be highly trained in psychiatry and gymnastics.
- Trained Pyschiatrist: Harley completed with her psychiatry residency at Arkham Asylum, and is now a trained psychiatrist in both fields of psychoanalysis and criminology.
Expert Combatant: Harley Quinn is a highly skilled combatant due to her years as a criminal and uses her skills in gymnastics to help her in her fights.
Master Acrobat: Harley's skills in gymnastics rival with those of Catwoman and Nightwing.
Toxic Immunity: As a result of Poison Ivy’s treatment, she is immune to various assorted toxins and Ivy’s own poisonous touch.
Enhanced Strength & Stamina: Harley's strength and stamina has been augmented by injections given to her by Poison Ivy.
Quinn employs a variety of Joker’s party-gag weapons including her baseball bat, giant gag mallet, knife, pop pistol and missile-firing pistol (HQR).
In Other Media
In the animated series Quinn often teamed up with Poison Ivy to take on Batman. Quinn's friendship with Ivy was also one of the few villainous team-ups in the animated series seemingly rooted in genuine friendship. When Ivy demanded during one episode that Quinn stand up for herself, Quinn said "I am not a doormat—am I?" Ivy replied, "If you had a middle name, it would be 'Welcome'."
Her eventual fate is shown in the movie Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. She disappeared, and was presumed dead, after falling into a deep crevasse during Batman's final showdown with the Joker; however, incredibly deep pits are a notoriously unreliable means of death in fiction. Indeed, a scene toward the end of the film reveals that she survived to start a family, with her granddaughters (Delia and Deidre Dennis) inheriting her devotion to the Joker and eventually joining the Jokerz Gang as Dee-Dee. This scene exists primarily because Harley is Paul Dini's admitted favorite character (not to mention being his main original addition to the Batman mythos), and he was unsettled by having to kill her off, so he snuck that scene into the script on his own. It survived thanks to Bruce Timm, who felt the lighter moment was a perfect relief after the intensity of the climax. It should be noted that her reaction to Dee-Dee's involvement with the Joker's plan seems strange; she scolded them for getting involved in Joker's crimes after "struggling to make a good home for them." This is odd considering Harley's previous devotion to the Joker and would suggest that she no longer feels any true attachment to him after all the years he had been dead.
Birds of Prey
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. It is unknown about this version's relationship with the Joker, although she does make reference to him as "Mr. J." on a few occasions, laments his loss as Gotham's crime boss and hints at a past relationship reminiscent to that of the animated series.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold
Harley Quinn is introduced to the Batman: The Brave and the Bold series in the episode "Emperor Joker". She is voiced by Meghan Strange. This version is a henchwoman of the Joker and wears an outfit similar to that of a 1920's flapper woman. Quinn never appears in her original costume, though Bat-Mite does in the episode, and Paul Dini had a cameo in Harley's costume in a previous episode. She holds a brief crush on Bat-Mite in the episode, but ultimately proves to love the Joker more. She makes a cameo in the series finale, "Mitefall!", as part of the wrap-party for the now-canceled Brave and the Bold series. She kicks Gagsworthy when he tries to approach the Joker.
A teenager wearing Harley's DCAU costume is seen in the Young Justice episode "Secrets".
The character proved so popular that a version of her was eventually added to the more serious Batman comic book canon. She first appeared in Batman #570, "The Code" as part of the "No Man's Land" story. The comic-book version of Quinn, like the comic-book version of The Joker, is more dangerously psychotic and less humorously kooky than the animated-series version.
Quinn's DC Universe comic book origin, revealed in Batman: Harley Quinn (October, 1999) is largely an adaptation of her animated origin from the Batman Adventures: Mad Love graphic novel.
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 and Terry Dodson.
Harley Quinn continues to appear in other DC comic books. She should not be confused with Harlequin, a distinct Teen Titans character originally appearing in the seventies.
Harley Quinn is a character in the cartoon show DC Superhero Girls as a student attending Super Hero High. She is portrayed as not insane, not evil, but more of a hyperactive class clown.
She is a member of the Suicide Squad — part of the DC Comics "New 52" reboot in 2011.
Harley Quinn was meant to appear in the sequel to Batman & Robin, entitled Batman Unchained, as one of the main antagonists alongside the Scarecrow. Quinn would have been portrayed by singer Madonna, and would have been rewritten as the Joker's daughter seeking revenge for his death instead of his psychologist-turned-henchwoman and lover. Any other details about Harley's role in the film are currently unknown. However, Unchained was scrapped after the almost universal negative reviews of Batman & Robin. The unmade film served as a testament to Quinn's popularity, as Unchained's production and initial planned release were set before Harley had been introduced into DC's main continuity.
Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths
In Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, Harley is the name of a monkey owned by the Jester (Earth-Two's equivalent of the Joker).
Suicide Squad (2016)
Harley Quinn is part of the Suicide Squad released on August 5, 2016 and portrayed by Margot Robbie. The Suicide Squad is a secret government agency who recruits imprisoned super-villains to execute dangerous black ops missions in exchange for clemency.
The Lego Batman Movie
Harley Quinn makes an appearance as a supporting antagonist of the film, voiced by Jenny Slate. She is Joker's henchwoman, and aids Joker in freeing a majority of villains from the Phantom Zone by disguising herself as Harleen Quinzel in order to get the Phantom Zone gun.
LEGO Batman: The Videogame
Batman: Arkham Series
DC Universe Online
Arleen Sorkin reprises her role as Harley Quinn in DC Universe Online. Her look is similar to her Batman: The Animated Series appearance.
Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe
Harley Quinn was originally intended to be a playable DLC character together with Quan Chi in Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe but due to Midway's bankruptcy, it was cancelled.
Harley Quinn appears in Injustice: Gods Among Us as a playable character, with Tara Strong reprising the role from Batman: Arkham City. Her Prime universe equivalent helps the Joker set up a bomb to blow up Metropolis. In the "Insurgency" universe, Harley has become an ally of Batman after the Joker's murder at the hands of Superman and the leader of a group of anarchists known as the Joker cult. Quinn returns in the sequel, Injustice 2, voiced again by Strong. Now a full-time superhero and one of the few people Batman trusts and cares about, viewing her almost like a sister, the Insurgency Quinn joins the battle against Brainiac and the Society. She is nearly killed by Wonder Woman, however.
Batman: The Telltale Series
LEGO has made a minifigure of Harley Quinn who looks very similar to her Batman: The Animated Series appearance. She comes in the set with a large "truck" with a hammer on the side and a LEGO version of Batman, who appears to be wearing the same batsuit as he does in The Dark Knight. LEGO Batman comes with a vehicle resembling the Batpod, though very movie inaccurate.
Personality and traits
Details of Harley's character vary depending on the incarnation, but most versions have an obsessive infatuation with the Joker whom she nicknames "Mistah J" or "Puddin'". Blindly loyal to the Clown Prince of Crime, Harley is often depicted as a victim of physical, verbal and mental abuse, eroding her sanity and resulting in a sociopathic madwoman. Occasionally, she shows signs that she knows her obsession with the Joker is unhealthy, but only a few incarnations (such as the Injustice fighting games) have been able to fully break away from him and fight alongside the good guys.
Bubbly, energetic, and charming, Harley often hides her demented mind behind a childish exterior, which she can combine with the flirtatious demeanor of a woman who is aware of her good looks and will use them to get what she wants. She is also much more intelligent than she lets on, often causing friend and foe alike to underestimate her - in the Mad Love storyline, she came closer to killing Batman than the Joker ever did - and some incarnations even have a genius level IQ, despite her insanity. Her training as a psychiatrist gives her a knack for getting into peoples heads. In addition to being a skilled manipulator, she's also prone to explosive fits of rage and has a violent streak that almost rivals that of the Joker himself. Indeed, the very first incarnation of Harley could even intimidate him when she was angry, although later incarnations are often submissive and put up with his abuse out of a misplaced sense of loyalty.
Unlike most versions of the Joker however, most of Harley's incarnations do possess a softer side and are capable of genuinely caring about others. She treats her pet hyenas, Bud and Lou, like her own children, calling them her "babies", and genuinely loves Poison Ivy, whom she often nicknames "Red" or "Pammy". The nature of their love depends on the incarnation, with some being portrayed as lovers, others as close friends, and a few even behave like family members, with Ivy often acting like a big sister or a mother to the more immature Harley. Harley can also be very loyal to people she cares about, but at the same time she struggles with an innate selfishness and a sense of dependence on others. Her loyalty to people like Ivy rarely surpasses her loyalty to the Joker. However, a few incarnations have realized that her loyalty was misplaced, and managed to redirected it towards people who deserve it. On several occasions, she has sided with Batman and even became one of his most trusted allies in the Injustice series.
While most versions of Harley have attempted to leave her life of crime behind at least once, only a few have succeeded. Those that have can rarely fully escape from her destructive past. Harley's grandchildren followed in her footsteps in Return of the Joker and after Joker's death in the Injustice series, he was revealed to still be her greatest fear when she was exposed to Scarecrow's fear gas.