Real Name: Harleen Quinzel
Titles: The Joker’s Doll
Featured In: DC Animated Universe
Eisner and Harvey Award Winning Story: Mad Love
Created By: Paul Dini & Bruce Timm
Voiced By: Arleen Sorkin
Oh Harley… Of all the villains I know of, Harley Quinn is easily amongst the top to have most, if not all, of my sympathy. But before I truly begin this review, allow me to briefly go over Harley’s origin story. Not her in story one but rather what led to her creation firstly in the animated series that would make her the first animated character to be incorporated into a mainstream comic book series. Not wanting to delve into the degraded cesspool that is the Joker’s soul, writers Paul Dini and Bruce Timm wanted to try and humanize the least human of Batman’s villains and thus created a character that inexplicably adores him and has something of a relationship with him.
Harley’s design and character were entirely based on her voice actress, Arleen Sorkin, a friend of Paul Dini who was inspired by a dream sequence in her soap opera series Days of Our Lives wherein she was dressed up in a jester’s outfit. He even admits that she, surprisingly, still speaks to him despite this. As to Harley’s signature pop gun, it was actually inspired by a long forgotten toy from Japan, one that was brought back to the studio and played with by some of the crew.
As to her actual in story origin, Harley, then Doctor Harleen Quinzel M.D., had started out as a… questionably high graded psychiatrist, and began her career in an internship at Arkham Asylum. The same asylum that I’m more than sure is cursed several times over and should have been condemned and torn down the first time there was a mass breakout. But I digress.
For her first true psychiatric patient, Harleen made the poor choice of the Joker not for fame or for glory as Arkham’s head psychiatrist Doctor Leland presumed but because Harleen has “an attraction to extreme personalities.” Ironically enough, she stated this whilst glancing over not at the Joker’s cell but at Poison Ivy’s but more on that later.
The Joker, knowing almost instantly that she was a novice psychologist was able to read her like a book and played her like a fiddle. In his sessions with her, he told lies of an abusive childhood by a cruel and uncaring father and his attempts at comedy that only earned him a punch in the face for it. He made her cry as often as he made her laugh and it was largely her own sympathy for him.
Scarily enough, it was the Joker himself who properly diagnosed Harleen’s attraction towards him stating that with her being a career orientated woman, she had abstained from any truly fun things. That it was only “natural” that she would become attracted to someone who could make her laugh again. It wasn’t until after the Joker had escaped for a weeklong crime/killing spree that Harleen’s sanity broke upon witnessing a severely beaten and bloodied Joker was dragged back to Arkham Asylum by Batman. Raiding a local costumes and gimmicks shop, she went and “rescued” the Joker with announcement that she was now, well and truly, Harley Quinn.
Harley’s insanity is… questionable at best… There a moments, plenty of them in fact, where she seems to be and well truly sane, particularly when the Joker is not involved, and was even once paroled by Arkham. In point of fact, in that same episode she only ended up back in Arkham because of a long series of unfortunate events that led to her being chased by Batman, the police, local gangsters, and the freaking army general via a tank.
Yet, in that same episode, Harley couldn’t quite grasp why, during her earlier romp through the city, people were freaking out at the sight of her. She actually thought it was because of her outdated clothing and didn’t even think to consider it was the fact that she was literally being pull on her rollerblades by Bud and Lou, a pair of hyenas.
When the Joker is involved however… Now, I am no psychologist and most of what I know I learned from my one psychology class in college, various crime drama shows, and errant treks through Wikipedia but… for all intents and purposes, Harley is a sufferer of domestic violence, specifically under the category of “intimate terrorism.” To quote Wikipedia, intimate terrorism occurs when one partner in a relationship uses coercive control and power over the other partner, using threats, intimidation, and isolation.
The Joker has done all this and more, particularly closer towards his “end” wherein he became so physically abusive towards Harley that she would have well and truly died if it weren’t for her one and only friend, Pamela Isley otherwise known as Poison Ivy.
Harley and Ivy’s relationship is… it’s… I have no idea actually. Many artwork that portrays these two, like the one above, strongly hint towards something more than mere friendship between these two but it has never been delved in too deeply in the show as certain lines weren’t ready to be crossed. In a cartoon series that featured actual guns, death, and extreme violence, that’s… really ironic and sad at the same time but I digress.
Harley freely admits that Ivy is her best friend and that Ivy surely must consider her the same way. Ivy though… Yeah, she considers Harley her best friend too despite how annoying Harley’s bubbly personality can be for her. It has been shown numerous times that Ivy will go out of her way to aid and even protect Harley, even going so far as to inject her with a special concoction that made Harley immune to poisons and boosted her stamina enough to withstand the Joker’s… affections.
The kind of affections that lead the Joker to punching her, beating her, and outright shoving Harley out of a window and straight down to her death.
Yet, despite this… Harley still goes back to him at the slightest signs of affection from him even the aforementioned attempt at murder being plum forgotten with a flower and card. A flower and a card. Heck, even as she lay on the ground broken and bleeding she claimed that it was her fault, that she didn’t get the joke.
I just… God, Harley, why?
Thankfully there was a bit of retribution to be had in Harley during the whole “Joker Junior” incident that led to the Joker’s poetic, and well deserved, demise. Without the Joker around, Harley actually made a life for herself and actually ended up with a family and even twin granddaughters. Twin granddaughters whom she was actually ticked off at for having not only joined the Jokerz, a gang of wannabe punks who actually emulate the nutcase, but were arrested for affiliating with a supposedly resurrected Joker. She even goes on to say that she hoped that they throw the book at ‘em following a painful smack to the behind with her cane.
I have never laughed to the point of tears until I saw that scene, no joke.