From her cinematic debut in Suicide Squad to her return as the lead in Birds of Prey, Harley Quinn is more popular than ever. Academy Award-nominee Margot Robbie nails her portrayal of The Joker’s estranged girlfriend with her Bronx-style accent and ironically perky demeanor, yet the character’s story on film is much different from the comics.
While it is fun to see her leading the pack in Birds of Prey, Harley Quinn is not, in fact, a founding member. Furthermore, her “troubles in paradise” with her “puddin’” have had far darker results, too.
This brings to mind some of the most famous storylines published by DC that prominently feature the Clown Princess of Crime that would be a real treat to see given the cinematic treatment. I suppose we might as well start from the beginning...
Harley Quinn Takes On Batgirl
Experts on Harley Quinn’s history will remember that the character first originated from Batman: The Animated Series in 1992 after Bruce Timm and Paul Dini had the fun idea of giving The Joker a girlfriend. She would make her debut in DC Comics the following year, yet it would not be a far stretch from the show.
The cartoon’s comic book companion series Batman Adventures ran an issue that saw Harley Quinn, also in her first team-up with Poison Ivy, attempting to kidnap an heiress at the same time Catwoman tries to steal a priceless diamond, only for all three villains to be apprehended by Barbra Gordon as Batgirl. This would not be the last of Harley’s run-ins with the Bat Family’s first heroine, however. In fact, at one point, she would get a little too close to Batgirl for comfort.
Harley Quinn Becomes Batgirl?
If Birds of Prey was a more faithful adaptation of the comic book, we would have seen Oracle (Barbra Gordon’s alter ego after Joker left her paralyzed from the waist down) leading the team-up of Gotham City’s most badass ladies. However, the film actually does not mark the first time Harley Quinn has taken Barbra Gordon’s place.
In 2001, the tenth issue of Harley Quinn’s self-titled series introduced the Clown Princess of Crime as Barbra Gordon’s successor to the Batgirl mantle after a successful fight with Killer Croc inspires her to try out the other side of the law. While it might seem a little insensitive to the wheelchair-bound former wearer of the title, it does fit in with Harley’s tendency to react without much consideration for the consequences.
Harley Quinn Teams Up With Poison Ivy
I mentioned earlier that Harley Quinn’s first comic book appearance was also her first collaboration with fellow Batman villainess Poison Ivy. This would lead to many, many more team-ups between the Gotham City gal pals gone bad in the comics and in a few animated adaptations.
One Batman & Robin Adventures storyline sees Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy pulling off a string of heists with a hypnotized Robin and the limited tie-in comic book companion to the Gotham Girls web series sees Harley come into possession of a sought-after chemical formula that causes some big problems for her plant-like friend. The pair even got their own three-issue, limited series written by Paul Dini in 2004. Perhaps Margot Robbie’s next DC movie appearance could mark the cinematic return of Pamela Isley’s alter ego.
Harley Quinn Goes To Comic-Con
Since Margot Robbie donned a “Daddy’s Little Monster” T-Shirt and pigtails with blue and red highlights in Suicide Squad, Harley Quinn has become one of the hottest cosplays you will find at your local comic book convention. So, how fun would it be to see the real character show up at one or, better, the crown jewel of them all?
In 2014, DC ran a story by writer Jimmy Palmiotti and artist Amanda Conner called “Harley Quinn Invades Comic-Con International: San Diego,” in which the character does just that, ensuing much hilarity. While that idea may sound like meta overkill for a movie, a gathering of superhero (or even supervillain) worshippers within the comic book world does not sound too far-fetched. Not to mention, it is about time these movies give some special recognition to their most devoted fans some recognition and I can’t think of a better way to pull it off than at SDCC through rosy-lensed eyes of Harley.
Joker Leaves Harley Quinn For Dead In No Man’s Land
I was thinking of mentioning the acclaimed one-shot, “Mad Love,” in which Harley Quinn tries to steal Mistah J’s attention from Batman by getting rid of the Dark Knight once and for all. Instead, I thought I would go with an even darker and far more pressing moment in her relationship with the Joker.
In Paul Dini’s one-shot, Batman: Harley Quinn, part of the long-running crossover No Man’s Land storyline, Joker’s realization of his true love for Harley, ironically, drives him to kill her and nearly succeeds if not for Poison Ivy tending to her wounds as she recounts how she abandoned her life as an Arkham Asylum psychologist for the clownish criminal before seeking revenge against him. The October 1999 issue, featuring iconic cover art by famed artist Alex Ross, also marks the character’s debut into the official DC Comics canon and one of the few times we see her stand-up to her abusive beau. The tables really start to turn in a more recent storyline...
Old Harley Quinn Vs. New Harley Quinn
Sean Murphy’s 2018 arc Batman: White Knight depicts a supposedly cured Joker’s rise as the reformed Jack Napier, who, in addition to accusing Batman for the crime he perpetuates, seeks to make amends with Gotham for his previous criminal actions. Another he attempts to make right by is his own girlfriend, Harley Quinn (very closely resembling Margot Robbie in Suicide Squad) with very unexpected results.
The real court jester suit-clad Harley Quinn returns, seeking to take back her place from this imposter who took over after Joker’s obsession with Batman prompted her to leave, forcing the new Harley to foil Jack Napier’s attempt to become Gotham’s new “white knight.” The shocking reveal, more than likely a commentary on the character’s drastic evolution since her debut, would mean a cataclysmic change of pace to the character’s cinematic depiction so far if it made it into the movies, but would be important to leave in if a story as mind-bendingly complex as White Knight got a movie adaptation. Not to mention, I would not be surprised if a few fans were delighted to see such an altercation happen on film.
Warner Bros. could do whatever they wanted with the character of Harley Quinn at this point, if the reviews for Birds of Prey are any indication, so why not really go the extra mile by incorporating any of these fan-favorite comic book moments into her world? For more updates on the future of Margot Robbie’s Gotham goddess, be sure to check back here at CinemaBlend.
Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.
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