I Love Harley Quinn

June 20th, 2008 by | Tags: , ,

All I need in this life of sin,
Is me and my girlfriend
Down to ride to the bloody end,
Just me and my girlfriend

Honestly, I don’t generally like the Joker. He’s a one note villain– his gimmick is that he’s crazy and kills people. That isn’t really what I want out of my villains. It’s a flat motivation and part of why I’m not really digging on Batman’s rogues gallery. How many of them have the gimmick of “I’m just plain crazy” or “I hate Batman?” That’s boring.

So, yeah, generally, I don’t like the Joker. When I do like him, though, is when Harley Quinn is around.

They have an interesting dynamic. Harleen Quinzel was a psychologist who pulled some strings to get assigned to Arkham Asylum specifically to meet the Joker. After they meet, she falls for him hard and tries to seduce him. Joker, unsurprisingly, finds this hilarious and decides to go along with it. What follows is a whirlwind romance of old-fashioned violence, laughs, and whatever you call spousal abuse when you aren’t married.

Harley is kind of spectacularly damaged goods. She’s in love with a mass murderer and takes the abuse he dishes out with nary a complaint, nine times out of ten. She dresses up like a jester and kills people for fun. Her best friend mind controls and kills dudes for fun. She breezes through life doing exactly what she wants, how she wants, to who she wants… actually, that list bit ain’t so bad.

I’ve dug Harley ever since she first appeared on the Batman cartoon. She was a fun twist on the Joker’s style– more concerned with the comedy than the killing. She’s simultaneously playful and menacing. She’s just as likely to give you the joy buzzer as the bang gun. The joke is that both will kill you.

Harley is one of my favorite characters to read about, in part because of the stellar job Karl Kesel and the Dodsons did on her solo series. They spun a tale that combined both her latent guilt, her issues with the Joker, her desire to become her own woman, her desire to have fun, and her belief in love to create something both compelling and entertaining. There are times when I even like the Dodsons’ rendition of Harley better than Bruce Timm’s. They draw her with a smile that’s infectious.

I enjoy the fact that she makes the Joker interesting again. Suddenly, he’s got a foil. Sure, she’s crazy, but she forces him into new areas beyond just “Hee hee hoo hoo look how ZANY and CRAZY and EVILLLL I am!” The opening arc of Harley Quinn involved him faking an injury while living with Harley. Harley was planning this big get-back for Batman while the Joker grew increasingly threatened by how efficient and trustworthy she seemed.

It’s really fun, despite all the murder, and an interesting relationship. Joker, as befitting his supersanity, flipflops between hating her and loving her. One of my favorite scenes between the two is in Emperor Joker. This is after Joker has gained almost infinite power.

I dunno, I dug it.

I really like Harley is what all this boils down to. I actually have four pieces of Harley related art. The first sketch I ever bought was of Harley Quinn, in fact, by Mike Huddleston.

Harley Quinn by Mike Huddleston Harley Quinn by Rob Reilly
Gotham Girls print by Dustin Nguyen Harley Quinn Sketch

From left to right, top to bottom– Mike Huddleston, Rob Reilly, Dustin Nguyen, and Art Baltazar. Pardon the poor scan on the Gotham Girls print, it was too big for my scanner and I couldn’t find an image of it online. It’s also the only one that isn’t an original.

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8 comments to “I Love Harley Quinn”

  1. I actually thought she grabbed the batwang after saying “shake” in the cartoon.

    What the f@%$ is wrong with me?

  2. To me, the Joker’s always been about the style, not the substance, as a character. Not in the sense of laughing gas and killer playing cards, but in the feeling that the gimmicks and the smile are stretched over a yawning void. Where the other Batman villains might lack morality or even sense, the Joker actually lacks a personality, which is why he’s scary.

    It’s best summed up in how his condensed backstory was presented in DC’s latest series of blurbs on each character. Any “substance” you give to the character detracts from it. Which is the reason I think Harley is neat: the sense that in the end, there isn’t anyone in there for her to love.

  3. Ha, that’s a great interpretation. It also kind of fits with Grant Morrison’s idea of the Joker having a super-personality– one that changes to fit the situation. He’s the Clown Prince of Crime one day, and a Killer Clown the next.

    If you flipflop constantly like that, do you even really have a personality at all?

    Which is the reason I think Harley is neat: the sense that in the end, there isn’t anyone in there for her to love.

    This is really, really good.

  4. I like Harley too, but I always find it rather hard to explain. I guess I just find the celebrity-style relationship in a villainous couple to be fascinating. But I enjoy Harley Quinn on her own as well. I enjoy her buoyant personality even when it’s toward violence. It’s hard not to like her, even as a abusee to the Joker at times. Working on the previous celebrity analogy, I guess I’m just as fascinated watching her ups and downs as some people are to reading up on celebrity rehab entries and recoveries.

  5. It is a very odd relationship to say the least. One that adds much needed depth to the Joker. I do wonder, what was everyone’s take on The Dark Knight’s version of the Joker?

  6. […] As far as silent moll Harley Quinn goes… wow! I didn’t think I’d dig the take, but it worked out really, really well. In a way, she was one of the most threatening people in the book, and I think it’s because she never spoke. She’s that Stand By Your Man girl. She’s there for support, and sometimes support means machinegunning a dozen people and skinning a man alive. It’s a little scary, and the silence means we get no insight into her character. We just know she likes luxury and stands by the Joker, no matter what. I’m such a stan for Harley, though. […]

  7. Harley Quinn is just totally awesome and completely awesome.
    I completely agree that she adds a depth to the Joker, and that their relationship (or often lack thereof)is fasinating.
    I find it incredibly weird though that, I end up loving the relationship, and comparing myself to her. I am very similar too her though,in personality, which is a bit scary!

  8. I like the Joker as portrayed in Alan Moore’s classic ‘The Killing Joke’ – a man who, against his will, has looked into the abyss, and been consumed by it. He has realized how insignificant humanity is, and how futile our attempts to impose any sort of order or meaning on a vast, uncaring universe. He kills to show the world the truth – that life is fragile and meaningless, and therefore only suitable as a venue for passing whims and shallow hedonism. In this, his is Batman’s antithesis, as Wayne has reacted to a similar glimpse into the void by becoming psychotically dedicated to imposing order upon it through sheer force of will. Each, naturally, as disciples of Chaos and Order respectively, tries to convert the other.

    That was long, wasn’t it?