Harley Quinn is a member of Batman’s Rogues Gallery and my favourite comic book character. First appearing in Batman: The Animated Series in 1992 and subsequently in The Batman Adventures #12 the following year, Harley is the loveable girlfriend of The Joker. Formerly Dr Harleen Quinzel, a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum, Quinn fell in love with (or was driven mad by, depending on who you ask) The Joker and took on a life of crme to be with him. Quickly proving a fan favourite, Harley gained her own mini-series in 1999, a collaboration with Catwoman and Poison Ivy in Gotham City Sirens between 2009 and 2011 and currently stars in her own series that has been running since late 2013.
I’m going to be honest, I adore Harley. I have three posters up in my bedroom, all of them are Batman related, two of them are of Harley. However, this isn’t some mindless obsession- I prefer DC to Marvel for many reasons, one being that I feel that DC has stronger characterisation and I think Harley is a prime example of this- starting off as simple comic relief and flesh out The Joker’s character, Harley quickly developed her own personality. While The Joker is a rather serious character, Harley has much lighter air and while goofy at times, this isn’t done for the sake of a few cheap laughs, it’s who Harley is. She’s the criminal ying to the Joker’s crminal yang. And while The Joker has been (and if DC are smart, will always be) a bad guy, Harley’s New 52 reboot (the aforementioned 2013 solo series) depicts Harley as more of anti-hero wanting to make a difference in the world.
Harley is also fascinating from a psychological perspective. While many comic book villians suffer from ‘generic villiany syndrome’, Harley can be argued to be a hybristophiliac- someone with a sexual attraction to dangerous people or criminals- which would explain her love for the Joker. DC also take a surprisingly deep look at abusive relationships with Harley- The Joker is not a nice man and often threatens the use of violence or is violent towards Harley. However, she always comes back to his side and even after she breaks up with him, (it’s a long story involving the Joker going super crazy and giving Harley’s pet hyenas rabies) she struggles with her feelings and often contemplates going back to him. For a comic book series featuring a character who is light-hearted and jovial 80-90% of the time, this jerk back into reality is really quite surprisingly and pulled off exceptionally.
Harley’s origin story is also one that carries themes that many people can relate to. Dr Harleen Quinzel, a lowly and lonely intern at Arkham Asylum, volunteers to do the patient interviews with The Joker and ends up falling in love with him. Sure, we don’t all go around falling in love with crazy supervillians but the themes of finding comfort and friendship in one person who seems to understand us and even finding love in unexpected places are both things that readers may be able to empathise with. There is also a lot of sympathy for Harley that adds to my love of the character- she is cruelly manipulated by The Joker and she ends up in love with him, so much in love it hurts when she has to leave him. She could very well be a real person, someone that you or I know who has essentially be strung along by a vicious and manipulative partner. Again, Harley is a relateable character.
So there we go, a few reasons why I love Harley Quinn and why she is my favourite comic book character. Who is your favourite character? Do you prefer DC or Marvel?
See you next time people!