In Suicide Squad, harley and a team of bad guys take on even worse guys...
of incarcerated super- villains, the film stars Margot Robbie as Harley in the character’s first live- action feature- film appearance.
How did Harley become one of the most popular female characters in the DC Universe? In part by cleaning up her act, or what passes for clean in her world.
In several incarnations — most notably her foray into video games — Harley has been a true super- villain, maiming and killing with unbridled glee. Now she’s more of an antihero, as in Suicide Squad, where she and a team of bad guys take on even worse guys in Dirty Dozen- style missions. In DC Super Hero Girls, which is aimed at a tween audience, she’s even tamer. Harley is actually one of the good guys, sharing a dorm room with her pal Wonder Woman at a very exclusive high school ( only teen superheroes allowed).
Her rise is all the more intriguing when you factor in her love life. As the Joker’s girlfriend, she was the prototypical victim, enduring beatings, murder attempts and the most sadistic sorts of mind games — and always coming back for more. Then there’s her long- running relationship with her fellow super- villain Poison Ivy. The long hugs, the sleepovers, the soulful stares? Even Batgirl put two and two together. Last year DC’S official Twitter account confirmed that Harley and Ivy were indeed girlfriends, albeit “without the jealousy of monogamy.”
As an abuse survivor and free agent, Harley has become something of a feminist icon — magazines like Bust have praised her complexity, smarts and subversive sexuality — even as she revels in her own bouts of sadistic fun.
When the writer Paul Dini and the artist Bruce Timm first introduced the character in 1992 in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series, it was a small role, the lone female among the Joker’s motley crew of henchmen. The twist: unlike the others, Harley clearly had a thing for her boss. It was strictly a one- off. “We didn’t want to give Joker a girlfriend because it humanises him,” Timm said, “and we were really trying to stress how bizarre and creepy he could be.”
“Harley’s point of view is very pragmatic,” Dini said. “She’s like, ‘ Why don’t you just shoot the guy?’ But the Joker can’t just shoot him— he has to triumph over him.”
During the next several years, Harley got her own solo comic book, starred in the short- lived television series Birds of Prey ( 2002) and played a major role in the critically acclaimed video game Batman: Arkham Asylum ( 2009), which sold 2.5 million units within weeks of its release.
Tara Strong has voiced Harley in several animated series and video games and considers her one of her favourite characters. “In general, video games are the most taxing on a voice actor’s instrument, because you’re constantly screaming and doing death sounds and kicking noises,” Strong said. “It can make you cranky. But I never get cranky when it’s time for Harley. I don’t care if I have to do a thousand death noises.”
But as the video- game Harley got darker and meaner and her comic- book artists traded in her red- and- black cat suit for corsets, short shorts and pigtails, long- time fans balked at what they saw as the hypersexualisation of a character who, unlike other DC heroines, was never really about that. The fourth incarnation of the comic series Suicide Squad, which featured a more bare, more murderous Harley, was cancelled.
“When they first started messing with her, with the fishnets and the really extreme makeup and the nasty hairstyles, I was frankly put off by it,” Timm said.
Harley’s redemption began with the 2013 start of the comic series Harley Quinn, written by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti. For the husband- and- wife team, the emphasis was on fun. Finally away from her no- account boyfriend, Harley swaps grim Gotham for the joys of Coney Island, and her day job as a sociopath and murderer for more dignified work as a landlady, member of a roller- derby team and part- time shrink. She hasn’t stopped killing people, not completely, but there’s notably less of it ( a recent roller- derby match involved decapitations and poison gas).
Whatever your preference in Harleys — classic 1990s jester or this year’s Margot Robbie — someone somewhere is dressing up as her, from cosplay events to comic conventions.
— New York Times Syndicate quintessential antihero: 1 in the comics, harley quinn ( centre) is the leading lady of suicide squad 2 Margot robbie as quinn in the 2016 film