Harley Quinn, a wordplay on “harlequin” and also known in her alter-ego name as Dr. Harleen Frances Quinzel, was a popular character among DC comics fans and enthusiasts prior to the movie adaptations that practically gained her more following. In the opening of the new DC movie “Birds Of Prey” in this United States this February, it’s only apt for you to know more about her character, the origins, and more dark secrets about this female villain in the Batman comics. 

The highlights of this story

  • Harley Quinn is Dr. Harleen Frances Quinzel, a psychiatrist who works as an intern at Arkham Asylum
  • She is a 90s decade character
  • The real story and origin of Harley Quinn was from Arleen Sorkin, an actress who would play the role of clowns in shows
  • The first three volumes of “Suicide Squad” comics did not have Harley Quinn in it
  • The DC Black Label re-creates the character into a fresh, new angle 

Who is Harley Quinn?

On the official website of DC Comics, she is called the “Clown Princess of Crime.” Her bio indicates, “Sometimes love can make people do crazy things. Other times? It drives them completely insane. Such is the case with Harley Quinn, formerly Dr. Harleen Quinzel. A promising psychologist and intern at Arkham Asylum in Gotham City, Harleen was given the chance to get up close and personal with the Joker, an experience that wound up ending…badly. Harleen became obsessed with her subject, and after falling madly in love with the Clown Prince of Crime, she helped him escape the asylum.”

You know her as the female sidekick of Joker, characterized by her high-pitched voice and laughter. During the time it was Batman, Robin, and a few of their archenemies were the subject of the movies, Harley Quinn was often seen at the sidelights or never seen at all. 

DC Comics continues, “Her love for the Joker inspired Harleen to adopt a new identity, that of Harley Quinn, The Joker’s sidekick-slash-love interest—whether he wanted one or not. (Most of the time? He did not.)…

… In time, Harley came to realize the Joker was holding her back, and she struck out on her own. She became an entrepreneur and a member of several slightly less-than-reputable super teams (including the Suicide Squad), Gotham City’s all-girl gang (the Gotham City Sirens) and a traveling sideshow. Along the way, Harley has become one of the most popular supervillains in the DC Universe, thanks in part to her versatility, charisma and cheery-but-deranged outlook on life.”

Let’s take a look at the origins of her name, “harlequin.” This is defined as one of the characters in a traditional pantomime, wearing a mask and dressed in a diamond-designed tight-fitting costume. Her costume, colors red, black, and white, in the Batman animated series, is even more proximate to the common image of the Joker in the deck of cards. 

Critics tag her as the best-selling female character in comics, a superhero of the feminist culture that may rank with the kinds of Mulan, Joan of Arc, and more. She was a mental health professional, who went by the name Dr. Harleen Frances Quinzel, before taking off this costume to shift to a “homicidal, gleefully amoral, and mentally unbalanced” character, Vulture would expound. She chose to become the latter, and with the action-packed scenes she had in the comics, nobody could say she made the wrong choice. You’ll know about these later on. Her transformation was featured and highlighted in the scene on “Suicide Squad.”

Harley Quinn created on comics

She is a 90s decade icon, and first came into the picture, care of writer Paul Dini, when he was writing “Batman: The Animated Series.” However, literary specialists would say that the real origins of Harley Quinn were exactly from the woman who voiced her on the animation, that is, Arleen Sorkin. 

Sorkin was not directly playing the exact Batman’s Harley Quinn on television, but seemingly pre-empting her birth in comics and mass media. 

This actress was a regular on the “Days Of Our Lives” soap opera, year was 1987, and played the show’s New York-accented Calliope Jones. The physical attributes greatly resembled Harley Quinn who would still appear in the few years to follow. 

One of the nearest attribution to Harley Quinn was her stint in the episode where her character acted as court jester, roller-skating around the castle’s throne room, and doing some acts for the royals. 

Dini and Sorkin were friends in college, and from the VHS tapes Sorkin would give him to watch, there was one moment he was watching an episode while writing for “Batman: The Animated Series.” At that time, he was conceptualizing a female character who would be with the Joker in a very minor role. More of like a character to fill a space in the comics. 

Then the idea of adapting Sorkin’s clown character gave birth to his sketch of Harley Quinn, and from then on, Gotham City was never the same. 

Not only was the clothing and the vibe were adapted, but also the voice and the way his college buddy’s friend spoke.

First appearances in the comics

Harley Quinn first appeared in the episode called “Joker’s Favor” in “The Batman: Animated Series” as a sidekick to the archnemesis. She also first appeared in the 1994 graphic novel “The Batman Adventures: Mad Love,” also co-written by Dini. It was in here where the story of the Arkham Asylum psychiatrist and how she transformed falling in love with her patient, the Joker took place. This particular story in the comics won “Best Single Issue Comic Of The Year” in the Eisner and Harvey Awards.

She was mostly playing the sidekick role with the Joker, and subtly expressing the love interest for him, which the Joker vehemently rejects. But due to the rising popularity of the crime princess, she would appear as a stand-alone character in the comics, especially in the late 2000s decade. 

The female villain seemed to become a superhero on her own, and also was able to build a team with Catwoman and Poison Ivy. In this part of the story in the comics, Harley showed up after Ivy saved Catwoman from a character named Bonebreaker, and invited Selina into her apartment. Harley announced she would move in with them.

How she was introduced to the Suicide Squad

Did you know Harley Quinn was not part of the first volumes of “Suicide Squad”? It is interesting to note since the recent “Suicide Squad” movie did depict her appearing as the leader of the group. 

But first, what is the Suicide Squad? It is a team comprised of supervillains on the DC Comics. The recurring characters included Captain Boomerang, Deadshot, Enchantress, Katana, Killer Croc, and Harley Quinn. However, since her first appearance with the Suicide Squad, Quinn became one of the most important members since then. She teamed up with mainstays such as Captain Boomerang and Deadshot, and later with Diablo and King Shark. Moreover, she took center stage since she got into the team. 

Margot Robbie is back 

It took several years before filmmakers decided to feature her literary image, and transform her into a rea-life and live-action character, first on “Suicide Squad.” It’s a 2016 movie that featured Jared Leto as the Joker, Will Smith as Deadshot, Viola Davis as Amanda Waller, and more. Her portrayal received several acclaims from audiences and critics. 

This portrayal made her the subject of social media memes, merchandise, and even impersonators in various showbusiness industries around the world. The recent animated series with Harley Quinn already imprints “Suicide Squad.” 

And in the upcoming movie “Birds Of Prey,” Robbie is back as Harley Quinn with co-stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosie Perez, Ali Wong, Ewan McGregor, and more. Directed by David Ayer and Cathy Yan, “Birds Of Prey” follows the events after “Suicide Squad”  where the Joker breaks up with Harley Quinn and kicks her out of their house. 

Den of Geek

DC Comics Black Label

The way the 2016 movie created Harley Quinn in a fresh new angle inspired DC Comics back in the year 2018 when they announced the launch of its Black Label series. It is expected to provide more spotlight to her character, and create a Harley Quinn inspired by “Suicide Squad” but re-create her origins into a whole new ambiance. 

Instead of focusing on how she started as an intern at Arkham Asylum, DC Comics Black Label will take the audience on a trip to show her tragic obsession with the Joker, Looper reported.

What the future holds for the character

After the success of “Suicide Squad” at the box-office, the viewers were clamoring to have the sequel made soon. However, to their surprise, she would instead be part of “Birds Of Prey” and the sequel would be released after. According to the report on Looper, the “Suicide Squad” sequel is happening in 2021. 

Dini did not just create a character that will fill a minor role in Batman’s villains. No. They built Harley Quinn into a character that will be loved in the comics for several years.