Suicide Squad was a divisive film, as each entry in the DC Extended Universe has so far been, but it was received more enthusiastically by audiences thanks to a colorful cast of characters – the standout, of course, being Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. Even before Suicide Squad released in theaters it was announced that Harley Quinn would star in her own spin-off movie, though the details remained murky about who would join her (the Birds of Prey, perhaps?) and just what it would be about.
Fast forward to now, where we’ve learned that Harley will next appear in Gotham City Sirens, a follow-up film though not a direct sequel to Suicide Squad directed by David Ayer. The decision for Warner Bros. is a no-brainer, keeping their best-received character of the DCEU front and center while surrounding her with more of DC’s popular female villains, continuing to outpace the Marvel Cinematic Universe where it can – namely, with leading women.
Based on the name, Gotham City Sirens will presumably pull inspiration from the DC Comics series of the same name which ran from 2009 to 2011. Initially written by Paul Dini (who along with animator Bruce Timm first created Harley Quinn) and with artwork by Guillem March, Gotham City Sirens followed the exploits of Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman as the three lived together and looked out for one another in Gotham City during the turbulent time after Bruce Wayne’s “death”.
The comic itself was inspired by the short-lived animated web series, Gotham Girls, which sprung out of the widely popular Batman: The Animated Series and would regularly feature Harley, Ivy, and Catwoman as well as Batgirl. Gotham City Sirens, however, focused on the three villainesses trying to live a reformed and quiet life, though they didn’t necessarily do away with all their bad habits.
With the announcement that Gotham City Sirens is being fast-tracked for the DCEU, we’re looking more closely at the Sirens themselves and the possible stories which Ayer and screenwriter Geneva Robertson-Dworet may look to for inspiration.
Only a few years ago, Harley Quinn would have required the most introduction of any of the Sirens, but thanks to Margot Robbie’s star-making turn as Dr. Harleen Quinzel in Suicide Squad, she might just be the best known of the bunch (at least in this moment). Originally a psychiatrist at the infamous Arkham Asylum, Harleen took it upon herself to psycho-analyze the asylum’s most notorious resident – The Joker. During those sessions, Harleen saw a side of The Joker that few else ever have (or will) and fell hopelessly and madly in love with him. (Whether The Joker actually reciprocates those feelings or is simply using her remains up for debate, and can change depending on who’s telling their story.)
That relationship molded her into a new woman: The Joker’s deranged and dangerous partner-in-crime, Harley Quinn. And after aiding in The Joker’s escape from Arkham, these two clowns would go on to wreak havoc across Gotham City, obviously tangling with the Bat on more than one occasion and repeatedly landing back in Arkham (only to break out and do it all over again). Their relationship, however, was as turbulent as it was passionate (and in some iterations quite abusive) and over time The Joker and Harley Quinn split up.
It was during one of these “breaks” (because in comics nothing is permanent) that Harley meets Poison Ivy. The two quickly became fast friends, soon terrorizing Gotham City as a new criminal duo – much to the irritation of both Batman and The Joker. Over the years, Harley and Ivy have remained quite close, with some versions even giving their relationship a more romantic interpretation. Within the pages of Gotham City Sirens, it isn’t outright implied that Harley and Ivy are anything more than the best of friends, with Harley still pining for The Joker and Ivy regularly urging her to get over him.
Dr. Pamela Isley has always held a keen interest in plant life and is exceptionally knowledgeable in botanical biochemistry. Over the years, her transition from timid scientist to Poison Ivy has taken on many forms, but the key details usually involve her being seduced by either a male professor or colleague as a trick, and them then injecting her with various plant toxins as an experiment. The toxins almost kill Pamela (in some versions also driving her insane), but in surviving she’s granted her unique abilities: pheromone-induced mind control, a poisonous touch, and an immunity to most poisons (including Joker toxin).
The experience also makes Pamela extremely distrustful of men, a disdain that in some cases stretches to all humanity, typically preferring the company of plants to people. Given that history, Poison Ivy’s preferred attack is a poisonous kiss which can either kill or bend foolish men to her will. She’s also known to put that incredible botanical biochemistry knowledge to use by developing a wide array of exotic plants, which she can then use for her own brand of eco-terrorism.
In Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy finds a true sister in that she sees Harley as being equally wronged by the man in her life. In vain, she tries convincing Harley she doesn’t need The Joker, pointing out how terribly he treats her (which again, depending on the version can either be through his ignoring her or outright physical abuse). Poison Ivy is also credited with giving Harley her own immunity boost, making sure she’s no longer susceptible to either Ivy’s inherent toxicity or poisons, like Joker’s toxin. Though Ivy isn’t all that fond of humans, she clearly has a deep love for Harley (whether romantic or not) and has always been supportive of her favorite loon.
Selina Kyle has perhaps had more variations to her origin than either Harley or Ivy, being first introduced as a glamorous cat burglar, later a dominatrix turned vigilante, to most recently rising to the ranks of mob boss. Still, what always remains key to her character is her complicated, on-again, off-again love affair with Batman. Selina is one of the few who knows it’s Bruce Wayne under the cowl, and that knowledge has put her in jeopardy more than once. As Catwoman, Selina is a sly and dangerous fighter, not letting the fact she’s only human with no increased attributes stop her from being a serious femme fatale. Some versions have played up her affinity for felines to an almost supernatural level, but that ability isn’t always consistent.
Selina also isn’t as close with either Harley or Ivy as they are with each other, and she’s the Siren whose been more of a part-time hero than straight up villain. Still, operating in Gotham City makes her more than familiar with Harley and Ivy, for whom the latter she shares a mutual if at times reluctant respect. (Harley, on the other hand, calls her “kitty” and the two share a sweet rapport.) During Gotham City Sirens, it’s Selina who suggests that the three women look out for one another while they try and live a (mostly) lawful life. Invariably, trouble finds them and on more than one occasion it’s because of Selina; the worst being a vengeful attack from a Talia al Ghul who cannot stand that another of Batman’s lovers knows his secret identity.
What Might A Gotham City Sirens Movie Include?
The Gotham City Sirens comic lasted for 26 issues, but within those pages there’s plenty for a Gotham City Sirens film to adapt. Firstly, the film needs to fit within the DCEU as already established and relate to its version of Harley Quinn – she is the star, after all. In that case, though Jared Leto’s Joker need not be involved, his relationship with Harley Quinn would certainly be a large element. Or more specifically, how that relationship relates to Harley’s friendship with Poison Ivy and Catwoman.
Unsurprisingly, Ivy detests The Joker and tries very hard to protect Harley from him. Catwoman, too, isn’t a big Joker fan, having seen him antagonize Batman and by extension herself for years. A lot will also depend on whether this film would begin with Harley, Ivy, and Selina already being friends or if it would explore how those relationships start. But without a doubt, the fact that Harley is or has been romantically linked with The Joker would be a sticking point. Along with that, if Harley and Joker’s relationship is a major part of the film, that relationship would need to addressed as being toxic and bad for her – something Suicide Squad wasn’t really eager to do, painting them more as mad fools in love.
So if Gotham City Sirens‘ most basic premise sees Harley leaving Joker – either having her make new friends after being given the boot or doing so at the behest of her friends – Poison Ivy and Catwoman will almost certainly need to exist as already established villainesses within the DCEU. Their origins would likely be explored via flashbacks (not so dissimilar from we saw with Suicide Squad), bringing audiences up to speed with how these versions of the characters will differ from film representations we’ve seen before (namely Uma Thurman’s Ivy from Batman & Robin and most recently Anne Hatheway’s Catwoman from The Dark Knight Rises).
Will the DCEU’s Ivy be more plant than person, spiteful of humans and how they’ve harmed this planet? If so, then perhaps Harley is the first human she opens up to since her transformation, finding a kindred spirit with a recently dumped Harley. Or maybe Ivy will simply be a botanist with an agenda who Harley happens upon and they discover they have a great time stirring up chaos together. There’s even potential for Warner Bros. to really begin diversifying the comic book landscape if Gotham City Sirens were to establish Ivy as a possible romantic partner for Harley, giving a greater representation for queer characters.
As for Catwoman, it’ll be interesting to see if she’s established as already being in the midst of her affair with Batman (and if that allows for another Batfleck cameo). Within the Gotham City Sirens comic, there’s an interesting parallel drawn between Harley’s relationship with Joker and Selina’s relationship with Batman that could be just as easily addressed on film. Near the end of those comics, Harley visits The Joker in Arkham with the intention of killing him, only to tragically fall back into his arms and help him instigate a prison riot. It’s then left to Batman and Catwoman to put a stop to that riot, pitting the two Sirens against one another. Ivy, too, arrives and tries to convince Harley to leave with her, but that doesn’t go well either. When the riot is ended and The Joker defeated, Catwoman abandons her fellow Sirens, leaving them to be arrested and effectively ending their partnership.
A Gotham City Sirens film is an exciting prospect, to be sure. Not only will it give more screen time to one of this year’s best characters (along with more of Robbie’s impeccable portrayal), but it will surround her with other interesting female characters – something no comic book movie has yet to attempt. And while her romantic entanglement with The Joker will surely play its role, Gotham City Sirens allows for Harley to further establish herself as her own character with her own relationships and desires separate from what The Joker wants for her.
Plus, by introducing new versions of both Poison Ivy and Catwoman, the DCEU is gaining vital characters from the DC Comics pantheon, creating a larger and more exciting cast for future films to play with. All that’s left now is to speculate on which actresses will bring them to life – any suggestions?