It’s been a long time coming, but we’re finally about to get one of cinema’s first real villainous team ups when Suicide Squad hits theaters this summer. Aside from hopefully righting the ship that nearly tipped over with Batman V Superman, Suicide Squad is meant to extend the DC Cinematic Universe and bring a whole bunch of new and returning characters into the fray in an exciting way. With Suicide Squad, look for director David Ayer to bring some much needed sense of fun to DC movies and provide audiences with the type of light-hearted adventure that Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder never could.
And look for most of that fun to come courtesy of fan-favorite character Harley Quinn, making her big screen debut after years of fanboy dreams and wild comic book storylines. Yes, the crazed lover of Mr. J is about to enter the pop culture stratosphere, and to prepare you, here’s 15 Things You Need To Know About Harley Quinn.
15. She First Debuted In Batman: The Animated Series
Unlike most well-known characters in pop culture, Harley Quinn didn’t originate from the pages of a comic book during the Golden Age of Comics. Instead – blazing a new trail as her character so often does – she originated from a scene in Batman: The Animated Series. From there, starting off as a humble cartoon sidekick to the Joker in a September 1992 episode, Harley Quinn made history and jumped into the comic books and into history as one of every fanboy and fangirl’s favorite supervillains.
Originally nothing more than a girlfriend and accomplice to The Joker on the small screen, the character gained such a strong following that DC Comics fleshed out her backstory by bringing her into the Batman Comics. Eventually evolving into a complex villainess that has become a major player in Gotham City, the well fleshed-out history of Harley Quinn’s creation is second only to the history of the character that she would later become.
14. She Was Originally The Joker’s Psychiatrist
In one of the cooler origin stories in comic book history, Harley Quinn started off as a wide-eyed young psychiatrist that was tasked with doling out therapy to The Joker in Arkham Asylum. As her therapy sessions with The Joker wore on, she soon found herself falling in love with the deranged Clown Prince of Crime as he manipulated her in ways that only he could.
After becoming completely obsessed with her beloved Mr. J, Harley Quinn soon finds herself as his accomplice and sidekick, doing anything for the man that she loves more than anyone in the world. Turning to a life of crime and obsession, Harley gives up her practice, which is probably a good thing, since she didn’t seem to be that good at it in the first place.
13. She Had a Live Action Cameo in Arrow
Arrow, a great show in its own right, has found success as a wildly fun piece of connective tissue that has served to showcase the DC Universe and its many characters on the small screen. With cameos galore all packed within the walls of Star City for the past four seasons, it’s no wonder that a character or two hasn’t been able to make the final cut; which was exactly the case with a planned Harley Quinn cameo.
Originally filmed as part of a Season 2 episode, Harley appeared in the A.R.G.U.S. holding cells in the show before the scene was eventually cut from the final episode (though she did manage to sneak a cute line in there). While her character was simply intended to be an easter egg that got cut for time, later plans to include Harley in episodes – such as the Season 2 finale – had to be axed due to her inclusion in the Suicide Squad film.
12. She Was Once an Amazonian
One of the many escapades of Harley Quinn included her reforming her maniacal ways and taking up in an Amazonian women’s shelter located on an island. If that’s hard for you to picture, just check out issue 43 of the Countdown series, which saw Harley abandon the clown make-up and costume and try to clean up her act, eventually becoming a skilled warrior working on behalf of the Amazon women who took her in.
Eventually, after making some friends and turning a new page for a while, Harley realizes that her new life is an unsustainable lie and – as is often the case with Ms. Quinn – goes back to her old ways of Joker obsession and insanity.
11. She’s Dated People Other Than The Joker
For a criminal mastermind known for living her life obsessing over The Joker, Harley Quinn actually has quite the checkered dating history. Perhaps it’s due to her spending time as part of the Suicide Squad with so many other skilled and crazed criminals, or maybe she’s just exploring her options thanks to her character’s progressively bisexual identity, but Harley Quinn has never been exclusively tied down to just one maniac.
Her past paramours include Deadshot – to be played by Will Smith in Suicide Squad – as well as Poison Ivy; the latter of which eventually developed into an iconic comic book relationship that took on many forms. And one of those forms leads us to our next point…
10. She Was Once In a Folk Duo
Sure, this may not have been cannon, but it was technically condoned by DC as it came to be part of their Elseworlds line, a series that existed solely to re-create classic DC characters in weird ways. And yet, it still seems very Harley Quinn, as she non-ironically became a folk singer in a folk duo along with Poison Ivy.
In a story called “Rockumentary,” Harley and Ivy were represented by music producer Lex Luthor, whose other clients included Superman and Batman. As they gained fame and fortune after Luthor’s signing them – or at least as much fortune as any folk duo can hope to gain – they didn’t do much else that would be expected of two famous supervillainesses, and that was it, the end of an incredible chapter in Harley Quinn history.
9. She’s Incredibly Intelligent
Harley Quinn is perhaps best known for being a little bit deranged and a whole lot ditzy — it’s what makes her the lovable maniac that she is. But what many don’t know about Harley is that she’s actually a highly capable psychiatrist with immense intelligence. While she eventually ends up corrupted by evil and falling in and out of a life of crime, Harley Quinn’s intelligence is always lurking behind her more well-known character traits, making her an even more compelling character.
Knowing that Harley isn’t as far gone as The Joker and actually has the capacity to draw on her own intelligence to see that what she is doing is wrong is one of the reasons that she has flip flopped between good and evil in the past. In fact, she even went back to working as a therapist at a nursing home at one point.
8. She’s No Stranger to Being One of the Good Guys
Perhaps it’s Harley’s intelligence or her past life doing good for society that has made her villainous turns so enjoyable, but regardless of that, she’s no stranger to hanging up the treachery every once in a while and joining the good guys.
Past stories have seen Harley make a conscious effort to reform herself and re-enter society. In one of her storylines, Harley Quinn got out of Arkham Asylum, moved into an apartment with Catwoman, and started fighting crime and cleaning up Gotham City. And while it was a noble effort on Harley’s part to enter a new chapter of her life, as is so often the case, she lapsed right back into her obsession with The Joker and couldn’t keep her clean streak going for long.
7. She Almost Made Her Big Screen Debut In 1999
While it’s always fun to think about the films that never got made, perhaps it’s for the best that Joel Schumacher didn’t get a chance to make a third Batman film. After the unbearable campiness of Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, apparently no one at Warner Bros. got the memo that Batman was supposed to be cool, and a third film was planned. Set to be called Batman Unchained (though many believe the title Batman Triumphant was also under consideration), Schumacher had intended to finish his trilogy with a bang, and his plans included a big part for Harley Quinn.
Reportedly, Madonna and Courtney Love were the frontrunners to don the red and black tights in the character’s live action debut, in which Quinn would have been portrayed as the vengeful daughter of The Joker and teamed up with Scarecrow (played by Nicolas Cage) to take down the Dark Knight once and for all. The whole thing is a far cry from Margot Robbie’s take on the character in Suicide Squad, and while it’s tough to imagine any of it having been good, at the very least, we can see it being somewhat entertaining.
6. She’s Based on a Soap Opera Star
Believe it or not, a dream sequence from the soap opera Days of Our Lives is what inspired one of the most beloved supervillains in pop culture. Harley Quinn creators Paul Dini and Bruce Timm recalled a scene in the soap where actress Arleen Sorkin dressed as a court jester. From there, the two created a character meant to look and sound exactly like Sorkin, as they decided that her personality was a perfect match for the Harley Quinn that they wanted to create.
What’s even better is that Dini and Timm actually got Arleen Sorkin to be the voice of Harley Quinn in her first ever voice acting role on Batman: The Animated Series. Sorkin went on to portray the character in various tie-ins to the DC Animated Universe for the better part of two decades before retiring in 2011.
5. She Was the Star of a Live Action WB Series
Back in 2002, before The CW (then the WB) was home to all sorts of great DC comic book series, a weird little show premiered called Birds of Prey. The show took place in a Gotham City abandoned by Batman, and it featured a group of female superheroes and supervillains fighting each other for control of the city. The series only lasted 13 episodes before its cancellation due to low ratings, but despite its forgotten place in history, the show is actually the first time that Harley Quinn was portrayed in live action.
Played by actress Mia Sara (of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off fame), Quinn was actually a large part of the series’ story arc. By the end of the series, Harley – masquerading as a respectable psychiatrist – was revealed to be the mastermind for all the evil schemes that the Birds of Prey had to defeat.
Interestingly, if rumors hold true, Harley’s upcoming solo movie could also see her squaring off (or teaming up) with the Birds of Prey. DC has reportedly been looking to bring a female-centric team-up film into the fold for some time now, and if Robbie’s take on the character is well-received, this would be a great way to do it.
4. She Has Legitimate Superpowers
If you thought that Harley Quinn was just another murderous psychopath that uses only her wits and cunning to defeat her enemies, you thought wrong. As it turns out, unlike many living within Gotham City, Harley Quinn is actually imbued with superpowers.
Attained from a serum that Poison Ivy gave her while nursing her back to health inside a toxic waste dump, Harley Quinn’s powers include super strength, agility, and an immunity to toxins and acid. And while these things may make her more physically powerful than many in Gotham, they haven’t gone on to define her, as Harley’s own mental instability and willingness to be as evil as it takes still overshadows most of the other powers working within her.
3. Batman Once Helped Her Get Paroled from Arkham Asylum
Although Harley Quinn has been a thorn in Batman’s side since shacking up with The Joker and becoming the ultimate groupie, there was actually a time in comic book history when Batman and Harley Quinn were on the same page.
Despite attempt after attempt at gaining parole, only to be denied by Arkham Asylum board member Bruce Wayne, Harley Quinn eventually turns over a new leaf and helps Batman and Commissioner Gordon foil the plans of a villain she had once worked with. At that point, Batman – believing that Harley had been reformed – actually helped her get parole from Arkham and attempted to help her start a new life. Obviously, that didn’t work out for too long.
2. She’s Been at the Center of Real Life Controversy
Back in 2013, DC comics delighted fans by announcing a new standalone Harley Quinn comic book series. They then promptly outraged fans and onlookers alike when they announced a contest for amateur artists to draw a page from the upcoming series. The problem was that the scene the public was asked to draw included putting Harley in a suicide scenario, complete with the character sitting naked in a bathtub while electrical appliances dangling above the water.
The outrage came partly because of the poor taste of the contest, and partly because of the even worse timing: the contest was announced right around National Suicide Prevention Week. DC eventually issued a formal apology, and Harley Quinn lived on to fight another day.
1. She Was Only Meant to Exist as a Cameo
If only Harley Quinn could see how far she’s come. Originally intended to feature as a one-and-done cameo in Batman: The Animated Series, fans took such a liking to Harley Quinn that she soon became a regular character on the show. From there, she moved into the pages of Batman comics, and now she’s finally front and center in a feature film.
But about that cameo; it came from a totally innocent gag that the writers of the cartoon series needed to make. Dini and Timm needed a character dressed in women’s clothing to pop out of a cake for one of The Joker’s schemes, but they didn’t think the gag was the right fit for the Clown Prince of Crime. So, in order to protect the integrity of The Joker’s character, they simply gave him a henchwoman to pop out of the cake, and the rest was history.
Which fact were you most surprised to learn about? Have any interesting Harley factoids that we forgot to mention? Let us know in the comments!
Harley Quinn art for #15 by Cason Pilliod.