Being “crazy in love” is one thing, but being crazy and in love is another. For the Joker and Harley Quinn, their relationship is a maelstrom of menace. They are the Bonnie and Clyde of the comics universe, the couple who destroys everything in their path. They are each other’s yin and yang, but however besotted they might seem, only one of them is truly committed to the other. If you thought everything the Joker did to Batman was brutal, then prepare yourself.
The joke’s on Harley Quinn, the girl who will do anything for the Clown Prince of Crime. He’s her “Puddin’,” her reason for being, her Alpha and Omega. So entranced is Harley Quinn that she can hardly recognize the difference between his altruism and abuse. Trading in her successful career as a psychiatrist to become the clown’s leading stooge, Harley Quinn bets it all on the Joker and loses nearly every time.
Here are 15 WTF Things The Joker Did To Harley Quinn:
15. When He Shackled Her In a Prison With Other Dead Harleys
The Joker and Harley Quinn dynamic thrives on exclusivity. By keeping an air of religiosity to their relationship, they both find themselves absorbed by the affair, especially Harley. The only problem is that the Joker tends to get cold feet, catching himself when he becomes too besotted with his beloved.
Cunning as ever, the Clown Prince of Crime knows how to course correct, like that one time he punished Harley by dragging her into a prison cell, chaining her to the wall, then shining a torch light on the corpses of other dead Harleys who, like her, wear iconic red and blue clothing. Though Harley is aghast at the sight, the Joker pours salt into the wound by assuring her, “I can tell you this. You won’t even be the last.” They say all is fair in love and war, but this crosses the line.
Somehow, that’s not even the most disturbing part of the story. As for the alleged “other Harleys,” and given all we know about the Joker, we’re confident that he tracked down some cadavers and fashioned them to look like his girlfriend. The Joker will do anything to have a laugh.
14. When He Turned Her Into a Constellation
We’ve seen what the Joker can achieve by sheer will alone. As an avowed anarchist, he doesn’t need much to disturb the peace. In the year 2000, writer Jeph Loeb created a world where the green-haired freak had omnipotent powers. In Emperor Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime steals Mr. Mxyzptlk’s limitless abilities and twists them to his own perverted will.
In one fell swoop, this modern Nero lays waste to everything around him. Jumping at the chance to kill Batman, the Joker destroys him and resurrects him ad nauseum until he tires of the act and moves onto something more meaningful. He destroys continents, eats countries, and near the end of his reign, the Joker kills Harley and literally turns her into a massive constellation. Gazing up at the stars which now feature a cosmic replica of Harley’s face, the Joker mutters, “I always wanted my dame in lights. Heh. Even in a moment of abject saccharin, I still got it.”
13. When He Locked Her in a Spacebound Rocket
Songs about rockets seem intimately tied to adventure, and by extension, to love. Perhaps Elton John’s “Rocket Man” was on the Joker’s mind when he planned to launch his lady love into the Milky Way.
You see, Harley Quinn’s loyalty and love was softening the Joker and reminding him of past relationships. His heart and soul, for once in his ghoulish life, were bursting through his cynicism. As he himself reveals, “It’s the first time in recent memory I’ve had those feelings.” Unfortunately for Harley, she heard this confession while trapped inside a rocket the Joker told her to enter. By the time she lets out an, “Aww, Puddin’!” the Joker begins to cry, dabs his eyes, then says, “I will always treasure our days together, but sadly, inevitably, the time has come for us to part.”
After unleashing his signature laugh, the Joker launches Harley’s rocket and says goodbye. Fortunately, Miss Quinn commandeered the ship and managed to land it in Robinson Park, where she would conveniently meet Poison Ivy.
12. When He Gave Her Roses Armed With Dynamite
The colloquial definition of insanity is well known: repeating an act over and over with the hopes of achieving a different result. By this breakdown, Harley Quinn is as nuts as they come. Given all of the abuse she suffers at the hand of her equally crazed beau, and every occasion she is hurt by his violence and wounded by his words, she still expects him to come around. Call it loyalty of the lunatic brand.
Since her first appearance in Batman: The Animated Series in 1992, Harley has been the victim of a recurring trope. While it’s clear the Joker has a deep affection for her, his nicest moments are usually murder attempts masquerading as kindness. Indeed, the clown’s most pleasant moments are to be feared. On several occasions, he has given Harley a bushel of roses with sticks of dynamite hidden in the bouquet. While she always seems to notice the lit fuse and seek shelter before the inevitable explosion, Harley is equally quick to rationalize the Joker’s penchant for violence. “Boys will be boys,” she thinks to herself.
11. When He Nearly Skinned Her Face
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo turned the Joker into a feral and blood-lusting psychopath. In one comic, the Clown Prince of Crime tracks down Harley and endeavors to turn her into a clone of himself. He gives her his tuxedo, his lifts, and his bowtie, but judging by his sinister smile, it’s clear the transformation is not yet complete.
“There’s just one thing missing,” he says. “That pretty face of yours…it spoils the reflection. I’m afraid it’s going to have to go.” Harley starts to voice her concern but is interrupted when the Joker launches into a Biblical tirade that positions him as the Adam to her Eve: “I pulled the pieces of you from my ribcage…you are my creation, and if you want to serve me, I need you to be perfect.”
To be clear, he’s asking for her face. This is not normal, and though Harley at first balks at the idea of sacrificing her visage for her lover, she ultimately accommodates his request. Of all her concerns, the most pressing rises to the surface: “Would you still find me beautiful?” Poor Harley and her terribly disjointed priorities. The Joker then pulls out his razor blade, ala Sweeney Todd, then lets out a loud sigh. “But I…didn’t feel anything,” Harley says. Fortunately, that’s because the Joker didn’t do a thing. He threw a hood over her head and walked away, satisfied with winning her total allegiance.
10. When He Dunked Her in a Chemical Vat
Like the devil himself, the Joker asks his subjects for total commitment. For his lady love Harleen Quinzel, it’s not enough for her to simply walk the walk and run amok in Gotham City. After breaking her spirit and subverting her mind, the Clown Prince of Mind demands the psychiatrist alter her chemistry and join him in a new reality. He changes her perception of the world, but to complete the transformation, he also seduces her to begin a physical evolution.
According to Paul Dini and Bruce Timm in their game-changing story, Mad Love, the Joker dangles the carrot in front of Harleen, but she goes after it by her own volition. It’s Harleen’s choice to become Harley Quinn. She dives into the chemical vat with total commitment, a change from the updated origin story in the New 52, which shows the Joker forcing her to do so. Though some fans were outraged at the revision, the ultimate outcome is the same, and the Joker continues to get what he wants.
9. When He Pushed Her Out of a Window Over a Failed Joke
The Joker is a sadistic and jealous comedian, so when he doesn’t understand a joke, he’ll probably kill you. This scenario played out in The New Batman Adventures, when Harley improvised on the Joker’s blueprint to capture and kill the Dark Knight. The grand plan was to feed Batman to a school of starving (and smiling) piranhas, but for fear the carnivorous fish would frown, Harley hung Batman upside down to alter his perception. While she genuinely believed she had improved upon the joke, the Clown Prince of Crime felt threatened by her idea, yelling, “If you have to explain a joke, there is no joke!”
Knowing the Joker has been triggered, Harley grabs a decorative swordfish as a defense mechanism, but the clown snatches it out of her hands. The Joker, now angrier than ever, yells, “You’ve forgotten what I told you a long time ago. One of the painful truths of comedy…you always take shots from folks who just don’t get the joke!” Using the swordfish as a baseball bat, the Joker hits her like a line drive out of the skyscraper windows and sends her plummeting down into a pile of rubbish. So much for teamwork.
8. When He Violently Refused Her Advances
For most couples, it takes two to tango. For the Joker, it takes one misstep to make him violent. Though it was watched by millions of children, Batman: The Animated Series had its share of saucy adult interactions, like the scene where Harley Quinn tries to seduce her lover. Wearing nothing but a crimson negligee, Harley saunters into the Joker’s office in Marilyn Monroe “happy birthday Mr. President” fashion. Rather than resort to her signature cooing, Harley climbs onto the Joker’s table and says, “C’mon, Puddin’, don’t you want to rev up your Harley?” First of all, that’s quite the double entendre for a kid’s show. Second, the Joker shows the depth of his inhumanity by aggressively shoving her off the table and onto the floor.
That’s a bit of a callous move, even for the Joker, whose attraction for Harley is no secret. As part of their endlessly abusive relationship, it’s clear he gets what he wants on his schedule and no one else’s.
7. When He Planned to Kill Her In Front of Batman
In Batman #663, “Harlequin of Hate,” the Caped Crusader shows his bipartisan appeal and saves Harley Quinn from her murderous boyfriend. As told by Grant Morrison, this new and improved Joker is more villainous than ever, plotting to kill every one of his henchmen, including Harley Quinn. His weapon of mass destruction is a lethal toxin emitted through black and red flowers, but before he can execute his plan, Batman shows up in grand fashion.
To her disbelief, the Dark Knight tells Harley (who currently has a razor pressed against her throat) that she was enemy no. 1 on the Joker’s hit list, pointing to the black and red flowers to prove his point. While she struggles to accept that information, Batman reveals a darker truth: the Joker wanted Batman to follow Harley to his lair so that he could have an audience for her execution. For the first time in a long time, however, Harley fights back against the Joker and escapes.
6. When He Threw Her to the Hyenas On Their Anniversary
If you thought the “rev up your Harley” bit was risque, that’s nothing compared to Harley’s seventh-anniversary present to the Joker. Whereas most couples give cakes to one another, Harley became the cake, drenching herself in pudding for Mr. Puddin’ himself. It’s a nice, albeit bold gesture that Harley committed to with confidence.
She sings with affection, “Happy anniversary, Mr. J. You’re really swell and okay. It’s seven years to the day, take the night off…let’s play.” However charming this little tune might be, it somehow drives the Joker to outrage. With black beady eyes, he approaches Harley and passively tells her, “I’m not in the party mood.” With a forceful throw, he sends her hurtling headlong into a back alley filled with hyenas. The Joker tries a dab of the pudding and is revolted: “Sweet kid, but a lousy cook.” Though he wasn’t a fan of the dessert, the animals found Harley to be quite delicious.
5. When He Hanged Her With a Chain To Prove Her Loyalty
The more time Harley spends with the Joker, the more endangered she becomes. In Suicide Squad #14, Harley gains a bit of agency and confidence, though she can hardly enjoy her rising stature without her boyfriend battering her down. “Is there something on your face, Harley? There it is. Here, let me get it off.” Smack! The Joker hits her straightaway, then declares, “Got it! I think it was a small touch of hubris.” Talk about codependency.
This single interaction defines their whole arc in Death of the Family, especially when the Joker fears that Harley is reverting back to her former self as Harleen Quinzel. She had recently lured Batman into the vats at Ace Chemical, the place where she had made her transformation from psychiatrist to psycho. Because of her success, the Joker becomes paranoid, and Harley equivocates when he inquires about her state of mind. As soon as she mentions holding onto a few secrets, the Joker hoists her up with a metal chain and yells, “Then why don’t you hang out and tell me a few, Harley?!”
4. When He Ignored Her For a Year During Her Pregnancy
Imagine a world where the Joker and Harley Quinn propagate. The prospect is terrifying, but in Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Two, that scenario becomes a reality. After learning that Black Canary is carrying Green Arrow’s child, Harley admits to having been pregnant with Mr. J’s spawn. Though one might hope the Joker would be an immaculately attentive and devoted father, he proved to be one of the very worst pre-parents in history.
Knowing the Joker wouldn’t be supportive of her pregnancy, Harley Quinn absconded for a full year to give birth to their daughter, Lucy. “When I came back to my Puddin’, he was so funny. He acted like he didn’t even notice I was gone.” Of course, the Joker saw that she was pregnant and knew she had gone on an extended vacation to tend to their child. Absorbed by his own kingdom, however, he simply acted like he was oblivious to the whole situation. He’s a classy guy, that Mr. J.
3. When He Allowed Her to Be A Volcano Sacrifice
Harley Quinn: Futures End is a masterful tableaux of absurdity. The first half is like a recreation of Castaway, replete with a plane crash, a Wilson stand-in, and even a talking beaver. Though she believed the Joker was dead, Harley eventually re-teams with him on the island, and the dynamic duo soon agree to get married at the foot of a noticeably active volcano.
The wedding is officiated by Batman, or rather, a tribesman wearing the Dark Knight’s cowl and a loin cloth (as long as the clown buys it, the details don’t matter). As soon as the Joker says his vows, the local tribesmen make a cryptic signal and prepare to throw Harley into the flaming lava. While the Mr. J laughs and admits that he never intended to tie the knot with her, the tribesmen state that the full moon requires not one but two blood sacrifices. Harley revels in the failure of the Joker’s master plan, but before they are both sacrificed, the volcano explodes and sends Harley away from the danger.
2. When He Tortured Her and Turned Her Insane
Aficionados of the Suicide Squad comics complained that David Ayer’s big-screen adaptation lacked chutzpah. Though the movie undoubtedly had its softer moments, the Joker’s electrotherapy torture over Harleen Quinn was very disturbing. The theatrical cut of that sequence didn’t linger too long, but the extended version shows over a minute of physical and psychological terror.
Though heavily bowdlerized in the theatrical version, lengthier glimpses at Jared Leto’s Joker reveal him to be a true menace. He’s ghoulish, angry, and physically domineering of Harley. His torturing of her appears almost cathartic. “I wouldn’t want you to break those perfect, porcelain-capped teeth when the juice hits your brain.” Ayer’s Suicide Squad certainly imbues Harley with some autonomy (her jump into the chemical vat is more of a fall, though still her choice), but it’s clear that she’s the Joker’s victim as much as his vixen. Had the torture sequence gone on much longer, it would have veered into Hannibal Lecter territory.
1. When He Seduced Her in the First Place
In some ways, the Joker stands as a human indictment of psychiatry. While using humor and vulnerability to win over Dr. Quinzel’s affection, he unfurled his backstory in textbook fashion. Knowing the trigger points psychiatrists might look for (an abusive father, a bully, etc.), the Joker posed as a troubled man in order to seduce the eager and empathetic Quinzel. Most of all, he preyed upon her desire to fix him and to prove that even the worst criminals can be rehabilitated. It doesn’t take long for Harleen’s best efforts to backfire in grand fashion.
Harleen quickly becomes a convert who trades her professionalism for intimate moments in the Joker’s company. She reveals her love to him, an admission the clown seems to not only anticipate, but to understand: “As a dedicated, career-oriented young woman, you felt the need to abstain from all amusement and fun. It’s only natural you’d be attracted to a man who could make you laugh again.” In due time, Harleen Quinzel would become the Joker’s biggest punchline yet.
What other moments belong on this list? Let us know in the comments!