Harley Quinn and the Joker are one of DC Comics‘ most popular couples but there’s nothing healthy or even remotely pleasing about them. Joker and Harley’s twisted story is certainly interesting, but there’s no denying that it’s a deeply abusive and unhealthy relationship. Whether you love their toxic love story or find it unnecessarily unsettling, there are a cavalcade of horrible moments to pick out between them, especially in how the Joker treats his Harley.
Harley isn’t a completely innocent bystander. Though The Joker charmed her into joining his life of crime, it is a choice (depending on the continuity) that she made willingly. No matter how likable and popular Harley might be, it’s not exactly as if she is a morally pure or “good” person. Joker and Harley’s love story is one between two (relatively) unrepentant criminals but there’s a definite imbalance in the relationship, with Joker repeatedly abusing the slavishly devoted Harley.
We’ve already counted down the some of the messed up things that the Joker has done to Harley but it really only scratched the surface. There are way more instances of abuse between Harley and her puddin’.
In any case, here are the 15 More TERRIBLE Things The Joker Did To Harley Quinn
15. When He Forced Her to Dive into a Chemical Vat for “Love”
Suicide Squad is a bit of a mess, even if it’s occasionally fun and some of the performances manage to sell the movie. The one element that the film nails, without question, is the twisty romance between Harley and Joker.
Jared Leto’s Joker isn’t overtly abusive to Margot Robbie’s Harley, but he has several moments of subtle and insidious manipulation. One of the key moments is the “creation” of Harley Quinn, when the two take a deep dive into a chemical vat.
It’s a toned-down version of the origin that was recreated for the New 52. Harley does actively decide to jump into the vat, as opposed to being pushed by the Joker. However, the Joker manipulates Harley into doing it, using his words and her love for him against her.
14. When He Had Her Orchestrate a Plan to Kill All Of His Henchmen… Including Herself
The Joker has had minions before Harley Quinn and he has had minions after Harley Quinn. The thing that separates Harley from the other gang members is that the Joker makes Harley believe that she is “special.” Harley means nothing more to the Joker than the standard goon wearing a clown mask, but Harley believes she maters.
This was demonstrated perfectly when the Joker had Harley come up with a plan to kill all of his henchmen in Batman #663. While Harley believed that this was giving the two of them a “fresh start,” the Joker was planning to give himself the criminal golden parachute, leaving Harley to die with the rest. The fact that Harley is actually engineering her own death is the punchline to the Joker’s scheme.
13. When He Left Her Behind and Attempted to Replace Her After He Got Rich
“Joker’s Millions” is one of the more bizarre and kooky episodes of Batman: The Animated Series. It’s based off a comic story from the 1950s of the same name and the Richard Pryor film Brewster’s Millions. In it, Joker suddenly gets unimaginably wealthy. One of the first things Joker does with his wealth is dump Harley. After this, he immediately tries to find a replacement.
Joker, in true evil fashion, doesn’t even attempt to cover up his blatant attempt to find a new Harley. He calls the replacement Fake Harley and insists that she act precisely like the old one.
This, on reflection, is more of a condemnation of “Fake Harley” than the Joker. If you’re going to be a criminal, at least have self-respect. However, it still proves how little Joker cares for “Real Harley” as a person.
12. When He Choked Her For Not Getting a “Joke”
Though it’s common knowledge that Harley was created for Batman: The Animated Series, her first comic book appearance in the main continuity happened years later during the No Man’s Land arc. In the arc, which sees Gotham abandoned by the U.S. Government after a horrific earthquake, Harley transforms from the Joker’s doctor to his girlfriend.
Throughout the No Man’s Land arc, Harley shows the intelligence and shrewdness that made it possible for her to get a medical degree. Harley’s insights are repeatedly ignored by the Joker, though, in a running gag of (very) dark comedic relief.
Towards the end of the arc all this casual neglect culminates in Joker choking Harley when she “misunderstands” what the ending of No Man’s Land means for him.
Rather than take the rational way out and quietly admit defeat, the Joker decides to have one last big deadly gag. Since Harley doesn’t see the logic in this, the Joker chokes her (making her beg him to stop) until she sees reason.
11. When He Led Her On and Allowed Her to Be Captured In a Prison Riot
Harley doesn’t have a huge role in the video game Batman: Arkham Origins. She appears only as Dr. Harleen Quinzel, a young psychologist at Blackgate Prison. The game does still show off the first meeting of the Joker and Harleen, however, which sets the stage for their romance, which is full of all its lies and abuse.
During their first encounter, the Joker describes the most wondrous experience he had when he met someone very special for the first time. Harleen thinks this is all about her, but in reality, the Joker is talking about Batman. Yet the Joker keeps things vague enough, that it’s obvious he is aware of Harleen’s attraction to him and is playing on it.
Playing with Harleen’s emotions isn’t enough for Mister J, as he then orchestrates a prison riot (presumably using Harleen’s help) and he allows the love-addled doctor to become a hostage. Right off the bat, it’s established that Harley might love the Joker but the “love of his life” will always be Batman.
10. When He Used Her as Human Shield to Survive a Bomb Blast
Like most MMOs, there is not a lot of story to DC Universe Online. The players make up their own narratives. However, even with minimal plot, Joker still finds a way to be horrible to Harley.
In a scenario that takes place in an alternate future, it is revealed that Harley is dead. While the reason for her demise isn’t directly due to the Joker, he does play a pivotal role.
It turns out that Harley was used as a human shield to protect Joker from dying in a bomb blast. Harley does throw herself in front of the Joker to make this happen but it’s not exactly like he tries to stop her or feels remorseful at all.
9. When He Tried to Kill Her (and Himself) in a Plane Crash
Joker’s disregard for Harley’s life is evident from the characters’ first encounter together. The Batman: The Animated Series episode “Harlequinade” is one of the first times that Harley begins to show off her character. She becomes more than Joker’s two-toned, jester-esque loud lackey. It’s also the first time that Joker tries to kill her (and himself).
“Harlequinade” involves Joker going off the deep end a little bit more than he does normally. He becomes incredibly suicidal in his attempts to take down Batman. The climax of the episode includes Joker purposely trying to wreck a plane with Harley sitting right beside him.
Thanks to an intervention by Batman (and some good ole’ cartoon logic), Harley and Joker manage to survive. Joker going all kamikaze over Batman is par for his demented course. However, bringing Harley along for the deadly ride, is just a step too far.
8. When He Manipulated Her Into Not Killing Him (Repeatedly)
Several times throughout comic continuity, Harley has been pushed to her breaking point by the Clown Prince of Crime. Harley gets fed up with the abuse, the near-death experiences, and the overall neglect, so she decides to do away with her puddin’.
Each time, the Joker manages to survive. It might seem strange to call Joker ensuring his own survival a “terrible thing.” However, it’s the way that Joker prevents his deaths that are so despicable.
The Joker has apologized to Harley, made her remember the good times, or just promised to never abuse her again. If there’s a book about domestic abuse, the Joker probably wrote it. Joker always manages to string Harley along and convince her that this time it will be different, perpetuating their cycle of abuse forever and ever.
7. When He Sent Her a Get Well Soon Card… After Putting Her in the Hospital
It’s far from her first episode on Batman: The Animated Series but in the episode “Mad Love”, after the show started going by the name The New Batman Adventures, the story of Harley’s origins was told.
At the end of the story, the Joker throws Harley out of a window and she ends up in the hospital. While this is terrible for all the obvious reasons, the real damaging thing is what the Joker does as Harley is recovering in the hospital.
Harley is contemplating leaving the Joker and returning to a semi-normal life. The Joker, though, sends Harley a bouquet of flowers with a “get better soon” card attached. This proves to Harley, in her demented and probably concussed mind, that the Joker does, in fact, care about her. Never mind the fact that he is the reason why she’s in the hospital.
6. When He Greeted Her By Punching Her in the Face
If there’s one thing that the Joker likes about Harley it’s her devotion to him. If there’s one thing Joker hates about Harley it’s everything else, but especially her streak of independence. DC’s New 52 comic reboot saw Harley separated from the Joker for the longest time yet, as he had disappeared early on, leaving nothing but his face behind.
During The Death of the Family arc, the Joker finally returns and does several awful things to Harley. Joker starts his campaign of horror by greeting Harley with a punch directly to the face.
The moment is drawn in a comically exaggerated fashion but it’s still rather horrific, especially since the Joker tells Harley he punched her because he felt that she was becoming too confident.
The Joker is also jealous because Harley has started a romance with Deadshot. Yet the Joker signed away rights to be a concerned boyfriend when he removed his own face and left Harley without warning.
5. When He Tried to Undo Her Rehabilitation (and Kill Her)
Of the many Harleys across the DC multiverse, the iteration in the universe created for the Injustice video games might be the most interesting. She’s definitely among the most likable. In a world where Superman has turned into an insufferable killing machine, Harley has become a hero and essentially Batman’s right-hand woman. This is because, in large part, the Joker is dead.
However, in the first game, when a Joker from another universe crosses over, he quickly tries to redo all of Harley’s work to rehabilitate herself. During Injustice: God Among Us, the Joker seduces Harley back to the dark side. He nearly succeeds but Harley comes to her senses and stops Joker from killing an innocent.
As should be obvious by now, the Joker doesn’t take kindly to Harley showing a backbone and he tries to kill her. Joker doesn’t manage to do it, though, mostly because this Harley is a kick-butt, but he at least attempts it. In his mind, if Harley isn’t an emotional doormat, she’s better off dead.
4. When He Faked His Death and Left Her Behind
Like many important plot points, the Joker surviving a fiery helicopter crash is left unexplained in Suicide Squad. The point is that the Joker makes it out of the crash completely unscathed and effectively fakes his own death.
Yet, despite surviving the incident, the Joker lets Harley believe that he is dead and leaves her to her fate at the Enchantress’ hands. (No one should be subjected to seeing Cara Delevingne do her weird belly dance more than is necessary.) If the Joker survived the crash he could’ve gone back for Harley and saved her. However, he doesn’t even try this.
While the Joker does eventually break Harley out of prison at the end of the movie, it’s only after all the danger is passed. Joker has no interest in protecting Harley if it puts his own safety on the line.
3. When He Dumped Her And Only Wanted Her Back When She Became More Successful than Him
The Joker typically tries to quash Harley’s independence as quickly as he can. In one instance, he did allow her to outgrow his shadow, however, simply because he had no idea she was really gone.
In the BTAS episode “Harley and Ivy”, Joker throws Harley out and she ends up befriending and working with Poison Ivy. Together, the two women wage a campaign of mayhem against Gotham City. The two are far better at being bad than Joker and Harley ever were together. It’s because of this success that the Joker finally notices that Harley is missing and becomes desperate to “win her back.”
Ivy immediately recognizes that Joker wants Harley back simply because she is outshining him for once in her life. Harley is clueless because the Joker is showing her kindness and appreciation for the first time ever. Joker sets the bar so low that being petty and jealous is a sign of interest for him.
2. When He Burned Down Her Apartment
Joker began abusing Harley in Death of the Family by punching her in the face, but he caps it off by burning down her entire home. Apparently, the Joker’s efforts to terrorize Harley by threatening to cut off her own face and hanging her with a chain wasn’t enough to break her spirit. Joker’s grand finale (or punchline, as he calls it) is to burn down Harley’s apartment.
It’s the one vestige of independence that Harley had left. Her life was indebted to the Suicide Squad and Joker had shown no interest in her. While Harley eventually does find a new place to live and her own adventures outside of the Joker and the Suicide Squad, the arson was the lowest of blows.
1. When He Shot Her And Left Her For Dead
As close as Harley and the Joker have come to killing each other, the trigger usually isn’t pulled. The Joker chokes, punches, pushes, and kicks Harley but he rarely shoots her. However, in Harley’s first solo series, which ran throughout the early 2000s, Joker finally did just this.
Angry that Harley had taken some of his henchmen for herself, Joker shows up and demands retribution. He savagely beats Harley, telling her that he should’ve done this “years ago” but eventually relents and “apologizes.” The Joker hands Harley some flowers but it’s all a ruse as he reveals a gun inside the bouquet and shoots her in the stomach.
Harley, obviously, survives but that survival has nothing to do with the Joker. Harley can’t say that the Joker never gave her anything. It’s just that the “gift” was a possibly fatal bullet in the gut and a lifetime of mental trauma.
What do you think is the worst thing that the Joker has ever done to Harley Quinn? Are they the most abusive or interesting couple in DC Comics? Sound off in the comments!
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