Harley Quinn is having a moment.
Though she’s delighted comic book fans for over two decades, the villain previously known as Dr. Harleen Quinzel is officially a mainstream phenomenon. Whether or not Suicide Squad is the rousing success DC intended it to be, most fans (casual or otherwise) have taken kindly to Margot Robbie’s committed portrayal. It's drawn positive responses from critics, while the recently released comic book that bears her name just sold over 400,000 copies -- beating out none other than Batman himself. That’ll buy plenty of booby traps for puddin’ to use on The Caped Crusader.
Initially conceived as a one-off for Batman: The Animated Series, Quinn soared to instant success in the 1990s as Joker’s main squeeze. The former psychiatrist was the first Batman character to debut on television before being transferred to comic books, a medium that enabled her to wield her Looney Toon persona and tortured affection at breakneck speeds. She’s a poster girl for physical abuse in comics, yet she does away with any tags of sexism through smarts and a nasty streak that could make even “Mister J” shake in his loafers. Given this penchant for crossing the line and playing by her own rules, it seems only fitting we assess the craziest moments of this DC staple.
Here are the 15 Most WTF Things Harley Quinn Has Ever Done.
Best friends Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy are bored during the holiday season, so they spice things up the only way they know how: kidnap a billionaire. The pricey gentleman in question, Bruce Wayne, is abducted with little restraint -- perks of Poison Ivy’s patented toxin. The poor guy barely stands a chance, especially when cajoled into escorting these ladies on a spectacular shopping spree.
As one of three Christmas themed episodes in The New Adventures of Batman, Holiday Knights is a strange excursion. Bruce hadn’t been this helpless since the days of disco-dancing Adam West, while the villainesses behind it all joyously bully him around the city. Harley and Ivy are animated chemistry opposite one another, and even when the billionaire’s toxin begin to wears off, Quinn has a backup. She applies some of Ivy’s backup supply and closes in on Wayne with the iconic line: “Give me some sugar, baby.” It's a kiss that no Mistletoe could justify.
Roller Derby is an abrasive sport. One has to be able to out-tough the other skaters trying to knock them down-- a practice Harley Quinn is more than equipped to handle. Shown off in issue #1 of the 2014 comic Harley Quinn, the Suicide Squad member takes great joy in strapping on skates and throwing down with the other ladies in the Coney Island Roller Derby. While she doesn’t exactly follow the rules, Harley gets the job done, and artist Chad Hardin goes the extra mile in bringing this frantic physical display to life.
Sporting a two tone uniform, Harley proceeds to mash a girl’s face on the floor, bash two helmeted heads together, and give a nifty elbow right to the nose of some unassuming competitor. Her teammates look on in shock, unable to say little besides “OOOF!” and “OOOWW!” The absolute killer, though, just delivers a right hook that sends some poor soul’s mouthpiece flying from her mouth. I guess even supervillains like to have a little recreational fun.
Like most comic book characters, Harley Quinn has died a few times. The difference with this court jester, however, is that her antics landed her smack dab in Hell, where she is forced to reunite with all the henchman she’s murdered over the years. Played out in Harley Quinn #20-22, the Hell and Highwater arc finds her surrounded by a bloodthirsty S.W.A.T. team, doomed to endure the same time loop of bloodshed for eternity. The kicker is that Quinn has a few aces up her sleeve, and a plan to thwart both the “police” and a bounty hunter sent to kill any who tries to escape makes for an off-kilter adventure.
Author Karl Kesel makes Quinn’s vision of Hell a memorable one, complete with name-tagged bullets and a three-headed Cerberus that cleverly play off the death motifs running rampant throughout the story. Quinn, retaining her unstable cool at every turn, manages to horrify her demonic captors so much -- through love, no less -- that they decide to banish her from Hell altogether! If that’s not the mark of an outcast, we’re not sure what is.
How Harley Quinn loves to swing her mallet. Unlike her pale-faced hubby, who loves to make a weapon out of almost anything, Harley has always shown a taste for massive hammers (or baseball bats) and mashed-up results. It then comes as no surprise that the daffy murderess is pretty adept at handling her choice weapon, especially when it comes to fending off fellow females Batgirl and Supergirl. As shown in issue #19 of Superman/Batman, Harley and baddie BFF Poison Ivy are forced to throw down against the good girls, allowing a chance for the court jester to pull out a mallet worthy of a Bugs Bunny short.
Incredibly, Harley manages to land a whopper of a hit on Krypton’s only daughter, sending her clear into a glass window. “I gotta get me about eleventeen of these whammers,” she deliriously mumbles, but Supergirl commences with the super-strength and ties Harley up. Despite this, she irately admits “I almost felt that,” proving that the villainess packs one hell of a punch within her small frame. Mallet was definitely the right choice.
Duela Dent and Harley Quinn don’t get along. The former, an enigma who poses as the daughter of villains like The Joker and Harvey Dent, is even nuttier than Harley and her supposed father "Mister J." Schizophrenic and delusional, she also finds time to severely piss off every hero she encounters, from the Teen Titans to innumerable run-ins with the irate Ms. Quinn. This particular standoff occurs in Suicide Squad Vol. 1 #3, in which the two warring jokesters are forced to settle their differences for the greater good--or bad.
The truce lasts about ten seconds before they start going at it. Dent, dropping it lines like “I’m you perfected! All killer, no filler!” strikes a rotten chord within Harley, who proceeds to take things to the streets with a few solid hits and a kick right into oncoming traffic. “Stupid little girl,” she muses, capping off a solid murder attempt that stops a vehicle dead in it's tracks. Duela survives, but the idea that she could ever be a better Harley Quinn is shattered quicker than that car windshield.
Harley Quinn and Captain Carrot squaring off in a theme park sounds like an acid trip set to comics, and thankfully, Convergence #2 pretty much reads that way too. Another unlikely pairing in the DC series, the story wastes little time establishing a universe as cartoony as its marquee characters. Harley starts things off with a squeal, taking down Pig-Iron while leaving behind a hilarious warning in oil: it’s rabbit season. Not one to be intimidated, Captain Carrot accepts the challenge, though not before she fibs about her powers and proceeds to flick “acid blood” in his face.
The sheer silliness of Quinn vs. Carrot makes it a WTF brawl, hilariously highlighting the quirks that both characters bring to the table. While Carrot hops, Quinn attempts a Hadouken; he bashes in her mallet, she complains of a splinter. By story’s end, the two have seemingly reconciled, but a scheming Quinn gets the last laugh when she gives Carrot one of Poison Ivy’s doctored carrots. Clearly her pleas to “keep up, fuzzy butt!” fell on deaf ears.
No, a “scatapult” in not a real thing. But that doesn’t keep Harley Quinn from having one on the roof in the debut issue of her new comic series. This time, the daffy prankster has to deal with zombie attacks and mass infection, both of which do little to take away from her chipper facade. In fact, she keeps right on joking, even when number one fan Red Tool is bitten by a zombie. Her natural response, as would be the case for most weapon wielding wackos, is to proclaim “I’ll save you!” while lunging towards him with a sword. Needless to say, things wind up much better for the reader than they do for Tool.
Nevertheless, Quinn’s crowning silliness in the new issue has got to be the “scatapult.” Knowing she needs to get an injured friend to the hospital as soon as possible, the well-meaning Quinn loads him onto a massive catapult and launches him in the direction of the nearest help. The device in and of itself sn worth laughing over, but the fact that Quinn uses it for a wounded ally makes it even better.
Granted, the clown prince’s flair was vital, but Harley definitely did her part during this three work torture spa of mutilation, drugging, and brainwashing. That she would not only be the one to capture him, but assume half the responsibility of breaking this poor boy down is one of the more sadistic achievements Quinn has amassed over her twenty plus years. Unsurprisingly, the scene was originally censored due to it's adult implications.
The animated miniseries Gods and Monsters went wild with its source material. In tackling heroes like Superman and Batman, showrunners Bruce Timm and Machinima delighted in presenting a fresh approach to these time-honored staples. For the aptly titled episode Twisted, The Caped Crusader is actually Kirk Langstrom, who transforms himself into a vampire using an array of odd sciences (to many, he’s also known as the Man-Bat). The fear doesn’t really begin, however, until an investigation into an abandoned warehouse causes Bats to bump into a deranged Harley Quinn. Like, really deranged.
Wearing skimpier clothes than usual, this Harley has collected a basement-worth of body parts-- each of which sport a postmortem grin. She’s a legit serial killer here, collecting various (preferably dead) persons to construct her own twisted family. Of course, things don’t end well, and the subsequent fight causes Harley to decapitate her “grandmother” by mistake and slice herself open with a chainsaw. Langstrom caps things off by killing her and draining her blood, so there’s also that.
It's a thoroughly disturbing take on the character, but one absolutely catered to a WTF collection.
Harley Quinn has always been pretty savvy when it comes to the metatextual comic books. Occasionally, writers have gifted her the ability to break the fourth wall, and acknowledge her own legacy within the larger spectrum of DC. This 2014 miniseries, logically titled Harley Quinn Invades Comic Con International San Diego, has the daffy murderess doing just that with a bevy of her own material. Penned by Jimmy Palmiotti, this Harley doesn’t necessarily address the reader directly, but there’s still plenty of clever humor and tie-ins to the DC writing roster.
It's a gimmick that’s definitely catered to über-fans of the franchise, as encounters with Jim Lee, Katie Kubert, and Harley creator Paul Dini might otherwise fly over the head of casual fans. That being said, the comic is still a sweet detour that pokes fun at the comic book industry; from story content to DC’s own game plan. Harley tirelessly pesters publishers to get her comic book out there, but by story’s end, the only thing she gets for her troubles is finding out that Jim Lee is not Stan Lee’s son.
Harley Quinn and The Joker are many things: model criminals, makeup enthusiasts, and walking proof that therapy is sometimes a detriment. One thing that doesn’t come to mind for either, however, is the potential to be competent parents. The duo spend way too much time plotting against Batman to care for a tiny jester, let alone be able to supply decent living conditions; given their revolving door cell at Arkham Asylum. Despite this thoroughly bad idea, Gods Among Us: Year 2 shares a rare moment of compassion on Harley Quinn’s part when she keeps from hitting a pregnant Black Canary. Her reasoning?
She remembers how hard it was, slyly opening a whole can of worms as to when and why the Quinnster decided to bear a child. As it turns out, Harley and The Joker had a daughter in the Injusticeverse. Her name is Lucy, she lives with the rest of the Quinzel clan, and likes toy cars and tutus. Joker knows nothing of her existence, as Harley decided such knowledge would only inhibit his busy schedule (real talk, Joker is one dedicated criminal). It's a special bit of tenderness on Harley’s part, and proof that, while Joker may hog the spotlight, she will always be the more fleshed out villain.
This one's a doozy. When Harley Quinn, now a member of the Suicide Squad in Vol. 4 #7, hears word of Joker’s defacing and disappearance after the Detective Comics story “The Dollmaker,” she decides to collect. She incites a riot at Belle Reeve Prison for a chance to escape to Gotham, where she intentionally gets arrested. There, she does a little handy work and searches the Police Department for Joker’s detached face… because love, and such.
It's an unsettling setup to say the least, but things get even worse when Deadshot catches up with her and winds up tied to a chair. From there, Harley forces the Squad teammate to wear her ex-boyfriend’s face over his own. She straddles Deadshot’s restrained body and proceeds to call him “Mister J,” before demanding to know why Joker left her alone. It's a haunting scene, both for the reader and for Deadshot, who attempts to play along before shooting her in the gut. For all the strides she’s made with her new mercenary pals, Harley is still a slave to her puddin’.
While she definitely has her virtues, Harley Quinn can be one sadistic cat when she wants to. Case in point, Detective Comics #23.2, which finds the leggy prankster emotionally cut off from the rest of the world. The Joker has abandoned her, as has the Suicide Squad. She’s got nothing or no one to live for, and decides to provoke an air of chaos within Gotham. How does she do it? By planting a kiosk of video games in the center of the city, and giving them out for free to every kid (and adult) in sight. The dread that permeates each panel is eerily potent, showcasing a once chipper villainess gone completely cold towards her own twisted tendencies.
Author Adam Glass teases the reader to the very end of the comic, hinting at the idea that Harley won’t go through with her treacherous plan. But sure enough, as she stands perched above the city, she gives the okay, and a myriad of booms dot Gotham City. Harley kills dozens of children in an instant, and all she has to say in response is a callous “so?”
The abusive aspects of Joker and Harley’s relationship has been present since its inception. The character has been beaten, berated, bullied, and shot in the head since 1992, only to take things in stride and continue to adore her “Mister J.” But if human nature proves anything, it's that we can only take so much before we snap at the sight of desserts and slice our spouse’s throat in the midst of a wedding celebration. Okay, maybe that’s a bit too specific for everybody, but that’s precisely what happens to Harley in the video game Injustice: Gods Among Us.
After defeating Superman and adding a little pep to her step, Harley breaks Joker out of prison so they can finally get married. At the reception, however, he makes the massive mistake of mashing Harley’s face into the cake -- which causes her to instantly slit his throat open. Nevermind the near death afflictions, don’t ever come at Harley Quinn with the intention of messing with her pastries.
The folk wisdom incentive for smiling is that it takes even more muscles to frown. Batman doesn’t really care. A poster boy billionaire for the well placed scowl, The Dark Knight has never been known to brandish his pearly whites -- which is precisely why this iconic incident ranks as number one. Taking place in the classic story Mad Love, Harley Quinn’s comic book debut, the villainess actually manages to capture Batman for her puddin’s approval. She proceeds to dangle him upside down above a piranha tank (from that perspective it looks like they’re smiling), but The Joker is none too pleased with what he finds.
Explaining that she needs to get rid of him so she can live happily with her man, the Gotham guardian begins belting out a laugh that rattles Quinn to her core. In doing so, Harley indirectly does what her boy toy could (almost) never do: make Batman laugh. Granted, it's the most ominous, daunting laughter in a story arc riddled with sadistic giggles, but she pulls it off nonetheless. It's both a WTF topper and an all-time Harley Quinn moment.