I know getting into a new character can seem daunting; this is why we’re here to help guide you through the colossal amount of material and narrow it down to give you the best possible navigation through your journey. Here, I will be listing the essentials and fan favourites of Harley Quinn.
Harley is notoriously known for her unpredictability and charismatic personality. She is a catalyst of chaos thrown into the works and thrives in altercations between others. Harley is resilient and you see this in any media you decide to pick up. She has been through such brutalities where any normal person would have given up by now; but she dusts herself off, cracks a joke and moves on. I suppose like any comic book character, they portray strength where the average person would fail and they overcome impossible scenarios making the mundane struggles all the more bearable: “Well if Harley can survive a rocket crash, surely I can face my boss at work.”
I was lucky in making an instant click with this clown and over the years I realised I’ll instantly light up seeing her on a page no matter where she is or what she’s doing, I’m honestly just here for the vibes. But I think why she’s so great is because there are so many different versions of her throughout the years that there is something for everybody and I’m sure you will like at least one version, if not all.
Harley’s first ever appearance was on B:TAS Joker’s Favour and was created to be The Joker’s sidekick and didn’t have any plans to go any further than a cameo. That all changed due to her popularity and she continued as a frequent cast member. Having debuted in 1992, there is A LOT of stuff to sieve through so I hope this crash course will give you exposure to the majority of versions, as well as bring you up to speed with where the character is today.
Batman: The Animated Series (1992)
Developed by Bruce Timm, Paul Dini and Mitch Brian
(Please note I’m getting my episode numbers from Batman: The Complete Animated Series Box Set and numbers may vary)
Mad Love (1999) Season Three Ep 21
Directed by Butch Lukic
Written by Paul Dini, Bruce Timm & Stan Berkowitz
In the episode Mad Love, it explains Harley’s origin; Harleen Quinzel was a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum before she fell in love with her patient, The Joker, and took on the persona of Harley Quinn. It’s a vital piece of media to her character as it shows how she was manipulated into doing the Joker’s bidding as he took advantage of her pity for him. It also highlights how clever she really is. After all, she was a psychiatrist.
Harley and Ivy (1993) Season One Ep 56
Directed by Boyd Kirkland
Written by Paul Dini, Bob Kane & Mitch Brian
As important as Harley’s history is with The Joker, Poison Ivy is just as, if not more, important in Harley’s life and character development than any other character in Batman. They have been in a romantic relationship on and off over the years. It’s only the beginning in this episode but you can follow their journey from here to where they are today.
Harley’s Holiday (1994) Season Two Ep 16
Directed by Kevin Altieri
Written by Paul Dini, Bob Kane & Jean MacCurdy
One of my favourites. We follow Harley through a “typical” day of what she would get up to alone, leaving a path of destruction in her wake while making a few enemies and friends along the way. She is certified sane and released from Arkham asylum with the entire city as her playground! Forever irresistible to look away from, she’s rather magnetic regardless of doing good or bad.
Batman: Harley Quinn (1999)
Writer: Paul Dini
Penciller: Yvel Guichet
Inker: Aaron Sowd
Colours: Richard & Tanya Horie
Letterer: Willie Shubert
This is the first canonical comic appearance of Harley. It was a one-shot spun from the Batman: No Man’s Land in 1999. Technically this wasn’t her first appearance as comics of Batman: The Animated Series were released beforehand but it is her first appearance in main continuity. It was her official introduction into the Batman comics. The writer of course, her creator Paul Dini, was no better person to write her main event.
I found this comic useful as it gives you a good understanding and feel for her personality. She wasn’t exactly completely innocent before the Joker. She wanted to write a book on serial killers and well, Joker fits the criteria. She willingly joined him into a life of crime, helping him escape from Arkham. We see her choose her own identity to be Joker’s sidekick. Similar aspects of Mad Love are shown in this comic, how despite betrayal, her loyalty remains fervid. She is completely delusional and can see no wrong coming from Joker. How she tells events from her unreliable point of view. Harley views the world through a skewd looking glass, we see this often in her comics and it was recently emphasised in Birds of Prey and The Suicide Squad.
Birds of Prey (2020)
Directed by Cathy Yan
Written by Christina Hodson
Produced by Margot Robbie, Bryan Unkeless & Sue Kroll
You’ve probably seen Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn postered on every bus and cinema throughout your home town. She’s a credit to comic book fans and creators alike winning several awards and nominations for her embodiment of the role. In 2016, she debuted as a main character in David Ayer’s Suicide Squad. This created an explosion of fans worldwide and led to her reprising the role for Birds of Prey and the following year for The Suicide Squad.
She’s incredible in all these movies but I chose Birds of Prey because we get a fantastic narration and solo point of view from Harley herself on what it’s like to be dropped by the biggest crime boss only to fend for herself in Gotham. Margot evidently did her research preparing for her roles and trained very hard doing all of her own stunts. We see her kindle new relationships with women who are also seeking a new beginning. There’s familiar tones of Batman: The Animated Series and of course, inspiration from the comics. It’s colourful, stimulating, vivid and is filled with glitter. It’s also R rated, absolutely necessary if you ask me. If you’re gonna do a character like Harley Quinn, you have to let her be violent and swear!
Harley Quinn: Hot In The City (2013)
Written by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Art by Chad Hardin
Colours by Alex Sinclair & Paul Mounts
Letters by John J. Hill
Executive Editor: Bobbie Chase
This happily married duo have co-written Harley Quinn for over five years, and have evolved her over time into the anti-hero we all know today. Jimmy himself lived in Brooklyn most of his life so they have a handle on her mannerisms and lingo. They sent her on all kinds of fun adventures and brought so many concepts to life. The duo always ensure to have Harley as a focal point in each storyline, building her even more, providing exposed environments we haven’t seen before. She’s officially out on her own with all ties to Joker gone for the most part. She sets out in a new city, a new identity and a mission to become her own boss. The characters around her challenge her and keep things interesting.
The team also portrays her moral compass in a compelling way, never letting us forget where she came from.These comics have influenced so much other Harley media in later years; the team even included Margot in their series! Not to mention Margot bringing new material to the table. One of my favourite references is when the game Lego DC Super-Villains mentioned her scatapult that’s featured in this series. Both comics and other media are in constant reference to each other, which is another great thing if you enjoy easter egg hunting!
Harley Quinn: The Animated Series (2019)
Produced by Dean Lorey, Justin Halpern, Patrick Schumacker, Kaley Cuoco & Sam Register
If reading is a little overwhelming at times, I suggest this show as it covers the necessary information about the character as well as the show itself being point blank hilarious. I’ve got to hand it to this show giving a really accurate representation of the character, and have pretty much covered everything essential within two seasons. Harley and Ivy’s relationship is a main plot line which is a huge win. You can sit back and relax and enjoy watching Harley course through her not so normal life. If Murphy’s Law was a character, that would be Harley Quinn. Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. It provides structure and challenges all building her into a better, more experienced character.
The writers do a great job of exploring the tiny details, showing vulnerability and really giving the character a voice unlike we’ve ever seen before. Personally, it’s an extremely tasteful nod to both classic and new adaptations of the character. Really pulling in those B:TAS vibes, it could easily pass as direct continuity, but with more cussing and blood. I’d be both thrilled and distraught some days watching the episodes each week, the team are highly interactive with their fanbase making the experience all the more special. ALSO, Season 3 is set to release later this July, so I’d get your skates on!
Harley Quinn: The Animated Series – The Eat. BANG! Kill Tour (2022)
Written by Tee Franklin
Drawn by Max Sarin
Colours by Marissa Louise
Letters by Taylor Esposito
The comic series takes place during the end of Season 2 of the show and is extremely popular with snippets of the book going viral almost every week, and rightfully so! The art is amazing and immediately, I was doting over Harley’s heart eyes. Finally, explicit Harlivy content! The book solely focuses on Harley and Ivy’s relationship and is a great addition to the animated world of Harley Quinn. Tee Franklins passion oozes through the pages and you can really spot how much she loves these characters and wants to give them proper representation as a queer couple. Not to mention this book is highly inclusive of LGBTQ+ and disabled characters. Tee provides representation for all, forever giving those a voice. Franklin certainly spread hope within me showing you can do anything once you put your mind to it; “closed mouths don’t get fed.” It comes from a place of love and is a series I will hold close to my heart forever. It’s set to continue in August titled: Harley Quinn: The Animated Series – The Real Sidekicks of New Gotham Special. It’s something to look forward to if you find yourself enjoying these comics.
Gotham City Sirens (2009)
Written by Paul Dini
Art by Guillam March
Colours by Jose Villarrubia
Letters by Steve Wands
One thing that is for sure is how popular Harley is when teamed with Catwoman and Poison Ivy forming the Gotham City Sirens. This villainous trio join together to pursue new agendas and are determined to fend for themselves. The book has a good balance of humour and seriousness. Perhaps they may not get along all the time but this thickens the plot and causes suspense; will they manage as a team or turn against each other and end in a blood bath? The personality clashes work well to build relationships and show individuality among them.
I found Harley to be exceptionally funny in this book, her creator, Paul Dini wrote it, it’s only right it reads well. It has plenty of personality traits in the one room, making for an interesting plot and altercations between the three. Issue seven introduces her family giving a well defined sense of what holidays were like for these guys! We also get more background stories and how she’s managing in her life of crime. It’s still early days here for Harley so she’s getting a hang of the ropes. I included this book simply as it’s a forever fan favourite and the trio creates a buzz still to this day when it’s teased we will be getting Sirens content.
Harley Quinn: No Good Deed (2021)
Written by Stephanie Phillips
Art by Riley Rossmo & Laura Braga
Colours by Ivan Plascencia & Arif Prianto
Ink by Jay Listen, Riley Rossmo & Laura Braga
Letters by AndWorld Design
Edited by Ben Abernathy
It’s a brand new arc for Harley as she tries to right all her wrongs from the past. No previous reading is necessary in order to start here, even though it would be ideal to understand those wrongs she has done over the years; this run does a great job at reminding you of her tainted past. Stephaine never fails to tug at my heartstrings while giving us insight to the softer side of Harley. We never lose the impulsive unpredictability that she’s known for. The original Harley is still in there. She’s always been known to wear her heart on her sleeve but cut you twice as quick. I’m sure bad guys feel some remorse at times, so why not have the story told?
The team focuses on Harley’s development for the most part and gives us insight to her healing process. Stephanie Phillips came onto our podcast to talk about Harley and how her intelligence is underplayed. Intelligence can be used as a weapon and despite seeing a more vulnerable side to Harley, she is still as deadly. She’s been through a lot up until this point and here we’re able to join in on the fun of redemption! It’s not set in stone whether or not she will stay on this righteous path but it’s humorous to watch her try and impress the Bat-Family. It’s a sincere love letter to Harley and her wellbeing; as it states on the first issue of this run: “Let the healing begin.”
Story & Art by Stjepan Sejic
Letters by Gabriella Downie
Edited by Andy Khouri
DC Black Label was created for a more mature rating. If you really want to get into the dirty details of Harleen Quinzel’s psyche, I highly suggest this book as it is solely focused on her journey to becoming Harley Quinn. It’s a complete narrative from her mind. It’s ideal for people who want to delve deeper and gain bigger insight to what makes her tick.I got this book for Christmas and did not lift my head from the pages until it was finished.
It’s an extremely enticing, exciting, exhilarating experience to get so close to your favourite character and put yourself in her point of view when struggling to come to terms with her likeness to the Joker and life of crime. It might seem like a love story but it couldn’t be further from that. It’s a rather accurate representation on how dysfunctional, codependent relationships work. We of course understand why the Joker would choose her to manipulate; she’s young, freshly exposed to the walls of Arkham Asylum – but we also get insight as to how she fell for him in the first place and sympathise with her. It may come across rather intense if you haven’t any other information about the character. That being said, there’s no harm in doing so, you will definitely get a defined explanation of one of Harley Quinn’s origins. In my opinion, it’s an absolute must read for every Harley Quinn fan.
Injustice Gods Among Us: Year Zero (2020)
Written by Tom Taylor
Art by Roge Antonio & Cian Tormey
Letters by Wes Abbott
Edited by Jessica Chen
This is the latest addition to the ongoing series since 2013. One of my all time favourite series. Personally, for me Tom Taylor writes Harley with care and has always understood the fundamentals of her characteristics and how she would react to situations around her. Injustice is set in an alternate universe separate from main continuity all together, allowing for the impossible to become possible. Trust me if you know who Tom Taylor is you will know what I mean when I say he’s steller for the shock factor.Year Zero is a prequel to all the events during the years.
Ideally, you could start with this book. It mainly focuses on Harley and her relationships with The Joker and Poison Ivy. Harley tends to survive the most insane scenarios. You name any Crisis or catastrophic, apocalyptic event. I bet you she’s survived by camping out or choosing the right side to survive.The other Injustice book that has Harley as a main focal point is Ground Zero (2017). I will say both books adapt the continuous conflict Harley has with her relationship to the Joker, making them extremely compelling stories. It provides insights to how she views herself as a person and her what she believes are her duties in this world.