There are many character evolutions focusing on cartoons, movies and games, but it’s really hard to find one that puts emphasis on comic books. Today we’ll be covering the Harley Quinn Evolution, but be sure to leave a suggestion in comments, because there are more evolutions coming in the future!
Harley Quinn was created by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm in September 1992. Her real name is Harleen Quinzel. She was a physician psychiatrist and a psychologist, who was assigned to treat the Joker in Arkham Asylum. She quickly fell in love with him and became his loyal sidekick.
Before we get into exploring how Harley made her debut in the DC comics, it’s worth mentioning that she’s a cartoon character who was later introduced into the comic book world, as opposed to most of the DC characters. Harley first appeared in the episode called “Joker’s Favor” in Batman: The Animated Series. She was portrayed and largely inspired by the actress Arleen Sorkin. One big similarity is that the name Harleen is a reference to the actress’ name “Arleen”. The other one is her costume, inspired by the jester outfit Arleen Sorkin wore in an episode of Days of Our Lives.
Harley was first intended to be in just one episode, but the character became so popular, that she made numerous appearances in the DC Animated Universe, eventually making her way into the DC Universe canon.
Harley Quinn made her comic debut in September 1993 in the twelfth issue of the Batman Adventures. This comic book was created to tie-in with Batman: The Animated Series. It is kept in the style of Bruce Timm’s cartoon, not connected to the regular DC Universe. This lead to a spin-off graphic novel titled The Batman Adventures: Mad Love in 1994. The issue focused on Harley’s backstory, how she fell in love with the Joker and how she became the character we all know and love today.
It’s also worth mentioning that before Harley made her way into the DC Canon, a version of Harley was introduced in Batman: Thrillkiller in 1997. The story was set in the early 60s, portraying the character in a skimpier version of the Jester outfit. Her exposed legs and knee-high boots gave her a Wonder Woman-like look, while her hat had three pompoms instead of two. She was in a romantic relationship with a female version of the Joker, named Bianca Steeplechase.
Another alternate version of Harley made a cameo in Elsewords 80-page Giant as a part of the Harley-Ivy music band. It was heavily implied the two were lesbian lovers.
In the year 1999, the character was officially introduced into DC Canon in the one-shot called Batman: Harley Quinn. The cover by Alex Ross became one of the most iconic covers in DC Comics history. The story talks about how Joker is fed up with having Harley around. He shoots her off in a rocket. A bit drastic, right? Maybe, but it actually turned out quite well for Harley, since she was found by Poison Ivy, after crashing in her park. Ivy saved her life with a special formula that enhanced her agility and strength. Harley hit Ivy’s soft spot when she told her what happened and they both set out to get revenge against the Joker. It was at that moment when we were introduced to the relationship between Harley and Ivy in the DC canon.
Fast forward to the year 2000 when Harley gets her very first solo comic book, lasting till January 2004. The 38-issue series delves into Harley’s years in college, with multiple appearances by the Joker and Poison Ivy, as well as lots of guest appearances by characters like Big Barda, Bizarro or the Man of Steel himself. She still rocks her classic Jester outfit and she’s still one hundred percent nuts.
Following the popularity of The Batman cartoon series, a comic book spin-off, titled The Batman Strikes was created in the year 2004. Harley Quinn’s look was the same as the one in the animated show.
Three years later in a crossover between Batman and the Spirit, Harley initially appears disguised as a flight attendant, who is trying to silence the two main characters for good. Oh, and speaking of silence, she didn’t speak once when she was a part of the 2008 Joker graphic novel, they didn’t, however, forget to make her pose as a stripper.
Harley Quinn was back at it in 2009 with Poison Ivy and Catwoman, forming their own team – Gotham City Sirens. Her costume still possessed all the normal earmarks. However, in issue #23 a disturbing variant was introduced on the cover, showing Harley with Joker’s green eyes and his sinister grin.
I have great news for the Arkham games lovers out there! The Arkhamverse Harley didn’t only appear in these video games, but was also featured in various digital comics tying to the franchise.
In 2011, with the New 52 comes a new design for Harley. She got rid of the time-tested Jester costume and slipped into much racier and sexier outfits. The modernized skimpy getup relied on makeup, hairdye, a corset, shorts, leggings and sneakers. Her motives underwent a change as well. She was no longer a villainous sidekick, but turned into an anti-hero instead.
Right at the beginning of New 52 she made her debut as a Suicide Squad member in a brand new roster, which consisted of Deadshot, King Shark, El Diablo, Black Spider, and more.
It wasn’t the last time, however, that we’d seen her classic Jester outfit. A year after the launch of the Suicide Squad series, DC released a manga-inspired digital comic called Ame Comi Girls, showcasing Harley in a rather odd-looking version of the costume.
Later, in 2013, she was given a second volume of her very own adventures. Here, the designs for Harley Quinn’s costumes and hammer were changing frequently, ranging from a hat for her dyed pigtails to roller skates on her feet. The series lasted 30 issues and ended in 2016.
But the surprises didn’t end there when it came to 2013! An Injustice digital comic was released, in which, spoiler alert, she would eventually marry her all-time BFF – Poison Ivy.
At that point, DC Comics really started giving this character a bigger place in the spotlight. Many mini-series and one-shots were published. Some of them were more on a weird side, like the one where she was a Scooby-Doo villain or where she was an English psychiatrist during World War II. She even made an appearance in the Batman 1966 comic, even though she wasn’t even created back when the television series aired.
There was a bunch of mini-series with Harley Quinn as the lead character, too, mostly teaming up with heroes and villains from every corner of the DC Universe. Whether it’s the spin-off series where Harley convinces amnesiac Power Girl that they are a crimefighting duo, or teaming up with characters like Superman, Wonder Woman or even Lobo in Harley’s Little Black Book. Some of the covers are racy in this one, showcasing her in an oversized Wonder Woman outfit or simply in a bikini, fighting Superman in a ring. Oh, and let’s not forget about the Gotham City Sirens road trip full of half-naked bodies.
The 2016 version of Harley is how we got to the culmination point of her evolution. With the DC Rebirth came the reinvention of the character with two comic series, Suicide Squad and the third volume of the Harley Quinn on-going series.
Harley’s pink and blue ponytails are based on Margot Robbie’s version of the character from the 2016’s Suicide Squad feature film and we are yet again introduced to many variations of her wardrobe choices.
Some of the mini-series get even stranger, involving Harley with her own gang of makeup wearing assistants or Old Lady Harley in an insane vision of a future. She rocks short hair in this one, with two pink and blue strands. The Suicide Squad series ended in March of this year, while her on-going is still going.
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Which Harley Quinn version is your favourite? Which characters do you want to see in the next Comics Evolutions? Let us know in the comments section below. If we choose your idea, we’ll give you a shout out at the top of that very article, so don’t miss out!