Batman – Harley Quinn
Somehow I recently became obsessed with the character Harley Quinn. For those that don’t know, she’s the Joker’s girlfriend. You know, the Joker from Batman. Didn’t know he had a girlfriend? Well he does now.
Visually distinctive in her red and black motley or jester suit with white face-paint and panda eye make-up, Harley Quinn was created for Batman: The Animated Series. Something that passed me by at the time, I have been able to catch up with via the magic of YouTube. Though she was at first only in the animated series she eventually moved over into the Batman comic proper.
Now I’ve never been a huge Batman fan but always found the mentalist villains to be of interest, especially in the comic, where they can be a lot darker than the ever could in the films, campy tv show or even the cartoon series. (Though the cartoon series definitely has charms of its own as is much better then either the films or earlier tv show).
Having an interest in the Joker naturally leads onto his girlfriend and what a character she is. A wise-cracking fool she wants to be a femme fatal but always falls short, usually over a banana skin. Locked into a love-hate relationship with the Joker that has very sinister undercurrents you can’t help feeling sorry for her. She comes over as forties heroine, gutsy but klutsy and with a self-deprecating awareness about herself – which reminded me of Katherine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby. Some of the cartoon episodes are really excellent especially the origin story ‘Mad Love’ (Harley was originally Joker’s shrink) and the innuendo-filled ‘Harley and Ivy’ where she teams up with the vampish Posion Ivy.
The only comic collection currently in print here in the UK, the rather slim Batman Harley Quinn, is a bit of let down after the cartoon series. It has to fit in with the continuity of the series which at the time had Gotham in a semi-ruin post an earthquake. The character has been revved up by Poison Ivy’s potions to make her a more of a super-villain with super-speed and dexterity and we don’t get the bonkers weapons she used in the cartoon like the giant mallet and her gun (modelled off the marotte or mock-sceptre court jesters would employ). It does not capture the playful fun of the original character – being too big and bouncy to fit in with the brooding nature of the current incarnation of Batman.
Still, it’s almost worth buying for the gorgeous Alex Ross cover on its own.