Thirty years ago this week, Harley Quinn made her debut in Batman: The Animated Series. And her evolution from the Joker’s accomplice and sidekick to a full-blown antiheroine in her own right has made her a DC icon. However, that wasn’t always the case. When she first appeared (voiced by Arleen Sorkin) in 1992’s “Joker’s Favor,” Harley was just the amusing henchwoman to the Joker, and she was slated to appear in only one episode. However, Harley’s creators Paul Dini and Bruce Timm saw the potential to keep using her in the series and her role on the show kept growing.
Dini and Timm fleshed out Harley’s origin and her abusive relationship with the Joker in Batman: Mad Love, a one-shot comic published in 1993. This issue (which was later adapted as an episode of the show), revealed that Harley was once Dr. Harleen Quinzen, a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum who made the grave mistake of falling for her patient, the Joker. But as much as Harley loved her “Mr. J,” he never truly loved her in return. However, even this series gave Harley a close friend outside of the Joker’s influence: Poison Ivy. Together, Harley and Ivy were a formidable team.
— Harley Quinn (@dcharleyquinn) September 11, 2022
Harley’s popularity was so huge that she was introduced into DC’s comic book continuity in 1999. By 2000, Karl Kesel and artist Terry Dodson launched the first Harley Quinn ongoing series. This comic was also the first time that Harley stepped out of the Joker’s shadow as a solo criminal. Additionally, the series fleshed out the friendship between Harley and Ivy.
Over the ensuing years, Harley remained a part of Batman’s rogues gallery. 2011’s New 52 reboot even made Harley a member of the Suicide Squad and separated her from the Joker once and for all. However, it wasn’t until 2013 that Harley started to morph into a more humorous version of herself. Co-writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner launched a new Harley Quinn ongoing series with artists Chad Hardin and John Timms, This is where she picked up her fourth wall breaking habits and became more of an antiheroine. By the end of the series, even Batman tacitly approved of Harley’s change of heart.
In 2016, Margot Robbie brought Harley to the big screen in Suicide Squad. This version of the character is the antiheroine that many fans have come to love today. She’s an extremely skilled fighter who is both hilarious and unpredictable. While Harley’s headline turn in Birds of Prey wasn’t quite as popular, she returned to form in The Suicide Squad.
Currently, Kaley Cuoco voices Harley in the HBO Max animated series, Harley Quinn. Unlike previous adaptations of Harley, this one is more true to the comics. She is also openly in a romantic relationship with Poison Ivy, a development that the comics shied away from acknowledging until recently. The Harley of this series is the most fully realized version of herself to date. But given her popularity, this won’t be the last time Harley appears in either a TV series or a film.
Celebrate Harley Quinn’s 30th anniversary with us by sharing your favorite Harley memory in the comment section below!
Recommended Reading: Batman: The Animated Series: The Phantom City Creative Collection