Hero History: The Paradoxical World of Harley Quinn

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Abraham Riesman continues his excellent series of “hero histories” with a look at Harley Quinn who has become perhaps THE stand out mainstream character of the current comics era. (I’ll have aphoto gallery opf Harley toys from Toy Fair in a bit.) (Deadpool vs Harley Quinn, I’m saying it until it happens.) And she’s had a strange history, with most of her development taking place outside of comics, from her origin in Batman: The Animated Series to her Arkham Asylum re imagination.

Over the next seven years, Dini, Timm, and Sorkin built Harley into one of the most memorable Batman characters of all time. That was no small trick, given that the Batman mythos was already more than 50 years old and had featured the same general cast of archetypes for decades. It was made all the more remarkable by the fact that she didn’t even exist in the mainstream Batman comics of the time — it was all happening on a kids’ TV show and its spinoff products. And even though children were the target audience, Harley’s story lines were provocative in ways no other Batman tales had been.


Of course, for comics, Mad Love is probably the greatest single Harley story, and a 90s DC standout. In fact, with the Dini/Timm team at the peak of their powers, this should probably be added the the short list of DC essentials, although it isn’t on the Top 25 list. Time for a new edition, DC!

Anyway, the current Conner/Palmiotti version is also discussed as well as the many various feminist interpretations of Harley. It’s a good piece about a complex character. What do YOU think makes Harley so popular?

PS: Also the success of Harley means everyone can acknowledge what we’ve been saying all along: Amanda Conner is a great cartoonist!
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