An incredibly accomplished and talented woman takes on a job in her profession that brings her into contact with one of the most famous and mysterious men in the world. The job becomes an obsession which in turn leads her into a life as a costumed criminal so she can become closer to the legendary object of that obsession. While that's a brief version of the infamous origin story of Harley Quinn, it's also an accurate description of the origin of Golden Age DC Comics character Harlequin. There's an affordable copy of the first appearance of recurring Green Lantern nemesis Harlequin in All-American Comics #89, plus three other All-American Comics Harlequin appearances up for auction in this week's 2022 May 29-30 Sunday & Monday Comic Books Select Auction #122222 from Heritage Auctions.
Since DC Comics characters Harley Quinn and Harlequin both have the Harlequin of the Italian commedia dell'arte at their core, it's hardly a surprise that they should be somewhat similar — they are clever tricksters who pursue their passion with zeal, among many other complicated things. Interestingly, Harley Quinn creators Bruce Timm and Paul Dini drew upon a number of other influences for the character, including the Golden Age Daredevil for the look of her original costume.
As for Harlequin's origin moment in All-American Comics #89 by Robert Kanigher and Irwin Hasen, she is Molly Mayne, Green Lantern alter ego Alan Scott's assistant at WXYZ radio in this story. Helping with a promotion involving Green Lantern for one of the radio station's sponsors, she becomes obsessed with the hero and decides to assume the role of the Harlequin for real so she can get Green Lantern's attention. In the context of the story, the Harlequin character had been created to be Green Lantern's villain in the radio promotion.
Including her first appearance in All-American Comics #89, Harlequin showed up nine times in the pages of All-American Comics, Green Lantern, and All-Star Comics in 1947-1948. Harlequin and Green Lantern developed something akin to a "frenemies" dynamic based around the notion that Harlequin's obsession with him (and her assumption that he loved her too) meant that she spent as much time making sure no harm came to him as she did in trying to attract his attention by committing crime.
Finally, a year after her debut, Green Lantern #34 (cover-dated September-October 1948) gave readers a major Golden Age plot twist. The Harlequin was in reality a government agent called Operative H-9, posing as a supervillain in order to get close to and capture real gangland criminals. At the request of the Justice Bureau, the Harlequin and Green Lantern were to secretly become partners while publicly pretending to be foes so that they could maintain the ruse and ensure more actual criminals. Unfortunately, this was her last appearance of the Golden Age.
An important and fascinating part of DC Comics' Golden Age, there's an affordable copy of the first appearance of recurring Green Lantern nemesis Harlequin in All-American Comics #89, plus three other All-American Comics Harlequin appearances up for auction in this week's 2022 May 29-30 Sunday & Monday Comic Books Select Auction #122222 from Heritage Auctions.