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Harley Quinn: DC's Leading Lady Debuted 30 Years Ago Today

The groundbreaking Batman: The Animated Series is rightly being celebrated for its 30th anniversary this month and amongst the show's greatest contributions and inventions being celebrated with that is certainly the character of Harley Quinn.  Since debuting in the series, she has been one of DC Comics' greatest successes over the past couple of decades, going from simply a cartoon sidekick to arguably the company's most popular and successful female character and here we're going to celebrate her on her 30th birthday.

Harley Quinn: DC's Leading Lady Debuted 30 Years Ago Today
Image: Screencap

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the seventh episode to air,  The Joker's Favor (you can check out my retro review here), which introduced the world to the series' version of The Joker, along with his brand new henchwoman in Harley Quinn.  In the episode, we only see her as The Joker's equally clowned-up assistant, but soon enough their relationship would evolve into a violent and abusive "romantic" one.  We would also learn that the wacky Harley Quinn was once Dr. Harleen Quinzel and was The Joker's psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum before the madman would seduce her and drive her criminally insane with his stories of suffering abuse at the hands of his father and Batman.

Created by the series' prolific writer Paul Dini and brought to life by voice actress Arleen Sorkin, Harley Quinn was an instant hit with fans and would find herself escaping from The Joker's shadow to have whole episodes about herself. "I was writing a script about the Joker menacing a regular person who had strayed into his path, and I needed to give him a gang of henchmen to work with him," said Dini about his creating Quinn.  "The idea occurred to me, let's put in a female henchperson because that seemed like a fun variation on the regular big thug guys. I liked the idea of someone kind of fun and funny that he could have a back-and-forth with. I was thinking of the female henchwomen they had in the '60s Adam West series. Often the Joker or Penguin would have a moll, so I thought, let's go back and give a nod to that."

He continues that he had real-life inspirations for Harley Quinn's look and mannerisms. "I thought what would be fun would be a Judy Holliday type, somebody snappy and a 'girl gone wrong' type of character. So then I was shooting around names, and I just came up with the name Harley Quinn. I pitched it to Bruce Timm and Alan Burnett, and Bruce was like, 'That sounds like fun.' So I wrote the script, and Bruce did the design of her in the classic jester outfit, and everything just clicked."

Harley Quinn would make her first comics appearance in Batman Adventures #12 a year later and would enter DC canon in 1999.  Evolving into an anti-hero, she's become not only one of the Batman universe's most beloved characters but has become one of DC Comics' biggest stars and a merchandising machine.  She made her live-action big screen debut in 2016's Suicide Squad, played by Margot Robbie, who also played the character in 2020's Birds Of Prey and 2021's The Suicide Squad.  She will next be played by Lady Gaga in 2024's Joker: Folie à Deux, the sequel to 2019's Oscar-winning megahit.  James Gunn, who directed The Suicide Squad, took to Twitter today to pay tribute to Harley Quinn on her 30th anniversary.

You can catch all of Harley Quinn's earliest adventures on Batman: The Animated Series, streaming on HBO Max, along with all of her other movie and TV appearances.

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Ryan FassettAbout Ryan Fassett

As a lifelong fan of movies, comics, wrestling, and collectibles, Ryan is excited to share his thoughts on all of it with you. He is also an active filmmaker and published comic book writer, along with being a connoisseur of soda.
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