Harley Quinn’s Evolution: From Cartoons To Birds Of Prey

If you think that Harley Quinn always dressed like Margot Robbie in Suicide Squad and that her only love interest has been Joker, then you probably missed a lot about this character. So let’s talk about how Harley Quinn has changed in the last 30 years. Some history first! 

Harley Quinn’s story

Only true fans know that Harley Quinn's first appearance was not in a comic book, but in “Batman: The Animated Series” episode 7 called “Joker’s Favor”. Her character was inspired by a short dream sequence from the “Days Of Our Lives” soap opera where the actress Arleen Sorkin was rolling around in a harlequin suit and make-up.

The actress Arleen Sorkin impressed Batman’s director so much that he even invited her to voice over the animated character Harley Quinn! It may now sound crazy, but back then Harley was meant to just be a side character. Can you believe that?

But the fans loved her so much that she was back a couple of times more in the animated series which finally lead to her comic book debut… 

“The New Batman Adventures” was an attempt to connect the cartoons and the comics and to introduce the background of Harley Quinn as a character. A pretty successful attempt, we should say. Even though it wasn’t connected to the regular DC Universe yet, and sometime after that, the world saw the spin-off graphic novel “The Batman Adventures: Mad Love”, which was focused on Harley and Joker’s love story and on how Joker turned Harley to crime. 

Harley Quinn’s love affairs

Yes, this is the first time we hear her character’s real name: Harley Quinnzel. Though the Joker convinces her to simplify it a little bit and to become his harlequin… “Mad Love” even became the winner of the Eisner and Harvey Awards for “Best Single Issue Comic Of The Year” and a bit later it was adapted for the animated New Batman Adventures.

And since then Harley's old school jester look was iconic for almost 20 years! Finally, in 1999 Harley Quinn was introduced into the DC Canon in “Batman: Harley Quinn” one-shot and its cover perfectly represent her style of that period.

And just to sidetrack for a moment this one-shot is important for another reason: Harley Quinn meets Poison Ivy on its pages. And true fans may know about their relationship which turned into a passionate romance in the future… Yes, Harley Quinn and Joker never did well together. It might be that the two crazy-tricksters aren't meant for each other… And Harley had a lot of partners during her history and one of her favorites was Poison Ivy.

Harley Quinn’s style

As we said before, back in those days her style was much different from what we know from Margot Robbie’s Birds of Prey. Her typical outwear was the jester outfit in all 38 issues of her solo comic book from 2000-2004, where she got her own and very detailed storyline, intersecting many other DC characters like Batman, Man of Steel, Bizzaro, Big Barda and, of course, Joker and Poison Ivy. 

During that period there was an attempt to create a “Birds of Prey” TV show with Mia Sara as Harley. Though despite good ratings the show lasted for only 13 episodes and was canceled after that. That show was probably their first attempt to change Harley’s iconic look a little bit. Not brave enough though to go down in history.

The biggest change of Harley Quinn’s style was made in 2009 in the game Batman: Arkham Asylum which was revolutionary in that it was the beginning of her new look. In the game, Harley was designed in a purple and red color scheme, wearing a corset instead of a jester suit, stockings, and most important: she had the pigtails. The key element here is that the jester symbolism disappeared.

There were some attempts to bring it back, for example, in games such as Batman: Assault on Arkham (2014) or in Infinite Crisis (2015) though the jester symbolism was far from dominant. The new style was about sex. And the audience seemed to appreciate that, right?  

Since then with the New 52 her look was established in the comic books as well (2011). So when Margot Robbie appeared in SUICIDE SQUAD (2016) she was certainly at the culmination point of Harley Quinn’s evolution which continues for now as we can see from the trailers of the upcoming Birds of Prey.

Will Margot Robbie surprise us by developing Harley Quinn's style? Or will she keep to the newest rendition? We’ll see in theaters soon!

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