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Supervillain Origins: Harley Quinn (Redux)

VO: JG WRITTEN BY: Craig Butler
Written by Craig Butler A doctor shouldn’t get too close to their patients – especially if that patient is the Clown Prince of Crime. Welcome to and today we will explore the comic book origin of Harley Quinn. Have an idea you want to see made into a WatchMojo video? Check out our suggest page at http://WatchMojo.comsuggest and submit your idea.

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A doctor shouldn’t get too close to their patients – especially if that patient is the Clown Prince of Crime. Welcome to and today we will explore the comic book origin of Harley Quinn.

As with most comic book characters, there are often re-imaginings and different versions to a character’s past. We have chosen primarily to follow the storyline which unfolded in 1994’s The Batman Adventures: Mad Love and which was expanded upon in 2014’s Secret Origins #4.

Harleen Frances Quinzel is an oddity in the comics world – in a lot of ways. But personality aside, she’s unusual because she first made her splash in a Batman animated series before she was ever featured in the comics. But this on-again, off-again girlfriend to the Joker soon conquered the printed page. Not bad for someone whose sanity is often in question.

She was finally given a backstory in 1994’s Mad Love, created by the team that brought her into existence in the first place: Paul Dini and Bruce Timm. In it, readers learned that Harleen Quinzel started out as a college student who used her considerable wiles to obtain a degree in psychology. She arranged to intern at Arkham Asylum, probably hoping to use the experience to write a best-seller about the criminals incarcerated there. She soon became fascinated with the Joker, who told her about his abusive childhood. Quinzel soon found herself falling in love with her patient – and enraged at the Batman for always foiling his plans. Her own grasp of sanity had become rather tenuous.

Finally, when Batman returned the Joker after one of his many escapes, it proved too much for Harleen. She quickly put together a red and black costume, picked up some handy dandy tear gas grenades, and broke her beloved “pudding” out. Rechristened as Harley Quinn, she began a life of crime at the Joker’s side – though it could hardly be said that his feelings matched hers in intensity.

Harley’s origin has been tweaked numerous times down through the years. A re-telling in 2014’s Secret Origin #4 brought together many of the revisions. In this version, Harley grew up in Brooklyn, a smart child with rambunctious brothers and parents who weren’t her intellectual equal. As a teen-ager, she developed a crush on a boy named Bernie Bash, based on their mutual anti-social feelings. Bernie even went so far as to kill a classmate that mistreated Harley.

Harley became a brilliant psychologist but grew bored with her run-of-the-mill clients. She took a job at Arkham in order to explore the fascinations of the criminal mind. Realizing the inmates wouldn’t open up to a doctor, she arranged to go undercover as an inmate.

This fooled most of the crooks – but the Joker saw right through her. He played her, though, pretending to take her into his confidence and to open up to her. She fell for him big time –and when a new warden came in and blew her cover, she reacted badly. Knowing she would be sent away, she grabbed a gun and broke out with the Joker.

Harley trusted Joker completely, and he taught her that she had to give up all vestiges of her old self to truly be free. To help accomplish this, he pushed her into the same vat of chemicals that had bleached his own skin a chalky white. After this baptism, she embraced her ability to be whatever she wanted and do whatever she pleased.

Unfortunately for Harley, Joker didn’t keep her around for too long – but she grew from the experience of being dumped by him. Now truly her own woman, Harley embarked on a career that has seen her play both the hero and the villain – a complicated, fascinating character who has developed a dedicated group of fans.

As we mentioned, Harley originated on the small screen, and she has appeared numerous times throughout various media. She also proved the breakout star of the 2016 “Suicide Squad” movie, stealing scene after scene in this ensemble drama. She can’t help it – there’s something in Harley that just strikes a chord with just about everyone.

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