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Harley Quinn is a character that an average reader usually knows nothing about, but she has a lot of dedicated followers that love her zany personality and actions. A lot of people still don’t know who Harley Quinn is, but her history is collected here to get you familiar with the beloved cupid of crime.
Harley Quinn is one of those rare characters that was first on television before making the jump to comics. She first appeared in Batman: the Animated Series. The writers, Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, were originally only going to put her in one episode entitled “Joker’s Favor.” They had no idea that Harley Quinn would become such a hit with fans. She was a huge success and they continued to use her in the series as the Joker’s sidekick. It was not too long after that when she appeared in the comic book world. She first appeared in “The Batman Adventures #12” published in 1993 teaming up with her now long-time friend Poison Ivy in a battle against Batgirl.
Originally in the animated series, it was hinted in “Joker’s Favor” that Harley dropped out of beauty school and became Joker’s hench-woman. Later, her origin was changed and fully explained in an episode called “Mad Love” that was later translated to comic books. Her full name is Harlene Francis Quinzel, Joker’s former psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum. His lies and deceit however, made her become obsessed with him and she helped him escape becoming his hench-woman Harley Quinn. A similar version of Harley’s origin that is the most accepted version was contained in the one-shot Batman : Harley Quinn.
Her new man, the Joker (who she affectionately called Mistah Jay) has tried to kill Harley on numerous occasions. Once he shoved her into a rocket and has used her affection to his advantage in order to further manipulate her.
Harley’s family was no where near family of the year. Her con-man father took women’s money using his charm. Harley often gave loans to her dead-beat brother who fathered children with multiple women, and her mother was a harsh women who often accused Harley of being evil.
After the Mad Hatter left the Secret Six, Harley filled his spot for a short period of time in Birds of Prey #105.
In her own series (which lasted 38 issues from 2000-2004), Harley formed her own gang that was shortly dissolved after all the members were killed, some by Harley herself. She does not play well with others… unless you count Poison Ivy.
Along with her origin story, Batman: Harley Quinn introduced Harley to Ivy and they formed a friendship. Though it did start out shaky at first, with Ivy realizing Harley was a doctor at Arkham Asylum and she tried to murder her. When Harley said she did not care about dying however, this piqued Ivy’s interest and she allowed the girl to live. After learning about Harley’s love for the Joker, Ivy has continually insisted that she forget about him and that he was just an abusive psychopath.
Like Batman and Robin, Harley and Ivy have been accused by many fans of being in love with each other, It has not made any impact on their popularity, however. In this time period the subject is a much more tame one that many people have no problem with. These rumors, according to the comics so far, are not true and just fabricated fan fiction.
In Batman #663, Harley returns to help Joker kill his former henchmen, unaware that the final punch line is her own death. Upon realizing his scheme, Harley shot the Joker in the arm.
Harley is no longer considered an active villain. A year after Infinite Crisis. Harley escaped from Arkham with the help of Scarface in Detective Comics #831. The new ventriloquist (Sugar) wanted her to become her henchwoman, but out of respect for the original ventriloquist, Arnold Wesker, she turned down the offer and helped Batman bring her in. She returned to Arkham and the next day was released due to the deciding vote made by Bruce Wayne for her freedom.
With her new-found freedom Harley first tried to be an Amazon while staying at the Athenian Women’s Shelter. She made friends with fellow Amazon (and former Catwoman) Holly Robinson. When she left the Shelter Harley moved in with Poison Ivy in a home she occupied with a hypnotized Riddler. Later, with Catwoman (Selena Kyle) leading them, Harley and Ivy moved to an abandoned pet shelter with her and they formed the Gotham City Sirens.
Power-wise Harley was born a normal person with no special abilities of any kind. Poison Ivy gave Harley a plant potion that not only made her immune to poisons, but also allowed her to be more limber. Harley also gained temporary powers when fighting with the Amazons in space, but lost them when she re-entered Earth’s atmosphere.