We first laid eyes on Harley Quinn in “Batman: The Animated Series,” way back in 1992. Her charm (aided by Arleen Sorkin’s vocal talents) and whacky fighting methods fixed her place in our hearts. What was intended to be a one-off appearance would really be the first of many in the animated series, in comic books and more recently, in films.
RELATED: Harley Quinn’s 15 Craziest Moments
What makes her such a lovable villain? So many things! Maybe it’s the fact that despite being a bad girl, she’s actually quite caring and compassionate. Maybe it’s because she plays the ditzy sidekick when she’s really a badass. Just take a look at a few of her best moments and see for yourself why everyone falls in love with the one and only Harley Quinn.
15. MAD LOVE (THE NEW BATMAN ADVENTURES)
Airing in 1999,“The New Batman Adventures” episode “Mad Love” (written by Paul Dini) features Harley as she tries to draw Joker’s attention away from Batman, who she thinks is getting in the way of their relationship. She’s not wrong. Even when she tries to tempt him into “revving up his Harley,” he remains fixated on concocting plans to defeat the detective. So Harley, being the devoted partner she is, catches Batman by herself and keeps him dangling over a pool of piranhas, ready for her puddin’. Joker, however, isn’t exactly grateful, or even pleased.
The episode also includes Harley’s origin story, which gets more and more tragic as it unfolds. It’s not fair that she’s caught in this position, seduced by the Joker’s twisted charisma and words, and you know she shouldn’t be going after Batman by herself. But you also really want her to. She’s clearly way more than she appears to be, capable of taking down Batman without little help. She’s driven not because she’s insane (well, maybe a little), but because she’s in love. That quality alone earned her a place in our hearts.
14. HARLEY’S LITTLE BLACK BOOK #5
Batman isn’t the only one she’s beaten. The man of steel himself has fallen to her fists! It happened in “Harley’s Little Black Book” #5 (written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, with art by Neal Adams) when both Harley and Superman were selected to compete for the right to become Earth’s champion against the Scrubb. Superman’s powers are nullified to even the fight, which the Scrubb decides would be better fought via boxing. To everyone’s surprise, Harley beats the daylights out of Superman before helping him save Earth from an alien fleet.
This is a ridiculous story and it was meant to be. It was a tribute of sorts to “Superman vs Muhammad Ali” (written by Dennis O’Neil, illustrated by Neal Adams among others), so it was bound to be just as silly as Harley. What you have to admire is her carefree attitude and confidence throughout the entirety of the story. Maybe she knew how this was all going to turn out, maybe she didn’t care. But she made sure Superman was taken care of after beating his face black and blue. Beneath all the crazy color and her wild, often villainous antics, she’s a genuinely decent person.
13. HARLEY QUINN #25
No one deserves a man like Joker at their side, and as we delve further into the relationship between Harley and her Mistah J, you start feeling sorry for her. That’s what makes her confrontations with him so incredibly satisfying to see. “Harley Quinn” #25 (written by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, illustrated by Chad Hardin and Alex Sinclair) has Harley Quinn breaking her boyfriend, Mason, out of prison. What she finds, however, is that in the cell next to his is none other than the Joker.
He taunts her as expected, then a fight breaks out between them, ending with Harley standing over him like a badass with a gun aimed at his head. It’s a powerful moment for her because it shows that she’s finally broken free of the man who kept her down for so long, abusing her immense feelings for him. Sadly, it’s something a lot of people can relate to, making this moment of resolution that much more powerful for Harley as a character and for readers. It’s the best thing she or anyone could have done in that situation.
12. TRIAL (BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES)
Harley has been in and out of prison more times than anyone cares to count; and yet, it never really seems to get to her. There’s one moment in particular from the “Batman: The Animated Series” episode “Trial” (written by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm) that really highlights her indomitable spirit. The moment comes when she merrily welcomes a recently captured Poison Ivy into the prison before she takes the time out to annoy the guard, who can’t really do anything except express his irritation. There’s no one watching and you realize that she’s doing it purely for her own amusement.
How could you not be charmed by her attitude toward life? She’s clearly detached enough from everything and everyone to be happy and yet maintains that friendliness and sincere compassion (as we see later on) that makes her impossible to truly see as a real villain, let alone a hateable one.
11. JOKER’S MILLIONS”(THE NEW BATMAN ADVENTURES)
Joker is always ready to betray Harley, and yet his sweet sidekick always hopes for the best from him. When a broke Joker was on the verge of getting caught in “The New Batman Adventures” episode, “Joker’s Millions” (written by Paul Dini), he let Harley take the fall all too willingly. Even after he received millions (thanks to a deceased enemy of his), he didn’t spare a thought for her. Instead, as Harley found out, he got himself a new Harley Quinn, one he called “Fake Harley.” The real Harley eventually escapes and in police uniform, commandeers the police transport vehicle carrying the Joker, not so she can free him, but so she can beat the hell out of him for his betrayal.
It’s always great seeing Harley get retribution, but this particular moment shows that you can’t just mess with her and get away with it. It also shows how she must be an incredible escape artist since she just busted out of Arkham, presumably as soon as she heard about Fake Harley. It’s just too bad she obviously continued fighting for her relationship (if you can even call it that) with the Joker in the end.
10. GODS AMONG US ANNUAL #1
The video game on which the “Gods Among Us” comic series is based is violent and full of amped-up superheroes and villains from all over the DC comic book universe. “Gods Among Us Annual” #1, shows us that Harley doesn’t need those powers to beat her god-like opponents. The comic begins with Lobo waking up from a weird dream to find himself chained with Harley Quinn sat beside him. We find out that with the help of a pill, a lockpick and a fake moustache (don’t question it — no one should have to justify a fake moustache), Harley was able to escape capture and take down Lobo, who she proceeds to analyze and, through therapy, persuade him that he should stop trying to hunt her.
It’s easy to forget sometimes that aside from the incredibly fighting skills and gigantic mallet, she’s a trained psychiatrist. We don’t usually get to see her use her psychiatric skills but when she does, it’s always fun to read. After all, it’s through her that we get to explore some of our favorite villains. She adds depth to characters, even those as superficially rough as Lobo.
9. SUICIDE SQUAD (2016)
After familiarizing yourself with all the loony things she gets up to, it’s difficult to imagine Harley Quinn in a live action film. And yet, the 2016 film “Suicide Squad” proved to us that it can definitely be done right. There were quite a few flaws in that film, but Margot Robbie’s portrayal of Harley Quinn wasn’t one of them. One scene in particular stands out, giving both the actress and character time to shine. It’s when she sneaks away from the rest of the group and is seen going up in an elevator, giving the rest of the squad a big wave and smile just before beating back an ambush.
Robbie really brought Harley Quinn to life in the film, along with all the energy and eccentric playfulness we can only imagine when reading through comic books. Even more impressive is the fact that Robbie did a lot of her own stunts, which just goes to show why she stood out from the rest of the cast. She really embodied her character.
8. HARLEY QUINN: HELL AND HIGH WATER
Like most comic book characters, Harley Quinn has died before… in fact, she’s done it multiple times. In “Harley Quinn Vol 1” #21 (written by Karl Kesel, illustrated by Brandon Badeaux, Dan Davis and Guy Major), Harley finds herself in hell (because of course she would be), trapped there by the demon Etrigan, along with all the henchmen she killed and a really angry S.W.A.T team. Working with her old buddies, she’s able to raise more hell than hell was used to in order to get her killer, Highwater, off her back. Eventually, Etrigan decided she didn’t belong there and brought her back from death.
She’s just that stubborn and you have to love her tenacity. You also have to admire how she doesn’t really seem to be all that bothered about the fact that she’s in hell. Even when in the depths of the lower realms, she’s strong and pretty confident about what she’s doing and where she’s headed.
7. NEW SUICIDE SQUAD #3
You’d be hard-pressed to find a larger mental mess than Duela Dent. Sometimes she’s the Joker’s daughter, sometimes she’s the daughter of Penguin, Scarecrow, the Riddler and Catwoman. In reality, she’s the daughter of Earth-3’s Jokester and Evelyn Dent, though she was raised by Earth-3’s Riddler. She’s been a member of both the Teen Titans and the Suicide Squad, at one point taking the name Harlequin. Inevitably, she finds herself at odds with Harley, bringing us to “New Suicide Squad Vol 1” #3 (written by Sean Ryan with art by Tom Denerick among others) where Harley just can’t take Duela and her admiration (maybe a huge understatement) of the Joker, whose face she’s wearing. Duela’s insanity causes Harley to beat her in an odd attempt to persuade her to let go of him and cut ties.
It’s actually quite a powerful moment for her, considering she’s facing someone taunting her with the face of the creature who abused her trust and affection for so long. Still, though she gave Duela a brutal beatdown, she didn’t want to kill her; in fact, she pleads with her to try and change and be anyone else, and to escape the Joker’s tormenting world.
6. HARLEY INVADES COMIC CON
This is one of Harley’s silliest and more innocent stories. It’s about her doing something she’s always wanted to do — go to Comic-Con! What’s more is that she has her own little comic she wants to publish. It’s about a superhero called Hurl-Girl, a teacher who hurls an acid substance when in the presence of monsters… or idiocy. After a couple of days of mischief, mayhem, shooting cops in the butt, ravaging a room full of wannabe-Jokers and pulling down a Batman’s pants, Harley doesn’t get her comic published because, according to her, they weren’t looking for anything new and original. Makes sense.
“Harley Quinn Invades Comic Con International— San Diego” (written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, illustrated by Paul Pope and an army of talented artists) is a sweet little adventure for Harley fans who adore seeing her being free in all her craziness. She’s not after anything large. She’s just chasing a dream, which really, is just a much milder version of what she’s usually doing when she’s around the Joker.
5. INJUSTICE: GODS AMONG US: YEAR 2 #13
Behind most gleeful faces you’ll often find a lot of pain. That’s exactly what we find when Harley lets a secret of hers slip when she realizes, during what would have been a fight in “Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year 2” #13 (written by Tom Taylor, illustrated by Bruno Redondo, Julien Hugonnard-Bert and Rex Lokus), that Black Canary is pregnant. She reveals that, unbeknownst to all, even the Joker himself (who’s been dead for two years), that they have a four-year old named Lucy.
It’s a moment of vulnerability and one that we see Harley struggle to get through, trying to clamber back behind that happy mask she wears. She decides to help Black Canary fight the dictatorial Superman, which shows us how hard she’s really trying to break free of the monstrous Joker. Deep down, she’s really one of the good guys and regardless of her criminal history, you have to respect that she’s trying.
4. HARLEY QUINN: FUTURE’S END
After finding herself stranded on an island in “Harley Quinn: Future’s End” (written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, artwork by Chad Hardin and Alex Sinclair) and taking tips from Tom Hanks in “Castaway” to survive, Harley is found by island natives who immediately begin to worship her as a “princess-goddess-queen.” She soon discovers that the god king they’ve been worshipping, meanwhile, is none other than the Joker and the two have to get married… and then thrown into a volcano to appease it.
Being written as a generally light-hearted tale, you’re too caught up in her wackiness and her conversations with her beaver to feel that bad for Harley, until you really start to think about what’s happening to her. The Joker has once again only used her and feigned affection to do it. She knew it all along, as well, but she kept arguing with herself, wanting to keep hope alive. So it’s awesome to see her stand up for herself and give Mr. J a well-deserved kick in the groin before (after a tumble down the side of a volcano) leaping into the arms of a mysterious, dolphin-training figure.
3. HARLEQUINADE (BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES)
As we’ve already explored on this list, the moments when she stands up for herself against the Joker are some of the greatest. When she was approached by Batman himself for help in the “Batman: The Animated Series” episode, “Harlequinade” (written by Paul Dini), Harley eagerly aids him with the help of Bud and Lou, her trusty babies (read: ravenous hyenas). It leads to a fight between Batman, Robin, Joker and Harley, who is once again betrayed (to a lesser extent this time). In the end, Joker finds himself staring down the barrel of Harley’s gun, which she surprisingly fires, though it turns out to be a fake gun.
Being a kid’s show, the relationship between Harley and Joker has obviously been toned down (thought they still have their dark moments), so it’s oddly pleasant when they’re reunited in the show, in spite of everything. You really admire Harley’s sweet actions, like trying to make her Mr. J smile right after a helicopter crash, to which Joker cries, “Baby, you’re the greatest!” Damn straight, Mr. J.
2. HOLIDAY KNIGHTS (THE NEW BATMAN ADVENTURES)
Even the supervillain community gets into the holiday spirit as we see in “The New Batman Adventures” episode, “Holiday Knights” (written by Paul Dini) when Harley’s best friend, Poison Ivy, promises to cheer Harley up and give her a great Christmas. How? Why, she gets Bruce Wayne under her hypnotic spell and compels him to take her and Harley on a Christmas shopping spree.
Yeah, as innocent as Ivy’s intention was, the duo still committed a criminal act, which is why Batman put a stop to their spree and presumably got a refund for every quirky item of clothing they bought. It’s a really fun episode for Harley, who’s given a chance to be her loony self, which is completely reflected in what appears to be an even loonier fashion sense. There aren’t any dark undertones, no tragedy surrounding this Christmas-themed story. It’s just pure, life-loving, mayhem-creating Harley Quinn.
1. HARLEY’S HOLIDAY (BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES)
In no other animated episode is Harley’s loveable wackiness clearer than in the “Batman: The Animated Series” episode, “Harley’s Holiday” (written by Paul Dini), in which Harley is declared sane by her doctor in Arkham, and she’s determined to prove it to everyone. Of course, like any sane person, the first thing she does is rollerblade down the street with her hyenas, Bud and Lou. Thinking that people are shocked and slightly mortified by her outfit (as opposed to her vicious companions), she dashes into a clothes store where, after buying an outfit, she accidentally kidnaps a general’s daughter (don’t you hate it when that happens?).
This is the Harley we’re all familiar with. She doesn’t generally intend to do bad things, it just happens to her because of her eccentricities. It’s something Batman understands since he takes care of her after sorting the whole mess out and tries to encourage her to keep trying to get better and not give in to all the troubles she told him she’d experienced. When she asks him why he’d do that for her, he sums up why we all sympathize with and love Harley, despite a criminal history: “I had a bad day too, once,” he says simply.
Why do you love the inimitable Harley Quinn? Let us know in the comments!
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