Harley Quinn is somewhat of a rarity in the comics world. A character who has grown so incredibly popular over the last several years, she has cemented herself in the role of being one of the most recognizable comic book villains. The irony of course being that Harley was actually first introduced in a cartoon, rather than any printed pages like many of her fellow rogues.
Created by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, Quinn first arrived on the scene clad in her jester’s outfit on “Batman: the Animated Series” in 1992 and fans haven’t been able to get enough ever since. Given that she debuted on a cartoon show, we at CBR feel it’s only fitting to count down some of her best animated appearances on the small screen.
15. JOKER’S FAVOR
There’s simply no starting this list without kicking off at the very beginning. “Joker’s Favor” was the first episode of “Batman the Animated Series” that Harley Quinn made an appearance in. Appearance is entirely accurate too, as the clown prince’s hench-lady had a rather muted role in comparison to her boisterous ones later on. Harley helped the Joker rope in a former acquaintance to use in a ploy against Commissioner Gordon. She proved her immediate usefulness to the clown, ditching her getup and posing as a chauffeur at the airport and a police officer at gala event.
Even with a relatively small role as a throwaway underling, Harley still made her presence infectiously funny. When getting hit on by Harvey Bullock to “read him his rights,” Quinn quips with giving him the “right to remain silent” before whacking his shin with a billy club. She faithfully cheered on her boss and even attempted to stab Batman. Once arrested though, she laughably lamented her decisions to pursue crime over beauty school. It was through this short but undeniably bubbly appearance that Harley wormed her way into the hearts of fans for good.
When Batman found himself trapped and put on trial for his so-called “crimes” in “Batman: the Animated Series,” Harley Quinn had more than a few things to say about that. “Trial” showed the rogue happily take the stand to field the newest district attorney’s questions about the vigilante. True to her off-kilter behavior, Harley thanks the Dark Knight for “creating” the Joker, as she would have never fallen in love with the clown otherwise. This ends up taking a ironic turn, as the district attorney reveals that the Clown Prince of Crime had snitched on her whereabouts after she escaped Arkham in order to lessen his own sentence. Harley turns on her puddin’ and threatens retribution for such a betrayal.
This episode was a great one to show off Harley’s dynamic as a character. She is utterly devoted to the Joker, but she’s hardly stupid. When given the facts, she suitably gets angry and elicits some fear in the clown before she’s carted off the stand. Whether it be out of glee or ferocity, Harley proves to be loud and chaotic in any situation, including a courtroom.
13. WORLD’S FINEST
It’s always fun when characters crossover into another superhero show. This was especially true when Harley got in on the action during the “World’s Finest” episodes of “Superman: The Animated Series.” It starts off in Metropolis with diabolical deal being set up between Lex Luthor and the Joker. Harley did everything she could to ensure that the Joker’s end of the transaction is completed, such as kidnapping Lois Lane, but when the deal falls apart, she never lets it get her down. She even attempts to cheer up her puddin’ with a cheese sandwich, but to no avail. Quinn is heartbroken when her boss is left in the burning rubble of a plane crash, but (of course) his body is never found.
Harley’s quirkiness here played off well against the usually deadpan Luthor and relative seriousness of the show. Her antics were in stark contrast to Luthor’s henchwoman bodyguard, Mercy, who learned the hard way that winning a fight against Harley isn’t as easy as it may seem. Seeing the two trade blows as well as snipes was a highlight of the episode. Harley’s slapstick presence in Metropolis was a kooky break from the subtle humor that largely drove Superman’s show.
12. MS.-ING IN ACTION
Harley’s animated appearances weren’t limited by prime time television, as she also starred in a flash web series by Warner Bros. dubbed “Gotham Girls.” The show itself was generally lighthearted and fun, which was perfectly suited to her. In this episode, Harley pestered Poison Ivy to drive her to Arkham to visit Mr. J. Ivy is somewhat irritated, as the task will require them to break into the asylum outside of visiting hours in order to accommodate Quinn’s request. The two drive over Arkham’s walls, only to find all the male inmates are gone. Harley is deflated, all of a sudden very worried about what happened to the Joker.
Yes, “Gotham Girls” is less-than-serious in comparison to Harley’s other animated forays, but then again, she’s a less-than-serious character a lot of the time. It strove to capture the sillier side of Gotham’s crime problem, which was always a goal of the former psychologist-turned-rogue. This episode in particular spoke well to Harley’s nature: demanding, silly and always dedicated to her puddin’.
11. HOLIDAY KNIGHTS
When Harley wasn’t backing up the Joker, her team-ups with fellow female rogue Poison Ivy was generally her fallback. In this “The New Batman Adventures” episode, the duo ambush Bruce Wayne and expose him to Ivy’s special lipstick to control him. What to do with a wealthy and influential socialite of Gotham at your every beck and call? According to the two women, use him to sign off on an incredibly expensive shopping spree. The two race through department stores, try on various high-end clothes and make Bruce haul all their purchases behind them.
“Holiday Knights” was a short foray into Ivy and Harley’s relationship, but still a fun one. The duo were happy to put their heads together in what they felt was a foolproof scheme. Quinn easily wanted an excuse to go shopping with her bestie and throughout the excursion, seems to have more focus on having fun than finding clothes (although she does that too). Episodes like these show the core of Harley’s fun-loving attitude, as well as give us an idea as to just how much she enjoys being around Poison Ivy.
10. GOTHAM NOIR
Let it never be said that Harley should be an overly serious character. Another fun and silly dive into the life of the rogue, this episode of “Gotham Girls” is a comedic riff on noir-styled detective films. Harley takes the role of an investigator tasked with finding Catwoman’s pet (wait for it) cat. Quinn is dedicated to her role, grilling anyone she comes across for the whereabouts of the feline with all the gruffness of a hard boiled detective. Eventually it’s revealed that the entire thing is a fan fiction of sorts that Harley is writing, citing that “anyone could write this stuff.”
Maybe the episode was even digging a bit at the noir themes that “Batman: The Animated Series” carried during its run, but it still served as a great laugh when told from the perspective of Harley Quinn. Her grim demeanor as a tough-talking detective elicits a couple of chuckles, as it seems like something the character would genuinely do in her off time for no other reason than boredom. It’s still a dorky episode, but it’s full of lighthearted fun.
9. BEWARE THE CREEPER
It was certainly no secret that Harley was a very attractive female. She was often hit on by bumbling side characters before she put the brakes on them the hard way. The Creeper however, was a whole new sort of suitor. In this episode of “The New Batman Adventures,” Harley found herself pursued by the half-crazed Creeper, who had fallen madly in love with her after she tried to kill him. The Creeper tracks down Harley to Joker’s lair, where he tells the clown he’s stealing his girl, only to net a mallet to the face from the woman in question.
In “Beware The Creeper,” Harley proves to be too good for any man, even the Joker himself. The Creeper is true to his name, coming on far too strong, and the Joker continues to regard her as a distant priority. She also shows off her strength as a character alone, putting Creeper down multiple times and rescuing her beloved Mr. J. from Batman’s pursuit. If anything, this episode shows how much Harley could get done on her own if she weren’t so hopelessly devoted to the Joker.
8. WILD CARD
When the Joker comes up with a new scheme to defeat Earth’s finest in “Justice League,” Harley was sure to be in tow. The Clown Prince of Crime brings along a new super-powered crew he dubs his Royal Flush Gang, which includes a new girl named Ace. Batman insinuates to Harley that Joker has set his gaze on someone fresh, despite the former doctor’s assertion that they’ve moved past their trust issues. The revelation causes the rogue to knock out Batman with a swift right hook and demand an explanation from Mr. J. himself (unwittingly leading the Dark Knight to him too).
Despite only giving her a brief appearance, “Wild Card” manages to show off the more sad and desperate side of Harley’s infatuation with the Joker. Even though they’re committed to having fun in crime, it’s a one-sided affair in which Quinn often gets short shrift. The rogue even tells her in the episode “You’ll always come back to me,” before backhanding her a few moments later. It’s a sad reflection that despite his deplorable nature, Harley will not (or simply cannot) let go of her love for the Joker.
7. BATMAN BEYOND: RETURN OF THE JOKER
In “Batman Beyond: Return Of The Joker,” Terry McGinnis had already dealt with his fair share of new villains, but when the Joker returned, he was forced to dig deeper for information on this foe. One of Joker’s last schemes before dropping off the map involved starting a family with his longtime loony girlfriend. The duo kidnap Robin (Tim Drake) and subjected him to torture until the young crusader is disfigured with a Joker grin and mentally warped. Harley adores her new “Little J.” and plays the role of a happy mom before being dispatched by Batgirl.
This is one of the few times we get to see how far Harley is willing to go for her love. Acting out a twisted modern family scenario involving the torture of an innocent kid (even if the kid is a superhero sidekick) is downright insane, even for her. She shows only a little remorse, setting the entire family dynamic in a further effort to gleefully enrage Batman for the Joker. This animated appearance was rare in that it showed just what terrible lengths Harley would go to if it meant only a few moments of happiness with her boss, and it was plenty unsettling to see.
6. HARLEY AND IVY
When Harley is unceremoniously kicked to the curb by her clown of a boyfriend, it opened up a new door. The jester henchwoman stumbled upon Poison Ivy during a heist and the two decided to join forces. The duo wreaked havoc across Gotham as one of the more powerful villain teams in the city, becoming the “New Queens of Crime.” Of course, Harley couldn’t stand to be away from the Joker for too long, and unwittingly attracted the clown to the ladies’ hideout. Their hot run effectively ended and the pair end up in Arkham Asylum, but their relationship was only just beginning.
This is undoubtedly one of the most quintessential pieces to the Harley and Poison Ivy dynamic. Their debut as besties is at times heartwarming, as Isley does her best to support her fellow female villain. Harley herself gains the confidence she didn’t know she was capable of while being away from the Joker. Of course the duo has since become an item officially, and they still remain one of the strongest rogue pairings that Gotham has ever seen.
5. BATMAN: ASSAULT ON ARKHAM
Despite the name, this animated feature revolves more-so around Harley Quinn and the Suicide Squad than it does the Dark Knight. Quinn is tasked with the rest of the never-do-wells to break into Arkham Asylum in order to recover a confidential flash drive hidden by the Riddler. Harley attempts to make a rough break from the Joker, who openly taunts her for her uselessness, and tries to find an even ground with her new team. At one point, she even hooks up with Deadshot, which ends up creating a few other conflicts down the road.
This iteration of Harley is arguably what the 2016 “Suicide Squad” film should have been. Quinn in “Batman: Assault on Arkham” is equal parts crazy rogue and woman scorned. She bites off the ear of a hospital worker then gleefully returned to playing her video games. She struggles with her anger for the uncaring clown, but inevitably worms her way back into his good graces. In the end, her squad mates develop a sort of fondness for her, despite their best efforts.
4. JOKER’S MILLIONS
When Joker finds himself down on cash, Harley is one of the first items in his budget to be figuratively cut out. After a robbery goes awry, Joker escapes Batman and leaves Harley behind to be caught. Harley ends up imprisoned while her boss inherits millions from an old enemy. Quinn believes that he’ll use this money to free her, but instead Joker simply auditions new “henchgirls” with his newfound fortune. Once the inheritance is found to be a fraud, the clown gets caught and thrown into a police van. He’s fine with the whole ordeal until realizing that Harley is in there with him, ready to beat him senseless for his misdeeds.
While audiences often see Harley struggle without the Joker, it was a nice refresher to see him actually missing his henchgirl’s personality. He nitpicks all of his tryouts and is displeased with the woman he finally decides on for being nowhere close to the real thing. “Joker’s Millions” also lets Harley herself get a bit of revenge on the man who so often does her wrong.
3. MAD LOVE
It wasn’t until much later into Batman’s animated forays that Harley’s origin was delved into properly. The rogue recounts her early career in psychiatry as Dr. Harleen Quinzel at Arkham Asylum, where she first met her true love, The Joker. As she continues to interview him, she comes to the conclusion that he isn’t insane at all, and breaks him out of prison. Harley herself manages to best Batman while making Joker’s plan of smiling piranha work by suspending the vigilante upside down over the tank (so from his perspective, the fish teeth would look like smiles). Her inventiveness was only rewarded with scorn, as the Joker attacks her for outsmarting him, and Batman eventually wins the day.
“Mad Love” was the first episode of “The New Batman Adventures” to give this backstory real substance, as it was only mentioned in throwaway lines of other episodes and comics before it. Harley is seen as a smart and capable woman that gets enveloped in the clown’s lies. Even Batman taunts her, disproving the Joker’s stories and saying she’s been tricked from the start. The audience actually gets to witness her fall from grace in an episode that’s pretty disheartening for Quinn all around.
More than a few times has Batman turned to Harley for help in locating the Joker’s whereabouts. In this “Batman the Animated Series” episode, Harley teams up with the Dark Knight and Robin to put a stop to the clown’s nefarious plans in exchange for a full pardon. Although helpful at first, Quinn does everything she can to escape the vigilantes. They eventually catch up to the Joker, who plans on setting off a huge bomb at the mayoral mansion. Harley realizes that her love had no intention of rescuing her, their friends or her pet hyenas after his scheme came to fruition. She tearfully aims a machine gun at him, shaking with rage, but it fires a “bang!” flag instead.
This of course did nothing to change the status of their relationship, but it was one of the first to show their constant cycle of breakup and makeup. Harley herself is emboldened by her ventures with Batman, enough so that she literally pulls the trigger on the Joker with the intent of murdering him. When she sees that it’s a fluke, she goes back to him with a sort of relief that their status is back to whatever they deem “normal.”
1. HARLEY’S HOLIDAY
This episode is hard to top. Harley finishes out her rehabilitation at Arkham and attempts to reenter society. After she mistakenly gets stopped by a mall cop due to security tags on a newly bought dress, she snaps and takes up the helm of Harley Quinn once again. She kidnaps Bruce Wayne’s girlfriend and leads her on a whirlwind crime adventure for the ages. Once all is said and done, Batman recaptures her and brings her back to Arkham. Quinn is upset about her relapse, but the Dark Knight shows sympathy. He remarks that he “had a bad day too once” and surprises her with the dress she had purchased.
Getting to see such a Harley-centric episode is a rare treat, especially when it deals with her trials and tribulations of attempting to go on the straight and narrow. Her lamentations were less about Mr. J. and more about how she felt everyone was against her and unwilling to give her a second chance. She was vulnerable and angry, but altogether at odds about fitting in again. Her final heartfelt moment of understanding with Batman is the cherry on top (seen in the image above), making this animated adventure undeniably one of Harley’s best.
What’s your favorite animate appearance of Harley Quinn? Be sure to let us know in the comments!
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