Without question the Joker is one of the greatest villains in fiction. He’s plagued Batman for nearly a century and he’ll never go away for good. Like the Dark Knight, the Joker also found the need to have a partner. He found one in Doctor Harleen Quinzel. While she treated him at Arkahm Asylum, Joker seduced and manipulated her, using her to escape. Harleen Quinzel then became Harley Quinn and devoted herself entirely to the Joker. She spent decades assisting the madman in his psychotic schemes, hoping that the Joker would not only realize her as his equal, but see her with a romantic lens.
It never happened. At least not in the way Harley probably wanted. Rather, the Joker took full advantage of Harley’s devotion and would proceed to ruthlessly manipulate, torture, and outright try to murder her on occasion. The two would create a cycle of abuse that seemed like it might never end. It would take years, and then some, for Harley to try and find a sliver of independence. Though whenever she tries to carve out a life for herself away from the Joker, her past inevitably comes back to haunt her. Today we’re looking at 15 of the worst things the Joker’s done to Harley.
15 SHOT HER
The Joker and Harley are not an example of a good couple. Yet despite much of the trauma Joker puts her through, they’re weirdly able to get right back on that good old figurative horse. That changed during Harley’s first solo series in the early ‘00s.
Harley, thinking it wouldn’t be a big deal, took some of Joker’s henchmen with her. Infuriated, Joker shows up and demands retribution. He ruthlessly pummels Harley, saying he should’ve killed her years ago. Surprisingly, the Joker takes a breather and apologizes. He offers Harley some flowers, but it’s a ruse. He shoots her in the stomach with a gun hidden inside the bouquet. Harley survives of course, but it’s another stain on the abusive relationship; it never goes away.
14 DUMPED HER IN CHEMICALS
It’s been generally accepted that Harleen Quinzel willingly submitted herself to being transformed into Harley Quinn. She’d wear some white face paint, her infamous red and black jumpsuit, and then call it a day. She played the part of Joker’s sidekick, but she could always revert back to a “normal” look when/and if the situation called for it.
Everything we new about Harley’s origin changed when DC rebooted their comics line with the New 52. She was still a psychologist, just like she was originally, who unwittingly fell in love with the Joker. This time however, instead of choosing to become his sidekick, Joker made the decision for her. Joker believed that he needed some display of commitment from her to show that Harley really did have feelings for her. So he took Harley Quinn and threw her into the same vat of chemicals that he had fallen in.
13 TRIED TO SACRIFICE HER TO A VOLCANO
If Joe Versus the Volcano and Castaway met and were thrown into the DC Universe, you ‘d get the completely bonkers story Harley Quinn: Future’s End. In the issue, Harley and Joker decide to get married at the top of a very active volcano. The entire story is one absurd moment after the next, what with the wedding being officiated by a local tribesman dressed up like the Dark Knight; it gets zanier.
Once Joker finishes his vows, the local tribesmen signal to one another and prepare to throw Harley into the volcano. At that point, Joker reveals he never intended to marry Harley. The tribesmen suddenly declare the full moon needs not just one, but two blood sacrifices. Harley gets a kick out of Joker’s plan failing and makes peace with the notion that they will be sacrificed. However, the volcano explodes and catapults Harley away from danger.
12 CHAINED HER UP
Early on when the New 52 was just beginning, the Joker was seemingly killed off. This sent Harley on an emotional tailspin and lead to her joining the Suicide Squad. While a part of the team, Harley discovered a sense of purpose and even started developing romantic feelings for her teammate Deadshot. Unfortunately for Harley, the Joker was alive and well. When he returned to see that Harley had a new sense of independence, he wasn’t happy.
After threatening to kill her teammates, Joker takes Harley. He then tortured her ruthlessly, beating and cutting her, hangs her with a chain and even sic’s Harley's now rabid hyenas on her. For his coup de grace, Joker chained her to a wall in a dungeon filled with the corpses of his "other Harley's", all in the same outfit as her.
11 USED HER AS A HUMAN SHIELD
In the massive MMO DC Universe Online, there are multiple different narratives; the stories aren’t in any way canon. Still, there are a few alternate scenarios that stand out and one of them of course deals with Harley and Joker. In this narrative from an alternate future, the player learns that Harley is dead. Apparently, Harley was used as a human shield to guard the Joker from perishing in an explosion.
Though it’s Harley who voluntarily threw herself in front of the Joker, and the super criminal isn’t directly responsible for her death, he didn’t particularly try to stop her. He also maintains almost zero remorse for the act, which again speaks volumes to the completely dysfunctional and abusive relationship the two shared with one another.
10 PLANNED TO KILL HER IN FRONT OF BATMAN
Around issue #663 of Batman, the Joker had been shot in the face by a Batman impostor, trapped in Arkham Asylum, crippled, and rendered mute. The Joker, believing Batman had crossed a line, decided to remodel himself and how he operated. The first step to that end was removing all traces from his old life. The Joker has Harley lure Batman to Arkham Asylum, seemingly for a final showdown with him, but it’s a trap for both the Dark Knight and Quinn.
Once Batman arrived, he says he only showed up to save Harley, revealing the Joker’s intent to kill her in of his archenemy. Harley didn't believe him, but Batman was shown to be correct when the Joker held a razor to her throat. She managed to escape and turned against the Joker, shooting him in the shoulder.
9 TRIED TO BLOW WITH HER UP IN A PLANE
To no one’s genuine surprise, the Joker is not a good guy. Ever since Harley first appeared in Batman: The Animated Series, their relationship has been one of neglect and different kinds of abuse. In the episode "Harlequinade" we finally see Harley as a fleshed-out character. She’s no longer simply Joker’s loud-mouthed lackey. It’s also the first time that Joker tries to kill her, along with himself.
The episode has Joker going crazier than normal, which takes shape in his becoming incredibly suicidal and desperate in trying to take down Batman. The episode’s finale has Joker trying kamikaze his way into killing Batman, with Harley sitting right beside him. Ironically the two villains survive thanks to Batman, but the episode showed how disposable Harley is to Joker; he didn’t second-guess almost killing her in all the name of his maddened quest.
8 DIDN'T EVEN NOTICE SHE LEFT HIM FOR A YEAR
The world of Injustice is a cruel and unforgiving landscape, what with Superman acting as a tyrannical ruler, killing anyone who opposes him. Even before the Man of Steel went rogue however, things weren’t always good between Harley and Joker. After Joker dies at the hands of Superman, Harley continues being Harley, until one day she breaks down.
In one particular scene with a pregnant Black Canary, Harley explains how she got pregnant while she was with the Joker. Yet even Harley knew Joker would be a monster of a father, so she left him for a year to have the baby in secret. When she came back, Joker hadn’t even realized she’d left. It was a deep, emotional blow that reflected how the Joker only really cares about Batman.
7 DROVE HER INSANE
One thing people were especially interested in seeing in David Ayer's Suicide Squad was the dynamic between Harley and Joker. In the film, we saw how the Joker, after having allured Harley, makes her his loyal subject. Most notably, this is shown during a disturbing scene where the Joker uses electrotherapy torture repeatedly on Harley. Apparently, there are two versions of this moment.
There’s the theatrical cut, but there’s also the extended version where there is over a minute of physical and psychological horror unleashed on the female antihero. This Harley Quinn isn’t so much the Joker’s accomplice as she is his victim. She’s been driven completely mad by all the abuse he put her through and can no longer tell the difference between freedom and servitude.
6 TRIED TO UNDO HER REHABILITATION
There are a number of Harleys within the DC Universe, but one of the more stalwart and determined Harleys is in the Injustice timeline. After Superman became a living engine of destruction, Harley decides to fight for the good guys and joins up with Batman and his team to take down the Man of Steel. She’s able to do this, particularly on an emotional level, because the Joker is dead.
When the Joker from another universe arrives, he quickly tries to undo all the rehabilitation Harley put herself through. He almost completely succeeds in making her evil again, but she regains her clarity and sense of self after she has to stop him from killing an innocent In response, the Joker tries to kill her; perturbed that Harley is showing a backbone. For the Joker, if Harley isn’t his emotional punching bag and obedient slave, then she’s better off dead.
5 CHOKED HER
Harley Quinn’s first appearance in DC Comics was during the Batman story arc "No Man’s Land". In it, Gotham has just endured a horrific earthquake, but has been abandoned by the U.S. government, sending the entire city into pandemonium. Additionally, Harley transforms from her doctor persona to her Harley Quinn identity.
During the series, readers got a chance to see how clever she was, but Joker continually ignores her, as is his way. Thinking he knows best, Harley’s insights are overlooked. Towards the end of the arc, Joker’s gotten tired of Harley’s smarts, especially when she misunderstands what the ending of "No Man’s Land" means to him. Instead of dealing with his emotions in a calm, collected way, Joker opts to try one last gag. Harley thinks it’s illogical to do so and the Joker tries to choke the life from his sidekick, tired of her backtalk.
4 PUSHED HER OUT A WINDOW
Harley Quinn’s start didn’t begin in comic books, but first appeared in the TV show Batman: The Animated Series. During it all, she’s served Joker complacently, despite all the horrible things he put her through. Even though it was a kids’ show, Batman: The Animated Series had no problem putting Harley and its characters through the wringer. In the episode "Mad Love", Harley tried to prove herself to Joker and give him a surprise gift by killing Batman. She used one of his failed blueprints for a deathtrap and nearly kills the Dark Knight, a feat the Joker never accomplished.
The Joker was furious, threatened by the idea that someone else was trying to improve on his jokes. In a fit of rage, Joker attacks Harley, snatching the swordfish she’s using as defensive weapon, and uses it to knock her out of a window.
3 SHOT HER INTO SPACE
One of the most dysfunctional parts about the Harley-Joker relationship, aside from his abusing her physically, is that he never reciprocates her affection. Harley longs to hear that the Joker loves her, just as she loves him. The day it did happen was not anything like Harley was expecting.
One day Harley received a note from the Joker instructing her to meet him at a rocket ride in an amusement park. She goes, but when she enters the rocket, there’s only a video screen. On the screen was a message from Joker. It explained that Joker had in fact appreciated their time together and her love had opened his heart to emotions he’d only experienced since before he was the Joker. Alas, the Joker said he hated feeling them since they were a distraction. He then pressed a button, locking Harley inside the ride and launched her into space.
2 THREW HER TO HYENAS
Shockingly, Harley Quinn and the Joker have lasted longer than you’d expect. Even in the comic book time, they’ve been together nearly a decade. Unlike most couples, Joker does not believe in showing affection to one’s significant other…unless you count throwing your partner into an alley full of ravenous hyenas to be loving.
For their seventh anniversary Harley decorated herself with a cake, drenching herself in pudding for her Mr. Puddin’. She even affectionately sings a song to the Joker. The villain does not get a laugh from the little tune and instead is driven into a violent frenzy. He viciously tells Harley that he’s in no mood to celebrate and then forcibly throws her into a back alley filled with hyenas. Adding insult to injury, the Joker tries a dab of the pudding and is disgusted.
1 TRIED TO CUT HER FACE OFF
The New 52 Joker is a terrifying monster and a complete psychopath. When Joker was in Arkham Asylum he convinced Dollmaker to cut his face off, leaving the Joker presumed dead. When the Clown Prince of Crime returned to Gotham, the Joker went about trying to destroy the bonds between Batman and his family, thinking the Dark Knight’s sidekicks had made the hero weak and soft. But first Joker reunited with Harley. He dressed her up in his old tuxedo and actively contemplated cutting her face off.
Harley resisted at first, but soon gave in to his demands. One of the most pitiful parts of the whole ordeal was her concern that Joker would no longer find her attractive afterwards. Luckily for her, he didn't do it; Harley's display of devotion was plenty.