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The Evolution of Harley Quinn by Angela Rairden

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Harley Quinn is a character that needs little to no introduction. The iconic red and black suit, the pigtails, the crazy grin, and the tragic origin story. Once a psychologist at Arkham Asylum named Dr. Harleen Quinzel, she became obsessed with the larger-than-life persona of her patient, the Joker. She would have done anything to get him to love her, including diving into the vat of chemicals that forever changed her into Harley Quinn. She leaves behind her former life to become both the Joker’s lieutenant and his girlfriend, but is rarely more than an expendable afterthought to the man she loves.

It wasn’t until Amanda Connor and Jimmy Palmiotti’s comic run in 2016 that it seemed Harley’s true character was unleashed. Connor and Palmiotti freed Harley Quinn by taking her from tragic sidekick to strong, independent woman. They emancipated her, if you will, and that act took a good character and made her a great character. If Harley was popular before, the moment that she realized that she no longer needed the Joker in her life rocketed her to super stardom among fans.

Harley on her own becomes a force to be reckoned with, a true anti-hero. Maybe she doesn’t always do things the right way, but she certainly does them for the right reasons. And the fact that it’s likely that she’ll do them while chowing down on a Coney Island hot dog or the perfect egg sandwich makes her truly relatable. She makes friends, hatches zany plots and, ultimately, she just wants to protect the people she cares about.

After 75 issues, the run started by Connor and Palmiotti finally wrapped up in late 2020. The final issue saw Harley confronting her past as well as the conclusion of her first encounter with the Joker’s new lieutenant, Punchline, whom slits Harley’s throat and has her tossed in the sewer. Harley shows her true grit by dragging herself free of the sewer, stitching up her own throat and, in true Harley fashion, seems to speak straight to the reader by announcing that Punchline may be “hotter, younger, and more exxxtreme…but she’ll never be Harley Quinn!”

It seems likely that this won’t be Harley’s only encounter with Punchline due to the announcement of a new Harley comic. As part of DC’s Future State event, this new comic will be written by Stephanie Phillips with art by Riley Rossmo and will be set some time in the near future. It will see Harley returning to Gotham as a true vigilante.

Although the full run won’t debut until March, readers will get to see the next evolution of Harley in a 2-part mini release that ties into the greater DC Future State event, the first of which hit shelves on January 5th and is written by Phillips with art from Simone Di Meo. Here, we see Harley taken hostage by the Magistrate, a shadow organization that now holds control of Gotham City and strives to snuff out all masked villains and heroes alike. Dr. Jonathan Crane, whom has dropped his Scarecrow persona, enlists Harley’s help to track down the few holdouts that the Magistrate hasn’t gotten their hands on yet. We see Harley returning to her roots as the brilliant psychologist Harleen Quinzell once again as she builds psychological profiles for the ones the Magistrate seek, although it seems possible that there’s more at play than meets the eye.

Future State: Harley Quinn promises readers yet another iteration of Harley than we’ve seen before, and it should be exciting to see where this next era of Harley leads this fan favorite.

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  • Gus Reschke on

    What a fantastic read! I haven’t been a huge comic guy in the past, but writing like this makes me want to know more. This was perfect for me. More articles from this author, please.

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