DC Animated Universe
Batman rogue

"Face it, Harl, this stinks! You're a certified nutso wanted in twelve states and hopelessly in love with a psychopathic clown. At what point did my life go Looney Tunes? How did it happen? Who's to blame?... Batman, that's who. Batman! It's always been Batman! Ruining my life, spoiling my fun! Coming between me and my Puddin' from the very beginning..."[1]

Harley Quinn, real name Harleen Quinzel, was the sidekick and on-off girlfriend of the Joker. She occasionally struck out on her own, and often served as a companion and accomplice to Poison Ivy.



Harleen Quinzel

Harleen Quinzel.

Harleen Quinzel was once a career-oriented psychiatrist[7] whose life took a radical turn when she chose to spend a semester interning at Arkham Asylum. Upon meeting Dr. Joan Leland for the first time, the more senior doctor warned the eager and vastly inexperienced Harleen to be careful around the inmates. Originally drawn to the "glamor" of the inmates, she was unexpectedly intrigued by the Joker.

Joker opens up

Joker shows Harleen Quinzel an unknown side.

She organized regular therapy sessions with him, during which the Joker manipulated the inexperienced Harleen by telling her tales of a cruel father and an abusive childhood, mixed in with his early attempts at comedy. He made her laugh as much as he made her cry, and she fell hopelessly in love with him largely based on sympathy. This led her to develop an irrational hatred for Batman, whom she believed to be the true villain.

One night, after the Joker's most recent escape and re-capture by Batman, Quinzel snapped and resolved to free her beloved Joker and run off with him, adopted the clownish persona of Harley Quinn.[1] Thereafter, she became his semi-constant companion and lover. Their volatile relationship often led to her leaving him or getting kicked out by the Joker, but always ended up going back to him in the end. For the Joker's part, while he had found her to be an annoyance some of the time, he was able to skillfully manipulate her to serve his needs. As a result of her criminal activities with the Joker, she also ended up being wanted in at least twelve American States.

Criminal career[]

Harley's first known act was to assist Joker in attempting to assassinate James Gordon, by planting a bomb at his testimonial dinner. Batman subdued her after a brief fight. After that, she was an accomplice in virtually all of Joker's criminal schemes.[8]

In addition, she would help take Sid out when Joker thought he killed Batman.

Sometimes, she would be kicked out of the gang when Joker's temper got the better of him. On one of these occasions, she teamed up with Poison Ivy, and the two became close friends and a successful crime duo.[6]

During one of her solitary stints in Arkham, Batman offered her a pardon if she would help him track down Joker, who had stolen a nuclear bomb. She did so, though in a crazy, roundabout way that ended up being almost as dangerous to Batman and Robin.[7]

After being pronounced rehabilitated by the doctors at Arkham, Harley was paroled, but her hyperactive personality and unfamiliarity with the "real" world led to an avalanche of trouble that led to her unintentionally kidnapping Veronica Vreeland and being simultaneously pursued by Batman, Gotham gangsters, and the U.S. Army. She was returned to Arkham yet again, though Batman was more sympathetic to her, understanding how bad a day gone wrong could be.[9]

Unfortunately, Harley did not have much luck at being rehabilitated again and eventually returned to being the Joker's girl. However, after an incident involving Commissioner Gordon was botched, Harley began to re-examine her life. Realizing in a crazed manner that Batman was the cause of the Joker's obsession, Harley devised a plan to capture him. Much to the surprise of Batman and the Joker, her plan not only worked, but according to Batman was more likely to kill him than anything the Joker had ever devised before. However, Batman managed to escape by convincing Harley to call the Joker for approval, knowing the Joker would be furious at the idea of anyone other than him killing that Dark Knight.

As expected, the Joker was furious and threw Harley out of a window, nearly killing her and released Batman. Recovering in Arkham, Harley seemingly finally realized the Joker would never truly love her and was nothing more than an insane killer, but she returned to her hapless devotion to him upon seeing a single rose in a vase from him by her bedside table with a note wishing her well and a speedy recovery.[1]

Harley later claimed that she and the Joker had been to couples counseling. It didn't seem to help much, however, as it didn't take long for Batman to convince her that the Clown Prince of Crime was replacing her with Ace as his new sidekick. Enraged, Harley went to confront her "puddin'", who immediately sweet-talked her back over to his side. Immediately afterward, he viciously backhanded her because she had unwittingly led Batman right to his location, which had been the Dark Knight's plan all along.[10]

Later life[]

Harley's final act assisting the Joker was in capturing and torturing Robin into insanity, then adopting him as their "son", J.J. While Batman pursued Joker, Harley fought with Batgirl in the ruins of Arkham. During the fight when Batgirl chastised her, Harley expressed slight remorse in what Joker did to Robin, but stated that she would make things right. After, both women toppled into a deep pit. Batgirl managed to grab hold of a ledge, and tried to pull Harley up, but her sleeve tore, and Harley seemingly fell to her death.[4] At some point, Batman managed to acquire Quinn's outfit, and was kept and displayed in the Batcave until the villainess Inque tore it in a moment of rage while facing Bruce Wayne and his successor.[11]

Harley as a grandmom

"Break a grandmother's heart! I hope they throw the book at you!"

With no body ever recovered, Barbara Gordon suspected that Harley may have survived, but doubted she would be causing trouble in the present, and she never resurfaced again. Turns out, Harley had actually survived the fall. Without the Joker around, she apparently stopped having romantic feelings for him and gave up her criminal career. At some point, she mothered at least one child, who in turn gave her at least two grandchildren, the Dee Dee twins, Delia and Deirdre Dennis. After getting arrested for assisting the returned Joker in his plan to control a weapons satellite, the twins were chastised for what disappointments they were by their "Nana Harley”, who was appalled that they had turned to crime and worked with the Joker.[4]


Relationship with the Joker[]

Despite being head over heels for her “Mr. J”, Harley's relationship with the Joker was an unstable one, based on manipulation and abuse by the Joker. At various times, she explained her feelings for him as sympathy for his supposedly abusive childhood (a story Batman dismissed as a lie, as he knew the Joker better than Harley herself), tender feelings based on their therapy sessions, or simply that he made her life fun after a stressful career as a psychiatrist.

Whatever her reasons were, Harley’s devotion could not have been more one-sided - the Joker rarely showed any genuine affection for her, and frequently insulted and abused her, particularly when she “upstaged” him. For the most part, the Joker merely found her a useful accomplice, and was often surprised by the depth of her devotion. At one point, he actually seemed to feel affection for her, after she demonstrated that she had enough "guts" to try to shoot him.[7] However, these instances were few and far between, and he would soon go right back to verbally and physically abusing her.

Occasionally she would break away from him, but these moments of clarity never lasted very long, and even the most disingenuous word of affection from the Joker was enough to bring her back.[6][1][7]

Relationship with others[]

Poison Ivy[]

Harley and Ivy

Harley and Ivy, out to have a little fun.

Harley had an on-again, off-again friendship/partnership with Poison Ivy, with whom she worked well. Poison Ivy has always had a soft spot for Harley, often stating that that Quinn has no need for Joker. However, Harley never seemed to accept that Ivy was right, and would often obsess over him. This along, with her flaky personality would often cause Ivy great annoyance, but never to the point that she would sever ties with Harley.


Harley's feelings toward Batman were similarly conflicted. Most of the time, he was her enemy, which was natural, given that he was Joker's enemy. Sometimes, she even blamed Batman for Joker's abusiveness toward her, as well as trying to kill him, feeling that Batman's interference was what kept them from living a "normal" life.

Yet on one occasion, she recognized that Batman was one of the few people who didn't think she was hopelessly insane, and who had done his best to help her.[9] Ironically, Harley was able to do the one thing Joker never could: Make Batman laugh.[1]


Harley would also end up finding a rival of her own in the form of Batgirl with the two often trading witty banter whenever they would encounter each other. Though they were on opposite sides of the law, there were times when the two often acted amicably to each other.

Bud and Lou[]

Harley was the primary caretaker for Bud and Lou, the pair of hyenas the Joker owned, whom she affectionately referred to as her "babies".

Dee Dee[]

Decades after the Joker's final battle with the Dark Knight resulted in his death, it was revealed that Harley had survived and had chosen to retire from crime to live a quiet life. She eventually had at least one child who gave her two granddaughters Delia and Deirdre Dennis or the Dee Dee twins as they were better known.

Despite having done her best to try and raise them up right, the Dee Dee's unfortunately proved to be just as fascinated by the Joker as their grandmother once was, and eventually began their own criminal careers by joining up with a group of Jokerz, much to Harley's dismay.

Abilities and equipment[]

Harley Quinn possessed above-average agility and fighting skills. She was an Olympic-level gymnast and acrobat.

Harley also carried an assortment of clown-themed tools, although they rarely proved effective.[7] One of her signature weapons is an oversized, wooden mallet which she swings around with surprising skill despite its unwieldy appearance. Another weapon in her arsenal is an oversized revolver with a cork in the barrel. The cork usually contains ropes to tie people up or knockout gas.

Unlike the Joker, Harley could also act sane long enough to appear in disguise as a "normal" person. (She even got paroled from Arkham Asylum once). Harley's impersonations included a security guard[8] and a lawyer.[12] A different security guard disguise was actually enough to get approval to guard the Joker alone during a police transport.[13] Due to Harley's charisma and psychiatric training, she is also adept at psychologically manipulating others.

Early in their partnership, Poison Ivy injected Harley with a toxin antidote, which rendered her immune to certain chemicals and diseases,[6] and had the side effect of enhancing her strength and stamina, allowing her to survive normally fatal accidents.[1][4]

Background information[]

Paul Dini Harley Sketch

Paul Dini's initial rough sketch of Harley Quinn, before Bruce Timm's official design.

  • Harley Quinn was created by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, based on (and created for) Dini's friend Arleen Sorkin, who provided the character's voice. "Remarkably", Dini jokes, "she still speaks to me". Dini was inspired after watching Sorkin perform in the soap opera Days of our Lives in which she dressed up a jester. He then incorporated aspects of Sorkin into the character, such as her "very snappy, wisecracking, bubbly blonde" personality as well as her mannerisms. In recording Harley Quinn's voice, Sorkin spoke in her normal New York accent while putting in a "little Yiddish sound," since Dini made the character Jewish, another aspect of the character borrowed from Sorkin.
  • Harley Quinn was initially meant as a one-off character in the episode Joker's Favor as a simple moll for Joker, but the producers realized they had something special with the character and brought her back for more episodes. She ended up becoming so popular she was eventually incorporated into the DC Comics universe, becoming one of DC Comics' most profitable characters.
  • Early episodes of Batman: The Animated Series such as "Harlequinade" hinted at her backstory, describing her as a serious clinical psychiatrist who was "rescued" from her boring life by Joker. "Mad Love" was the first full exploration of Harley's origins, portraying her flakier, whose career as a psychiatrist was still undeveloped when she fell for Joker. Some details of "Mad Love" are fleshed out in the comic the episode is based on, also written by Dini and Timm.
  • The comic also establishes Harley Quinn's full name to be Harleen Frances Quinzel. "Harleen Frances" was taken from Arleen Sorkin's first and middle name, Arleen Frances, while "Quinzel" came from one of Dini's former college instructors, who was surnamed Quenzel.

Of Harley's relationship with the Joker, Dini writes:

Bruce, Eric, Alan and I agreed that while we never wanted to delve too deeply into the rotting offal that passes as the Joker's soul, we did want to broaden the character a bit. One way we humanized the least human of Batman's enemies was to put him in a relationship with a woman who, for whatever reasons, adores him.

Mark Hamill added:

Expressing emotion in any way that's real and meaningful is alien to the Joker, but he's learning those parts of himself, however unconsciously, through Harley. On a physical level they're dynamite together. A lot of relationships are defined by that. Two people may be really horrible for each other, but physically they push each other's buttons so clearly they can't get enough of that person.

Says Arleen Sorkin:

Everyone else sees the Joker laugh, only Harley has ever seen him cry. It's the only reason she stays with him.


Batman: The Animated Series

Superman: The Animated Series

The New Batman Adventures

Batman Beyond

Feature film

Gotham Girls

Static Shock

Justice League

See also[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Dini, Paul (writer) & Dini, Paul, Timm, Bruce (story) & Lukic, Butch (director) (January 16, 1999). "Mad Love". The New Batman Adventures. Episode 11 (airdate). Episode 21 (production). Season 2. Kids WB!.
  2. Uncredited writer & Uncredited director (June 19, 2001). "Miss Un-Congeniality". Gotham Girls. Season 2. Episode 13 (airdate). Episode 13 (production). WB Network.
  3. Dini, Paul (writer) & Uncredited director (January 25, 2003). "Hard as Nails". Static Shock. Season 3. Episode 1 (airdate). Episode 27 (production). Kids WB!.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Burnett, A., Dini, P., Timm, B., Murakami, G. (Producers), & Geda, C. (Director). (2000). Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. United States: Warner Bros. Animation.
  5. https://twitter.com/Paul_Dini/status/811963837414920192
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Dini, Paul (writer) & Kirkland, Boyd (director) (January 18, 1993). "Harley and Ivy". Batman: The Animated Series. Season 1. Episode 47 (airdate). Episode 56 (production). FOX Kids.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 Dini, Paul (writer) & Altieri, Kevin (director) (May 23, 1994). "Harlequinade". Batman: The Animated Series. Season 2. Episode 10 (airdate). Episode 72 (production). FOX Kids.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Dini, Paul (writer) & Kirkland, Boyd (director) (September 11, 1992). "Joker's Favor". Batman: The Animated Series. Season 1. Episode 7 (airdate). Episode 22 (production). FOX Kids.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Dini, Paul (writer) & Altieri, Kevin (director) (October 15, 1994). "Harley's Holiday". The Adventures of Batman & Robin. Season 3. Episode 6 (airdate). Episode 81 (production). FOX Kids.
  10. Berkowitz, Stan, McDuffie, Dwayne (writers) & Lukic, Butch (director) (December 6, 2003). "Wild Cards, Part II". Justice League. Season 2. Episode 22 (airdate). Episode 49 (production). Cartoon Network.
  11. Goodman, Robert (writer) & Riba, Dan (director) (January 31, 1999). "Black Out". Batman Beyond. Season 1. Episode 3 (airdate). Episode 3 (production). Kids WB!.
  12. Dini, Paul (writer) & Timm, Bruce W. (director) (February 1, 1993). "The Man Who Killed Batman". Batman: The Animated Series. Season 1. Episode 49 (airdate). Episode 51 (production). FOX Kids.
  13. Dini, Paul (writer) & Riba, Dan (director) (February 21, 1998). "Joker's Millions". The New Batman Adventures. Episode 7 (airdate). Episode 7 (production). Season 1. Kids WB!.