By Thomas Novak
There are a lot of great characters in fiction for fans to rally behind. Some enjoy heroes like DC’s Batman and Marvel’s Captain America, while others enjoy villains like DC’s Joker and Marvel’s Kingpin. But once in a while, fans are treated to the character who struggles to function on either side completely, and walks the line of the “Anti-hero” like Marvel’s Wolverine and Deadpool, or DC’s John Constantine and Lobo, and more recently Harley Quinn, a character both female and male fans have embraced.
For a character who was originally created with the purpose of just playing lackey to Mark Hamill’s Joker on Batman: The Animated Series, Harley has become not only a star in her own right, but also a fan favorite. Presently fans can find her starring in her own monthly comic (Harley Quinn) written by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti with art from Chad Hardin. The book shows that Harley is a strong and independent woman who may not be a saint, but still ends up doing the right thing, even if it takes her a couple of extra steps to make the right decision.
And yes, the character may not have a “happy” back story – that being a clinical professional at an insane asylum, who fell for one of her patients, the Joker, one of the most psychotic criminals. The solo title highlights the fact that she does just fine on her own without the Joker in her life granted, he’s shown up a time or two. But the dynamic between the two, and the after effect all this has had on Quinn, is what helps the character thrive and standout amongst others in the DC line. I mean, who hasn’t been in a situation, following an important but brief encounter, when they thought they were madly in love with someone, only to find out that the relationship is in no way even close to what they thought it was. Plus, some of the best characters in fiction are showcased through their pain, frustration, anger and suffering.
However, Quinn isn’t just some scorned lover trying to forget her past, she’s also got a sense of humor, which I honestly think is essential in a comic book. Let’s face it, the medium is more than senseless violence, flashy costumes and far-fetched storylines. It’s got to have the ability to make you laugh even with all that other stuff also taking place, and there’s plenty of that the husband and wife duo of Conner and Palmiotti do to keep fans laughing. But for those fans still feeling that they need a decent helping of action, you’re not going to have to look very far. Not only is Harley keeping readers entertained in her solo title, but fans can also find her holding her own in the Suicide Squad comic where we see her taking on not just Batman, but also other members of the Justice League.
Now before someone starts complaining and raising the question over the film version of DC’s Suicide Squad, I will again go on the record to say I thought the movie was a joke, It was a Will Smith movie with DC characters trying too hard to combat a threat that in all honestly could have been done in 20 minutes. However, one of the few gems of the film was Margot Robbie, who played Harley Quinn. She embodied the broken woman who wanted to reclaim her life, and was more than willing to get her hands dirty. She could not only hold her own against her male counter parts, without batting an eye, but also showed she had a (deranged) sense of humor about it. I mean, fans were even treated to Robbie holding the character’s original black and red female jester costume and smiling over it. Which if you grew up watching the cartoons, felt like a thank you to the fans for sticking with the character. Mind you, I will also be the first to say no one in that cast by any means was offering any sort of Academy Award worth performance.
Now with all that said, it’s safe to say Harley has earned her fans by showing that while she may not be the best example of the stereotypical “female super hero,” she’s no villain by any means. That puts her in the same grouping as characters like Marvel’s Deadpool, who aren’t defined by gender, but by their actions and reactions and attract both female and male fans. Plus, Harley has shown that women in comics don’t have to be tight-casted as the one in need of saving, but the one who can end the problem before it gets out of hand, and still have enough time to enjoy herself.