She is a trained gymnast with fighting skills honed by years of trading blows with Batman and his associates, a licensed psychiatrist, and somehow she seems able to connect with and communicate on a basic level with animals. And she’s crazy in love…
Stop, who are we talking about?
Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to my heroine… Harley Quinn… Applause, please! And your smile! The Smile!
This story begins in the American comic books published by DC Comics (yeah, we owe this Comics Empire a lot). Paul Dini and Bruce Timm created Harley for Batman: The Animated Series in September 1992 and she later also appeared in DC Comics’ Batman comic books, with her first comic book appearance in The Batman Adventures #12 (September 1993) (why not the Joker’s Adventures?). Her full story appeared in American superhero film based on the DC Comics antihero team of the same name, Suicide Squad, distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures in 2016. These filmmakers never pass by interesting stories. And Harley’s story is just like this.
What if the government recruits imprisoned super-villains to execute dangerous dirty missions and save the world from a powerful threat, in exchange for reduced sentences? Yes, you are right, nothing good. Especially if among these “heroes” is our (my) heroine.
I want to tell you this story from a different perspective. I hope it will be fun for you and don’t forget to smile!
“Your eyes. Your skin. Your hair. It’s all different. If you are not Dr. Harleen Quinzel, an eminent psychiatrist to the outrageous and crazy, then who are you?”
So, when did it start? I don’t know, but I think in Arkham. Harleen Quinzel (what a name!) works there as a psychiatrist and proved a good one. One wonderful (or not) day she falls in love with her patient whose current name was Joker (he has a lot of names) during their sessions and becomes his lover and accomplice. She even helps him escape from the asylum more than once (good job!). After she frees him, Joker electrocutes her and convinces her to fall into the chemical bath that created him, thus bleaching her skin and transforming her into his lover Harley Quinn. Harley lays in the Joker’s arms and he gives her a passionate kiss as a symbol of her (their) new life, a life full of adventure, madness and love (if you can call it that). She follows suit in the Joker’s clown-themed, criminal antics and adopts the name Harley Quinn, a play on “Harlequin” from the character in commedia dell’arte (ha-ha). Speaking with a pronounced Northeastern accent, Harley refers to the Joker as Mr. J and Puddin’, terms of endearment used in almost every adaptation in which the two characters appear (and they appear in many stories, you can take my word for it).
She knew her Puddin’ would come. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, or even the month after, but when he realized how he missed her—and he would—he’d definitely haul ass and rescue her.
Where are you, you Looney Tune? Your Puddin’ wants you!
After not a very successful adventure, Batman catches Harley (him again, yeah, he knows how to ruin the party!) and lands in Arkham. There, she is blackmailed into joining Amanda Waller’s government task force composed of captured super-villains. And all would be well, but in this genius plan is one serious miscalculation. Joker wants Harley back (very much) and doesn’t care about the plans of governments. What causes this? What is it? Love? Affection? Impossible. No way, he thinks. That could never happen, not with him, but he misses something important, something he can’t smile again without.
Joker finds out about Harley’s predicament and tortures Belle Reve security officer Griggs into leading him to the facility where they make nano bombs. There, he blackmails Dr. Van Criss into disabling Harley’s bomb, which the government implanted in her neck (hope you’re satisfied, doctor?). During the Suicide Squad’s operation, Joker arrives in a helicopter and opens fire on the squad while Harley climbs aboard upon Dr. Van Criss disarming the bomb. However, Waller’s men shoot down the helicopter (idiots!) and Harley falls out while the Joker is presumed dead, after which Harley rejoins the squad. What a pity!
But don’t hope, it’s not the end of the story!
The wall behind her exploded. Then he walked in. Barefoot and dancing, dressed like the finest Belle Reve guard.
And he was smiling The Smile.
The squad members (including our dearest Harley) return to Belle Reve with ten years off their sentences (how noble!). As a bonus, the government equips Quinn’s bunk with a new espresso machine (sleep well, my dear, sleep well) and shelves stuffed with romance novels and magazines. Love reading? Are you kidding me? With her Puddin’ gone? Without her Puddin’, she can’t even think about love, much less read about it. Yes, she’s crazy, but she still loves him. Even if he’s not beside her now. It’s a strange relationship, but an addictive one. You can’t understand! Never! But what’s that? Strange sounds as the lights go out. Harley’s heart beats faster. Someone approaches her cell…
… it’s her Puddin’, alive and unscathed! He breaks into the penitentiary and rescues her, smiling (as always) His Smile. She cannot remember how she falls into his arms, but remembers when he hugs her and says, “Let’s go home, Looney Tune…”
The End. Why so serious? Let’s smile!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marianna Kaplun was born in Moscow. She is candidate of philological sciences specializing in the first Russian drama and theatre of XVIIth century. She’s also a film and TV critic by calling. You can find her essays on her Facebook page, Twitter, and on Lumiere. She also blogs in English and Russian.