Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. Girl falls for a famous, crazy, murderous, psychopatic Clown Prince of Crime. Girl, in turn, starts wearing red and black, becoming the Clown Princess of Crime. And, in the meantime, girl becomes even as popular, if no more so, than the guy, and strikes off on her own.
Sounds familiar? That’s pretty much the tale of DC Comics’ very own Harley Quinn, a character who is celebrating her 25th anniversary this month. Although it might sound far-fetched, the court-jester clad villainess only took a third of the time to reach a level of popularity to match, and at times even outshine, her significant other.
If you take the time to walk into a comic book store or a toy store, if you simply decide to visit DC’s website or check out what movies the comic book company is currently developing, you might notice a familiar theme: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman? Check — that’s a given, since these characters are DC’s Trinity, the company’s three biggest characters, recognized and cherished the world over. But these past few years has seen the rise of a fourth member in DC’s pantheon, one who emerged from the pack to become just as popular as the world’s biggest superheroes. Indeed, Harley Quinn managed to creep up on everyone and somersault her way to become, as Jim Lee once put it, the fourth pillar of DC Entertainment. But how did it all happen?
Harley Quinn was created by Batman: The Animated Series masterminds Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, making her very first appearance in September 1992 in the episode “Joker’s Favor.” It was there that she was introduced as the black-and-red clad henchwoman of the Joker, one who was enamored with the clown even while being constantly rejected and abused by him. No matter what he did, she loved her “puddin’,” sticking to his side through thick and thin, through rejections and death-defying betrayals. Harley quickly became associated with the Joker, and would appear in nearly every episode he was featured in. It only took a year for her to make the jump from the animated screen to the comic page, first appearing in The Batman Adventures #12 in September of 1993, a comic series set in the Batman: TAS universe.