I feel slightly dishonest writing an entire post about this trade, seeing as I didn’t actually read the entire thing. Truth be told, I think I read less than half of it.
Therein lies the problem with character story collections such as this for my pet project. Attempting to read about the DC universe in continuity order makes for a few tricky instances of trades having to be left unfinished because half of the stories take place later on. Thankfully I have Mistah J to point out when and where I should stop reading so as to avoid as many spoilers as possible.
That being said, I couldn’t not write about what I read in this collection. This is Harley Quinn after all. Hers was the first comic I ever read. I bought a copy of Mad Love at the recommendation of Mistah J, and that’s what ultimately began this whole journey. I was a fan of the character from the original “Batman: The Animated Series”, and after seeing her in that cartoon and reading about her origin in Mad Love, I knew she was a character I wanted to read more about.
With that, I soon learned that the origin I had read was only her “Batman: The Animated Series” origin, and that this trade held her DC comics origin (yes, confusing.) This origin shares many parallels with the Mad Love storyline, and only further cements her as one of my favorite characters.
(Add on top of that the fact that I can’t read a Joker and Harley story without hearing Mark Hamill and Arleen Sorkin’s voices as their respective characters from the tv series, a fact that only enhances the overall experience for me.)
Harley’s origin story opens with her being rescued by Poison Ivy and taken back to her lair. Battered and beaten, Harley recounts her early days as a doctor at Arkham Asylum, reminiscing on how she lobbied to work one on one with the Joker.
She must have missed that day in college where they explain that making out with the patients is not a good idea.
Harley is, quite bluntly, head over heels in love, and goes so far as to help Joker escape from Arkham on numerous occasions. She winds up locked up in the asylum herself, ever hopeful that the Joker will come and rescue her. He never shows, but one fateful day a little earthquake causes the power to go out in Arkham and allows Harley to escape.
Her first thought is finding the Joker, so she heads to a costume shop and grabs a new and improved outfit to surprise her Puddin’ with.
(I know there have been plenty of different versions of her character’s appearance by now, but this will always be my favorite version of Harley.)
Joker hardly remembers her, but decides to make use of her while she’s there. Harley is too head over heels to notice just how deranged and psychotic Joker really is, and her blind faith in this mad man makes her all the more sympathetic and likable.
She may be completely bonkers, but at least she’s driven by love.
Her poor decisions ultimately catch up with her though, as Joker decides he no longer needs her and plans to dispose of her by shooting her off in a rocket.
Understandably, she’s slightly peeved at this turn of events.
She survives, is rescued by Ivy, and there we are brought up to speed with her story. Ivy administers a special potion that will make Harley immune to her poison, and it winds up having the odd side effect of enhancing Harley’s acrobatic skills and agility.
Translation: not only is she crafty, but now she can fight.
Hell-bent on murdering the Joker, she teams up with Batman to bring him down, but ends up breaking the rules and going after him on her own.
I love this panel. It just sums up their relationship so perfectly. Harley’s just this crazy little thing flitting about while the Joker looks on with exasperation and frustration, all the while trying to kill her.
Of course, being Harley, she’s not immune the the Joker’s charms, and it doesn’t take much for him to win her over one more.
Joker can make Harley flip on a dime, because ultimately Harley is just too in love and wants to believe that the Joker cares about her too. It’s a sick, twisted relationship, and yet one that I love reading about.
I’m not so sure what that says about me.
This origin closes with Harley writing a letter to Batman, complete with hearts and doodles, explaining that she got her happy ending. Of course, knowing the Joker, it won’t be happy for long.
I don’t know what it is about Harley Quinn that just draws you in. I’ve given it a lot of thought, especially since I started diving into DC’s continuity, but it’s not as simple as it might seem. Harley has a certain indefinable quality that makes people want to root for her. She can be both silly and sweet and fiercely murderous and tough, a balance that I think most girls wish they could find within themselves. No, I’m not saying we all want to fall in love with murderous psychopaths (although truth be told, we do tend to favor the bad boys), but we want to be innocent and bubbly and strong and independent all at the same time. Harley represents this ideal, and as a reader you can’t help but love her, pity her, and want to be her. Add on to that the fact that she’s paired off with one of the most famous comic book characters of all time, and it just makes sense that she has an ever-growing fanbase.
I may not have read this entire trade, but I think the origin story alone tells you a lot about who Harley Quinn is as a character. She’s a lover and a fighter, more than a little unhinged and certainly blind to her paramour’s less than perfect personality, but she’s endearing. Her fatal flaw is that she’s in love with a mad man, and it’s this devotion that makes her so likable. She may go around blowing things up and helping the Joker pull off these insane schemes, but deep down there’s a childlike innocence about her that few other characters share.
Harley Quinn is far from perfect, but her combination of sweetness and ferocity makes her a uniquely entertaining character.