It was 25 years ago that Harley Quinn made her first appearance in Batman: The Animated Series (episode “Joker’s Favor” which aired September 1992). Created by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, the role was originally conceptualized as a walk-on bit part, but then, Harley Quinn emerged as a sidekick and love interest to the Joker. The following year, she appeared in The Batman Adventures #12 comic book, but it was the 1994 graphic novel, The Batman Adventures: Mad Love, by Dini and Timm that provided Harley Quinn’s origin story – Dr. Harleen Frances Quinzel, Joker’s psychologist at Arkham Asylum.
When Paul Dini and Bruce Timm created Harley Quinn for Batman: The Animated Series, she was a sidekick - a laughable, lovable jester with an awesome voice. She was a minion to the Joker but much more entertaining than any of his thugs. With the release of "Mad Love," her character acquired depth through her backstory, her ability to love, her motivations, and her desires. She is a powerful manipulator while simultaneously a victim of domestic violence. Because the Joker successfully turns her toward villainy, and because her love is nauseatingly strong, it would seem that the Joker has Harley completely under his control; however, in The New 52’s Harley Quinn series, Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti allow Harley to break free from her Puddin’, giving her autonomy and new motivations. As an independent woman, Harley adopts multiple roles, depending on her needs or current passionate impulses.
Where would Harley Quinn be without the Joker? Quinn’s first appearance in Batman: The Animated Series shows her as a sidekick to one of the most notorious villains in comic book history. This one episode, with a runtime of 22 minutes, established a foundation for a character that is loved and seen at conventions, as fans adorn her various attires to cosplay.
Harley Quinn’s development – both as a character and as a pop culture artifact – was reflected not just in the animated series, but in other media as well, from toys to comics to video games. While contemporary depictions of Harley Quinn in video games, from LEGO Batman video games to the Arkham series, are common place, her early appearances were not so much. The earliest video games relegated Harley to either cameo roles in cut scenes, or as boss characters, but never both. It would be her appearances in Batman: Vengeance that offered the most fleshed-out, comprehensive video game version of Harley. This essay focuses on the Game Boy Advance version of Vengeance, comparing it with Harley’s appearances in the games that were released before it.
In the comparatively short period of 25 years that Dr. Harleen Quinzel has been dressing a certain way, following a certain guy, and calling herself Harley Quinn, her relationship with video games has been complicated. Within the pages of Detective Comics #23.2, for example, Harley Quinn distributes hundreds of "Aceboy" hand-held game consoles to all the boys and girls. These over-joyed boys and girls are then obliterated when their video game systems explode. Here, with wide-eyes, I would like to gently back off and shift my focus away from that one reprehensible scene of carnage to concentrate on Harley's representation within video games, where we will see how she has evolved during a Classic phase, appearing in the fold whenever an animated series or newly released product-line commanded her presence, through to the more mature games in which Harley's narrative arc transitions from villainess to anti-hero via nurse's uniforms and wedding cake.
Why So Serious, Harley?
The first game in Rocksteady's Arkham series, Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009) uses the same voice cast as Batman: The Animated Series (including Arleen Sorkin as Harley Quinn) and was written by Paul Dini, but this Harley is different to those that have come before her. Where the Animated Harley was content to wear a onesie, this one wears a leather corset. Where the Classic Harley was happy to wear a jester's cap, this one has pig-tailed blonde hair and wears a choker. Where the Traditional Harley exuded a cheeky noir-derived sexuality, this one has ample cleavage and a bare mid-riff. Yet, this is still Harley Quinn: a red and dark-blue jester with a penchant for crime and a love of The Joker, only she's now grubbier and dressed like a '90s Britney Spears at a Bachelorette party.
Aliens Ate My Homework, the first book in the wildly successful Rod Allbright and the Galactic Patrol series, will soon be making its feature film debut as part of a planned series of inventive action-comedies from Universal 1440 Entertainment, a production entity of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film will be released for home entertainment in 2018 and recently wrapped production in Vancouver, British Columbia.
In an exciting announcement for the comic book industry this morning, Tencent Animation & Comics’ library of wildly popular franchises from Asia will be coming to North America and other English-speaking countries. In an exclusive partnership with Tapas Media, the titles will begin to roll out today on the Tapas App, an independent book and digital comic platform, that is available for iOS (iPhone and iPad) and Android devices.
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