If the Hollywood sci-fi movies of 2017 have one unifying special effect that will come to epitomize the collective output of the year, it won’t be disk-shaped space ships, plastic actors reincarnated from the uncanny valley, or unending dustscapes of an orange-tinted future; it would be the damp-squib of disappointment.
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.