“Face it, Harl. You’re a certified nutzo wanted by the law in two dozen states . . . and hopelessly in love with a murderous, psychopathic clown. At what point did my life go looney tunes? How did it happen? Who’s to blame?” — Harley Quinn
First things first, Happy Valentine’s Day to all of my fellow bloggers out there! ❤
In honor of the holiday I decided to re-read and review an old favorite of mine, The Batman Adventures: Mad Love by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm. Originally published in February of 1994 and set in the continuity of Batman: The Animated Series, Mad Love gives us Harley Quinn’s origin story and follows her as she plans and attempts to carry out the ultimate scheme to impress the Joker and win his affections once and for all.
I have a lot of love for these characters despite the fact that they both have done some pretty awful things. I’ve always been a fan of the bad guys, which is one reason I think I’ve also always been so into Batman to begin with. I mean, c’mon, dat Rogues Gallery! So, although I love me some villains and reading about all the awful things they do, this does not mean I am pro-messed-up-relationships like that of Harley Quinn and the Joker. Just like I am not pro-destroying-entire-planets, pro-tying-damsels-to-railroad-tracks, or other dastardly things villains do just because I choose to read about them.
Sure, the Joker and Harley Quinn are a famous and well-loved (on-and-off-again) couple in the comic book world, but that does not automatically mean that they are a good couple. Hence why I did not select them for my recent Cute Comic Couple post despite the fact that I love the Joker and I love Harley Quinn. Here’s the thing: I love to read about them, but I’m not going to romanticize an abusive relationship.
I’ve seen a lot of girls post things about wanting a relationship like the Joker and Harley’s and I can’t help but think that either they don’t know their source material or that I should feel very, very concerned for them. They may be interesting characters to read about, but their relationship is not what any sane person would consider to be “cute”, or even healthy for that matter. Even to this day, the stronger and more independent Harley still struggles with her feelings for the Joker from time to time, but at least she can see how toxic their romance is.
Exhibit A: Her acknowledging how bad things were with the Joker and deciding that no one ever gets to put their hands on her ever again after a scuffle with interstellar bounty hunter, Lobo in the Injustice comics.
I feel like I went off on a little side rant here, so apologies for that, I just felt it needed saying. So, without further adieu, onto the review! 😛
Our story begins with the Joker and Harley doing what they do best: bad guy stuff. With Commissioner Gordon in their grasps and plenty of sharp and pointy objects to play with, the diabolical duo are having one hell of a date night. Ready to inflict some serious pain on the good ol’ commissioner, their plans are shattered by the sudden appearance of Batman, doing what it is he does best: thwarting the Joker’s plans.
Needless to say this proves to be quite the mood killer for Mista’ J despite Quinn’s best attempts to get him to “rev up his Harley” vroom vroom! 😉
Not dealing well with the Joker’s rejection, Harley’s mood shifts from disappointment to anger as she blames Batman for coming between her and her man. This is when we get our big flashback of Harley’s start at Arkham Asylum as the young psychiatrist Dr. Harleen Quinzel who quickly falls for a notorious patient, none other than the Joker himself. While she originally intends to get into the criminal’s head, he winds up turning the tables on her and getting into hers, painting a picture of himself as a victim, and Batman as a self-righteous monster always there to knock him down. She convinces herself that she can help him. That he only needs love and acceptance, the very things that she could give him, to be better.
Her dangerous new romance seems to be cut short though when the Joker escapes the asylum. She finds herself worried sick about him in his absence. It isn’t until a week later that Batman drags back a bleeding and battered Joker, enraging the protective Quinzel and causing her to reach her breaking point.With her love interest wounded and locked back up, Harleen flips the switch to full-blown Harley Quinn, robbing a costume and novelty shop to piece together her trademark jester costume and busting the Joker out of the asylum so they can begin their official reign of chaos on Gotham City.
Harley’s head is filled with delusional dreams of a future life and family with the Joker, something she knows she will never have as long as Batman is in the picture. She’s convinced herself at this point that Batman is the only thing standing in their way of true domestic bliss. So she makes the decision to take the bat out of the picture for good. I won’t give away the rest of what happens, but I’m sure you can imagine that things do not go for Harley as she would like to think they will.
All in all, Mad Love is a staple point in the history and development of Harley Quinn’s character. Recognized by IGN Comics as “one Batman book everyone should read”, this one-shot won an Eisner Award for “Best Single Story” in 1994. Even Mark Hamill himself, who has voiced the Joker numerous times in various animations and video games, has named this comic as one of his all-time favorites.
She may have gotten her start as the Joker’s sidekick/girlfriend, but there is no doubt that Harley Quinn has become a force all her own in DC comics over the years.