Harley Quinn seems to be everywhere these days, but the truth is she’s been a fan favorite since long before Suicide Squad hit the big screen.
The character first appeared in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series in 1992, evolving along with the show as it eventually became The New Batman Adventures. Since then, she’s made the leap into other media, like comic books and video games. Despite the new incarnations of the character we’ve seen over the years, it’s still hard to beat that original version of Harley from the '90s cartoon.
With the 25th anniversary of her appearance approaching in 2017, it feels like the perfect time to look back at where Harley had her start. Here are the top 15 episodes Harley appeared in during the classic Batman animated series, from worst to best.
“Over the Edge”
Harley Quinn briefly appears in this great episode. The story focuses on a scenario dreamed up by Barbara Gordon while she is suffering from Scarecrow’s fear gas. It follows what might happen if she died while fighting crime as Batgirl and her father discovered her secret. Angry that Batman knew, he turns on Gotham’s crimefighters and soon it’s a manhunt that has everyone looking at Batman differently. Harley shows up for a short time as part of a TV show segment examining how a number of villains might be victims of Batman. Shown crying for the camera, Harley laments how she has terrible dreams about being chased by a black figure. In the end, Harley demands money and the villains reveal they’ve filed a lawsuit. It’s a short scene where Harley doesn’t do much compared to her other appearances.
In this episode Harley once again shows up for only a short while, but it’s more memorable than “Over the Edge.” Here we first see Harley during an inquest investigating allegations against Arkham Asylum chief of security Lyle Bolton. She’s the first one they ask to speak, but she refuses to say anything as she and Bolton exchange a glance. It’s only when one of the other inmates speaks up first that she says anything about how badly Bolton is treating them. After this scene, Harley doesn’t appear again in the episode but her voice can be heard at the end when Bolton himself is brought to stay at Arkham. While also brief, Harley speaking up here stands out more than the small dreamed up TV appearance.
“Beware the Creeper”
The Creeper is a big creep to Harley in this episode about the seventh anniversary of the Joker becoming the Joker. It starts with a reporter goes to the ACE Chemical plant for a story about the criminal only for the Joker himself to show up and push the man into a vat of chemicals. Harley is there helping with the plan as Batman arrives to stop them, but she really takes center stage after this encounter when the reporter emerges as the Creeper and Joker hears that someone is basically stealing his act. Distracted by this, he kicks Harley out of his hideout when she tries to celebrate his anniversary by emerging from a pie in a scene that is hard to imagine would not cause a stir if it appeared on a cartoon today! The Joker tells her if she wants to make him happy she should find the person stealing his act. This leads to her finding the Creeper, who falls in love with her, and she spends the rest of the episode fighting off his unwanted advances and being treated more like property by the two of them than a person.
While Harley’s in most of this episode, she unfortunately spends it dealing with a creepy stalker and an abusive Joker. She realizes for a moment how the Joker doesn’t appreciate her before she runs back to him thanks to the Creeper. She fights well against the creep, but it’s not an episode that lets her shine much beyond this.
“The Man Who Killed Batman”
What happens when a “nobody” appears to have killed the caped crusader? That’s the setup for this episode where we follow Sidney Dupree, the man everyone believes killed Batman. A series of events lands Sid in jail and he’s only released when Harley arrives acting as his legal council. No one seems to realize who she is despite her using her real name, Harleen Quinzel, and it’s only when she and Sid are in the car on the way to the Joker that she reveals herself. The Joker doesn’t like that there was no body for Batman discovered and plans a job to see if he shows. The hero does not and a sad Joker yells at Harley, happy with her stolen jewels, to put it all back because it’s not fun without Batman. Harley is then present when the Joker holds a funeral for Batman and tries to kill Sid. Of course Batman isn’t dead and shows up at the end of the episode.
We get a bit more of Harley here, showing everything from the abusive nature of her relationship with the Joker to how funny she can be as she cracks jokes and plays the kazoo at the fake funeral. All of these aspects of her character though are explored more and in better ways in other episodes.
“Almost Got ‘Im”
This is a fun episode that sees a number of villains playing cards and swapping stories about the times when they almost got Batman. Harley appears in the Joker’s story, which is told last in the episode. In it Harley is seen helping the Joker, who has taken over a late night talk show. He has Batman hooked up to a machine that shocks him whenever the audience laughs. Catwoman shows up to save him, but ends up getting kidnapped when Harley knocks her out. After Batman deals with the villains playing cards, he heads to rescue Catwoman who is being watched by Harley. Batman arrives and Harley tries to escape, offering him a choice of catching her or saving Catwoman. Of course the plan backfires and Harley is captured as Batman does both, but it’s fun to see her trying to carry out the plan and make a run for it against Batman one on one.
“The Laughing Fish”
In this episode Harley appears when she is announcing the arrival of the Joker and the gang at Gotham’s office of copyright. The Joker wants to copyright the fish he’s made to look like him so he can make a profit off of anything made from them. Obviously this isn’t possible, but the rest of the episode sees the Joker and gang threatening anyone that stands in their way. Throughout it as Harley helps with the Joker’s plan, her disgust with fish is revealed. She can’t stand their smell and when she’s forced to eat a bite in a fish commercial the Joker puts on TV, she spits it out off screen. It adds another element to Harley, who we also see break down into tears when everyone thinks the Joker has died. It’s fun to see her dislike of fish stay consistent throughout, even as they take on Batman and the cops, and makes it a memorable episode for the character.
“Girl’s Night Out”
This episode focuses on female villains and heroes, including some unique team ups between characters from both Gotham and Metropolis. It starts with Livewire escaping and causing trouble in Gotham while Batman is out of town. Batgirl is on the case, but Batman still tries to contact Superman to see if he can help. Supergirl gets the message instead and teams up with Batgirl. Livewire escapes the two and arrives at Poison Ivy and Harley’s hideout, which leads to the three women working together. During their work, Harley isn’t able to make quite the impact the other two can and Harley starts to feel like they’ve become Livewire’s gang. They escape another attempt by Batgirl and Supergirl to stop them before heading to the Iceberg Lounge where they clash when Livewire doesn’t seem to appreciate the help of the others, but team up again to trash the place when they’re asked to leave. It’s not long before Supergirl and Batgirl arrive at their hideout and there’s another fight, in which Harley is taken out of the game by her own weapon.
With Livewire around, Harley doesn’t shine so much here as there’s the focus on her not really being able to get the job done as well as the others. Still, it’s nice to see her here without the Joker causing trouble and as always great to see her relationship with Ivy.
We first see Harley in this episode when Poison Ivy is sent back to Arkham. She welcomes Ivy home and tries to cheer her up by saying they’re planning to throw a party, which results in the inmates taking control. Harley and Ivy team up in a fun scene and kidnap Batman, bringing him to Arkham to be put on trial for making the villains the way they are. With Joker as the judge, Harley acts as part of the jury and as a witness. She shines when she’s on the stand interacting with the Joker, at first lovingly and then angrily as Batman’s defense attorney reveals that he’s not all that loyal and loving since he betrayed her the last time she escaped in hopes of getting time off.
Harley is in various parts of the rest of the episode as Batman escapes, but it’s really the scenes with her on the stand and her with Ivy that make this episode a must-see for Harley Quinn fans. It’s always fun to see Harley with Ivy in an episode, even if it’s brief like it is here, and always enjoyable to see her realize the Joker isn’t quite so loving and get angry at him, even if we know she’ll eventually go back to loving him anyway!
This episode starts with the Joker and Harley being chased by Batman and Batgirl. As they make a run for it we learn that they’re in need of cash, as they don’t have enough money for things like bullets or gas. When the Joker realizes neither of them grabbed the loot, he ejects from the car and leaves an angry Harley behind to be arrested. When Joker thinks he’s inherited a fortune and starts spending money, Harley watches him on TV from jail and is happy for him. It’s only when Ivy shows her a headline stating the Joker is looking for a new henchgirl that she realizes the Joker isn’t going to bail her out. Of course it turns out the Joker didn’t get any money after all, and when he’s trying to come up with a new idea his new “Harley” doesn’t cut it, and he admits he misses the real one. Harley escapes Arkham through the laundry chute and comes face to face with the Joker when he’s arrested again. Disguised as a cop in the police van, she gets her revenge by hitting the Joker with her club.
Harley’s appearances throughout this episode are classic. From her working with the Joker and bickering in the beginning to her escape as she realizes he doesn’t care to her not being shown as forgiving him in the end, she has a lot of great moments in “Joker’s Millions.”
"Joker's Favor" marked the very first time we were introduced to Harley Quinn. It focuses on a regular guy who runs into the Joker after a bad day and yells at him while driving on the road. The Joker follows him and the guy offers to do anything for the Joker if the villain leaves him alone. The Joker says he’ll be in touch for a favor one day and then it happens two years later, when we see Commissioner Gordon is about to be honored. Harley is first seen supporting her boss when he's in his hideout with his gang and Harley is from then on an essential part of the episode. She brings the man to the Joker and they set their plan in motion. Dressed as a cop, things go wrong when Batman shows up but even then Harley doesn’t give up.
In Harley’s very first appearance, she’s shown to be quite good at the job of henchwoman. Two of her stand out moments here are when she hits Harvey Bullock for making a pass at her and when she tries to distract Batman before attacking.
Harley only shows up in one of the three short stories told over the course of this episode, but it’s one of her best appearances. The story follows her and Poison Ivy during the holiday season. Harley is depressed since they don’t have any presents or a tree. While Ivy is against getting a tree, she has an idea and they end up using her powerful lipstick to kidnap Bruce Wayne. Using his credit cards, they go on an awesome shopping spree, which is one of the most fun sequences featuring the two characters. As the lipstick wears off, Wayne accidentally falls down an elevator shaft and escapes the pair. It’s then that he shows up as Batman and after a memorable fight in a toy store, they’re captured. Sure it’s only one third of the episode, but it’s a great story for showing Ivy and Harley in action together with some additional holiday fun thrown in!
Harley Quinn is front and center in this episode. It begins with the Joker stealing a bomb that can destroy all of Gotham. Since Batman thinks the Joker will be extra careful this time around, he decides he needs some help and needs to recruit someone who knows how the Joker thinks: Harley. While at first she refuses, she changes her mind when Batman offers to help get her out of Arkham in exchange. She promises not to double cross Batman and soon the pair are off to find the Joker, with Harley accidentally causing some headaches along the way as she presses random buttons in the batmobile. The antics don’t stop there. Her dynamic with Batman is hilarious from start to finish and she even tells him why she’s attracted to the Joker when he asks, explaining that he listened to her for a change and made things fun. We even see that she has Batman’s back, for a while at least, when he is captured and she stalls for time until Robin can arrive to help by singing a song from the '40s that fits with her abusive relationship with the Joker: “Say that We’re Sweethearts again.”
In the end, Harley figures out the Joker’s plan and it’s only when they find him that she predictably changes sides. Robin however turns the tables on the pair when he brings up the fact that the Joker did not leave enough time to rescue Harley if she wasn’t there already. This leads to her starting to think about her friends and her hyenas, and soon she’s freeing Batman and Robin and holding a gun on the Joker. It turns out to just be a fake gun, which gets the Joker laughing, and the two reconcile in one of the very few moments where they seem to oddly be a good fit. Harley is great in this whole episode and it’s a lot of fun to see her interact with Batman when they’re working together. Even though nothing changes with her relationship with the Joker in the end, for a few minutes we get to see her stand up to him and be an essential part of stopping his plans.
Your heart might break a bit for Harley in this episode that starts with her being released from Arkham because she’s made so much progress. Harley is determined to make a fresh start, but things don’t go as planned. During a shopping trip, she doesn’t wait for the security tag to be removed from her new dress. The alarm goes off and as the security guard approaches, Harley begins to become upset and says she paid for it fair and square. The misunderstanding makes Harley go back to her old ways for a bit, stealing a car and taking Veronica Vreeland with her. As Harley tries to find a way to get out of town where she thinks she can really start fresh, Batman rushes to find her so she doesn’t complete blow this chance. In the end Harley ends up saving Veronica’s life, but what she did is enough to get her sent back to Arkham. She even has a touching conversation there with Batman when she asks him why he stayed with her all day and Batman says he understands because he had a bad day too. He gives her back the dress she tried to buy and she kisses him.
With no Joker around, we’re able to see Harley as a more complex character when she’s on her own here. She honestly seems to want to have a better life, but her fear of going back to Arkham and not being accepted by society cause all of that to backfire. She's great in the entire episode from the more dramatic moments that make you feel sympathy for her to the funny moments that are classic Harley and make you smile.
“Harley and Ivy”
Here Harley makes a mistake during the latest escape from Batman and the Joker has had enough. He kicks her out and Harley decides to pull off a job on her own to show him what she can do. While she tries to steal a diamond at the museum, Poison Ivy sets off the alarms as she steals plant toxins from the lab and finally we get the first meeting of these two. They escape together and as Ivy states, it’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship! After asking Harley what she sees in the Joker and not being thrilled with the answer, Ivy decides she needs some “lessons in good ol’ female self-esteem” and the two start working together, earning headlines calling them the “new queens of crime.” Harley still misses the Joker, which Ivy doesn’t understand, and we see that the Joker is having a hard time without her. He just expected her to come back like every other time. Eventually Harley makes the mistake of calling him and he tracks her down, showing up just as she and Ivy return home from leaving Batman to die after their latest encounter. Harley’s happy at first until the Joker reveals he just wants what they stole. She's horrified when the Joker tries to hurt Ivy, but Ivy isn’t harmed and starts to fight his gang. Grabbing Harley, the two try to escape as Batman deals with the Joker but the police capture them. It ends with the pair working together in Arkham with Ivy disgusted by Harley still thinking she can work things out with the Joker.
Frankly, here there are too many amazing moments between Ivy and Harley to list. This is the start of the two being paired together and the chemistry between them is clear from the beginning, whether it’s Ivy trying to get Harley to forget about the Joker or the two standing up to the men that don’t give them the respect they deserve. Not only are they great, but this episode also shows us more of how Harley struggles with her abusive relationship with the Joker and how hard it is to escape even when she has a much better thing going. She’s more successful with Ivy than she was with the Joker and clearly cares about Ivy, but she still can’t let go. It's a great example of Harley as a well-rounded, complicated character and the first taste of what she can be if she can get free of the Joker.
How did Harley Quinn become Harley Quinn in the first place? We were finally given the answer to that question in “Mad Love.” Harley starts to wonder where her life went wrong after the Joker once again gets physical with her and throws her out when she tries to get his attention as he’s focused on killing Batman. The episode transitions to showing us Harley arriving at Arkham for an internship and her first interactions with the Joker. After trying to prepare herself for his tricks, she sets up a session with him but his stories about being abused by his father shock her. Eventually she decides he’s just a tortured soul and falls in love with him, worrying about him when he escapes. It’s seeing how roughed up he is when Batman returns him to Arkham that makes Harley snap and finally get her iconic costume, breaking him free. Back in the present, we see Harley determined to end Batman who she sees standing in the way of their happiness. Tricking him into thinking she’s turning on the Joker, she captures him and almost kills him but Batman talks to her about how the Joker used her and then convinces her the Joker won’t believe he’s dead unless he sees it himself. Joker arrives but is not happy about what Harley’s done and tries to kill her, knocking her out a window. Injured horribly, Harley at first thinks its her own fault and then is shown at Arkham determined to be through with the Joker. However then, in her cell, she sees a flower left by him with a note saying feel better soon and she is immediately drawn back into her obsession calling him an angel.
It’s the ultimate episode for getting inside Harley’s head, which is why it tops my list. Here we see exactly how the Joker manipulated Harley and encouraged her just enough for her to take the step into the world of crime. We also see how little the Joker cares for her and that she is much more capable on her own, when not under his thumb. It also solidifies just how strong the Joker’s hold on her is. After almost being killed by him, all it takes for her to be dragged back into their unhealthy relationship is the smallest of gestures. It shows Harley as a character who is much more than her relationship with the Joker, but one that has yet to find a way to escape it no matter what happens.
Which episode featuring Harley Quinn is your favorite? Tell us in the comments!