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How did Harley Quinn become a pop culture icon?

By Mike Avila

Next week, Birds of Prey is hitting the big screen as DC’s latest film. However, the BoP aren't the real stars of the film — that honor goes to Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn, who returns for the first time since Suicide Squad in 2016. Harley's come a long way from being Joker's sidekick, and she's now a legitimate headliner with her own animated series, an ongoing comic book, and more.

That's impressive for a character that was essentially created as a throwaway gag in Batman: The Animated Series. However, Harley's creators, Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, quickly realized that Harley could be more than just the Joker's love interest. They expanded Harley's role on the series and told her origin story in the comic book one-shot, Mad Love, which was later adapted as an episode of the show.

Ultimately, Harley found her emancipation from the Joker when she was incorporated into the actual DC Universe. But it wasn't until the New 52 reboot in 2011 that Harley emerged as a solo superstar. Not only was Harley given a leading role in the Suicide Squad relaunch, she was also headlining an immensely popular ongoing series by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner. The husband-and-wife creative team moved Harley out of Gotham and gave her a new lease on life and even her own girl gang.

Outside of comics, Harley's popularity has continued to skyrocket in the Batman: Arkham games and the Injustice series. Harley has also become one of the go-to cosplay choices at comic conventions around the world. Harley-mania isn't a fad, she's here to stay. And we suspect that Birds of Prey will eventually lead to a Harley solo film as well.

For more about Harley Quinn's transformation into a pop icon, check out the latest episode of SYFY WIRE's Behind the Panel