The Ascendance of Harley Quinn

Since her first appearance in 1991, Harley Quinn—eccentric female sidekick to the Joker—has captured the attention of readers like few new characters have in eight decades of Batman comics. Her bubbly yet malicious persona has earned her a loyal and growing fan base as she has crossed over into television, theater, video games and film.

In this collection of new essays, contributors explore her various iterations, focusing on her origin and contexts, the implications of her abusive relationship with the Joker, her relationships with other characters, her representations across media, and the philosophic basis of her character.

Poor Harley has often caught flack due to her relationship with the Joker. My mom used to get on me about making sure I had decent friends because I’d be known by the company I keep. That would be the case for Harley.

She is often portrayed as a highly sexualized, big breasted, little to no clothes on, mentally unstable sidekick and/or thorn in the side to the ‘better’ women of DC like Wonder Woman. I’ve read graphic novels where they insinuate a lesbian relationship between her and Poison Ivy or she’s in a psychologically abusive one with Joker. Between the two I think she’s better off with Ivy.

What was it Jessica Rabbit said? “I’m not bad I’m just drawn that way.” That’s Harley’s problem.

This collection of essays helps bring out her humanity and show she’s much more complex than a simple criminal with a sex addiction. Who Harley is, what she has meant in the world of DC and to her fans has evolved throughout the years particularly with the new spotlight on the comic world and a sudden influx of fans born from the movies. As society has changed its ethical and moral definitions so has its attitudes towards Harley and what she represents.

The recent Suicide Squad movie portrayed her in a viciously abusive relationship with Joker who shattered her then convinced her that his attempted murder and everything else he did to her was okay in the name of love. Suddenly memes and catchphrases started popping up everywhere between couples believing that this representation was somehow the epitome of love and something to aspire towards in their own love life.

The essays offer plenty of food for thought and leave you trying to decide which side you fall on; is she a victim or villain?

Thank you to Netgalley and Mcfarland for allowing me to review this book.

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*synopsis and image from Netgalley

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