From humble beginnings as the Joker’s underling in Batman: The Animated Series to the multimedia starlet she is today, Harley Quinn has basically done it all in the span of 20 years. She may have jumped to the comic book page with her own ongoing series in the early 2000s, but it would be a long time before she gained the fame and recognition she deserved. Now she’s had her own ongoing series, been spotted in multiple video game franchises, and had a standout role in the live action film Suicide Squad.
Harley Quinn has done it all, but that doesn’t mean everything that has happened to her over the years is good. She was in an abusive relationship with the Joker for years, and she’s suffered at his hands on many occasions since then. Even when the Joker isn’t involved, Harley doesn’t exactly have the best luck. She has been hurt, betrayed, manipulated, and seen several of her loved ones die right in front of her. Despite everything that she has gone through, Harley keeps getting back up, and it’s why we love her so much. Here are some of the worst things that have ever happened to Harley Quinn.
When you’re a member of the Squad, you don’t exactly get a choice in the matter. Amanda Waller has made it her life’s mission to find dangerous criminals and enlist them into Task Force X in order to get villains to do good hard work for the American government. It’s a great deal, though, because an early death is almost always assured.
We saw Harley Quinn join up with the team in 2016’s Suicide Squad live action film, but it’s not the first time she’s been involved with them. Harley first became a member of the Squad when DC Comics relaunched its entire line of comics during the New 52. Reimagined as more of a sadistic killer than ever before, Harley fit right in with her supervillain teammates.
In Batman: White Knight, writer and artist Sean Murphy shows the world what happens when the Joker is cured and he goes after Batman through legal means. Now a normal man again, Jack Napier tries to do right by the woman he abused for so many years by deciding to marry her like he felt he always should have.
Things get crazy, though, when we find out that the Harley he proposes to is not the original Harley Quinn. Apparently, at some point, Harleen Quinzel left and was replaced by a different person. This new Harley rejected the proposal and believed that he was better off as the Joker. The original Harley, in her jester costume, has to come back and take her identity back from the imposter.
One of the worst things that ever happened to Harleen Quinzel was the fact that she ever fell in love with the Joker in the first place. She used to be a gifted doctor in psychiatrics, but somehow the Joker managed to manipulate her and transform her into something different. Her growing obsession with the Clown Prince of Crime ended with her taking on her own villainous identity and breaking him out.
While many people like to paint this as a romantic love affair, it quickly became something far more dangerous and ugly. Joker physically and psychologically abused Harley for years, manipulating her into stay with him and doing his bidding. While all Harley wanted was his love, the Joker showed how little he cared for her.
In the New 52, Joker was believed to be dead when the authorities found nothing but his skinned face. Hearing the news, Harley Quinn escaped from the Squad in order to find the Joker’s face and see for herself whether the rumors about his death were true. If this wasn’t traumatic enough for her, Amanda Waller sent her people out to collect her.
The chase ends with Harley capturing Deadshot and making him wear the Joker’s face. She begins to have a conversation with him as if he were the real deal. Caught up in her hallucinations, Harley doesn’t see Deadshot get loose until he shoots her in the stomach. The injury almost kills her but it forces her back into the employ of Amanda Waller.
In the year 2000, DC Comics ran a storyline through the Superman titles where the Joker steals the reality-altering powers of Mister Mxyzptlk and becomes a god. In "Emperor Joker," The superpowered Joker uses his abilities to kill Batman over and over again. He remakes the world in his own image, kills millions of innocent of people, and warps reality beyond all comprehension.
As always, Harley Quinn is by his side, but before it’s all said and done, he uses his abilities to spare her from destruction. Looking to destroy all of creation, he transforms her into a constellation in the sky so that she can witness the end of the universe. In some sick way, maybe this is a nice gesture, but are we sure that this was really what she wanted?
In Arrow Season 2, fans got a look at the Harley Quinn of the Arrowverse, or they would have, if she was ever given the chance to do anything. A woman resembling Harley makes a cameo appearance in the episode “Suicide Squad” voiced by Tara Strong. This would have ended up being Quinn herself if plans didn’t end up changing.
Apparently, the initial idea was for her to show up in the season finale, but that appearance was ultimately cut. The show did have plans for her until the Suicide Squad film forced the writers to axe the character before she ever had a chance to show herself. It seems unfortunate that fans were unable to have more than one version of the character, considering Warner Bros. had no problem with multiple Barry Allens running around.
During the Futures End event in DC Comics, every series showed its main characters in a dystopic future not as far off as we may want to believe. When it came time for Harley Quinn to get involved in the event, the creative team of Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner decided to change things up and strand Harley on a tropical island away from the ongoing plot.
On this adventure she encounters a native tribe who actually worships the Joker as their king, with Harley set to be their queen. Upon meeting, the two don’t initially get along, but the Joker manipulates her into marrying him. However, in the end, she learns that it is all a ruse in order to sacrifice her to a volcano. Thankfully she manages to get away from a very fiery fate and then escapes to civilization again.
In the comic book series that ties into the Injustice: Gods Among Us video game, it is revealed that Harley Quinn actually has a child. Apparently at some point she became pregnant with the Joker’s baby, and knowing he would not be ok with her having a baby, she gave birth in secret before returning to his side.
Because of the way the Joker is, she knows he would never accept his daughter, so she pretends that the kid is her sister’s instead. Despite her obvious lover for her daughter Lucy, she is forced to pretend that she is the child’s aunt and only gets to see her sparingly. Being a parent when living a life of superheroics is hard, but imagine having to lie about the child and never see her too? That must be tough.
In her solo title, Harley Quinn enjoys her life as the new landlord of an apartment in Coney Island, where she meets new people and makes plenty of friends. She gets into all kinds of trouble and even meets a few love interests, including Mason Macabre, who lives in her building. Things take a tragic turn for the two when Mason is taken and killed.
Harley tries to save her love interest but is ultimately powerless to stop what happens when she is forced to watch Mason’s execution on a television. His death is clearly devastating to her, and it’s even more messed up that she had to watch it happen firsthand. Despite this tragedy, Harley manages to pick herself back up and go on a skilling rampage to get her revenge on everyone involved.
In Batman: The Animated Series, Harley Quinn was the former doctor Harleen Quinzel who fell in love with the Joker and put on a jester costume to join him. Essentially, she was just an unhinged fangirl who wore some makeup and could easily transition between her life as Harleen and her new identity as Harley. However, all that changed in the New 52.
When the Joker was thought to be dead, Harley looked back on her time meeting the Joker. She helped him escape from Arkham Asylum, but instead of making the decision to become a masked villain, the decision was taken out of her hands. The Joker threw her into a vat of chemicals that essentially transformed her into a female Joker, making their relationship all the more troublesome.
In Injustice 2, Harley Quinn has changed her ways and become a superhero working under Batman’s new Justice League of America. At one point in the game’s story mode, Harley and Supergirl confront Wonder Woman, who is about to kill the Cheetah in cold blood. In an effort to become more heroic, Quinn argues with Diana about killing before things get bloody.
Uninterested in listening to the formerly villainous Harley Quinn, Wonder Woman attacks her non-superpowered foe. She runs her sword through Harley, leaving her for dead. Luckily, Kara is about to use her heat vision to cauterize the wound and save her friend’s life. After defeating Wonder Woman in battle, Supergirl takes Harley away to get her medical help, ultimately saving her life.
Beyond all conventional reason, Batman and Robin teamed up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in a crossover title between publishers DC Comics and IDW Publishing. While Harley Quinn doesn’t play a prominent role in the serious, she is seen as one of the inmates of Arkham Asylum who have been mutated into a monster by mutagen.
While Bane takes on the appearance of an elephant and Mr. Freeze starts to resemble a Polar Bear, Harley becomes something like a hyena. It’s a fitting transformation for someone who has pet hyenas, but it’s probably not something she was very happy with happening to her. Thankfully, it only turns out to be a temporary situation, and the inmates turn back to their normal selves before too long.
In 2007, Grant Morrison told the story of how Harley Quinn finally broke away from the Joker for good in the prose-only Batman #663. The issue tells the story about how the Joker goes around killing many of his former henchmen as his latest idea of a joke. Harley is all too eager to help him with this task, only she doesn’t realize that she is the punchline at the end.
For the Joker, the ultimate joke was to kill the one who loved him the most in Harley Quinn. Obviously she didn’t really find this as funny, and with the timely intervention of Batman, she was able to escape her untimely demise. The scariest part of it all was that this was all part of the Joker’s attempt to reinvent himself as a far more terrifying version of himself, which made this all very creepy.
Harley Quinn has been featured in many Batman stories told through several different mediums. She plays a role in the Batman: The Telltale Series of mobile games, and in one of those installments we learn a rather tragic detail of Harley Quinn’s life when she was still just a doctor. In Batman: The Enemy Within, it is revealed that as smart as she was, Harleen couldn’t save her own father.
In this continuity, it was revealed that her father suffered from a pretty devastating psychological illness. Unfortunately, Quinzel could not cure her father of his disorder, and he went on to end it all. This obviously haunted her for the rest of her life, and it likely made it easier for the Joker to infect her mind.
The Joker has never treated Harley Quinn very well, but like many abusive relationships, she has stuck by him for some very complicated reasons. While the Harley in the comics has long since walked out on the Joker, the live action version of her in the movie still seems very dedicated to him. It’s too bad he doesn’t treat her very well in the movie either.
When the two first met in Arkham Asylum, the Joker was able to manipulate Harleen Quinzel into losing all sense of right and wrong. While traditionally Harley always had this crazy part of her hidden deep down, S Squad has the Joker bring it out of her through torture. When he escapes, he straps her down and electrocutes her until she loses her mind and becomes Harley Quinn.
In the DC Comics Rebirth Suicide Squad title, Harley Quinn falls for her field leader Rick Flag, Jr. Eventually the two become something of an item and it starts to feel like things are finally getting better for Harley. Tragically, Flag sacrifices himself in order to save the other members of the team when he jumps into the Phantom Zone with explosives in hand.
Harley is devastated by the loss of the person she loves and soon begins to fall back into her violent ways. She becomes far more detached from reality than ever before, and doesn’t care what happens to her. Months later it is revealed that Flag didn’t actually die, but it was a tough time for Harley Quinn when she thought he was gone forever.
In the Arkham Asylum video game series, the Joker gets sick following the events of Batman: Arkham Asylum in 2009 before finally dying at the end of the 2011 game Batman: Arkham City. Harley Quinn is clearly left devastated by the loss of her lover, as evidenced by her reaction when the Joker is revealed to be dead.
She goes on to seek her revenge in the downloadable story content “Harley Quinn’s Revenge.” In this continuation of the story, Harley is seen mourning the death of the Joker and attempts to get revenge on Batman. The 2015 game Batman: Arkham Knight carries over some of the plot points from the previous game, including Harley’s hatred of Batman and a wish to see the Joker reborn through the jokerized blood transfusions.
At one point in time, Harley Quinn teamed up with Poison Ivy and Catwoman in the ongoing series Gotham City Sirens. The three criminals attempted to live together and work together, but mostly tried to figure out a way to stay alive together. It was at this time Gotham City saw the rise of a new Batman, so times were tough for three working girls.
Unfortunately, it all fell apart in the end when it was discovered that Catwoman was actually secretly working with Batman to keep tabs on Ivy and Harley. While the Dark Knight wanted to put the two behind bars, Catwoman managed to let her friends get away. As the series came to an end, the three friends split up and went their separate ways.
Harley Quinn has always had a soft spot for the Joker, and that has sometimes cost her a lot of grief. When the Joker returns with his face cut off, he decides that it’s finally time to put an end to all of Batman’s loved ones. As part of his plot, he even attacks his old sidekick Harley in order to make her just like him.
He takes her from the Squad and chains her up so that he can drop her into a vat of chemicals. The Joker locks her away in a dungeon full of corpses, and Harley Quinn only manages to escape by hurting herself and using the blood to slip out of her shackles. It was a truly traumatizing experience.
The only thing worse than dying is going to the bad place down below once it all comes to an end. In the early 2000s, over the course of her first ongoing series, Harley Quinn actually died and went to the afterlife. After her jetpack blew up she was sent to the afterlife where she met many of the former members of her gang who had already died.
She was arrested by Hell’s police force and ran afoul of several different demonic figures before ultimately causing enough problems where the underworld didn’t even want her anymore. Yes, Harley Quinn proved to be enough trouble on her own that even Hell rejected her and banned her for life. How many people can say that they died and went there, only to escape in the end?
When Harley Quinn first showed up on Batman: The Animated Series, she was sporting her iconic jester costume that was basically a full bodysuit. It was an easily identifiable outfit when she transitioned into comics, but over the years DC Comics has decided to put her in increasingly more provocative outfits across multiple mediums, and some of them just aren’t right.
Some of her video game costumes are a little overly sensual and hardly ever practical. She was a nurse in Arkham Asylum and a pantsless gaucho in Injustice: Gods Among Us. In the New 52, she infamously wore nothing but a corset in an incredibly ugly clown-themed outfit. She also wore almost no clothing in Suicide Squad. Maybe we can get a woman to dress her next time.
In Injustice: Gods Among Us - Year Four, the Greek gods finally come down to earth in order to stop Superman. In the conflict, Zeus ends up killing Harley Quinn as she rushes to protect a defenseless Billy Batson. Her, Billy, and Hippolyta end up on an adventure through the underworld that no one would want to go on.
The three travel the river Styx and are nearly pulled into the water by lost souls. They then become trapped inside the pit of Tartarus, where the darned are meant to stay for an eternity. After a fight with Ares, they manage to escape, only for them to end up stuck on Apokalips. Darkseid would have killed them if it wasn’t for Superman showing up. Harley finally manages to get them back to Earth.
Although she was recruited by the Squad against her will, in time she started to view herself as a superhero. Despite all the bad things she has done, Harley still has good thoughts and has attempted to save the day on a few occasions. At one point, over the course of the series New Suicide Squad, she may have gone a little too far.
On one mission, a bunch of innocent children were captured by a fanatical terrorist group, and the Squad was sent in to shut them down. Harley Quinn made it her priority to save the kids, but she may have taken things too far when she kills a bunch of their captors. The sight of it all causes the kids to lose their mind, and Harley is left feeling like a monster all over again.
In 2013, DC Comics held an artist talent search centered around entrants drawing Harley Quinn in advance of the new Harley Quinn ongoing series. While it should have been a big acknowledgement of the character’s newfound popularity, it ultimately turned into a controversial depiction of female comic book characters. For whatever reason, DC thought it was a good idea to have artists find new ways for Harley to kill herself.
People didn’t exactly take too kindly to this idea. In the end, the publisher had to apologize for not only overly sensualizing the character for demanding that she be unclothed, but for also making light of self-hurting. It wasn’t exactly the best way to drum up interest in the new series, even if it did go on to find success.
As abusive as her relationship is with the Joker, maybe nothing has been as bad as how she was treated in the Batman: The Animated Series episode “Mad Love.” Seeking to impress her lover, Harley enacted one of the Joker’s plans to capture and kill Batman once and for all. She was actually on the brink of succeeding when her beau found out what she was doing.
In true Joker fashion, not only was he not happy with her actions, he actually beat her up for trying to take the death of Batman away from him. The confrontation ended with him pushing her out of a window and nearly getting her killed. What’s worse was that he apologized to her and she accepted, only too eager to let the cycle of violence continue.
What other bad things have happened to Harley Quinn over the years? Let us know in the comments.