How The Suicide Squad Saved Harley Quinn

Harley Quinn has gone from comic relief to the main character in her own story- and The Suicide Squad is the reason why.

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When the first Suicide Squad movie came out in 2016, there was definitely a lot to talk about. While it wasn’t exactly the most critically acclaimed, fans of the DC Universe were excited to see their favorite characters and dynamics come to life on screen. One of these characters, who quickly became the breakout star of the movie, was Harley Quinn. Today, she seems like one of the biggest all-time DC characters, but did you know she was only created in the 1990s? She’s super popular today, though, and even since then her character has evolved a lot more than people might think.

Batman: The Animated Series


Harley Quinn appeared for the first time in Batman: The Animated Series, as the Joker’s henchwoman and love interest, in 1992. She was created by show writers Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, and started to be introduced to the comic universe in 1993 and 1994. It wasn’t until then that she got a backstory: the psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum that wanted to cure the Joker, and instead fell in love with him and went insane. Harley was pretty much only used as comic relief for years, usually in a really sexist way. While comics like Harley & Ivy and episodes like “Harley’s Holiday” explored her character without the Joker, the shift in her perception didn’t really happen until the last few years.

The Suicide Squad


Harley joined the cast of The Suicide Squad in the comic series in 2009, and this marked the beginning of moving toward a life for the character beyond the Joker. As those comics went on, she became a character with a kind of antihero status, and Poison Ivy began to become her primary love interest instead of the Joker. The media portraying Harley Quinn started to shift to looking at the Joker’s relationship with her as abusive, and not seeing that as a joke. And the 2016 Suicide Squad movie marked the first time she was seen in live action, played by Margot Robbie. After that, things definitely changed.

Robbie’s Harley Quinn was instantly popular, with lots of fans who didn’t even like the movie calling her the best part. After that, she became huge, leading to the Birds of Prey movie in 2020, and the remake of The Suicide Squad where she was one of the only characters brought back. She was the most popular Halloween costume in 2016 and 2021, and DC even made an animated show starring the character in 2019. It’s pretty clear: people love Harley Quinn. And it’s changed the way DC treats her.

Harley Quinn Today


Before The Suicide Squad, Harley Quinn was mostly just the butt of a joke. She was a cartoon archetype, and the way the Joker treated her pretty much said it was okay to laugh at domestic violence. But the Suicide Squad movie changed that , and made her so popular that DC decided to focus more on the character’s deeper story. Both of the Suicide Squad movies, Birds of Prey, and especially the 2019 animated show Harley Quinn, all focus on the character moving on from the Joker and becoming her own person. It’s become a really powerful narrative for people about moving on from relationships like theirs. And while The Suicide Squad movie got a lot of things wrong, that’s definitely one thing it got right.

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