Since this week marks the 100th article that I’ve done as part of Graphic Reviews, I wanted to take a little time to talk about one of my favorite characters ever and a rather remarkable panel that I was able to catch at Denver Comic Con this year but hadn’t been able to really talk about yet given the huge number of comics panels that Pop Culture Classroom offered this year. Just too much to talk about! As I’ve mentioned at least a time or two before, I am a Batman fan now because I grew up watching Batman: The Animated Series as a kid and immediately fell in love with the characters on that show. Not least of which was the ever loveable anti-hero/sometimes-villain, Harley Quinn. As someone who has adored Harley since that animated TV show, I was immediately intrigued by the Harley Quinn panel that was offered at DCC and headed by just two guests: Chad Hardin and John Timms. Both men have been involved with the art of the new Harley Quinn series written by both Amanda Connor and Jimmy Palmiotti. Though I haven’t kept up with the series, it was very interesting to hear their viewpoints on the character since both have been drawing her for years at this point.
I immediately liked that both Chad Hardin and John Timms weren’t shy about having loved Harley as a character long before they started to draw her for the DC series. Both mentioned liking Harley since the animated series and how they had been interested to see how she evolved over the various depictions of her. In particular, I appreciated Chad’s perspective on Harley’s popularity and her relationship with the Joker. When asked by a teen in the audience how he felt about Harley as a role model for younger women, Chad cautioned that Harley should be more of a cautionary tale than a role model. While she’s a strong, independent female character, she also makes a lot of terrible decisions. He pointed out that Harley’s terrible decision making is part of what makes her so compelling as a character. She’s almost a wish fulfillment for readers since she acts entirely on her impulses, even when it’s detrimental to her own plans and desires to do so. He also mentioned that the reason that he thinks Harley is so compelling as a character is that she’s imperfect, which appeals more to people than the perfect superheroes. John Timms added that much in the same vein as Deadpool, Harley is a consistently light hearted, silly character who ends up in some seriously violent situations. Yet the tone of the comic is extremely malleable. Harley can be put in situations that Batman or any of the other superheroes never could. She can be put in nearly any situation and maintain her trademark humor and banter without it seeming forced.
While a lot of good information came out of the panel, I have to admit that I was most pleased to hear Chad and John talk about Harley’s relationship with the Joker. When asked how they felt about Harley’s relationship with Poison Ivy, Chad mentioned how much he has always seen Harley’s relationship with the Joker as extremely unhealthy and how much he dislikes the romanticization of that situation. He was very happy to see Harley with Ivy because, even though she was still with another villain, it didn’t have the same abusive situation that Harley had with Joker. Hearing that made me seriously want to applaud. It always bothers me to see people talk about how romantic the ideal of crazy love is and then point to Harley and Joker. At no point does Joker actually show care for Harley, he’d toss her aside in a heartbeat if it benefited him and he’s actively abusive towards her. Talk about not a relationship you want to admire.
As someone who’s been a fan of the character for a long time and someone who has very strong opinions on when the character is done well and when she’s not, I was very pleased with the way that the Harley Quinn panel went. It would have been easy to focus on Harley as a light hearted, silly character but a lot of interesting talk about her personality and why appeals to so many really helped to bring the fans together and appreciate the work being done by Chad Hardin and John Timms on the series. It was a panel not to be missed by Harley Quinn fans, that’s for sure. Have thoughts or comments on either Harley or the panel? Let me know in the comments!