The 2009 Arkham Asylum game was written by Dini and features Harley prominently in its plot. They could have easily used her classic TV show design, which she was still wearing in the comics at this point, but because the average video game fan is assumed to be a horny 14-year-old with no impulse control who will instantly buy ten copies of a game if it offers the slightest glimpse of a boob, the game’s art director decided to dress her up in “a mix of a nurse and schoolgirl outfit that gives her a very interesting look I’m sure fans will appreciate!”
While this seems like something you’d see in a Batman porn parody, it did succeed at making Harley look like a real person — a person who is starring in a Batman porn parody, but still. Also, replacing the black and red jester costume with black and red leather might have helped drive the point that Harley is basically DC’s Deadpool (whose love affair with the internet had already began). The second Arkham game toned down the cringeworthy “sexiness” and ended up with something fairly similar to what Margot Robbie would wear in the movies.
When DC hit the reset button on their comics universe in 2011, they used this design as the basis for their rebooted version of Harley as they tried to push her as a central figure in the new Suicide Squad comics. Is it depressing that it took switching her wardrobe from a full-body costume to a revealing corset to get most readers to pay attention to the character? Yep! But once she had that attention, she could do stuff like …
Suicide Squad Finally Let Her Step Out Of Joker’s Shadow
Although long-time Suicide Squad fans grumbled about the idea of making the new series so Harley-centric, the result was so successful that it led to a series of specials, spin-offs, and ultimately movies and video games. Harley and the Suicide Squad turned out to be a shockingly good fit for the same reason why she worked so well in Batman: The Animated Series: the “wild card” factor. It turns out you can tell all sorts of stories with a psychopathic gymnast with a PhD, from straight action to meta humor to, yes, masturbatory fan service with no discernible plot.
Her successful Suicide Squad run led to a (thankfully, not masturbatory) new solo comic that provided a lot of the building blocks for the Harley Quinn TV show, from fleshing out her relationship with Poison Ivy to giving her an elderly half-robot co-star.
More importantly, her stint with the Squad and the subsequent solo efforts proved that permanently separating the character from Joker was possible from a narrative and a financial perspective. It’s just a shame that the movies felt the need to expose us to Jared Leto once to get her to that point.
Thumbnail: Warner Bros. Television Distribution, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment