This year, the 23rd of September was Batman Day, or it would’ve been, but this year it wastaken over by the 25th Anniversary of Harley Quinn. In celebration of that I’m going to have a look at the connections between Harley Quinn and Batman 66.
Though the character wasn’t even introduced until 1992, there are a few Batman 66 connections.
On the special features of the recently released Animated feature Batman and Harley Quinn, there is a feature entitled The Harley Effect, in this feature there are interviews with various people who have been involved with Harley Quinn and Batman: The Animated Series as a whole. During this feature Paul Dini (co-creator of Harley Quinn, along with Bruce Timm) says in reference to the creation of Harley Quinn, “Let’s kinda hark back to the 60’s show and do a kind of, gun moll-type, but let’s make her kind of funny”. So we see that in her inception, he was inspired by the various Moll’s and henchwomen of the classic show.
With the comic book series Batman 66 done in the style and continuity of the classic TV series, we have seen Harley Quinn in 3 different stories;
Batman 66 Issue #3: The Joker Sees Red
The story starts with The Red Hood (another character not originally in the TV show) acting as a vigilante character, but we later find out this is a cover so he can commit crimes. In this story we are introduced to Dr. Quinn, who is the newly appointed Psychiatric specialist for the deep-security ward of Arkham Institute. We learn of a device called the brain regulator, which has been developed by a character by the name of Professor Overbeck. In this story The Joker is treated like Hannibal Lecter, with him being used as the criminal to catch a criminal (The Red Hood) as The Red Hood wants The Joker brought to him at the cemetery. We see Dr. Quinn help Batman and Robin to bargain with The Joker for information by approving his idea for a comedy night. When the Joker is taken to the cemetery, he is abducted by The Red Hood. From The Joker’s abduction by the Red Hood, Batman sees that The Red Hood’s style is similar to that of The Joker’s in the way that he thinks and commits crimes. We learn that the brain regulator was patterned on the brain of Professor Overbeck, but that the technology was perverted by The Joker so that he could use the Red Hood to subvert someone’s subconscious into that of his own, which has lead to Professor Overbeck being the one who abducted The Joker as The Red Hood as he was thinking in line with the Joker’s thought processes at the time.
Batman 66 #11 The Joker’s Big Show
In the second part of this Harley Quinn trilogy, Dr. Quinn introduces our heroes, in their guises as Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson to Arkham Institute’s Patient Pageant Night, in which we see Commissioner Gordon, Chief O’Hara and Barbara Gordon are also in attendance. At this pageant night we see various members of Batman’s rogues gallery showcasing their hidden talents. Dr. Quinn, ensures us Catwoman has done a wonderful job with her dance routine “even better than what she did in rehearsal” and comments that “There are a lot of different acts. Luckily Chandell can accompany all of them”. Dr. Quinn tries to persuade Commissioner Gordon that they’re providing “creative outlets”, so that the criminals don’t “feel the need to menace society for attention”. Once The Siren interrupts King Tut and starts singing about setting Batman on fire, Dr. Quinn quickly tries to move things on to another act. After False Face’s impressions turn ominous with him stealing Bruce Wayne’s face (as he had done in a previous issue of this series), Dr. Quinn seems nervous to introduce the headliner of this Pageant Night, the clown prince of Crime, The Joker! Dr Quinn comments that this event sprang out of the idea The Joker had had for a comedy night, as mentioned in Issue 3. Throughout The Joker’s stand-up comedy set of cliché jokes the audience gets increasingly hysterical with laughter due to a new device designed to get everyone laughing, this allows The Joker and Catwoman to escape. Upon escaping the gates of Akrham with Catwoman, The Joker remarks “Oh, how I’ll miss therapy! Farewell, Dr. Quinn!”. Once Bruce, Dick and Barbara make their excuses to leave and reappear as Batman, Robin and Batgirl respectively they agree to team up and Batman enquires with Dr. Quinn as to whether Professor Overbeck still works at Arkham, she tells Batman where to find the Professor. Once the professor is found he informs our heroes that the brain regulator has been stolen. Batgirl enquires as to whether the power of the brain regulator could be used to affect a group of people rather than an individual. He informs her that he doesn’t think so unless someone would “connect it to a broadcast antenna”, like the one he uses for transmitting long distance, he then realises that his broadcast antenna has gone! Batman remarks that “The Joker is a devious mastermind but far from a scientist”, and wonders “who could have helped him and Catwoman — and also had access to this facility?”. Because of Professor Overbeck’s previous involvement and knowledge of The Red Hood, The Joker and the facility he is taken away by the Commissioner and Chief O’Hara for questioning, which he nerviously accepts as he fears he still may not be able to trust his own mind. The next day the Mayor is having a golf game during which he proposes a new ward for the hospital, but then starts laughing about the matter, it is at this point we see The Joker, Catwoman and one of the The Joker’s henchmen filming it. We see this on the TV set in Commissioner Gordon’s office. The mayor is fretting to Batman, Robin and Batgirl as he did not mean to laugh, as it was a trick of the Joker’s. Chief O’Hara brings in information to the tremendous trio about a robbery at an electronics firm. Batgirl deciphers that the piece’s stolen are similar to that of Professor Overbeck’s but “more heavy duty”. In the next scene we see that Dr. Holly Quinn, is indeed working with the Joker and Catwoman but only doing so, so that she could see the machine working fully. She laments that now she has perfected the machine and process and should have confessed to the police earlier. The Joker reassures Holly how integral she is and how brilliant her mind is and that the police wouldn’t understand this and would simply cart her away like a common criminal. After goading the tremendous trio to the park so The Joker can unleash the machine he and Holly have perfected, the machine is let loose and everyone in the park starts to go mad. Holly is saddened that its all her fault. The Joker claims she shouldn’t get all the credit and says he looks forward to collaborating with her in the future, which she is adamant will never happen. During a fight between Batman, Robin, Batgirl and the maddened citizens of Gotham along with The Joker and Catwoman, Holly climbs onto the machine aboard the latest Jokermobile and tries to correct what has been done by putting the Red Hood device on herself with the hopes that this will normalise the citizens sent loopy by The Joker’s mind. Dr. Quinn successfully turns everyone back to normal but unfortunately sends herself insane with the device. Batman is proud of her sacrifice but saddened that it had to happen and hopes she can be helped to get back to normal.
Batman 66 #25 Night of the Harlequin
We start this story of with a bakery having been burglarised. Batman and Robin are being pelted at with pies that have been booby trapped. The tied-up Baker informs the dynamic duo that from the perpetrator he heard a lady’s laugh, we then she a Joker playing card. Batman puts two and two together and heads down to Arkham to see how Holly Quinn’s treatment is coming along, we then see that she has escaped and put one of the nurses in her place and given her laughing gas to fool people into thinking she was still there. Holly has left in her place a note saying she is pursuing a new career and will make The Joker proud, which she signs “Harlequin”. Upon discovering this Batman and Robin leave, with Batman remarking that with her brilliant mind, she may be more brilliant and devious than the Joker! Batman and Robin race to their Batmobile parked outside, only to be ejected by a jack-in-the-box pressing the ejector seat. Batman remarks that only someone with a brilliant mind and twisted sense of humour could have done something so fast. Having been catapulted up into a tree, the Harlequin is waiting for the dynamic duo in a hot-air balloon, and thanks them for coming out to introduce her to the rogues gallery and promises to come up with “neat schtick” that will make chasing her “extra fun”. Harlequin rejects Batman’s pleas for her to return back to psychiatric care, informs him he can’t call the commissioner, presents him with the Batphone and then flies away in her hot-air balloon after batting away a batarang. She then embarks on a crime wave, some just theft, but some with Joker-eqsue twists like a whoopee cushion and a gun with a flag popping out of it. After a fortnight of going it alone, Harlequin realises it takes a lot of work being a villain and so invites various thugs to a warehouse to compete to be her five henchmen. She then instructs them all to fight each other. During this fight she is asking various thugs interview type questions. When two thugs in particular are sweeping house she asks for things to be dialled back a bit as she wants five henchmen. Harlequin is pleased they at least have masks, but asks if they have clown noses and labelled shirts. The larger of the two thugs ensures he has something appropriate to wear, he then turns around and reveals himself to be Batman. Batman and Robin tell Harlequin it would do her well in future to remember that the dynamic duo are also masters of disguise. Disappointed she has been apprehended she asks how she did. “Catwoman-level? Egghead?” and Robin tells her she’s “definitely getting there”.
So in this trilogy of comic book stories we are given a back story, shown an origin and given a fully blown adventure with their version of Harley Quinn, the Harlequin. In these stories and others in the Batman 66 comics it is interesting to see the Joker being treated as a little more sinister than perhaps he was in the TV show. This is perhaps a reflection of the times, as in live-action and cartoons and comics we have seen The Joker get progressively more vicious, twisted and even grim. In the years since 1968, we have seen and read such interpretations as The Killing Joke where he cripples Barbara Gordon. We have seen Return of the Joker where he controls the mind of Tim Drake’s Robin with drugs and toxins, and various others interpretations. Perhaps it was necessary to make The Joker a tad more menacing to allow for something like The Joker and Harley Quinn relationship to be presented in these Batman 66 comics. Not that this trilogy of stories goes too far, but The Joker is treated with a hint of the same kind of dark mystique he has come to be known for in the years since. The Joker needs to seem like a twisted ideal, he needs to be so compelling that Harley Quinn would turn. With these stories, it is the Red Hood device that ultimately turns her evil, but she had already gone along with The Joker and Catwoman of her own accord. This shows she had an element of her personality that wanted to go along with what was happening. The Joker is very persuading to her in these stories.
Not only is Harley Quinn featured in Batman 66 comic stories but a recent Animated feature by the name of Batman and Harley Quinn which features references to the show too;
In the bar scene where we are (re-)introduced to henchmen and women of the Batman universe, among the many patrons from Batman: The Animated Series we see two of Catwoman’s henchmen dressed in the familiar black hats and leopard print shirts from the classic Batman sitting at the bar. A minute or two later we see them confused as Harley Quinn, Batman and Nightwing walk past together. A minute or so after that Batman is given a glass of milk by a waitress which is revealed to be from Catwoman’s henchmen who proceed to laugh at him as one of them raises his beer to Batman. As Harley sings Blondie’s Hanging on the Telephone we see them again as the larger of the two henchmen tells the other to “watch this”, after barging his way through the crowded bar, he goes up behind Batman making mocking gestures and faces, culminating with imitating the famous Batusi dance from the first episode of the classic Batman Hi Diddle Riddle, this prompts Batman to smack him in the face, knocking him back. The smaller henchmen runs to beat up Batman but is held back and told to wait, presumably so that Harley can finish singing. Once Harley has finished singing, almost all of the bad guys in the bar are waiting for Batman and Nightwing ready to fight. Batman drinks the milk ordered for him from Catwoman’s henchmen and then the image cuts to the outside of the bar as the fight ensues and we see words pop up on screen in the style of fights on the old show but with the following words;
BLEED! (Complete with a dripping blood effect on the letters)
OW, MY BALLS!
With the last two not being something that would’ve featured on the show it’s a clear parody having fun with and celebrating the tradition.
Ok, I admit this last connection is a bit of a stretch!
In this feature Harley Quinn is voiced by Melissa Rauch, Bernadette from The Big Bang Theory. So she has actually shared screen time and billing with the classic Batman when Adam West appeared in their celebratory 200th episode The Celebration Experimentation.
So thus far, these are the connections that Harley Quinn has to classic Batman. Next month she will feature in Batman vs Two-Face, so despite not even being created until 24 years after the end of the show Harley has wormed her way into the classic Batman universe and has taken over this year’s Batman Day!
Harley Quinn also had here own comic series running during the original run of the Batman 66 comics, so as a little extra bonus, here is the front cover of Harley Quinn #6 which was included in the Batman 66 Variant month, done by Mike Allred, who did all of the artworks for the regular Batman 66 comics;
For volume 5 of the Batman 66 comics from Amazon, click on the image below;