I sometimes peruse an artist on DeviantArt whose name is Nebezial (link HERE). He does outstanding artistic renditions of DC and Marvel characters (among others), and I wonder whether he does it as true fan-art or if he’s developing a portfolio to approach one of these companies for work. I honestly hope he does, because he’d be an awesome addition to either company’s artistic bullpen. His art doesn’t change drastically between the intentionally funny to the dramatic. And he’s consistently good.
Tonight, I was digging through his DA page and found this. It’s a story – and a side – of Harley Quinn we’ve never seen before in full; it’s only ever hinted at, or shown in the abstract.
Harley started as a psychologist with the noble but doomed idea that she might actually be able to cure the Joker of his insanity, and bring him back to the world as a fully-formed, functional human being. Little did she know that not only was he not salvageable, but that he honestly has never even wanted to be reassimilated into society. He’s mad, he’s the Batman‘s opposite number to a T. Where Batman is dark, grim and driven toward a single goal, the Joker is bright, colorful, and gleefully chaotic. He revels in his madness. He knows he’s insane. And he just doesn’t care.
Enter Harleen Quinzell, a woman either driven to make her mark as The Woman Who Cured The Joker, or at least someone willing to show him compassion, hoping that said compassion would lead him from the dark pit of his own soul. Little does she know that, rather than her pulling him out of the darkness, he will pull her into it. She turns from a dedicated woman of medicine into an anarchic, half-mad gun moll to her former patient. She falls fully and deeply under his spell.
But this comes at a price that even she couldn’t foresee: not only does the Joker revel in his madness, but part of that madness comes in the form of domestic (if you can call it that) abuse. For every time the Joker needs her to further his own ends in the eternal struggle against Batman, he coos and sweet talks her into doing his dirty work. He has her dress up – in her earliest incarnations, at least – like an actual harlequin, painting her skin white and wearing a mask that, well, hides more than it seems on the surface. But when he’s done with her, or a plan fails – with the failure always laid at her feet – or even if she simply proves “bothersome” to him as he schemes and plots his next move against his mortal enemy, he pushes her aside, like the owner of an over-eager lapdog. And that’s on the good days. On the bad days, it’s worse. It’s been heavily alluded to in the animated series (at least as far as censorship of kids’ shows would allow):
A classic case of physical, mental and emotional abuse toward someone who only wanted to help him. First, in one way: to try to save him; then another, where she believed being his zany sidekick would endear her to him. As many times as she’s had an opportunity to leave him, she’s become emotionally bound to him, like other women in abusive relationships. She’s trapped with him.
The only bright spot in her new life has been her friendship (and sometimes more) with Poison Ivy. Ivy sees through everything that Harley’s going through with “Mister J”, and is disgusted. Not with Harley, because Ivy recognizes her as a victim who wandered into a relationship far too big for her to handle. Ivy tries to help her assert her independence from the Joker, and even when she fails to help Harley win herself back, she never gives up on her friend. Ivy may be a villain, but she always has Harley’s best interests at heart.
The unfortunate evolution of Harley Quinn as a villain, however, is even darker. With every successive appearance – comics, the Arkham games and finally in Suicide Squad – she becomes more sexed up, and, foregoing her original fully-covering outfit, wears increasingly skimpy clothing, accentuating the obvious aspects of comic book women (let’s face it: tits and ass), and has become really nothing more than a scantily-clad, second rate clown princess. Possibly this is done – in subtext – to become more visually attractive to the Joker, not knowing that he couldn’t give a flying fuck what she’s wearing. His focus has, is and always will be his ongoing fight with Batman. As it was, so shall it ever be. Harley, more often than not, is either a tool to that end or just in the way.
So, as refreshing an addition Harley originally was to the Batman universe – starting in the animated series and, due to her popularity, being made “officially” a canonical character – she is a textbook case of the emotionally scarred woman in an abusive relationship, constantly striving to please her man, and constantly failing.
Which brings me to what I mentioned at the top of this article. I found this story about Harley’s descent into madness and saw it from a brand new, completely different perspective. She is not only the maligned, abused Girl Friday for one of the worst villains in the world, but she’s also a lost soul, whose only lifeline to the world as she once knew it is Poison Ivy. As much as Harley made every effort to bring the Joker out of his madness and failed, Ivy sees the hopeless spiral that Harley’s been put into, and wishes to help her, to be her friend. Possibly to even be her savior.
And with that, I present this story. If it doesn’t give you a brand new perspective on the relationship between the Joker, Harley, and Poison Ivy, I don’t know what will. I just know it’s a masterful examination of manipulation, abuse, hopelessness, loneliness, and, finally, love and friendship, and a possible way out.
Here is the link.