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Posted on Aug 8, 2016

Villain Spotlight: Harley Quinn

Villain Spotlight: Harley Quinn

We’re huge fans of superheroes at, but today it’s time to shine the spotlight on one of our favorite villains of all-time: Harley Quinn. She might be “just” The Joker’s bubbly, quirky, and literally insane sidekick in most media, but she’s one of the few sidekicks in comics that has a fandom large enough to put top-billing characters’ to shame. Also, she is technically sort of a superhero if you count the Suicide Squad, which is the best kind of superhero. Keep on reading to discover facts about Harley’s past and get some awesome Harley Quinn costume ideas while you’re at it.

Harley Quinn Character Bio

There’s no denying that Harley Quinn is a supervillain and female character of iconic status, but she is quite a bit younger than most of her partners in crime. The Joker and The Riddler, not surprisingly, have both been around since Batman got his start in Detective Comics the 1940s, as have The Penguin, Two-Face, and The Scarecrow.  Mr. Freeze, under his current moniker, and Harley’s frequent frenemy Poison Ivy debuted in the 1960s. Villains like Ra’s al Ghul, Killer Croc, Black Mask, and Deathstroke first appeared over the next two decades, and are arguably more towards the edge of the top tier of most recognizable DC rogues.

Harley Quinn, Joker, and Batman, Cropped from textless variant cover of Mad Love Vol 1 No 1, art by Bruce TimmFrom Batman Adventures: Mad Love textless cover variant, art by Bruce Timm

Harley debuted in the Batman universe after all of those villains, in the September 1992 episode of Batman: The Animated Series titled, “Joker’s Favor.” She was originally intended as a one-off sidekick to the Joker for that single episode, but fans fell in love immediately. She was given comic book appearances in The Batman Adventures beginning in 1993, and Harley’s backstory was officially introduced and expanded upon in the single-issue comic Mad Love in 1994. In the book, Harleen Quinzell is a doctor and psychiatric intern at Arkham Asylum, who volunteers to conduct an analysis of the then-incarcerated Joker. The two quickly fall in love and Harleen helps the Joker escape, becoming his criminal accomplice in the process. After seeing him beaten one too many times at the hands of Batman, Harleen is inspired to take on her alter ego of Harley Quinn permanently, jester costume and all. Poison Ivy is the one responsible for actually turning Harley into a bona fide supervillain, though. An injection from Ivy’s chemical arsenal bestows upon Harley the powers of superhuman strength and agility, and grants her immunity to most poisons and toxins as well. (If you’re going to be friends with Poison Ivy, that definitely seems like an important thing to have.)

Harley Quinn in Comics

Cropped textless variant of cover art for Batman: Harley Quinn #1, art by Alex RossFrom Batman: Harley Quinn textless cover variant, art by Alex Ross

The first “official” Harley Quinn comic, Batman: Harley Quinn #1, was released in 1999 and saw the character display a much more violent and sadistic demeanor than she had previously – the comic Harley Quinn relied much less on humor, slapstick, and “pranks gone wrong” than the animated Harley. Unlike the Joker though, Harley isn’t completely ruthless all the time. During part of one story arc in which Poison Ivy has Batman hopelessly trapped in a snare of vines, with the coup de grâce imminent, Harley persuades Ivy to spare his life.

Another standalone monthly comic series, Harley Quinn, was published from December 2000 to January 2004. The focus of these books is Harley’s solo supervillain career, in which she leaves Gotham City for Metropolis. After forming her own crime syndicate with Poison Ivy at her side, Harley also undergoes a tremendous amount of self-discovery (and character development) in this series, and eventually returns to Arkham Asylum of her own free will.

Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad

Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad Vol 4 No 5 promo art by Dan PanosianFrom Suicide Squad Vol 4 #5 Promo, art by Dan Panosian

The Suicide Squad, originally created in 1959 but rebooted into its current form in 1987, is a team of DC supervillains that have been captured by the government and work as special agents and operatives in order to reduce their prison sentences. (This also helps to canonically explain why so many high-profile villains are just out and about all the time.) Instead of a superhero team, it’s an anti-hero team. When the 1987 version of the team was re-launched as part of the New 52 continuity in 2011, which reimagined the entire DC, Harley Quinn was added to the Squad as one of its lead members, along with Deadshot. New Suicide Squad, the current comic series, continues to feature Harley and Deadshot prominently, and added Deathstroke, Black Manta, and Joker’s Daughter.

Recently, a Suicide Squad film adaptation was announced for 2016, as the planned third installment of DC Comics’ shared universe films, following 2013’s Man of Steel and 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Harley Quinn will be a member of the team, played by Margot Robbie. Other confirmed cast members include Will Smith as Deadshot and Jared Leto as The Joker. The villains Rick Flag, Captain Boomerang, Enchantress, Killer Croc, Slipknot, Katana, and El Diablo will appear as well.

Harley Quinn in Batman: Arkham

Batman: Arkham is one of the best-selling and most critically acclaimed trilogies of superhero video games (and video games, period) ever made. Seriously, we wrote a whole blog post about it. Check out that link if you haven’t seen it yet.

With the fourth and final game, Arkham Knight, coming later in 2015 to tie up all the loose ends, Harley Quinn is seen as one of Batman’s primary adversaries. She’s been in the other three, too, even getting her own downloadable sidequest in Arkham City, but is poised to be more central to the main storyline than ever before in this installment. After all, Harley’s image is literally the very first shot of the “Gotham is Mine” trailer for Arkham Knight (above), so that has to mean something.


Harley Quinn Costumes

Harley Quinn Villains Group Costume Ideas

With our guide to Harley Quinn concluded, it’s time to show you how you can get her look. For those looking for a little nostalgia, there’s no other way to go then the classic red and black jumpsuit. This was Harley’s trademark look when she got her start in Batman: The Animated Series, and it’s the one that most people still associate most closely with her. Complete with jester hat (inflatable comedy mallet sold separately), it’s perfect for any Harley enthusiast.

For those interested in a sexier Harley Quinn costume look, the Harley Quinn Arkham video costumes are the way to go. We mentioned above that she’s a playable character for a certain downloadable side mission in Arkham City, and this Arkham City Harley Quinn costume perfectly replicates her appearance. Faux-leather pants, gloves and matching corseted top are all included, but adding a few accessories of your own, like some studded bracelets, belts, or high-heeled boots, is an easy way to add even more quality. Double pigtails and smudgy makeup are pretty easy to make up on the fly.

Harley’s look as seen in Arkham Knight can be yours as well. This Harley Quinn costume features a frilly mini-dress with matching knee socks and arm-warmers. Black tights, choker necklaces, and black boots are perfect accessories for this one.

Keep in mind that Harley Quinn and Joker make a great couples costume, too. Summer convention season and Halloween season alike are great times to bring it out. If you’re attending an event with a whole group of friends, then make it a group costumes affair. Joker, Bane, Deathstroke, Catwoman, Penguin, Scarecrow, and Two-Face complete your DC Rogues Gallery. Or, use Batman costumes to make it heroes vs. villains.


Harley Quinn Makeup Tutorial

Our friend Kristiana created this Harley Quinn makeup look with one of our costumes as inspiration. It’s a little more dark and twisted than Harley’s typical appearance – which is saying quite a lot, when you really think about it – and we think it’s absolutely awesome! Click here to visit her YouTube channel and take a look at more of her makeup and face paint work, or click play on the video below to see her step by step Harley Quinn tutorial.



Are you as much of a Harley Quinn fan as we are? If you liked this post and want to see more like it, then tell us which villains we should talk about next. Find us on Facebook and Twitter @BuyCostumes to tell us what you think, or check out our Pinterest boards for more costume ideas.



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