Here’s How Suicide Squad Corrects That Problem With Harley Quinn’s New 52 Origins

Friday, 05 August 2016 - 6:31PM
DC Comics
Suicide Squad
Friday, 05 August 2016 - 6:31PM
Here’s How Suicide Squad Corrects That Problem With Harley Quinn’s New 52 Origins
Warning: Mild spoilers for Suicide Squad follow!

Though Suicide Squad is receiving a mixed reaction from audiences and a decidedly negative one from critics, like Batman v Superman, there are at least some positives that are universally agreed upon. For Suicide Squad, one of those positives is Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn.

Harley Quinn is undoubtedly one of the most popular comic book characters of the modern era, and her addition to the Suicide Squad's New 52 team is clearly one of the primary reasons the book has sold so well over the past five years. However, with the numerous changes made to DC's comic book universe with Geoff Johns' Flashpoint (the same story being adapted on the upcoming season of the CWs The Flash), there was a large portion of Harley's fanbase that was displeased with a few particular alterations to her character.

The original iteration of Harley Quinn's origins had Dr. Harleen Quinzel, an in-house psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum, falling for the Joker during their therapy sessions together and eventually helping him escape. The New 52 version of her origins held to the same story for the most part, with the exception that in the end, the Joker pushed Harley into the same vat of acid that he fell into, bleaching her skin and turning her even madder than she already was.

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However, this addition to her origins was an act done against her will - she begged Joker not to push her from that ledge. This made Harley appear as more of an unwilling victim than she had ever appeared before. In the New 52, she became a sociopathic, psychotic monster not totally by choice, but at least partially because of the Joker's cruelty. Needless to say, a large portion of Harley fans were totally displeased with this creative decision.  

Fast forward to Suicide Squad, the first live action adaptation of Harley Quinn. Many old-school Harley fans were initially disappointed to see that this version of Harley would follow the bleached skin, pigtailed version of the character that had emerged from the New 52, as this would undoubtedly mean that her agency in her transformation from Harleen to Harley would be stripped, like it had been in the New 52…right?  

In actuality, the film changed things a bit to fit a brand new version of Harley - a version with bleached skin like the New 52 iteration, but with the same agency and choice of the Harley from Paul Dini's famous HQ origin story, Mad Love. Instead of the Joker cruelly pushing Harley from the ledge against her will, the film shows her "taking an oath" to the Joker and falling into the vat as a free-will expression of her undying love for him. Likewise, when the Joker says he's going to hurt her, really, really bad during his escape from Arkham, Harley excitedly says she can take it.  

This creative decision was perhaps one of the wisest to come from the DCEU thus far. It allows the film universe to keep Harley's modern comic book look, while at the same time keeping the same agency she possessed when she was first created. While the film is receiving less than stellar reviews, one of the things that comic book fans in particular seem to agree on is that the characters used in the movie are largely faithful to their comic counterparts. Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn is perhaps the greatest testament to that. 

Suicide Squad is out in theaters now.
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Suicide Squad