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Birds of Prey is faithful to Harley Quinn’s extreme origins

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With Birds of Prey screaming into theaters, we’re shining a spotlight on the DC Comics movie’s cast of characters — from A to Zsasz. There are some long histories behind some of the superheroes and villains, but here’s everything you need to know about Harley Quinn:

What’s Harley Quinn’s origin story in the comics?

Dr. Harleen Frances Quinzel, PhD, was a respected psychologist at Arkham Asylum until the Joker manipulated her professional fascination with him into romantic obsession — a feeling that he has arguably never reciprocated (at least not in any healthy way). He put her through the same chemical bath that birthed him, bleaching her skin white, and she became his loyal partner in crime.

Who created Harley Quinn?

Invented by the makers of Batman: The Animated Series as a one-off henchwoman, the production was so tickled by the idea of the Joker having an old-time moll that they kept Harley on, and eventually established the origin story she still has today.

Harley was defined by her unreciprocated infatuation with the Joker for a long time. No matter how terribly he treated her, and no matter how hard her closest friend, Poison Ivy, tried, she always forgave him his betrayals and returned to his predatory arms.

But, since Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s 2013 Harley Quinn series, Harley has successfully distanced herself from her abusive ex, and taken on a Deadpool-like role as a semi-reformed villain just trying to keep herself and her friends safe. All while cracking jokes and stretching the fourth wall, of course. Conner and Palmiotti’s series also canonically paired her up with Poison Ivy in a romantic relationship, making two decades of queer subtext into text.

Harley also joined the Suicide Squad for the first time in this era, a place gave her her live action debut in the Suicide Squad movie, and now in Birds of Prey.

What are Harley Quinn’s powers or abilities?

Harley doesn’t really have any superpowers. But she is an accomplished gymnast, hand-to-hand fighter, and earned her PhD fair and square, graduating at the top of her class.

Who plays Harley Quinn in the movie?

That would be Margot Robbie, Oscar-nominated for her role in last year’s Bombshell, and the original live-action Harley in Suicide Squad. Her version of Harley is pretty much the same in the movie — even her taxidermied beaver is from the comics.

What Harley Quinn comics should I read?

Batman Adventures: Mad Love #1 (1993)

Harley debuted in the 1990s animated series, meaning that this graphic novel origin story — by series producers and Harley’s co-creators Paul Dini and Bruce Timm — has an air of authenticity unparalleled in comics; it helps that it’s just as funny as you want it to be and shows the pre-emancipated Harley in the way most fans remember.

Harley Quinn #0-8 (2013)

It took more than a decade for creators to get a handle on how to make Harley work in the mainstream DC comic book universe, but the team of Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti hit paydirt with their mix of lowbrow humor and unexpected heart, turning the character into a favorite of an all-new generation of fans.

Harley Quinn #25 (2016)

It was the story that had to happen, and unexpectedly, one that somehow worked: Harley confronting Joker over their toxic relationship turned out to be a triumph for Harley and the readers alike, allowing her to acknowledge the bad and move towards something more rewarding (i.e., dating Poison Ivy).

What’s Harley Quinn’s zodiac sign?

Why are you asking this? OK, fine. According to her files, as seen in Suicide Squad, she’s a Cancer.

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