Harley-volution (Pt. 7)

[Continuing my compulsive cataloguing of Harley Quinn‘s various on-screen appearances, in (roughly) chronological order. Contains will-crushing fist-bumps and SPOILERS!!!]

Harley Quinn in “Justice League Action” (ep #1.25)After her brief cameo in an earlier instalment of the short-and-snappy Justice League Action cartoon series, our ‘Harley’ (Tara Strong) returned for a slightly more substantial (though still sadly subordinate) appearance in ep #1.25, aka “Garden of Evil”. Once again written by co-creator Paul Dini, the episode saw her playing bridesmaid to gal-pal ‘Poison Ivy’, who was using her apparently-unlimited plant-control powers to manipulate ‘Swamp Thing’ (Mark Hamill) into marrying her, and destroying the eponymous super-hero squad as a wedding gift! I have to say I found Ivy’s voice especially alluring this time around, but it wasn’t until the end credits rolled that I realised that was because she was being played by none-other-than Natasha Leggero! Although Ivy was the main antagonist of the episode, Harley did get to bust out her old “Boingy! Boingy!” catchphrase while bouncing around on spring-heeled shoes, and even managed to take down the far-more-powerful ‘Firestorm’ (P.J. Byrne) with nothing more than a sucker-punch with a boxing-glove! Hurrah!

Many months later, she managed to score a more central role (and titular namecheck) in ep #1.42 (“Harley Goes Ape”), though she didn’t actually show her face on-screen until two minutes into the episode, which only ran to ten minutes total! Tch! Still, at least she was credited with the crazy criminal cunning to exploit the distraction/danger of a giant ape attack in Metropolis to sneak into an abandoned jewellery store and bag herself some bling. Her heist was rudely interrupted by the do-gooding ‘Stargirl’ (Natalie Lander), who turfed Harley back out onto the street, where she had an impromptu encounter with the rampaging primate, ‘Titano’, an old chum from her days as a behavioural zoologist at S.T.A.R. Labs (who was subsequently shot off into space and embiggened by a Kryptonite comet). Unfortunately, he was now being piggy-backed and worked like a furry meat-puppet by ‘Gorilla Grodd’ (David Sobolov), so the reunion was sweet, but short-lived.

Harley Quinn in “Justice League Action” (ep #1.42)After ‘Superman’ (Jason J. Lewis) and Stargirl managed to prise the malevolent mind-controlling monkey* off of Titano’s back, he went rogue, and scooped Harley up for the inevitable King Kong spoof. “I seem to remember seeing something like this in a movie”, she observes, as they scale the Daily Planet tower, before noting that “It didn’t end well!” Thankfully she and Stargirl were able to sooth the savage beast with a song (and a giant promotional teddy-bear), before he took a fatal tumble… but then Supes “rewarded” our anti-heroine for helping to save the city by shoving her in the back of a meat-wagon with Grodd, simply because she still happened to have some “hot rocks” on her person! Harsh! That said, it did give her a chance to bust out her therapy pad, and offer the stewing simian some free psychoanalysis, so all’s well that ends well, eh?

Overall, this episode (once again written by Dini) was a very enjoyable romp, with numerous humorous highlights… such as Harley hyping herself as “America’s screwball sweetheart” (and rather less plausibly as “Batman’s arch-enemy”), and the ease/alacrity with which she casually picked the lock on her standard-issue police handcuffs! I also dug her odd-couple dynamic with Stargirl, who she nick-named “powerpuff”… presumably as an in-joke-y reference to one of Strong’s (many) other voice-over roles, as ‘Bubbles’ on The Powerpuff Girls…?

Harley Quinn in “The Lego Batman Movie” (2017)Meanwhile, over in a whole other animated “universe”, Harley returned to the world of sticky toy-bricks in The Lego Batman Movie (2017)… which, much like its predecessor (The Lego Movie (2014)), made me chuckle and gasp many times, but never laugh-out-loud. They’re both superficial frantic fun, and very enjoyable in the moment, but much harder to care about after the credits have rolled, imho. Although I’d been looking forward to hearing Jenny Slate’s take on Harley, I found myself rather underwhelmed by the end result… largely because she wasn’t really given a substantial role to play, or any ear-catching dialogue or memorable jokes to work with. The same goes for the other supporting female characters, voiced by ringers like Riki Lindhome (as ‘Poison Ivy’ and ‘Wicked Witch of the West’), Kate Micucci (as ‘Clayface’), Zoë Kravitz (as ‘Catwoman’), Ellie Kemper (as ‘Phyllis’, gate-keeper of The Phantom Zone), and Laura Kightlinger (as ‘Reporter Pippa’ and ‘Orca’)… though Rosario Dawson fared a lot better as ‘Barbara Gordon’ (aka ‘Batgirl’), one of the main antagonists in the movie, who succeeded her father as Gotham’s Police Commissioner, and attempted to end the egotistical vigilante’s lone-wolf law-bending. Btw, why does every single Lego-based Batman movie have to kick-off with ‘The Joker’ (Zach Galifianakis) recruiting the rest of the “rogue’s gallery” to wreck up his home city? Seriously, this is the third time that’s happened now, and it’s getting kinda boring… meh…

Note: IMDb has now discontinued its character-centric filmography pages, which will make it much trickier to keep track of Harley’s appearances as she flits from screen to screen. Dammit!

* I know that technically Grodd’s also an ape, not a “monkey”, but that spoils the alliteration/pun.

About Dee CrowSeer

A comic book writer with an interest in feminism, philosophy, and affirmative action. He/him.
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