It’s Christmastime again, so ‘tis the season for me to read and watch a buncha Christmas specials and use them to reflect on what Christmas means to me just like Stevie Wonder does in the very song which inspired this series. And, just like Stevie Wonder sings about, “All these things and more, darling (all these things and more) / That’s what Christmas means to me, my love,” Christmas means a lot of things to me, too. This time Harley Quinn, the Clown Princess of Coney Island, provides my avenue for reflection as I ponder what Christmas means to me (my love!) care of Harley Quinn Holiday Special #1! Written by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti with art by Mauricet (“Bad Toy”), Brandt Peters (“Get Yer Cheer Outta My Ear”), and Darwyn Cook (“K!llin’ T!me”), Harley Quinn Holiday Special #1 was originally published on 10 December 2014. I love Harley Quinn! I love Christmas! And I’d say, “I love them together even more than I expected” but I absolutely expected to love Harley Quinn at Christmas a lot so I was very correct in my assumption!
I’ve often heard it said we’re living in the era of Prestige Television (or Peak Television, if you prefer). Regardless of the terminology, there is the general sense among people who think, write, and talk about these things that the 21st century has seen the rise of a Golden Age – if not The Golden Age – of Television. The caliber of what’s being offered on TV is generally considered to have risen. There are more “high quality” shows generating more critical acclaim than ever before. The line between “TV star” and the once-more prestigious “movie star” is blurring. In fact, these TV shows with shorter seasons, renown casts, and complex storytelling, are often touted as six (or ten (or thirteen)) hour movies, broken up into smaller installments. You couple this with the rise of streaming services (and the accompanying “streaming wars” where each service tries to outperform the others to earn your subscription fee) alongside the culture of binge-watching and our experience of television’s been transformed. It is a remarkable time to be consuming such content and the excited query, “Have you seen [fill-in-the-blank-show] yet??” drives our pop culture conversations like never before.
The thing is, my answer is almost always “no.” Like 9/10 times it’s “no.” And here’s why.
I adore HBO Max’s Harley Quinn: The Animated Series. It fundamentally shifted my relationship with the character. Before I watched the show, I enjoyed Harley Quinn. After watching it, I began tracking down every Harley comic I could find! In the process, she became a very important character to me. Naturally, I was excited when I heard of Tee Franklin (writer) and Max Sarin (artist)’s Harley Quinn: The Animated Series: The Eat. BANG! Kill. Tour, billed as Season 2.5. The comic captures everything I love about the show and features serious character development for both Harley and Poison Ivy, something all too rare in stories set between films in a series or seasons of a TV show. This development, woven through a story with all the profanity, insanity, and hilarity you’d expect from Harley Quinn: The Animated Series, enriches the characters and serves as a beautiful model for readers. Any comic which can do all that while also including the line “Piss cakes of a dick” is a true gift :D.
Bill McKibben’s introduction to his 2019 book, Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?, begins by reflecting on his 1989 text, “As the title indicates, The End of Nature was not a cheerful book, and sadly its gloom has been vindicated. My basic point was that humans had so altered the planet that not an inch was beyond our reach, an idea that scientists underlined a decade later when they began referring to our era as the Anthropocene. This volume is bleak as well – in some ways bleaker, because more time has passed and we are deeper in the hole…Put simply, between ecological destruction and technological hubris, the human experiment is now in question. The stakes feel very high, and the odds very long, and the trends very ominous.” This is why a part of me can’t help but root, however conflictedly, for Poison Ivy in G. Willow Wilson (writer), Marcio Takara (artist), Arif Prianto (colorist), and Hassan Otsman-Elhaou (letterer)’s new miniseries, Poison Ivy, despite her goal being, you know, the absolute end of the human race. Because maybe we kinda deserve it? At least maybe we don’t not deserve it.
It’s International Women’s Day and for the fourth year in a row I’ve teamed up with some fellow bloggers – Kalie of Just Dread-full, Jeff of The Imperial Talker, and Nancy and Kathleen of Graphic Novelty2 – to celebrate some of our favorite female characters in all of fiction. This year I was having trouble deciding on who to write about. I wanted to rewatch Harley Quinn on HBO Max and read Tee Franklin’s Harley Quinn the Animated Series: The Eat. BANG! Kill. Tour but should I write about Harley Quinn or Poison Ivy? Then it hit me! The entire show (and comic which serves as Season 2.5) is anchored in their relationship. I would be hard pressed to write about one without writing about the other. Plus, for a series celebrating “fearlessness,” it’s within their friendship where Harley and Ivy find and demonstrate the most incredible courage. Standing beside each other, they (ultimately) own and face their greatest fears. So I’m writing about Harley and Ivy and the type of friendship we should all be so lucky to have.
Given the focus of this piece it’ll have major spoilers for S1&2 of Harley Quinn as well as light spoilers for Tee Franklin’s (as brilliant as it is beautiful) Harley Quinn the Animated Series: The Eat. BANG! Kill. Tour.
While Harley Quinn is often framed as an antihero in the comics, she most certainly isn’t. She is as much a superhero as anyone in the DC Universe and, being a survivor of abuse, she is stronger than just about any hero DC has, too. Since falling in love with her character (thanks Harley Quinn on HBO Max!) I’ve read every Harley comic from 2013 to the present and she’s not done anything remotely antihero-ish in any of them. Yes, Harley’s wild, a little chaotic, and has an impulse control problem (all of which she admits) but being a free spirit isn’t the same as being morally ambivalent. Her actions in the comics, again and again, are remarkably heroic. And I will die on this hill ;D. Since seeing The Suicide Squad I’ve been wondering if the same holds true in the movies. In the comics, Harley Quinn is a true superhero and the type of character we should all aspire to be like – as compassionate, loving, and open as she is brave. But what about the DCEU (DC Extended Universe)? Is Harley an antihero in the films or, like the comics, is she a superhero lacking the recognition she deserves?
Harley Quinn has had legions of loyal fans for ages. For a long time, I mainly knew her as the Joker’s girlfriend on Batman: The Animated Series. I knew DC had brought her into their comics’ continuity. I knew she and the Joker had broken up (maybe? sort of?). I knew she’d shifted from villain to antihero to star in her own comic. I’d heard her referred to as “DC’s Deadpool.” But what about her brought such adoration among readers? In a 2016 interview with Vulture, DC Comics’ Publisher and CCO Jim Lee said, “I refer to her as the fourth pillar in our publishing line, behind Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.” That’s HUGE. Lee is equating Harley to DC’s Trinity, their Big Three, the foundation upon which DC is built. After reading the near 100 comics comprising Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s run on Harley Quinn (yes, I got excited and bought them all (no, I have no regrets)) I get it.
On a whim, I decided to try watching Harley Quinn on HBO Max. My only real experience with Harley Quinn up to this point had been Batman: The Animated Series, obviously, and DC’s recent Suicide Squad and Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn. As I watched, I thought it’d be fun to write about the experience as I did last year, when I tried to binge-watch ninety-six episodes of Supergirl in the nineteen days I had left before the new season premiered. Instead of doing any sort of analysis or deconstruction or anything like that, I just wrote my stream-of-consciousness thoughts as I watched. Now I’ve discovered the DC Universe’s Harley Quinn show! And, while I watched at a more leisurely pace (relatively speaking), I decided to write the same sort of piece. Let’s see where this goes…
Happy Halloween everyone!! As the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead weakens (thanks Samhain…), we’ll spend the night with lighted jack-o-lanters to ward off nefarious spirits and decked out in all sorts of ghoulish garb to blend in with the dead who will traverse the land of the living. Or, you know, we may do all those things in the name of free candy (yay for Reese’s Cups!!!). Either way, today’s Halloween and that means I’ve only one Joker left to examine in this series. Yay! So let’s say hello to Mr. Jared Leto. Continue reading
Alright, so after all the wedding excitement this weekend (Congrats again to Jeff and Jen! It was such a beautiful day!!) Kalie and I finally got to the theatre to see Suicide Squad this afternoon. In fact, we just left the movies and have settled down in our favorite coffee shop to enjoy a snack and do some writing. While there’s a surprising amount that can be explored and deconstructed in the film, I’m not quite ready to do that yet having only seen it once. Rather, I’d like to discuss my thoughts on the film in the same light I explored Batman: Arkham Asylum and shared those articles from Kalie and Jeff last week. I want to talk about how the film presents the nature of evil in its cast of super villains. If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t fret. The post will be free of any real plot spoilers. Continue reading