Special editions, masks and more celebrate Harley Quinn as she takes over Batman Day

Copyright DC Entertainment Inc.

DC Entertainment released a logo reflecting Harley Quinn’s takeover of Batman Day.

Andrew A. Smith

Tribune Content Agency

Can it really be 25 years since Harley Quinn first entered the pop culture lexicon? Well, it’s true – she first appeared on Batman: The Animated Series in 1992 – and DC Comics is celebrating by letting the Maid in Motley take over “Batman Day” Saturday, Sept. 23.

That would be a bigger deal if more people knew about Batman Day. Begun in 2014 – the Dark Knight’s 75th anniversary – Batman Day is often more a concept than an actual celebration. Still, DC usually gins up some decent swag to be given away or sold at participating comic shops.

And this year, as Harley Quinn takes the spotlight, they’ve turned it up a few notches.

According to DC, “more than 5,000 libraries, comic shops, bookstores and other partners worldwide will host ‘Harley Quinn Batman Day Takeover’ activations, including cosplay contests, activities for kids and distributing free copies of three special edition issues.” I’m not sure what an “activation” is, but that’s a lot more ambitious than the previous three Batman Days! (Visit dccomics.com/batmanday to find local activities, or find your local comic shop by calling 1-800-COMICBO.)

What’s in those three free comics? So glad you asked:

 

All covers copyright DC Entertainment Inc.

Dark Knight Returns #1 was partly responsible for comics being taken more seriously. Batman Day 2017 Special Edition #1, a Batman Day freebie with an homage cover, might have the reverse effect.

* Batman Day 2017 Special Edition #1 reprints the first chapter of Batman Vol. 3: I Am Bane, by writer Tom King and artist David Finch (from the recent Batman #16), which has nothing to do with Harley Quinn, but is cool anyway. Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, who handled Harley’s adventures for years, join Bret Blevins in a three-page backup story. The cover, by Ryan Sook, features Batman and Harley Quinn silhouetted by lightning in an homage to Dark Knight Returns #1.

* Harley Quinn Batman Day 2017 Special Edition #1 features four tales. Conner, Palmiotti and John Timms provide the first chapter of the Joker Loves Harley graphic novel, recounting Harley’s time in Las Vegas with Poison Ivy and Catwoman. Paul Dini, who co-created Harley Quinn on Batman: The Animated Series, writes a Joker/Harley story, illustrated by Chad Hardin and Alex Sinclair. Chip Zdarsky (Jughead) and artist Joe Quinones ape the style of Animated for their story. Daniel Kibblesmith (The Late Show with Steven Colbert, Valiant High) tosses Harley, Ivy and Swamp Thing together in a hurricane, with art by David LaFuente.

* DC Super Hero Girls Batman Day 2017 Special Edition #1 provides a sneak preview of the upcoming all-ages original graphic novel “DC Super Hero Girls: Out of the Bottle.” The Super Hero Girls franchise de-ages all of the publisher’s major female characters for adventures in high school, and is aimed at younger readers. This particular story is by writer Shea Fontana and artists Marcelo DiChiara and Agnes Garbowska, with a cover by Yancey Labat.

Other events include various writers and artists doing signings around the country – again, check the DC Comics website – plus team-ups with various retailers, from Barnes & Noble to Hot Topic, for Bat- and Harley-related merchandise. Posters, Halloween masks and postcards will be available at select retailers.

 

Copyright DC Entertainment Inc.

Download the “Harley Quinn Batman Day Takeover” activity kit from dccomics.com/batmanday, and get this Harley Quinn cut-out mask, along with plenty of other Batman Day information and merchandise.

It’s the 21st century, though, so you know most of the action will be digital. DC’s All Access digital series (again, see the website) will host a series of Bat-segments Sept. 18-23. Don’t forget to download the official “Harley Quinn Batman Day Takeover” activity kit, including cut-out paper masks, comic book activity sheets, coloring pages, trivia and games. In addition, the DC Fans YouTube channel will post Batman and Harley Quinn fan tribute videos every day, Sept. 18-23.

And then there are the digital comics. The “Harley Quinn 25th Anniversary sale” runs Sept. 12-23, and includes major Harley comics from the last quarter century. Another sale runs Sept. 19-23 for non-Harley-specific Bat-books. DC’s digital comics are available through readdcentertainment.com, comiXology, Google Play, iBooks, Nook and Madefire.

 

Copyright Warner Home Video

In the Batman and Harley Quinn animated movie, the Caped Crusader and a former Robin, Dick “Nightwing” Grayson, are forced to team up with the Maid in Motley to prevent an ecological disaster.

And don’t forget Batman and Harley Quinn, an animated movie in the DC Universe Original Movies series, released Aug. 15 on digital, and Aug. 29 on Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack (which includes a digital copy), Blue-ray Deluxe Giftset, Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD.

It’s a movie featuring oddball team-ups, where Poison Ivy and Jason “Floronic Man” Woodrue combine to save the planet’s ecology (by eliminating most of humanity), forcing Batman and Nightwing to find a partner who can track down Ivy (guess who). Given that it’s a story by Bruce Timm, Harley’s other co-creator, it should be a true take on the Clown Princess of Crime (and therefore a headache for the Dynamic Duo).

But if all you want to do is read some good Harley Quinn stories, just get the upcoming Harley Quinn: A Celebration of 25 Years ($39.99), which includes most of the important stories starring the Maid of Mischief. It includes, for example, the award-winning Batman: Harley Quinn special (1999), in which Harley first leaves The Joker to star on her own in the DC Universe – well, after the Clown Prince of Crime ties her to a rocket and shoots her into a toxic waste dump. It was in this issue that the Cupid of Comedy gained super-powers of a sort, as fellow supervillain Poison Ivy made Harley immune to all toxins (as a shield against Joker), which embued her with greater strength, stamina and durability as a side effect.

But while Celebration does get a lot right, according to its Amazon.com description it omits what is probably the most awarded Harley Quinn story of all time, Batman Adventures: Mad Love (1994). This 64-page tale gave us the first Harley Quinn origin story, as an Arkham Asylum psychiatrist named Harleen Quinzel who is seduced and driven mad by The Joker.

Mad Love was an especially poignant story, one in which Harleen was a clearly a victim of domestic violence. Despite constant abuse – and occasional murder attempts – at The Joker’s hands, she is devoted to him in a way that should make us all queasy.

“So tell me, Harley,” says her former Arkham supervisor, as Quinzel is first brought in as a patient instead of a doctor. “How did it feel to be so dependent on a man that you’d give up everything for him, gaining nothing in return?”

“It felt like a kiss,” replies Quinzel from her wheelchair, where she is bound from head to toe in bandages and casts. It may not be subtle, but it is heartbreaking.

But Harley proved to be extremely popular after Mad Love and her many Animated appearances, resulting in her headlining a variety of titles. That required changes, as what works for a supporting character doesn’t always work for a lead one. In this case, especially, Harley had to lose her victimhood and gain agency on her own.

And so it is that, as the star of Harley Quinn, Harley Quinn’s Little Black Book, Harley Quinn and Power Girl, Suicide Squad and other titles, Harley is more leader than follower now. She has her own teams (Suicide Squad, Gang of Harleys), team-ups (Power Girl, Wonder Woman, Catwoman, others), romantic interests (Poison Ivy, various men) and jobs (landlord of a Coney Island building, roller derby).

Oh, and she’s not a villain any more. For the last several years, Quinzel has been divorced almost entirely from the Bat-universe, allowing her to follow a path of – well, not quite heroism. Anti-heroism, maybe. Or heroism with a punchline.

That sounds a bit like what Harley would say, doesn’t it?

Find Captain Comics by email (capncomics@aol.com), on his website (captaincomics.ning.com), on Facebook (Captain Comics Round Table) or on Twitter (@CaptainComics).

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Until this promotion started I had never heard of Batman Day.

Same here. Almost makes you think DC just made it up.

Richard Willis said:

Until this promotion started I had never heard of Batman Day.

There's also a Doctor Who Day, also this month. Not sure who made that one up.

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