Considering that Harley Quinn is undoubtedly one of the most popular characters in the DCU, it’s surprising to learn that she didn’t actually originate in the comics. The character who began life as the girlfriend and henchwoman of the Joker made her debut in Batman: The Animated Series. And the inspiration for the character came from an extremely unlikely source – a daytime soap opera.
We were surprised to learn that Todd Phillips was following up his Oscar-winning DCU drama movie Joker with Folie à Deux, which will reportedly be a musical. Lady Gaga has been cast as Harley Quinn, and the current poster on IMDb for Joker 2 features Arthur and Harley dancing like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
The inspiration for one of the best DC characters actually came from a fantasy musical sequence in soap opera Days of Our Lives, which featured none other than Arleen Sorkin. Sorkin would of course go on to voice Harley Quinn. “I went in and pitched to the producers that we should do a fantasy. After I saw The Princess Bride, I thought it’d be really cute if all the characters got to play characters from that story,” Sorkin told Batman Online in 2009.
Sorkin’s Days of Our Lives character, Calliope Jones, was dressed up as a court jester in the scene. By chance, her friend and Batman writer Paul Dini was ill at home and caught the episode on TV. Seeing the jester outfit inspired him and he soon created Harley Quinn for the episode Joker’s Favor in 1992.
Harley has gone on to become an enduringly popular character in the likes of the DC animated series – which began in 2019 and has now reached Harley Quinn season 4. The series has been praised for its portrayal of Harley’s relationship with Poison Ivy. And then of course there’s Margot Robbie’s brilliantly twisted take on the character in the Suicide Squad movies and Birds of Prey.
Lady Gaga’s Harley Quinn is definitely a welcome addition to the Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix-spin on the classic DC villain. From the glimpses we’ve had so far, it seems as though it will still be another dark take on the characters, despite the musical element. Phillips released a first-look image of Gaga that featured her with disheveled hair and smeared make-up.
Joker was nominated for an astonishing 11 Oscars, and won two – for Phoenix’s Lead Actor performance and for its score by Hildur Guðnadóttir. I’m intrigued to find out to find out how the musical elements are incorporated and exactly how far into fantasy Phillips takes it.
While we wait for the release of Joker 2 in 2024, check out our guides to upcoming DC movies such as Aquaman 2 and Superman Legacy. Find out what we know so far about Matt Reeves’ The Batman 2, as well as James Gunn’s plans for Chapter 1 – Gods and Monsters, and how to watch all of the DC movies in order.