There is no comic book relationship as well-known or misinterpreted as the bond shared between the Joker and Harley Quinn. Despite the fandom that has rallied around their coupling, the history of the Joker and Harley Quinn is a strange, twisted, and startlingly violent tale. Even in a medium that is notoriously sexist, Joker and Harley give the term “toxic relationship” a whole new definition.
Looking back on all the times the Joker abused Harley Quinn, one might mistake the demented clown’s actions as typically morbid; after all, when isn’t the Joker acting like an unhinged killer? However, the character often takes his villainy to new heights when he’s with Harley, resulting in scenes that are ugly in a manner that feels far too real for comics.
As the popularity of both characters continues to rise, it’s important to look back at some of their relationship’s darkest moments. While the duo certainly makes for a fun set of Halloween costumes, this isn’t the type of romance you want to emulate.
Joker Locks Harley In A Prison Filled With The Corpses Of "The 'Other' Harleys"
It’s hard to imagine anything worse than coming face-to-face with the your doppelgänger’s corpse. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what the Joker forces Harley Quinn to do in a particularly gruesome section of DC’s Suicide Squad reboot.
After shackling Harley to a grimy prison wall, the Joker proceeds to delight in physically and mentally torturing her for hours on end. To make things worse, the Joker populated the cell with the bodies of several other victims, all of whom are dressed and styled identically to Harley.
Not exactly how one imagines a romantic getaway.
Joker Abandons Harley While She Is Pregnant
The comics have never hidden the abusive elements of the Joker’s relationship with Harley Quinn. However, the plot rarely takes time to elaborate on Harley’s perspective. While it’s tempting to focus on the Joker’s never-ending run of twisted antics, it’s also extremely important to consider how Mr. J.’s actions might make Harley feel, especially when compounded over time.
One of the few glimpses into Harley’s damaged psyche comes during an intimate conversation with Black Canary. Here, the reader learns that Harley was at one point pregnant with the Joker’s baby, and that he knowingly abandons her for the entirety of her pregnancy. After Harley gave birth to her daughter Lucy, the child was sent to live with Harley’s sister.
Joker Pushes Harley Into A Vat Of Chemicals
From the outside, it was clear from the very beginning that the Joker and Harley Quinn’s relationship was not a healthy one. When they met, she was working as his psychiatrist, and he slowly drove her crazy over the course of their sessions.
In her first and largest act of devotion, Harley allows herself to be thrown into a vat of chemicals, changing her in the same way that Joker was once transformed. As was the case with Joker, exposure to the chemicals causes Harley to become increasingly unhinged. After experiencing this fate himself, it’s truly sickening to see Joker doom the woman he loves to the same fate.
Joker Offers Harley Up As A Volcanic Sacrifice
After years of being at each other’s throats, it should come as no surprise that the Joker hatched a secret plan to murder Harley during their wedding ceremony. In Harley Quinn: Futures End, Joker agrees to marry Harley, and the two decide the hold their ceremony atop a fiery volcano on a remote island.
After finishing their vows, it is revealed that The Joker has agreed — behind Harley’s back — to let the island’s natives sacrifice her in the volcano. So much for their twisted happily ever after.
Joker Threatens To Cut Harley's Face Off
The Joker’s character has seen many variants over the years, most of which revolve around his sheer cruelty. At his most sadistic, the Joker often inflicts some truly horrifying acts of violence upon those he “cares” about.
Due to his constant paranoia regarding Harley’s allegiance to him, it’s not uncommon for the Joker to force Harley to renew her loyalty through some gruesome or abusive challenge. However, when the Joker says that he’s going to have to literally cut Harley’s face off, she’s understandably a bit hesitant to agree.
To make things (arguably) worse, Joker doesn’t even end up going through with the act. Instead, he just throws a hood over Harley’s head and walks away, leaving her to cower indefinitely in fear.
Joker Plans To Execute Harley In Front Of Batman
While he may claim to love Harley, readers know that there’s no one the Joker truly loves as much as Batman. Seriously, even Bruce Wayne is aware of the Joker’s undying love for him.
With this in mind, it doesn’t come as much of a shock to find out that, at some point during Grant Morrison’s run on Batman, the Joker plans to surprise Batman by killing Harley Quinn right in front of him. The plan horrifies both Batman and Harley, though it’s not enough to end the relationship, much to the dismay of comic book fans everywhere.
Joker Throws Harley To A Pack Of Hyenas On Their Anniversary
Unlike Mr. J., Harley isn’t afraid of showing her affection with bold, confident gestures. Her romantic confidence peaks when she decides to celebrate their seven-year anniversary by literally covering herself in pudding and inviting him to “take the night off.”
Unfortunately for Harley, The Joker isn’t in a “party mood,” and responds to her gift by throwing her into an alley packed with hungry hyenas. In case that wasn’t enough, the Joker also takes a moment to insult the taste of the pudding, and calls Harley a “bad cook.”
Joker Throws Harley Out A Window When She Tries To Help With His Work
The Joker takes pride in his own ability to add a splash of ironic, sadistic humor to all of his schemes, and revels in watching Batman traverse his well-laid plots.
When the Joker decides to feed Batman to a vat full of starving piranhas, Harley tries her best to make that the plan goes off without a hitch. To expedite Batman’s death — and to bring to life Joker’s plan, titled “The Death of 100 Smiles” — Harley hangs the Dark Knight upside down over a piranha-filled vat.
When Joker finds out that Harley altered one of his plans without his permission, he hits her with a swordfish, jettisoning her out of a window.
Joker Locks Harley In A Rocket Headed For Outer Space
While their relationship is undeniably abusive, there are a few instances that suggest that somewhere deep down, the Joker does genuinely feel an emotional connection to Harley. At times, he even begins to fear the power Harley may hold over his rapidly fluccuating moods. .
In Batman: Harley Quinn, the Joker tries to break things off by putting some distance between himself and Harley. To achieve this, he straps her inside of a space-bound rocket, fully expecting her to die. Luckily, Harley manages to escape this fate, and goes on to have a brief rebound with Poison Ivy.
Joker Turns Harley Into A Constellation
Despite not technically having powers, Joker still attempts some incredibly intricate plots to punish his victims. Tragically, Harley Quinn has been on the receiving end of some of his cruelest schemes. It’s terrifying to even think about what the Joker might do to Harley if he had any superpowers.
Well, that’s exactly what occurs in the Emperor Joker comic. Joker tricks Mr. Mxyzptlk into transferring over all of his powers, and, mindbogglingly, the first thing the clown decides to do is kill Harley Quinn and turn her into a constellation in the sky.