The Evolution of Harley Quinn

The Evolution of Harley Quinn

Hello everyone and happy birthday to the clown princess of crime herself, Harley Quinn! Yes, in honor of Harley’s first debut in Batman: The Animated Series I am going to be doing a look back and review some of her most iconic looks through various animated TV appearances, comics, video games, and live action media. Now obviously I can’t hit on all of these looks so I will just be touching on those that are the major ones throughout the years. So sit back and rev up your Harley’s because here we go!

Harley Quinn Animated Incarnations

Well we first can’t talk about Harley Quinn without first seeing her before The Joker twisted her mind and made her into the lovable clown we all know. We first get to see Harley Quinn as Dr. Harleen Quinzel of Arkham Asylum. Here she has a simple white lab coat, her blonde hair in a bun, thick black rimmed glasses, and a red shirt and black tie. (Classic Harley colors) A simple doctors outfit but still keeping to the color scheme of what the classic Harley look would be with the red and black colors. Very simple and classy.

Dr. Harleen Quinzel - Harley Quinn

Now of course after The Joker twists her mind she ditches the doctors garb along with her real name and takes on the new name of Harley Quinn along with an appropriate matching outfit. This outfit harkens back to the renaissance days with a court jester feel with diamond patters all over the costume. This costume is the classic red and black jester outfit that artist Bruce Timm created in 1992 and that most if not all of the Harley fans have come to know and love. It has the red and black alternating colors along with the white collar and wrist cuffs, red and black gloves, a simple black domino mask, white clown makeup with black lipstick, and red and black diamonds placed on her legs and arms. Her red and black jester hood is accented with two white balls on the ends of them, and one red shoe and one black shoe to alternate. This is what many fans refer to as “the classic look.” This is also one of the most cosplayed and beloved versions of the character out there. This is how many fans were introduced to this now very popular DC character. To me this just screams Harley Quinn…not booty shorts, stockings, a corse,t and mini cape… (I’m looking at you New 52!) She kept that classic look for most of her animated appearances in the original Batman series, Justice League cartoons, and various cartoon spinoffs in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.

Harley Quinn

Now jump ahead to the mid 2000’s and we have a new Batman animated series. With all new character designs and look to the series it was natural for Harley to get a new look to fit the tone and look of this new animated series. Season 4 introduced us to the new Harley Quinn. This marked the first time in an animated series that Harley looked and sounded different. Her outfit kept the red and black color scheme but drastically altered the head piece, mask, and body suit. Her jester hood was now much larger and seemed to swoop back and then come out to the sides. Also attached were one red ball and one black on corresponding ends. Her mask also concealed her eyes fully so we couldn’t see her blue eyes anymore, just big white circles and had a thin black rim around the mask. Her white collar was lengthened so it would droop down to her chest, and taken from three points to just two. Also noticeable were the lack of diamonds anywhere on her body and finger-less gloves. Her form was slimmed down a lot and the suit seemed to be one big piece, instead of several pieces like before. For a reboot of the character I actually enjoyed this look. It was the first time anyone had seen a different animated Harley and fans reacted strongly with positive praise for the design. Sadly the show only lasted one more season after they introduced her so we didn’t get to see all that much of Harley after that. But what we did get to see I liked.

Harley Quinn Jester


Jump ahead four more years and we have yet another Batman animated series titled Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Harley Quinn only appeared once in this series towards the end of its run with a drastic change to her appearance. She became black and white! Her design for this series harkened back to the silent film days with her not being in color and wearing a black flapper dress and pearls. Honestly my least favorite look of hers in any of the animated series. Not too sure what the creative team were doing for this look but it just didn’t hit any of the classic Harley looks or feels to me. But since it was such a drastic change I thought i’d at least give it a small mention.

Harley Quinn - Brave and the Bold

Her most recent animated appearance would be in the 2014 animated feature Batman: Assault on Arkham. A movie tie-in to the Arkham game franchise. Here Harley has her black and red jester outfit yet again but this time she bares a mid drift (like most of her outfits in the Arkham games). She has one black arm sleeve, combat boots, and instead of a white collar it’s in all black along with the two white balls on her jester cap changed to black as well. This outfit is a mix between her classic and the Arkhamverse outfits. I can see why they didn’t go with the full classic look as it wouldn’t have fit in the universe and would have looked off. This also proves that you can still retain a good portion of Harley’s original look and have her be in the Suicide Squad and not look like a slutted up clown. (Can ya tell which outfit I hate the most yet?)

Harley Quinn - Assault on Arkham


Harley Quinn Video Game Incarnations

Harley has appeared in many Batman and DC video games. Most of them consisted of her in her classic look or a look from a different animated series. That is until the 2009 game Batman: Arkham Asylum. This was the first time fans have seen a design of Harley Quinn that was this drastic and a complete 180 of what she normally looks like. I am of course talking about her nurses outfit! In this game Harley wears nurses attire while helping The Joker take over Arkham and make Batman’s night a living hell. In this any hint of her jesters outfit or original look are out the window. She has free flowing blonde pigtails, a purple domino mask, a nurses hat, a white nurses shirt with an exposed red and purple bra, a corset that is cinched down tight to show off her figure, a red and purple color scheme instead of red and black, a white mini skirt that is stained with blood, fishnets, and knee high red and purple boots. This was the first time we ever saw Harley in any thing like this, and for fans of the classic look this came to a complete shock to us. Even with the original voice actress Arleen Sorkin coming back to voice her, this didn’t seem like Harley at all. However this outfit grew on me and I came to realize that perhaps its one of her main themed outfits, as in, her and The Joker pull off many crimes and some have themes so she would dress of the part. So thats how I see this as she is dressing for the part of the asylum nurse.

Harley Quinn - Arkham Asylum


2011 marked the release to the sequel to Arkham Asylum titled Batman: Arkham City.

In this game Harley’s red and black look are back but fully reimagined and revamped in the form of a leather ensemble. Her blonde hair is now dipped with red and black tips, she looses the domino mask in favor of heavy dark smokey eyes, bright red lips, red and black arm sleeves, her bra shows again behind a red and black sleeveless shirt, silver and black wrist bands with studs, fingerless gloves with a diamond design, tattoos on her left arm and right hip, the same corset from the first game just red and black now, red and black leather pants with diamonds on them and the same boots as well from the first game but just changed to fir the red and black colors. In the DLC Harley’s Revenge her outfit changes yet again. After mourning the death of The Joker (whoops, spoilers) her outfit changes to primarily black with a black veil, black hair, darkened lips and makeup, and white ruffles on her wrist cuffs. Both of these outfits saw a drastic change in Harley with her taking on more responsibilities in the gang as Joker got sicker and eventually leading Jokers men after his death. Both of these outfits are considered the darkest out of the series because of those reasons. She still retains the classic Harley mannerisms and personality from before, but these outfits are considered more militant than her themed outfit from Arkham Asylum.

Harley Quinn - Arkham City


In 2013 the game Injustice: Gods among Us was released with critical praise. This game was developed by the team behind Mortal Kombat. So naturally certain characters would look totally different. As was the case for Harley Quinn. Her look was very in that “Mortal Kombat” style of thinking, with a red and purple color scheme and red and purple dyed hair with a green streak added assuming in honor of the Joker, she had one of those looks that made fans go huh? Luckily she had another costume called the Insurgency costume that fans took to liking more than her base outfit. Also released for DLC were costume packs that showcased some of Harley’s looks through other games or comics. Released were her classic look, the Arkham City outfit, and her look in the Ame-Comi comic series. 2013 also debuted Harley’s first time in a video game as Dr. Harleen Quinzel in the game Batman: Arkham Origins. Though in there briefly she does have her classic look from the Animated Series when she was a doctor. A nice nod to Harley fans to put in the game, just with a little Christmas twist.Harley Quinn - Injustice: Gods Among Us


2015 debuted the presumably final time we would see Harley in the Arkham games with the release of Arkham Knight. In this she keeps her red and black dyed hair and makeup from Arkham City but yet again the outfit changes. Her outfit is comprised of what look’s like a french maid skirt, a white blouse that is reminiscent from the first game, a black corset that covers her mid drift from the previous two games, her red and black bra shows with harness straps that go around her waist and chest and up to a connecting piece on a neck collar, red and black sleeves with white lace around the wrists, red and black leather pants with the diamonds on the thighs, and red and black boots with metal studs in the back of them. This outfit seems to take a little piece from the first two games and combine them into one thing. They also seemed to have added some unused concept art from previous games and incorporated it into her final design. I actually really do like this outfit. It is cute but not overly sexed up like the previous ones. She is covering up her waist and seems to be a little bit more conservative with this look seeing as how she is the full leader of Jokers gang. In a recent DLC released for the game she is finally shown in her classic jester look as her and Joker kidnap the commissioner and Batgirl and Robin must go and save him.

Arkham Knight - Harley Quinn

Harley Quinn Comic Book Incarnations

In the comics Harley has had many outfits, most keep to the traditional outfit from the 90’s or variations on them, but none more drastic and changing than in  2011’s debut with the New 52’s version of The Suicide Squad. This look has gotten the most controversy with Harley fans and DC fans alike. In this universe Harley has permanently dyed red and blue hair and chalk white skin. Curtesy of The Joker throwing her into the same vat of chemicals he was thrown into during his fight with Batman. She wears an extremely tight red and blue corset that shows off her waist and pushes up her breasts and makes them look fuller. The corset also has a set of throwing knives on each side, a mini cape that is attached to a white victorian era collar, red and blue arm gauntlets with diamond patterns on them, black eye makeup that makes her look like a member of the band KISS, red and blue booty shorts, and red and blue knee high stockings and boots to match. When I first saw this outfit I was flabbergasted and confused. I kept asking where the harlequin style came into play. After all thats what her name is, a play on word of harlequin. That’s who she was, Harley Quinn dressed as a harlequin. This outfit got rid of it all, the playfulness of it, the cute, the funny. This made her look ruthless, very slutty, and like a cold blooded killer. I was so angry for what they did to my favorite character out of the whole DC universe, not only with her outfit but her personality and backstory as well I stopped reading The Suicide Squad after her new origin story debut. I just couldn’t read anymore, or look at what they did to her.

Haryley Quinn - New 52 Suicide Squad

After her stint in The Suicide Squad Harley got her own series in 2013. In this she looses the red and blue colors and reverts to the red and black colors. Her skin is still bleached and hair dyed. But she no longer wears her getup from the Suicide Squad comics. On the debut cover she is wearing a roller derby outfit. Red and black color scheme with diamonds, cute roller skates, dark eye makeup (not nearly as drastic as the Suicide Squad style), and various knee and elbow pads. Now to be fair I haven’t really read a whole lot of her new series. I have heard mixed reviews. but what I have heard is that its a nice departure from the Suicide Squad stuff and it gets to showcase Harley on her own and doing what she does best. Be Harley Quinn. I have seen a few outfits from the series and what I’ve seen I’ve liked a hell of a lot better that the stuff before. Now is it perfect and what I truly wanna see? Of course not. But for now its better than nothing I guess.


Harley Quinn Solo Comic Series

Harley Quinn Live Action Incarnations

Now as for live action stuff. Harley Quinn as only ever appeared in two forms of live action media. One being the short lived show in 2002 called The Birds of Prey where she was played by Mia Sara, and in the 2016 movie Suicide Squad played by Margot Robbie. In the TV show Birds of Prey we don’t actually get to see Harley Quinn in all her glory until the final episode of the series. Here she is shown to have a long sleeved red sweater with black diamonds cut out on the chest, red gloves, a black skirt and red and black shoes. Absent are her mask, clown makeup, and jester hood. For her first live action debut I wish they would have done a little more to her, but it was an OK outfit for the first time on a campy TV show like that.

Birds of Prey - Harley Quinn

Now on to the new Suicide Squad movie. This is the first time we get to see Harley Quinn on the big screen so of course they choose to do the Suicide Squad version of her. In this she has the red and blue colors back yet again (although her hair is dyed pink and blue for the tips) booty shorts, a red and blue jacket, fishnets, high heel sneakers, tattoos everywhere, a t-shirt, and “puddin” choker. This version seems to borrow little bits and pieces from many of the previous looks that Harley has had in the past. Now rumors did surface online that she would be getting multiple costumes in the film and from the recent trailer that dropped that rumor seems to be confirmed. People have asked me if I am still going to see the film. Of course I am! It’s Harley’s first big screen debut!! I may not like the look as a whole, but I love the actress Margot Robbie and I think she will do a fantastic job as Harley Quinn. And I am sure as with a majority of her outfits this one will grown on me too. Just gotta give it time is all.

Suicide Squad - Harley Quinn


So which version of Harley Quinn do you like the most or least? Was there an outfit or look I missed that should have been mentioned? Sound off on the comments below and let us know which Harley you absolutely love.

Harley Quinn - Batman: The Animated Series

About the Author
A local nerd and cosplayer from Kansas City. Love most things Sci-Fi.

8 comments on The Evolution of Harley Quinn

  1. I’ve been a big fan of this character for years but I’ve really enjoyed Amanda Conner’s comic book series most, I think. It’s been a solid opportunity to see Harley on her own, without the Joker or Suicide Squad constantly on her back.

    With that said, I am looking forward to the new film. I don’t mind the new style for her as long as the character is handled well.

    1. aubrey says:

      i did my hair like this and i love it.

  2. Ian Turner says:

    I am looking forward to the new film as well. Now do I wish they would put her in that jester costume that most of us long time Harley fans grew up on, of course! But I also realize the title of the film is Suicide Squad so I knew she would be in her red and blue costume or something close to it. Now if they did a movie about the Mad Love story line from the 90’s and they had her in this current getup then I would throw an absolute fit! But since this story is about her in the squad I can deal with it. I am still hoping for something that is reminiscent or a nod to the original, but I won’t hold my breath.

  3. aubrey says:

    i love the hair, i did my hair this way and i get compliments all the time. i have a lot in common with her which i didn’t know until people started telling me they liked the hair and asking me why i did it. it just makes sense

  4. prseton brady says:

    Changing of her costume it good idea, she is looking more stylish in Joker’s Property jacket i love it even i found it’s replica jacket online for my GF at Famous-Jackets .co .uk …

  5. Mandie Moore says:

    Listen I totally get the idea behind “upgrading” but can some one please explain why they changed her from Black and Red (Classic) to blue and red (Suicide Squad)??? I just need to know ow the reasoning. I hate it!! I love the black and red!

    1. Rae Stewart says:

      I haven’t read up on any of the interviews about the costume choices, but my guess is that Deadshot and Katana were sporting a red and black scheme and they really wanted Harley to be different. I don’t know if Suicide Squad was first or not, but other versions of Harley (comics and animation) have embraced the blue and red scheme too. She also had some green on her in the Injustice game.

  6. Lily J says:

    Beyond the costume, Harley Quinn’s character is just Audrey from Littleshop of Horrors. Hell Arleen even copies Ellen Greene’s voice.

    The fact that this origin is so often overlooked always irritates me, it’s like people not knowing who saying that Joker ‘s creation wasn’t inspired by Conrad Veidt’s Man Who Laughs.

    Even Batman wouldn’t exist without Hopwood and Rinehart’s play.

Leave a Reply