Harley Quinn

Costume Couture: Most Popular Female Cosplays

Some cosplays are just more popular than others. You know what we’re talking about. These Female Cosplays are seen at all of the conventions, events, and photo shoots. The most popular Female Cosplays span franchises, genres, and styles from the classic Wonder Woman through the MCU Black Widow, to Disney’s Elsa through Jinx from League of Legends. This week, we discuss the most popular Female Cosplays.

Did we leave anyone out? Do you think there are more popular Female Cosplays? Let us know in the comments!

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Costume Couture: Most Popular Female Cosplays

Costume Couture: Top 10 LGBT+ Heroes & Villains

Happy Pride Month! To celebrate, Rae and Ian discuss their Top 10 LGBT+ Heroes and Villains from comic books, videos games, and more! We cover good guys and bad guys from DC Comics, Marvel, X-Men, Overwatch, and so much more to help celebrate the LGBT+ pop culture icons we have today.

The Trevor Project: https://www.thetrevorproject.org/

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Costume Couture: Top 10 LGBT+ Heroes & Villains

Costume Couture: Joker Spotlight

What’s a Harley without her Joker? As chosen by you, The Joker was our next character to receive a spotlight. Donning the purple and green since the 1940’s, we chart his evolution from the joke of the Batman rogues to the king psychopath he is today.  We run through our favorite comic book looks and which films we preferred him in. And just like last time, we talk about some of our favorite cosplayers like Harley’s Joker and Vendaros.

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Costume Couture: Joker Spotlight

Costume Couture: Harley Quinn Spotlight

Harley Quinn has quickly become one of the most recognizable and iconic DC Comics characters even though she’s only been around since 1992. As a character who debuted in Batman: The Animated Series, she’s had to overcome her non-comic book origin but has done so with flying colors… at least, black, red, and white.

This week, we discuss many of her different looks over the years from her original debut, her Margot Robbie Suicide Squad version, Injustice video games, and more. Then we talk about some of our favorite Harley Quinn cosplayers like Jessica Nigri, Triple Diamond Entertainment, Thousand Faces Cosplay, just to name a few.

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Costume Couture: Harley Quinn Spotlight

Costume Couture: DC Superhero Girls

Many superhero and villain costumes come off as being a little too adult for kids. You’ve got the classic Powergirl boob window and Starfire showing off a lot of skin. Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn aren’t exactly the most child friendly characters out there either. So, DC Entertainment had their work cut out for them when they decided to bring an animated series to young girls, DC Superhero Girls. The show start in 2015 as a webseries with one straight to DVD movie. DC Superhero Girls includes class good guys like Wonder Woman and Batgirl, plus some villain and anti-hero types like Harley and Ivy.

This week, we talk about their costumes and styles, looking and how DC Superheroe Girls was able to bring these characters to young girls without totally losing who they are while keeping them appropriate.

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Costume Couture: DC Superhero Girls

Batman and Harley Quinn – Quick Movie Take

Ian and Rae of Costume Couture hit up the Fathom event for Batman and Harley Quinn, a new animated movie focusing on the Dark Knight, Harley, Nightwing, and Poison Ivy. The movie includes legendary Batman voice actor Kevin Conroy and Harley Quinn newcomer Melissa Rauch (Big Bang Theory). The story is by Bruce Timm too!

We’ve got their spoiler-free Quick Movie Take below, so check it out and then see the movie yourself on Blu-Ray August 29th.

Here’s the description from the Fathom One Night Only Event held on August 14th:

From an original story by animation icon Bruce Timm, comes an all-new DC Universe animated movie. Poison Ivy and Jason Woodrue (a.k.a. The Floronic Man) embark on an ecological quest to save the planet – and, unfortunately, eliminate most of humankind along the way. To save humanity, Batman and Nightwing are forced to enlist Harley Quinn to catch Poison Ivy, Harley’s BFF and frequent partner-in-crime. But Batman’s patience is put to the test by the unpredictable and untrustworthy Harley during the twists and turns the reluctant companions face during their bumpy road trip. The result is a thrill ride of action, adventure and comedy no Batman fan has seen before.

Batman and Harley Quinn features a stellar voice cast led by Kevin Conroy (Batman: The Animated Series) reprising his role as the Dark Knight, alongside Melissa Rauch (The Big Bang Theory) making her debut as the irrepressible Harley Quinn. Loren Lester, the voice of Robin in Batman: The Animated Series, returns as Nightwing.

Does this sound like a movie you’d enjoy? Did you see it already? Let us know your thoughts in the comments or hit us up @HeroesPodcasts on Facebook and Twitter!

Batman and Harley Quinn – Quick Movie Take

Costume Couture: Injustice 2

The battle for DC continues in a new video game, Injustice 2 and we’re here to talk about the incredibly cool and sometimes totally lame costumes. Injustice is an alternate DC universe where Superman is the bad guy, just about anyone can get superpowers, and everyone wears armor. Sometimes that creates a very cool new look but other times, we just don’t understand why they bothered.

Also, don’t miss our Cosplayer of the Week, Kuda Cosplay who can be found on Facebook, Instagram, and Patreon!

Catch Rae are her new handle SirynRae and Ian at Haus of Turner Cosplay!

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Cosplayer of the Week
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Costume Couture: Injustice 2

Costume Couture: DC Bombshells

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve seen the fabulous DC Bombshells by Ant Lucia in the last 6 years.  What started as a couple pin up pictures has grown into an entire franchise of its own. Statues, calendars, playing cards, and more; this series can be found everywhere.  Even better, it’s been embraced by cosplayers, creating unique outlets for Ant Lucia’s work. Which ones are your favorites? Have you cosplayed a Bombshell before?

Wanna know our favorites? Check out this week’s Costume Couture!

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Costume Couture: DC Bombshells

SH S3E08: Gotham City Sirens Casting

The Gotham City Sirens are coming thanks to Margot Robbie’s performance as Harley Quinn in the DCEU film Suicide Squad. So, we hang out with both of the Super Sirens to cast our own Gotham City Sirens movies. We cast Poison Ivy, Catwoman, Black Mask, Nightwing, Batgirl, and other classic DC Comics characters. So sit back, relax, and then let us know your thoughts on our casts plus who you think should fill these roles.

Be sure to head over to our Facebook page to let us know your thoughts on the Justice League Dark movie!

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Screen Heroes Podcast Credits

Hosts
Derreck Mayer
Rachel Stewart
Ryan Couture

Special Guest
Hillary Lewis

Executive Producer
Derreck Mayer

Editor
Derreck Mayer

Music
Michael Wallace (Flying Killer Robots)

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SH S3E08: Gotham City Sirens Casting

Rebirth Harley Quinn: The Joker’s Call Review

Allow me to start by making a statement of opinion: I am not a fan of The New 52 Harley Quinn writing team or the work they have done on the series. The review you are reading is a reflection of that opinion, and I understand that there are readers who appreciate this series. I do not wish to put off that audience. While sales suggest this audience is turning away from the series, the readership was strong and committed to the point that. Unlike almost every other DC title, the creative leads on the series were not changed over or stories reset by the Rebirth event. This was a disappointment to me, but there have been suggestions of a shift in story that might occur.

Please be aware that from this point on there will be spoilers for some of the Harley Quinn series, specifically the more recent issues with the return of the Joker. You have been warned.

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I have not read the complete series of The New 52, now Rebirth, the Amanda Connor and Jimmy Palmiotti Harley Quinn, but not for lack of trying. I find their stories inconsequential and shallow, and feel that the character they are working with now, that their continued storytelling has created, has little similarity to the 25-year-old character that shares it’s name. However, this is not to say that Harley Quinn cannot survive on her own without The Joker, a choice that much of these stories works with, or that she cannot hold her own in a title of her own. Her early 2000s series and Gotham City Sirens both demonstrate otherwise. Any reader, fan base included, who claims that stories involving this character needn’t or shouldn’t have depth are simply incorrect. Characters change and evolve, but this character isn’t only dissimilar to what she had been but has been stripped of what one would consider character. Removing her of larger, more worthwhile conflict has created mostly a vehicle for jokes and innuendo that is great for selling products and looking good on covers. Outside of character issues, I find the writing in itself difficult to follow. I won’t make sweeping statements; most of these critiques are reflected in the recent issues that I want to comment on. All of this said, let’s focus on the most recent issues of the series that offer a carrot to fans of the origins of the character and a possible relationship with Joker. I tune-in and read the series when there is a story being told that interests me. Recently, the series has courted fans who want to see Harley in a more consistent relationship that reflects her history, grounding her in her roots between Joker and Poison Ivy that were cemented in Batman: The Animated Series. A few panels went viral and created discussion and debate when Harley seemed to finally answer the will they/won’t they with Joker.

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He attacks her, forcing himself on her, and she bites his lip, leaving him bleeding on the floor and stating she will never follow his demands again. Many fans liked this, as it demonstrated her ability to overcome abuse and gave her growth beyond being a subsidiary character to Joker. Issues followed in which Harley and Ivy are shown solidifying their relationship, with Harley asking to become something consistent. This story was done over several issues, and the answer from Ivy delayed by a story of their vacation adventures. Finally, she states that she can’t commit, because of her responsibility to plants. Really.

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While I understand the concept that Ivy’s mission is more important than her relationship with Harley, there are no stakes that dictate the need for a choice. There is nothing pressing that keeps Ivy from spending her time with Harley and nothing that kept her from taking a vacation and participating in adventures with Harley any more than she would be creating adventures individually.

At that juncture, I tuned off again. However, it didn’t take the creative team long to create a new relationship option, one that interested me within the confines of this canon: Joker wants her back.

Issue #9 shows Harley returning to the roller derby and once more fighting someone who beat her in an early comic, Bertha. Someone in the audience kills Bertha when she is close to murdering Harley, saving her. The rest of the comic is essentially padding with multiple dream sequences that are cute but have little importance. Yes, we know Harley is weighed by her past with Joker. Yes, we know Harley likely remembers her affection for Ivy sweetly. Outside of reminding us of that, these sequences do little. There is also a small subplot in which Harley buys some pizza, stops a robber, and gets free pizza for life, giving some to a homeless man. These sorts of stories are common in this series, attempts to show Harley as compassionate and human in extremely hammy ways that otherwise aren’t important to the plot. The disjointed subplots and dream segments make for stories that are difficult to follow. These minor plots, attempted to actually convey some form of character, are often more limited in page count than fluff, making them difficult to take with weight. The comic ends with Joker being in Harley’s apartment when she gets home.

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Issue #10 is a holiday comic. Issue #11 starts with a terse discussion between Harley and Joker where he asks her to meet him the next day in public to show he is a changed man. It then reacquaints readers with Red Tool, a parody character intended as a stand-in to answer the fan question, “what would a relationship between Harley and Deadpool be like?” The answer is “uninteresting.” Deadpool may be intentionally grating and verbose, but this character shares none of that wisecracking brevity or fun. Red Tool is essentially a guy in a suit similar to Deadpool who seeks to protect Harley because of an attraction to her. His dialogue is wordy, yes, but it isn’t written to be fun or clever. It’s lengthy because they haven’t resolved how to show story instead of tell story, an issue I have always had with these comics. That isn’t to say the dialogue reads like exposition drop. Between the accents they awkwardly write into each character and the choices made in speech layout.  It can be difficult to follow what is being said between forced catchphrases and supposed colloquial language. Red Tool makes Joker leave and Harley intends to meet him later. The pair return to an earlier unfinished plot of a door on the carnival lot that is locked. They break the door with grenades and find a monster inside. Similarly, this story is short, depicting it as insignificant, despite there being lots of questions about a huge goo monster. Escaping it, Harley returns home exhausted and sets her clock to meet Joker. Instead, Red Tool meets him.

Issue #12 has Harley sleeping through the meeting because Red Tool changed her alarm, and the two men exchange words. Joker tells him he will not fight. Red Tool then beats him. Harley is woken by the noon bells and realizes her alarm was changed. She hurries to find Red Tool beating Joker, telling him to stop and that, because of the altercation and change of her clock, she will not speak to him for a month. She takes Joker home and ties him to a chair, blindfolding him and taking him into the city. Joker demonstrates he does not intend to harm her. His dialogue is somewhat unusual, little of it seeming like it is coming from the character. He rarely smiles or makes a joke. This can be attributed to his hope to show himself as a “changed person,” but to me, personally, it simply feels out of place. Harley leaves him in the middle of the road with a sign that says “Brooklyn Sucks.” He is beaten and run over by several drivers. While the comic is billed as a conflict between Red Tool and Joker, it really isn’t. Joker takes the beating and Red Tool is shown as a bully. While Joker isn’t depicted as a victim, really, he is more of a mannequin; the reader doesn’t feel bad for him or validated for Harley’s choice to have him harmed. The actions he takes, or lack of, seem so lifeless that it comes across as totally inconsequential, something that has always been the main issue with the series.

In all, the attempt to draw in fans of Harley and Joker as well as fans of Harley who don’t want her to return to Joker is unsatisfying for either. Joker does little, Harley doesn’t make a choice, and the most significant encounter is Red Tool’s leaving the story for what will likely be the duration of this arc, something fans of Red Tool will be frustrated by. The choice to show Joker as less aggressive towards Harley is presumably a response to the reception of Joker as a more compassionate character in Suicide Squad. With the abuse removed from the final film, fans can subscribe to their relationship with limited backlash and DC can sell more merchandise that references their partnership. That said, one of the biggest criticisms of the merchandise is also one of the strangest parts of this story up to issue 11: Mad Love.

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“Mad Love” is the story that summarizes the pair’s union and depicts their backstory that every version since has worked around, up until The New 52. And this issue of Harley Quinn either redraws and re-contextualizes or flat-out blatantly reuses panels or concepts originally presented in Mad Love. These panels are some of the most interesting and engaging pages of these issues, and that’s the problem, because these stories didn’t exist in this canon until now. Harley in her nightie with bleached skin doesn’t seem unusual, but it depicts a version of this character, and her relationship, that carries more depth and subtlety than this series has offered. Not only do these panels serve only as a reminder of what both was and what this series struggles to be, many of them are improbable or impossible in the canon of this series. This is not only a problem in writing, but serves to demonstrate what fans want against what they choose to give us. These panels serve to do little more than to bait readers with a strong reaction to the original stories, with either affection or disdain. If references to other stories, stories that the series has mostly ignored or worked around in unsubtle ways, is the most appealing part of your current series, that series has, no pun intended, issues.

While this arc will likely see Joker warming in Harley’s opinion, the handling of this concept over the current series seems more like a choose your own adventure but not for the reader, rather for the staff. The series will be predicted by responses, each issue ending without resolution and being drawn out similar to the story of Harley and Ivy. At best, they will make a choice that will violate the trust of a group of readers. At worst, there will be little movement in the story, something this series has struggled with for years, and while no one will be entirely put off, no one will be served, either. In other words: please tell us a story.

Rebirth Harley Quinn: The Joker’s Call Review

Psycho Killers and the Women Who Love Them: Harley Quinn, Abuse, and Cosplay Pt 3


In today’s installment, we collect our thoughts and round up the final remarks in our series on fictional abuse and it’s significance for real cosplayers. Last week, we asked about the health of Harley Quinn’s relationship.

“I’d say it’s unhealthy that she used to keep going back even though Joker would do these terrible things to her, but it’s not just that she’s the victim, every now and then she’ll take a shot at him for whatever reason, and I think that it adds a lot of character to them both because at the end of the day they’re both bats**t crazy,” said James Longstaff, also known as Love That Joker. Manipulation, something Harley is no stranger to, is a reoccurring theme in domestic abuse; many abusers convince their partners to stay through promises of violence not happening again. The likelihood that violence will continue is extremely high: between 30 -40% of abusers will do so again, regardless of incarceration or counseling. Becca Payne said, “Why do we do that? Because we have hope.” Offenders also will attempt to keep their significant others close by threatening self-harm, a stunt the Joker is no stranger to.

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To many, that’s the appeal of the character: she is a normal person. She has no powers, no super origin, no scars, mental or physical ,that made her choose to become what she is (at least not prior to the New 52). Harleen was a woman who chose to become Harley Quinn to appeal to the man she loved and that real turn in her character is what makes her more relatable to many when compared to other female characters like Wonder Woman or Zatanna, people who harness the power of Gods and other worlds.

This has brought criticism so specific that it is difficult to counter due to it’s extreme nature.

In no unclear words, if you don’t have experience personally with abuse from a partner, this relationship is not something you can enjoy. Of our interviews who do have a history of abuse on some level, here are some reactions:

“And I think their relationship can be enjoyed by anyone,” said Longstaff.

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“You don’t have to be abused to enjoy observing a fictional abusive relationship that leads to rich storytelling,” said Andrew Arkham Cosplay.

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“I’d say, that’s your opinion. But they also have to realize that it’s a fictional relationship in a controlled environment. Yes, these kinds of things do happen in real life, but this isn’t real life. People are allowed to enjoy whatever they choose and others can mind their own business. The comics and characters can be appreciated by everyone, but I don’t think that people who haven’t been through the situations that the characters have can fully grasp the concept or gravity of what they’re going through,” said Anderson.

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“That just seems foolish to me? It’s not a matter of privilege,” said Harley Quinnsane.

So, if someone feels that Joker and Harley are “cute,” despite their well-documented groundings in violence and poor treatment, how can you counter that? Is someone misjudging that relationship or are these fans simply imbalanced themselves? Are they teenagers who don’t understand relationships? The answers we received were somewhere between.

Andrew Arkham Cosplay feels these readers are either misguided, or not readers at all. “The kids don’t acknowledge the abuse, they just like the visual of a not-so-normal relationship like Jack and Sally, Morticia and Gomez, and let’s face it: in the cartoon/comic world, there aren’t a lot like that besides those two. They are very misinformed on what’s truly going on between the characters and/or refuse to acknowledge the abusive undertones and are simply enamored by just the visual.” He feels this also isn’t the first time young readers have misrepresented the toxicity of a relationship and turned it into something desirable. “Twilight can also be seen as a manipulative relationship, yet it is still desired just because of one thing: it’s different.”

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Harley Quinnsane connected the romanticization of the relationship to 50 Shades of Grey, which has had a very established backlash from the BDSM community for it’s depiction of what is supposed to be a safe environment for would-be questionable activity. “It’s a complete misunderstanding. Joker is abusive. That’s it, that’s all. And Harley has her episodes too. It’s not a kink – it’s dangerous and unhealthy. But we, especially cosplayers, have to remember that these are cartoon super-villains and their relationship should be in no way mimicked or accepted in real life.”

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Shauna Lynn may have the best connection to the young audience that is usually both marketed to and worried about when it comes to making this sick relationship seem ideal. It didn’t work on her. “I feel that girls now are looking at her as an icon and thinking that her and the Joker are so cute together because of physical appearance having no knowledge of their past. I feel that some young people are a bit uneducated on them.”

“Read a Joker/Harley comic book,” said Longstaff.

All of this discussion of the abuse from Joker is currently moot in DC’s current stories. Crazy Clover Cosplay says, “Harley is her own person now and has her own comic series without the Joker! Her character found the strength to leave and that can encourage others who might be in a bad situation to leave as well. In the end though, it is all make believe and fun.” Most fans will tell you that the Joker doesn’t stay dead for long, though, and if the majority of readers do enjoy stories of Joker and Harley, they probably won’t stay divided for long, either. However, Quinn is currently shacked up and in an open relationship with an old friend.  “Well, Poison Ivy and Harley are pretty cute,” said Shauna Lynn.

While stories of abuse can be important, stories of progress, with it’s struggles, are what draw many to these grounded characters. “In a silly sort of way, seeing Harley doing her own thing in her current comic story lines, gives me a sense of hope and inspiration. Sure, she still has her own issues to sort out, like PTSD, anger, and being bats**t bonkers, but she’s getting by,” says Taka. “Harley is a sort of a bleeding heart and has a soft spot for animals and those who can’t help themselves.” Fiction is often the help that those who believe they can’t help themselves need to motivate them to do so.

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The future of the character’s status as a role model and sort of “patron saint” of women struggling with a cycle of abuse is up for debate. Her current comics solo run by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti has been lauded by many like Taka, who see her as a character getting by and making her own way from day-to-day amid slapstick adventures and has been very successful with several spin-off titles including Harley Quinn and her Gang of Harleys and Harley Quinn’s Little Black Book. But the title also shows Harley participating in acts of violence that are almost brutal in nature. She is more consistently violent in this comic than any other portrayal, including the violence towards her former partner, Joker, from whom she is estranged in the story. There is also the critique that she appears to be more unbalanced and at times “dumbed down” for comedic value. She is also featured as a player in the well-received DC Comics Bombshells title, recently applauded for openly featuring a kiss between Poison Ivy and Harley amid a large cast of female leads taking place during WWII. The Suicide Squad film is also likely to have a huge impact on the character, with rumors of future solo films or female team-ups flying in every direction. The film dials back the abuse presumably for the purpose of marketing: no one can complain about romanticizing abuse through selling cute merch if the abuse isn’t in the film. However, some still complain about the abuse even when it isn’t presented, especially fans who so strongly relate to her metamorphosis. There is a heavy focus on the male gaze pointed towards Harley, which may only contribute to further over sexualization and romanticization of the character and pairing as a whole in the future considering the success of the movie.

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With the popularity of Suicide Squad, fans will be flocking to the girl in motley. Whether fans of her classic Dini and Timm-era antics beside her Mistah J or finding inspiration through her more modern comic incarnations like the series mentioned above, it’s clear that people are drawn to her as a tragic figure, as a source of inspiration, or simply as a smart and sassy clown with the on-again, off-again gangster beau. There is just something about Harley, but maybe the joke’s on us.

Psycho Killers and the Women Who Love Them: Harley Quinn, Abuse, and Cosplay Pt 3

Psycho Killers and the Women Who Love Them: Harley Quinn, Abuse, and Cosplay Pt 2

You can find Part 1 of this series here.

In last week’s installment, we discussed Harley Quinn’s history, and her deep connection with abuse. This week, we speak to cosplayers about their connections to the character. Trigger warning: this article discusses abuse specifically.

“I do have a history with an abusive boyfriend,” cosplayer Misses J Quinn told us. “I feel very connected to Harley because of this. It is not a healthy relationship. I think no one deserves to experience an abusive relationship.” She wasn’t alone.

Cosplayer Zoe Anderson said, “It goes all the way back to living at home and watching my parents do the same thing that I would see repeated. You might say I had become desensitized or, perhaps even blind to what was considered abuse. I’d let my boyfriend smack me around, blame things on me, cheat on me, and more.” Her understanding of the connection between her and the character wasn’t obvious to her. “As I saw glimpses of her past home life and then looking in at my personal relationships I could definitely see it. The more I looked at it, the more the two seemed to blend together, and I was desperate for a way to express this.” For Anderson, that expression was cosplay. “Cosplay has definitely given me a way to healthily express myself. It is something that helps my mental well-being and it does make me feel pretty damn good all around. All you get is compliments.”

This sentiment was echoed by several cosplayers, including Becca Payne, who told us, “Cosplaying makes me feel like who I am on the inside and to me, that is healthy.” Savannah Kelly said, “I think that cosplay should be judgment free and should include everyone who is willing to put the effort into cosplaying.”

Becka Taka Cosplay tells us cosplay was important to her ability to manage her depression, and Harley Quinn was a part of it. “I was months into the worst depressive period of my life. There was a cosplay function being held in the area on my birthday and I forced myself to attend. I ran around as a princess, then later (a few drinks later) changed into a cute Harley themed dress, complete with mismatched shoes, mask and poofy pigtailed wig. I think my extreme love for her was born then. I mean how can you NOT have a good time dressed as her?”

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Taka’s story echo’s many of the elements of the 1994 Mad Love story. “I immediately felt a connection, like the world stopped for a moment when I met him. He was more than a little shy but we could talk for hours. He was damaged. He had led a hard life and it was like I came into his for a reason. Like the idiot empath I am, I felt his pain. I wanted to heal him. I foolishly thought ‘He just needs someone to love him.’ I honestly thought I was that person. The rest was a whirlwind of passion, late nights talking, him needing me, me needing to be needed… It has been said that when you look at the world(or a lover) with rose tinted glasses, that all the red flags look like just… flags. Nothing, could be closer to the truth. I was warned by friends. I was begged to stop what I was doing. But I was under his spell and it was a powerful one at that.”

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“The day we signed the lease, was almost exactly the day he changed into a monster. You see, he had gotten exactly what he wanted. He lived in a shitty room, in a shitty part of town and wanted nothing more than to get out. I was also desperate for a place to live and either intentionally, or not, I was made into his victim.”

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What followed was also similar to Harleen’s story, one of first mental and emotional control that became abuse, and then abuse that became physical. “I absolutely feel a connection to Harley because of my past. Here you have a character who is at the pinnacle of her career, beautiful, athletic(she was a gymnast) and getting the opportunity to study one of Gotham’s most notorious criminals at the Arkham Asylum. Before I met the man that brought my life to a screeching halt, I was confident, at a healthy weight, and planning a career in either Vegas or Atlanta. After he got in my head, I was driven to near madness. I completely lost sight of the well adjusted person I once was before I met my abuser, yet much like Harley, kept coming back again and again for more abuse.”

While disturbing, Taka’s history is not unusual. Of the cosplayers we interviewed, 90% said that they had some history of abuse, be it physical, emotional, or mental. Our interviews were 80% female, 20% male. These numbers have little to do with cosplay, and instead mirror national statistics. According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, approximately 7 million women in the U.S. are assaulted or raped by a current or former partner each year. Love is Respect reports 43% of dating college women and 28% of men reported experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors in a relationship.

“I was a stupid teenager that fell in love for dumb reasons and let myself get caught up in that relationship because it was there and I’ve always had self-confidence issues when it comes to feeling wanted and loved,” said Crazy Clover Cosplay. “I’ll admit that I have felt a closer connection to Harley after going through what I did, though my past relationships could never hold a candle to what many others have gone through in their lives. It isn’t even close to Harley and the Joker.” So, is fiction, and by extension playing out your favorite fictional character, a danger or catharsis?

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The idea that abuse survivors could find familiarity and strength in a character like Harley Quinn is not new, and it is often the opposing response to criticism of the popularity of the character and her portrayal. Harley Quinnsane, a cosplayer and roller derby girl, says, “She brought me into the cosplaying world. She helped me find an identifier.” Shauna Lynn, the youngest of our interviews, would probably be placed in the demographic that romanticized merchandise is geared to. She said, “The main thing that appealed to me is that Harley Quinn is such a sweet girl who is over her head over someone who abuses her. I feel like I can relate to her because all people ever want is to be loved and I feel that Harley learns she needs to be strong for herself.”

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The fall of Harleen Quinzel into Harley Quinn may seem familiar to some victims. “I adore both Harley and Joker purely for the fact I feel they are the way real love is portrayed. And no I don’t mean with the physical abuse or even the mental, I mean in the sense that you take this innocent woman, a woman who was going to accomplish good things until she fell in love,” said Becca Payne. “You have all these fairy-tales and stories that push the fact that true love conquers all, that it’s the most amazing and great feeling in the world and once you have it, you have it forever. Their love isn’t the type of love you grew up reading about, they didn’t push the fact that love is your happy ending.”

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The debate between fictional violence creating real violence has been going on forever, and we aren’t about to start digging into that. We also aren’t going to get into a discussion about whether or not the Joker genuinely loves Harley; it’s an entire conversation to itself and has been handled with plenty of panels and screenshots before. What can be said is that domestic violence in fiction has been said to provide understanding about domestic abuse in everyday life.

Crazy Clover Cosplay tells us, “it gives us a look into a world that we might not ever know, but I believe that by appreciating stories that involve these kinds of things and growing to love the characters in them, we can learn greater compassion and love and appreciation for those in the real world that have experienced these things.”

Becky Taka Cosplay believes it can provide a way for others to understand abuse in relationships. “While sometimes it seems that the Joker actually cares for Harley, a true sociopath is not able to express empathy, and that fact is unfortunately very frightening because it is very real. Even if someone hasn’t experienced an abusive relationship firsthand, maybe reading or watching the situations that arise between the two characters, could serve to help raise awareness of those issues.” These characters may be garish and do ridiculous, completely unreal things; they literally dress like clowns. However, that doesn’t mean that their relationship can’t feel real, and their actions don’t mirror real life violence on a human level.

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Next week, we continue our three part series on cosplay and fictional abuse. Stay tuned.

Psycho Killers and the Women Who Love Them: Harley Quinn, Abuse, and Cosplay Pt 2