The Redesigning of Harley Quinn
(cross-posted w/Nerd Bastards)
Every comic book character goes through changes. Sometimes their back story is retconned, the altering a character’s continuity retroactively, and completely rewritten. Other times it’s more simple, a costume change. Often these changes happen when transferring a character between mediums, say for instance from comic book to movie or video game. If done correctly they engage a new devoted following for that character, when done poorly, well, is 2004’s Catwoman starring Halle Berry you favorite incarnation of the feline thief? Thought not.
Earlier this week we were treated to a first look at the cast in full costume for the upcoming arena show, Batman Live. They’re were the familiar faces of Batman and his rogues, Penguin, Riddler, Catwoman, the Joker and….Pippy Longstocking? Who the hell is the chick with the giant mallet. Oh, it’s supposed to be Harley Quinn!? Well, damn, could have fooled me.
I’ve been noticing a trend. It seems to me every time we see the darling Miss Quinn she’s sporting a new look. Not even updated versions of her famous black and red, checkered body suit, but completely new revisions. Why is Harley in a constant state of redesign?
The first time I noticed Harley appearing in a drastically different outfit was in the video game Batman: Arkham Asylum. Asylum is the best video game based on the world of Batman; you’ll truly believe you’re prowling around like the Dark Knight. You hide with him in the shadows, plant traps, quickly and silently take down foes all as if you are the caped crusader. I’ve never played a game adapted from another source that understood those origins so well. The Joker was the main villain and his banter with Bats was spot on; his evil plot was perfectly constructed as a Joker-worthy caper. They even included Harley Quinn, a sometimes forgotten key part of the Joker’s scheming. In this game Harley is sporting a sexy little nurse outfit as she prances around Arkham thwarting the big bat and aiding her puddin’. I was initially pretty pissed off at this ridiculous outfit as it was crazy different from anything we’ve seen her wear before. But after playing the game, and completely adoring it, I look at this outfit a little differently.
It was a joke. I just wasn’t in on it until I played the game. Thinking about the outfit I see the comedy of it. It fits her circumstances; they’ve taken over the asylum and she’s making a joke of being a nurse and “caring” for her patients. The purple was an odd choice but maybe it was so she could better match her clown prince? Overall, after rethinking this design as a one-time costume, worn for a specific caper, I liked it. I also liked finding concept art for Asylum which showed her in the more familiar leotard, also with the purple. And it was also good to know it could have been so much worse than the cute nurse outfit, in particular, what the hell is happening in the third design?
Which brings me to the games hotly anticipated sequel, Arkham City. For the reasons I loved Arkham Asylum I cannot wait for Arkham City to be released. But I was silly in assuming when Harley left the asylum she would don her checkered body suit once again. Stupid me. For Arkham City, Harley is showing off a much different look.
Whose the tramp and where’s our harlequin!?
This was my initial reaction and it’s a harsh. It’s wrong and unfair of me to call her a tramp because it isn’t the “sexing-up” of her outfit I mind. She can be sexy, she would want to be sexy. But the accessorizing is terrible. Where’s the fun? Where’s the playfulness? I’ve always liked the contradiction in her character; the comical with the maniacal. The same can be said of the Joker, though to a lesser degree, because he can be downright freakin’ scary. But Harley is supposed to be fun, she’d supposed to be having fun. The dark eye make-up, the spiked belt and wristbands, even the tattoos don’t look to me like the playful Harley we love. The tattoos maybe, if they weren’t paired with the awful dye-job she has in her hair. The pigtails are cute and she’s dressed in black and red again, so they got something right. But honestly the purple was starting to grow on me, it lightened up her look. I don’t know what the designers were thinking. It lacks all the mirth and glee of Harley, and I think it stinks they feel the need to make her look gritty and hard to fit in with a darker style of game. She’s plenty dark already, hello? She’s crazy and hopelessly in love with a psycho killer clown.
I’ve since read about her change of outlook on life in Arkham City and it might provide some insight into her drastic costume change. This is from the official Arkham City page character profiles,
The Joker’s plaything and sometimes girlfriend, Harley Quinn was happy to leave Arkham Asylum so long as she could be with her ‘puddin.’ Her devotion to the Joker is admirable, but it is clear that his illness has laid a heavy burden on her as well. Her behaviour has become evermore erratic and vicious, as she appears to be in a state of emotional metamorphosis, manifested by her change in wardrobe to a more militant, harsh appearance.
Okay, I’ll hold my complaints until I play the game. I was originally pissed out about her outfit in Asylum and the game’s story changed my mind. Maybe the same will happen here, we’ll have to wait for October.
I know they are many animated versions of Harley I’m not including here, for example her recent appearance on Batman: Brave and the Bold. And I could go in depth about each and every one, but for the sake of making this somewhat short I’m limiting myself to these three distinctly different look. But totally feel free to continue discussing all her styles in the comments! Now finally let’s take a look at her newest outfit for Batman Live.
When I first saw the images and video I thought it looked cute. I liked the tutu skirt, the pigtails, the giant mallet. I realize now I didn’t get a good look at her costume. When seen in a high quality image I was appalled, this was hideous. Not something a fashion conscious gal like Harley would wear.
I’ll start at the top and work my way down. Pigtails are cute, but these strange read and blueish black ropey things sticking out of her head are not. If you didn’t want to make her blonde why not have her wear the famous harlequin headpiece? They’re very Pippy Longstockings or like the Wendy’s girl. Her mask seems too busy in the color and too small of shape. And her face isn’t painted at all, isn’t she supposed to be at least a little clownish? Her necklace doesn’t fit with the rest of her outfit, that is when you can notice it at all, what’s the point? The leather vest and skirt might be okay, but it’s really hard to tell with everything else mashed in. Why are her tights blue and red and her outfit black and red? Why the hell is there any blue in her outfit at all? This makes me scream for them to bring back the purple. The shoes are dumb, no acrobat wears such heels. And why laces? These aren’t sneakers.
This is a design from someone who has no clue who Harley is. I’m baffled as to why her usual leotard could not have transferred beautifully to a stage production. In fact, look how amazing that costume looks when fashioned for the real world,
Why must they constantly redesign Harley Quinn? They rarely ever change the Joker. Even in the The Dark Knight he was looking snappy in his purple suit and green vest. The Joker looks classy, creepy, comical, frightening, all of that rolled in to one outfit. His suit is iconic, but it only becomes iconic when he’s featured in that outfit over and over and over. They can’t happen for Harley if we decide she needs a new look every time we place her in a different continuity or incarnation. Harley’s original outfit, the skin tight body suit, is it not sexy enough? Is not believable? Practical? I don’t mind updating her look, but they need to keep it true to her character.
If they want her outfit to appear less like a Halloween costume, which is kind of silly because it is a Halloween costume, I’m sure they can develop an outfit which still bears a resemblence to a harlequin. That’s the key mistake in these new outfits, we loose any connection with her origin. Harley Quinn came from Harleen Quinzel (an odd name, I’ll give you that) which the Joker then altered to sound like harlequin, which he thought was rather funny. But let’s face it, there’s nothing funny about these new character designs.
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