Thursday, February 03, 2011

Harley '67

If you're a fan of Harley Quinn, the Clown Princess of Crime, then you no doubt know that she was created by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm in the 1992 episode of Batman: The Animated Series titled "The Joker's Favor."

Harley Quinn


Later, the show fleshes out Harley's wacky worldview, her fatal attraction to her beloved "Mistah J," and, in an episode adapted from a well-received comic book, examines the origin of her "Mad Love"—detailing how criminal psychologist Dr. Harleen Quinzel first met the Joker.

Harley Quinn


Harleen's professional interest soon turns into romantic obsession...

Harley Quinn


And it never seems to permanently sink in that Joker's only interested in Harley while she can help him. She's no more than a tool to his end; but for her the world revolves around the Joker. And she'll keep coming back to him again and again, no matter how much he hurts her, emotionally and physically.

Harley Quinn


But...didja know...that if the producer had followed up on it...we very possibly could have had Harley Quinn...back in 1967? In an entirely different Batman TV series?

Harley Quinn


Yes, it's true, there was very nearly a Harley Quinn-type character on the Batman 1966-69 TV series!

Harley Quinn


It happened in the 1967 second season two-part episode "Pop Goes the Joker" and "Flop Goes the Joker." That cackling criminal the Joker (the white-faced, right down to his mustache, Cesar Romero) has crashed an art gallery...

Harley Quinn


...where, unimpressed by the art world's traditional offerings, he vandalizes them using a pair of paint guns.

Harley Quinn


He even shoots Batman point blank in the chest! With, um, red paint. More laundry for Alfred! And those stubborn stains never come out!

Harley Quinn


Joker's surreal scribbles attract the attention and awe of the Gotham City art world, who, in keeping with the idiocy of Gotham's police department, political families, and socialites, make the Crime Cackler into their new idol—especially art world cutie "Baby Jane" Towser (Diana Ivarson), heir to the paper clip fortune. So, obviously, she's easily bendable to his will.

Harley Quinn


Joker woos and wins the easily-impressed Baby Jane: he's easily impressed by her insanely rich side (the rich part as well as the insane bit), especially with his art offering, a blank canvas entitled "Death of a Mauve Bat." "Where's the bat?" "He's dead."

Harley Quinn


Thus, let the co-dependence begin!

Harley Quinn


Worthy of a Steve Ditko story, the script gets in some barely-concealed jabs at the world of modern art...

Harley Quinn


...and the sheer insanity of the instant fame its heroes find.

Harley Quinn


Eager to impress the Joker, Harley Baby Jane captures his essence as a modern sculpture:

Harley Quinn


But Joker's more interested in holding the entire roomful of Gotham's elite for ransom...including millionaire Bruce Wayne!

Harley Quinn


Baby Jane's reaction to the Joker's criminal turn isn't surprising to those familiar with the sympathetic yet frequently-betrayed attitude of Joker's girl Friday Harley, as she protests "Even me, Joker?" Yup. Even you.

Harley Quinn


Hey, look...Jane's even got the traditional Harley Quinn pigtails!

Harley Quinn


Bruce Wayne...in trouble? Why, this is a job for Batman! But only Robin shows up to save the day. Huh, wonder why that is?

Harley Quinn


Fight scene ensues! With even Bruce getting to paste a haymaker on the Joker's grinning jaw! Go, Bruce, go!

Harley Quinn


Just in case you'd forgotten you were watching the sixties Batman TV series:

Harley Quinn


Uh oh! Robin and Bruce are captured and trapped in a frightening "Bat-Mobile" death trap! Will they escape? (Answer: yes.)

Harley Quinn


Back among the hostages, Baby Jane attempts to appeal to Joker to release her and the others, but Joker's having none of that. Rejected, Jane snaps back angrily: "You tied me up and tried to steal my art collection?"

Harley Quinn


But just like he does with Harley, the Joker's got Jane wrapped around his chalk-white finger: "I couldn't help myself dear...I'm an artist! I have a desire for things of beauty. Beauty is irresistible to me!...You've got to stand by me!"

Harley Quinn


Jane, of course, melts. "Your paintings were impressive...certainly not the work of an ordinary mind!" You don't know how right you are on that part, sister!

Harley Quinn


By the time the Boy Wonder bursts back into the room (aw, c'mon, you knew he was gonna escape that death trap, didn't you?), Joker's totally got Baby Jane turned to his side. That's co-dependence, kids!

Harley Quinn


Jane protests that the Joker hasn't actually stolen anything yet. She stops herself from murmuring "Except my heart!" Thankfully.

Harley Quinn


Can this relationship be saved? Ehhhh...no. This sort of love affair always eventually ends up on Cops, doesn't it? Well, whatever, save your receipt on the wedding gift, okay?

Harley Quinn


Later, at Jane's family mansion, Joker enjoys her every pampering and attention as he takes full advantage of her—repeat it with me, just as he always did with Harley Quinn. And that includes her giving him...all-you-can-eat chicken wings!

Harley Quinn


Sure, Jane can't help but feel a little bit used when the Joker uses the family's antique table as his new canvas...

Harley Quinn


...especially when his goons turn it into "modern art" with their axes. Modern art, everyone. Modern art.

Harley Quinn


"Don't look at it this way, darling!" reassures the Joker. "You're not losing a table...you're gaining a masterpiece!"

Harley Quinn


So, happily, all is well in the Joker-Jane household.

Harley Quinn


D'oh! Well, that's what you get for dating an insane criminal with violent mood swings! (Just ask Katy Perry, Jane!)

Joker's plot is to use Baby Jane to gain entrance to her family's wing of the Gotham City Art Museum, and to substitute his own artwork for the priceless works on display, getting away with millions of dollars of classic art! Wow...that's...a complicated but effective plan, huh? "Is that why I'm tied up?" Baby Jane rants. "After all I've done for you?"

Harley Quinn


Heck hath no fury like a woman betrayed. Harley would have found a way to kick the Joker's butt at this time...oh, who are we kidding? This is a moment when big fat wet tears would well up in her eyes and she'd sob helplessly pleading for her puddin' to not hurt her, at which he'd laugh and kick her through a window or something. At least Baby Jane escapes that violent fate.

Phoning the ever-clueless Commissioner Gordon and Chief O'Hara to give his ransom demands for the paintings, Joker is unaware that Batman has entered the room behind him, listening and then speaking on an extension line. It's one of Adam West's best moments at Batman, and if you think the show is only camp and hijinks, this scene is well worth checking out.

Harley Quinn


Suddenly, of course, in pure Harley style, Baby Jane is useful again! As a hostage, yes, but useful! Thwarted from his art gallery scheme by Batman, Joker grabs Jane and heads for Stately Wayne Manor, threatening to blow her brains out in front of Alfred and Aunt Harriet if he isn't given access to the Wayne safe immediately! ...

Harley Quinn


...leading to the totally awesome scene of Joker and Alfred fencing for their lives! I'm telling you, Batman, pfui. Robin, meh. The real hero of this series is the ever-unflappable and always-awesome Alfred!

Harley Quinn


Trying to escape, Joker dashes into Bruce's study, inadvertently triggering the hidden button in the bust of Shakespeare:

Harley Quinn


...and opening the secret entrance to the Batcave! Oh no! Will the Dynamic Duo's most deadly arch-nemesis discover their secret identities? Looks like it!

Harley Quinn


...except...no! Earlier in the episode, Alfred had fortuitously removed the "Access to Batcave via Batpoles" sign and the "Dick" and "Bruce" labels on the poles themselves so that he could re-paint them. Holy deus ex machina, Batman! Yes, I'm sorry, I couldn't get through this post without doing that at least once. So the Joker doesn't see that these poles lead to the Batcave, because ever-quick-thinking Alfred punches the (hidden) "emergency Batpole elevator" button, bringing the Joker back up before he can see the hidden cave...

Harley Quinn


...and sending him careening up and down until he cries like a little girl, begging to be let off this wild ride. He's only too happy to be taken away by the time Batman and Robin arrive.

Harley Quinn


Baby Jane (on the sofa, with everyone's favorite busybody, Gladys Kravitz Aunt Harriet), explains to Batman how taken in by the Joker she was. Aunt Harriet comforts her by explaining that "anyone could be taken in by the Joker's slick talk!" Well, anyone with serious psychological needs and crippling co-dependence issues, that is.

Harley Quinn


In an epilogue, Bruce explains that "Batman" arranged for the museum to swap the real art treasure's for Alfred's paintings, thus foiling the Joker. A gentleman's gentleman, a fighter, a wit, and an artistic genius...is there anything that Alfred cannot do?!?

Harley Quinn


And that's the last we see of Diana Ivarson as Baby Jane Towser, the girl so enamored of the Joker she let him trash her family table. Man, that's love. But it's a pity the character didn't appear in any later episodes. She shares many of the psychological characteristics of Harley Quinn, a great Batman character with a tragic flaw of loving too much and not wisely. There's all the signs in Baby Jane that she could have returned in a later episode, still obsessed by the Joker, so infatuated by him she dons a colorful costume to become his beloved sidekick...always clinging, always returning no matter how rejected. It happened in 1992, but it coulda happened in 1967. Which only goes to show: the Batman '66 show is not only more awesome than you think, it is more awesome than you can comprehend.


5 comments:

Sleestak said...

Well that's just cool. I see that Joker vandalizing the Art Museum made it into the Burton Batman, too.

Suzanne de Nimes said...

You're a wise little bull! I was thinking the same thing while watching this episode. It's really one of the series' best, in all facets. One of my favorite parts is one you didn't even mention - Bruce Wayne, as the Joker's "art student," getting all snarky and insulting with the Joker, in a way that Batman really can't.

Interestingly, the general plot wouldn't be all that out of place for a modern Joker story, either. With a little rejiggering, imagine the Joker becoming an "outsider art" underground hero to the kind of rich idiots who were in the latest "Detective" story arc, participating in auctions for crime memorabilia like the crowbar that killed Jason Todd.

Jason said...

Great stuff. I used to have this one on tape, and watched it more than a few times. I still remember some great dialogue bits, like, Baby Jane's reaction to the "Mauve Bat" piece ... "Of course, it's symbolic!"

"Symbolic of what?"

"The emptiness of modern life."


And when she's feeding him the chicken wings, and Joker's going to town on them, he explains his gluttony thusly: "I could survive on two grapes and a thimbleful of water ... but my muse! My muse is starving!"

So she yells at the servants, "More chicken for the Joker's muse!"


Also, Joker calls Alfred a weird insult at the end ... "Anglo-fink"? What's that about?

Fun stuff.

Michael Hoskin said...

Bully, how did you avoid a Scream reference on image 33?

SallyP said...

My God, it's been years, but I do remember this one. A true classic.