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."
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.
Harleen's professional interest soon turns into romantic obsession...
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.
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?
Yes, it's true, there was very nearly a Harley Quinn-type character on the Batman 1966-69 TV series!
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...
...where, unimpressed by the art world's traditional offerings, he vandalizes them using a pair of paint guns.
He even shoots Batman point blank in the chest! With, um, red paint. More laundry for Alfred! And those stubborn stains never come out!
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 idolespecially art world cutie "Baby Jane" Towser (Diana Ivarson), heir to the paper clip fortune. So, obviously, she's easily bendable to his will.
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."
Thus, let the co-dependence begin!
Worthy of a Steve Ditko story, the script gets in some barely-concealed jabs at the world of modern art...
...and the sheer insanity of the instant fame its heroes find.
Eager to impress the Joker, Harley Baby Jane captures his essence as a modern sculpture:
But Joker's more interested in holding the entire roomful of Gotham's elite for ransom...including millionaire Bruce Wayne!
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.
Hey, look...Jane's even got the traditional Harley Quinn pigtails!
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?
Fight scene ensues! With even Bruce getting to paste a haymaker on the Joker's grinning jaw! Go, Bruce, go!
Just in case you'd forgotten you were watching the sixties Batman TV series:
Uh oh! Robin and Bruce are captured and trapped in a frightening "Bat-Mobile" death trap! Will they escape? (Answer: yes.)
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?"
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!"
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!
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!
Jane protests that the Joker hasn't actually stolen anything yet. She stops herself from murmuring "Except my heart!" Thankfully.
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?
Later, at Jane's family mansion, Joker enjoys her every pampering and attention as he takes full advantage of herrepeat it with me, just as he always did with Harley Quinn. And that includes her giving him...all-you-can-eat chicken wings!
Sure, Jane can't help but feel a little bit used when the Joker uses the family's antique table as his new canvas...
...especially when his goons turn it into "modern art" with their axes. Modern art, everyone. Modern art.
"Don't look at it this way, darling!" reassures the Joker. "You're not losing a table...you're gaining a masterpiece!"
So, happily, all is well in the Joker-Jane household.
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?"
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.
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! ...
...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!
Trying to escape, Joker dashes into Bruce's study, inadvertently triggering the hidden button in the bust of Shakespeare:
...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!
...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...
...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.
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.
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?!?
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.
We interrupt this blog for an advertisement...or rather, several advertisements! Let's all scoot back to the sweet, swingin' seventies, when platform shoes were high-heeled, trousers were tight, and your iPod played the Bee Gees, except it was called a record player and you couldn't carry it around with you unless you had a strong back and a really long power cord. Those were the sweet, sweet days when comics cost 15¢, and if you happened to have forty-five cents in the pocket of your Toughskin jeans when you walked into the Rexell, well, Stan Lee was gonna figger out a way to get all of your hard-earned, paper-route, sellin' Grit money. How was he gonna do that? Through the four-color magic of advertisements: compelling, intriguing, cliff-hanging banners which made you want, nay, need the issue in question. It's no doubt that the thing Marvel did best after making comics was selling comics, and all it took was one-third of a page, at the bottom of the letters column, to hawk and bark the newest ("on sale now!") ish of a book you might not be reading but by golly now you'd better pick it up. Let's take a look at some of these ads for classic Marvel comic titles of the early 1970s. They may be small in size, but they're big with juicy advertising flavor!
Ad for Amazing Spider-Man #91 in Fantastic Four #105 (December 1970)
Ad for Man-Thing #1 and Ka-Zar #1 in Amazing Spider-Man #128 (January 1974)
Ad for Tower of Shadows in Thor #185 (February 1971). Curiously, King Kull never appeared in Tower of Shadows...by the time that feature appeared, Tower had changed its title to Creatures on the Loose with #10 (March 1971)
Ad for Iron Man #39 in Fantastic Four #112 (July 1971)
Ad for Fantastic Four #104 in Incredible Hulk #133 (November 1970)
Ad for Conan the Barbarian #4 in Fantastic Four #109 (April 1971)
Ad for Thor #183 in Incredible Hulk #183 (December 1970)
Ad for Fantastic Four #109 in Incredible Hulk #138 (April 1971)
Ad for Thor #190 in Fantastic Four #113 (August 1971)
Ad for Sub-Mariner #37 in Incredible Hulk #139 (May 1971)
Ad for Amazing Adventures #6 in Avengers #87 (April 1971)
Ad for Conan the Barbarian #2 in INcredible Hulk #135 (January 1971)
Ad for Avengers #88 and Incredible Hulk #140 in Fantastic Four #111 (June 1971)