Everyone knows the story of the Joker and Harley Quinn – but Batman Confidential #7 revealed a surprising twist because it all began with Harley.
The Joker‘s origin story is mysterious and complex – but one Batman comic revealed he was actually created by Harley Quinn. Every time the Joker tells his origin story, it’s different. Is he a failed comedian, as in Todd Phillips’ Joker? Was he once a crime lord called the Red Hood who plunged into a vat of chemicals? Or was he a hitman who became obsessed with the Dark Knight?
This last possibility was explored by Michael Green and Denys Cowan in Batman Confidential #7-12, in a story set in the early days of Batman’s career. Jack was a skilled assassin, a master marksman who’d become weary of life – but who was reinvigorated when he finally saw someone he believed worthy of his talents. One of the more surprising elements of that particular tale, though, is that it presents Harley Quinn as the one who inspires the Joker – not the other way round.
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Jack is portrayed as simply too good at what he does, a sociopath whose life has lost meaning and who is actually considering committing suicide. One evening, he settles down in a bar to drown his sorrows (in ginger ale because he doesn’t ever properly “switch off”). Fortunately for Jack, but unfortunately for the world, he’s approached by a young barmaid who’s working to raise money for her psychiatry degree. “I used to love what I do,” Jack complains. “I’d wake up in the morning excited to try new ideas, new combinations — like a chef who dreams of tomorrow’s menu.” The barmaid has absolutely no idea Jack is talking about committing murders and tells him he’s clearly been born with a gift. “And when you’re lucky like that,” she insists, “lemma tell ya, when you’re blessed with the ability to do something better than everybody else, you can’t just walk away. It’s like an obligation — to you, to whoever gave you that gift — to go out there and use it.“
The barmaid is, of course, destined to become Harley Quinn. According to Batman Confidential #7, she met the Joker long before he became the Clown Prince of Crime, and inspired him to continue in his career – one that brought him into contact with Batman, and led him to his destiny. In fact, Jack was so grateful for her influence on his life that he paid for her degree. It’s a fascinating idea, suggesting the Joker and Harley were there for one another from the start, and it raises the possibility Harley chose to work at Arkham Asylum in part because she realized what a force of nature she’d unleashed on the world – and perhaps desired to spend more time with Mr. J.
Of course, this is only one origin story for the Joker; part of his allure is the fact he has no definitive origin, and every single interpretation seems to make it more complicated still. The most complicated was the Batman: Three Jokers miniseries, which revealed there have actually been multiple Jokers over the years, a complex attempt to fix the Joker’s different portrayals. It’s anybody’s guess how all the pieces go together – but, in the version seen in Batman Confidential #7, Harley Quinn certainly plays an unexpected role.
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