When it comes to The Joker, there are many, many different stories re-imagining his origin as Batman’s archnemesis in comics, movies and animation. Whether it’s a gangster, a failed comedian or an abused child, Joker’s origin story is as varied as he is. When it comes to his on-again-off-again girlfriend Harley Quinn, however, her origin has largely remained the same for the past 30 years as a prominent up-and-coming psychologist who fell in love with and was manipulated by Joker during their sessions at Arkham Asylum.
Writer Kami Garcia sought to deliver a different take on Harley, one that would be more realistic and place her in the role of a hero. Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity sees Harley Quinn working as a psychological profiler for Commissioner Gordon and the GCPD as they hunt for a dangerous serial killer named Joker who turns his victims and crime scenes into disturbing, meticulous and gruesome art pieces. In a world where Batman seemingly does not exist, the story (which you can read our review here) feels like Silence of the Lambs, The Bone Collector and Manhunter as Harley dives into the mind and methods of The Joker as she attempts to catch him and avenge her friend’s death.
At the Fan Expo convention held in Toronto, Garcia spoke about the research she took on in writing the story. A self-professed fan of psychology and true crime, she wanted to create a book that felt disturbingly real and even had a psychological consultant to discuss Harley’s profiling methods as well as Joker’s sadistic and inventive means to murder people.
“My serial killer stuff, my consultant said ‘you know an inappropriate amount about serial killers for someone who is not a psychiatrist’,” Garcia said. “My step-dad was an undercover cop for 25 years and I remember that very vividly as a kid. I also honestly don’t believe everyone is good essentially. I do believe there is evil in the world and I guess I want to make sure people recognize it. My influences are, I read a lot of psychology stuff for that kind of thing and stuff written by real profilers. Those people had to be in the presence of really, really dark stuff and kind of stick it out so the rest of us can be safer.”
When it was debuting as single issues, the Black Label series hit a snag early in the pandemic as comic companies faced paper shortages for their books as well as DC shifting distributors from Diamond. This meant issues were delayed or quickly went out of print due to not enough copies getting printed, resulting in a lack of further exposure as the series went on. Now that it has been collected into graphic novel format, more people have discovered the story by her and artists Mico Suayan, Jason Badower and Mike Mayhew.
“I hope people will discover the series more now that it’s collected. It’s gorgeous. The artists killed themselves. Everyone on it is way more amazing than me and it’s my love letter to true crime. I was going to write an adult serial killer procedural and I basically felt like The Joker was the best serial killer and I did it with that. It’s a very different take. Harley is not in love with The Joker, she’s a clinical psychologist working at Arkham who is moonlighting at the GCPD as a profiler. Gordon is super prominent, who I love. It’s kind of my, I’m not going to say love letter to serial killers but love letter to profilers and cops.”
As for further stories set in this world, Garcia revealed she has written a short prequel story that will be featured in the Harley Quinn 30th Anniversary Special, a 100-page book with a collection of writers and artists to celebrate her introduction from Batman: The Animated Series, which is set for release on September 13th. Garcia also teased a potential sequel, saying the book’s popularity has sparked enough interest for her to pitch it to DC. Time will tell if we’ll see Garcia return to Gotham as Harley continues her battle with Joker in another Joker/Harley story.
Ricky Church – Follow me on Twitter for more movie news and nerd talk.