A 2000 DC Comics character spotlight on everyone's favorite Canon Immigrant and Perky Female Minion, Dr. Harleen Quinzel, also known as Harley Quinn! The series lasted for 38 issues, from December, 2000 to January, 2004.
Well, maybe "minion" is a bit of a stretch. The series begins when, after a failed scheme, The Joker gets so pissed at Harley that he kicks her out of his gang - the rest of the series deals with Harley trying to make it on her own. Initially she tries freelance henching, but that doesn't exactly work out, so she starts her own gang instead. With... mixed results.
A running theme in the first part is Harley's childlike inability to take responsibility for her own actions, or even acknowledge/realize any consequences besides her having fun, which reaches Tear Jerker levels at times, though the comic itself is more than a little madcap. Also heavily involved is Harley's love of Love, and her being willing to do pretty much anything in the name of it.
The last set of storylines happen after a time skip and features a noticeable Genre Shift to a more noirish style, downplaying Harley's cheery quirks and madcap adventures and instead playing her more like a jaded expy of Catwoman. This did not last.
In true tradition of the Batman side-comics, the Caped Crusader himself does not appear very often, nor, interestingly enough, does the Joker beyond the first issue or so.
Note that the title character predates this series. She had debuted in Batman: The Animated Series during 1992. Her first comic book appearance was in The Batman Adventures #12 (September, 1993). Her introduction to the mainstream DC universe took place in the one-shot Batman: Harley Quinn (October, 1999).
- Aesop Amnesia: A major lesson Harley learns in the series is that she doesn't need the Joker in her life. Unfortunately, at some point between the end of the series and her next appearance in the comics, Joker must have gotten to her again, which is sadly very in character.
- Anti-Villain / Anti-Hero: Harley, who fluctuates between a good-hearted villain and devious but heroic very rapidly. Sometimes in the same issue. As sweet as she might seem, however, she will still happily throw a solid punch at Batman every so often. Bats is particularly likely to find himself in serious trouble if he threatens her "Puddin'".
- Art Shift: Several times in the first part of the series the art shifts to a sort of "Harleyvision," which shows the world how she sees it: rendered in more cartoony version of the DCAU style, where nobody dies and everything plays out like a Looney Tunes cartoon. This becomes harrowing at times, such as when Harley blows up a traitorous minion and we see, in Harleyvision, a Looney Tunes-esque scene where the woman's face is covered in soot, her hair is frizzy, and her eyes are swirled like a stunned cartoon character after an explosion... and then later someone runs through the same hallway and we instead see the truth: the minion's mangled corpse.
- Bad Boss: Harley runs into this twice - with Joker and Two-Face. She herself kills several of her minions, but only after they betray her, with one notable exception.
- Bi the Way
- Blondes Are Evil: Though not naturally.
- Bunny Ears Psychologist - Harley, in spades. She barely ever acts like anything but an unrestrained loon, but occasionally she makes it known that she's still a university-educated psychologist. Later in the series, after she mostly loses the "bunny ears," she gets a day job in the field and takes a few patients (one or two of which want to kill her).
- Bound and Gagged: Happens several times to Thorn after she is defeated by Harley and Ivy. Also happens to Sasha Bordeaux, Agent Chispazo, and a number of other characters.
- Canon Immigrant: Harley, from Batman: The Animated Series: while she appeared in the comics before this, this was where she came into her own and got a lot of character establishment.
- Children Are Innocent: With Harley as a (wo)manchild rather than a regular one. She is, however, widely regarded by others as being extremely innocent, of the "not aware of doing evil" variety, just, in her mind, having fun - this does, however, involve a laundry list of psychologically stunted systems of denial. She sees the world like a game of make-believe, and is oblivious to the fact that she is hurting people and doesn't truly acknowledge the danger of what she does or other people's danger to her - though she in more lucid moments claims this is less innocence and more a rejecting of the world in favor of her own reality.
- Innocence Lost: A major plot point in the second half, involving Harley herself, who realizes what kind of person she truly is and fully, if sadly, embraces it, and a girl she kidnapped, who loses her sight thanks to Harley's greed. Inverted with the girl in question, who regains a bit of her innocence after being free of everyone pursuing her (now that she doesn't have what they want anymore) to the point that she pities people like Harley.
- Crapsack World: Gotham, as par for the course.
- Evil vs. Evil: And a lot of it.
- Faux Action Girl: Gritty vigilante Thorn tries is easily defeated and tied up by Harley and Ivy in each of her appearances.
- For Science!: At one point Harley and Ivy capture a meddling Thorn in Metropolis, and while having her at their mercy discover her split civilian "Rose" personality. Harley is intrigued and gets the idea to put her through even more emotional trauma to see how many times they can get her personality to split. Ivy plays along, but she on the other hand just wants to torture her for the hell of it.
- Freudian Excuse / Start of Darkness: One story gives us a flashback to before Harley met the Joker, where a psychological experiment gone terribly wrong with her old fiancée, resulting in his suicide, drives her to a philosophy of meaninglessness and emotional fragility long before she ever sets foot in Arkham, and it's this, if anything, that starts her on her road to villainy, the Joker just guided her to her destination.
- "Friend or Idol?" Decision: Harley kidnaps a girl whose eyes are needed for some sort of convoluted and very lucrative underhanded venture - but while she is protecting her from others who want the money (and don't care whether the girl lives), the two sort of bond. So then, it comes down to Harley whether to give up the girl and make a mint or save her. Long story short, the girl ends up blind and Harley ends up richer, completely depressed and unable to look at herself in the mirror.
- Genius Ditz: The series itself goes back and forth as to whether Harley truly is a brilliant psychologist or whether she cheated her way through school and was not fit to do it in the first place - though it eventually settles on the former.
- Genre Shift
- Girlish Pigtails: When out of costume, she usually styles her hair like this.
- Girls' Night Out Episode: Several times in the beginning of the series, where a female villain eventually team up with other female villains and fight female heroes, particularly the "sleepover" episode.
- And then there was Gotham City Sirens, which was a Girls' Night Out Series.
- Good Angel, Bad Angel: Often. Her shoulder devil alternately appears as either the Joker or herself in costume, while her shoulder angel is consistently Dr. Harleen Quinzel. Fairly often, however, they shift roles from "good/evil" to "reason/insanity" or "common sense/impulsiveness."
- Jet Pack: Harley steals one at some point. She runs into trouble when it explodes.
- Toasted Buns: Harley references this while jetpacking away from Superman - which makes sense, as the jetpack in question is small enough to fit in her lower back and at one point is directly facing into her behind.
- Killed Off for Real: Harley, at one point, gets caught up in a massive explosion. The next few issues take place in Hell. She gets better. Also, Lewis, though Harley never registers that she killed him.
- Lampshade Hanging: Harley mentions in issue 13 how it's always night time in Gotham City.
- Love Makes You Crazy: Harley, natch.
- Love Redeems: Of a sort. Harley, being a lover of love, decides to help it grow wherever she can - being in love is the easiest way to get her to spare you. Early on she fights Two-Face to save a hostage he was taking as his own because she felt the story was romantic, and later on she plays matchmaker to a pair of bounty hunters trying to bring her in.
- Mentor Occupational Hazard: Happens twice - to Lewis in the beginning, who was trying to guide the driftingly insane Harley to something better the world he was stuck in. Harley herself killed him, shooting him through the chest to stop him from killing hostages, though she does not acknowledge that she had fatally injured him. Later happens to the old ex-con Harley befriends, who was implied to have done a lot to help her into the relative sanity she had by the end of the series.
- Multicolored Hair: Half-red, half-black in the DC Universe reboot.
- Nietzsche Wannabe: Gotham breeds this - in this series there's Joker, Lewis (to an extent: this is one of the reasons why he did not feel sad about finally being killed), and Harley to an extent.
- Psycho for Hire: Several, including a traitorous henchman Harley for some reason continues to hire.
- Psychopathic Womanchild: Harley herself, who acts and thinks like a child at play - particularly noticeable with the addition of the aforementioned Harleyvision - the world as she sees it where, again, nobody dies and everything is like a game or cartoon. Harley herself does not register the true consequences of her actions, and doesn't even realize she's been killing people until she meets with up her victims in Hell (long story), and even then it takes her a while to realize they're dead - she thinks she's still alive because she doesn't register having killed anyone.
- Sexy Jester
- Shipper on Deck: During the first run, Harley notices the Unresolved Sexual Tension between two detectives and decides to encourage them to get together. She ends up killing Lewis, the most developed and sympathetic of her henchmen, to keep him from being a Moment Killer -- although she thinks it's just a flesh wound thanks to Harleyvision.
- Shout-Out: In one of the early Girls' Night Out issues, the obscure duo of Bad Girls, the Body Doubles, appear cosplaying as Adam Warren's version of the Dirty Pair. The vigilante Thorn also shows up in a disguise that looks like Dark Horse Comics' "Ghost" character.
- Slumber Party: Harley held a supervillainess sleepover in one issue.
- Split Personality: Two-Face appears at one point, so that's a given. However, the storyline where he appears also involves a businessman allegedly having an affair with a woman who turns out to be his wife's split personality. Also, Rose and Thorn appear when Harley goes to Metropolis.
- The Starscream: When Harley starts her own gang she gets several, including a remnant of one of Joker's gangs who is disappointed she isn't more violently destructive.
- Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: Her constant, unyielding focus on love and joy caused her to get banished from hell.
- Villainous Harlequin
- Widget Series: It's hilariously goofy. Let's leave it at that.