Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio.  For his end-of-the-year column, Bennett looks at the many incarnations of Harley Quinn from around the world.

So this is how the old year passes.  Not with a bunch of well-thought-out Best of/Worst of lists or an insightful reflection upon the current, but rather with a hodgepodge of my stray thoughts and recent stories that have caught my attention.  Beginning with:

I have  reached a point in my life where  when I don’t "get" something I pretty quickly come to the conclusion that the problem is almost always me.  But that having been said, I still really don’t "get" the sudden popularity of Harley Quinn or why she became such a huge breakout star for DC Comics even before the release of the Suicide Squad movie.  I get that it’s probably partially connected to the fact that in DC’s New 52 she traded in her bodystocking for a slightly creepy sporadically dressed sexy Goth clown girl look.  Which happily got revised in DC Rebirth into a more tolerable Tank Girl meets Cirque du Soleil sort of ensemble.  And I can definitely see the appeal to men, women and children of an adorable, fun-loving ass-kicking pixie that plays by her own rules.

Part of my confusion most likely comes from her ambiguous status quo.  Currently, in DC Rebirth she’s somehow simultaneously a semi-reformed street level crime-fighting anti-hero Harley Quinn, and in Suicide Squad she’s a convict who is periodically released on Black Ops missions.  Which leads me to my next question, what exactly are the crimes that this Harley committed?  Because it’s one thing to commit gimmicky crimes and be a known associate of mass murderers, but an entirely other thing if she’s guilty of going on "murderous rampages" (which apparently she was during the New 52).

But then, as previously established, I’m uncomfortable when fictional characters get away with murder or are made killers because it’s decided that this will make them more "interesting."  Take writer Tom King’s "I Am Suicide" storyline, which just concluded in Batman, in which to earn a place on Batman’s own Suicide, Catwoman was revised into a mass murderer.  Apparently just being an international jewel thief isn't nearly "bad-ass" enough anymore.  Though, me being me, I was somehow even more upset to discover King had retroactively turned Punch and Jewelee (who Wikipedia claims are “two of the silliest criminals active”) into sick psycho killers with boundary issues.  With the success of Suicide Squad, the studio has already greenlit a movie called Gotham City Sirens set to feature Harley, Poison, and Catwoman, all three of whom are now costumed cold-blooded killers, Which is something most mainstream movie audiences are going to find difficult to overlook.

Making this situation still stickier, there’s also an age-appropriate version of Harley among the DC Comics Super Hero Girls brand.  Along with being more wholesomely dressed, according to the Product Description for the DC Comics Super Hero Girls Harley Quinn Dress Up Set this Harley is "disorganized and a jokester, but hey, she’s really fun!  The resident class clown, Harley, lives to have fun and loves playing over the top pranks."  The obvious explanation for her presence is of course merchandising but it’s undoubtedly also because DC has historically been light on super-powered female characters.  Back in 1992 when DC teamed with Mattel on an abortive girls superhero toy line/animated series called Wonder Woman and the Star Riders they had to supplement actual DC characters (Dolphin, Ice) with original ones (Solara and Starlily).

So Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Cheetah and Killer Frost, who’s been downgraded to just "Frost," are all designated as "heroes" here.  Actually, Frost attending Super Hero High with the rest of the girls makes a certain amount of sense.  After visiting the DC Superhero Girls website it was hard not to notice how the revised character bears a striking resemblance to Elsa The Snow Queen from Disney’s Frozen.  Like Elsa, according to the site Frost "may seem too cool for school, but she’s just trying to protect her friends from her icy touch!"  All of which may explain (with an emphasis on "may") why a freshly paroled Killer Frost is joining the Justice League.  Otherwise, it’s just about as strange as the time when Lady Luck was supposed to join the New 52 Justice League.*

And there’s still one more Harley Quinn to consider, the original (and I don’t mean the definitive article, Golden Age Green Lantern villain The Harlequin, though it’s a little surprising Harley hasn’t time traveled back to 1947 to meet her -- yet).  The character created by Paul Dini for the "Joker’s Favor" episode of Batman: The Animated Series just made a guest appearance in Scooby-Doo Team-Up #41.  This version of the character is also trying to reform but standing in her way is someone who should really please B:TAS fans.

One indicator of just how popular Harley Quinn has become all over the world is this piece from The Express Tribune, "From Joker to Harley Quinn, everyone showed up at the Karachi Comic Con."  It concerned the second annual Karachi Film and Comic Con held in Karachi, Pakistan on December 17 and 18.  There clearly cosplay was king, the most popular choices being The Joker and Harley Quinn, to the detriment of other Con components.  Fahad Shaikh, one of the initiators of KFCC, was quoted as saying "We had announced a fan art competition but people aren’t really interested in that.  Everyone just wants to dress up.”  Or as another article about the Con that appeared on the website put it, "Despite the presence of a decent fan following of comic books in Pakistan, we’re still lagging behind in the production of comic books."  Or as a sub-headline put it, "'We need more comics'".

When Dynamite Entertainment announced at Comic-Con they had acquired the rights to the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books (see "Dynamite’s Two-Track Approach to 'The Hardy Boys' and ‘Nancy Drew'"), it seemed an unlikely and uncomfortable fit.  But it suddenly made a lot more sense last week when I saw this piece on the Bleeding Cool website, "Dynamite Comics To Turn Nancy Drew into a Femme Fatale."  In Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys: The Big Lie coming in March, Frank and Joe Hardy are accused of killing their father and with "no one else to turn to, the boys go to the local femme fatale, Nancy Drew for help."  To which I can only say:




*  Back on July 23, 2011, Geoff Johns announced that a new version of Lady Luck, a Golden Age character who fought crime in a stylish signature green cocktail dress, hat, and veil, would be joining the Justice League.  Unfortunately, it never actually happened.  But this new Lady Luck did appear exactly once in March 2013 in The Phantom Stranger #6.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of