Harley Quinn has only been around for 25 years, a small pittance compared to most other iconic comic book characters. But in that time she has become one of DC’s most popular players. In fact, it’s been said she’s DC’s most popular female protagonist, right next to Wonder Woman. But did you know the inspiration came from a weird string of episodes of daytime soap opera Days of Our Lives? Check out the video below, and see the performance that inspired one of pop culture’s most enduring characters.
Thanks to a YouTube channel known as The Singularity (via Geekologie), a video from the ’80s has resurfaced featuring actress Arleen Sorkin, the original voice of Harley. It’s a bizarre dream sequence string of episodes from Days of Our Lives. Sorkin played a Harlequin-inspired version of her character Calliope Jones in a medieval setting. The actress then made a VHS tape of the performance and gave it to her old college buddy Paul Dini. Dini just happened to be a working TV animation writer at the time.
Warner Brothers Animation
This happened just as Dini was gearing up to help create Batman: The Animated Series. He popped the tape in one day while sick in bed, and his friend’s performance inspired him to think of a Harlequin-like sidekick for the Joker. He then had Bruce Timm come up with the design we all recognize today as Harley Quinn. And when the time came to cast the voice actress, they went with Arleen Sorkin herself. Which was only fair, seeing as there would have been no Harley without her.
This original footage on YouTube is a reminder that some of our favorite pop culture icons come from the most unlikely of sources. Even though Sorkin isn’t playing the character with Harley’s traditional thick east coast accent, you can still see glimpses of the Harley we all know and love. Sorkin played Harley in several incarnations, in both TV and video games. And although she retired from the role a decade ago, every actress who plays her in any medium owes a debt to her performance.
Margot Robbie channeled Sorkin for her live-action portrayal in Suicide Squad, and off the strength of that she’s headlining her own movie soon in Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn), not to mention coming back for James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. And there’s a new Harley animated show on the way. But without Sorkin, you just don’t get to the Harley renaissance we have today.
Image: NBC /Warner Brothers