Harley Quinn made her world debut as the Joker’s cork gun-toting, right-hand gal in Batman: The Animated Series in 1992. The character was inspired by a scene from Days of Our Lives, featuring actress Arleen Sorkin rolling around in wild harlequin gear and makeup. Producer Paul Dini was old college pals with the actress, so when he saw the taped bit, he told Vulture, “I thought, ‘maybe there should be a girl there… Should the girl be like a tough street thug? Or a hench-person or something?’ And then suddenly the idea of something funny struck me.” He recruited Sorkin herself to do the character’s vocals, including her first utterance, “It is to laugh, huh, Mistah J?” which set the tone for the wild fun to come with Harley.
The show was also first to explore her history as Dr. Harleen Quinzel, the Joker’s psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum. After a few therapy sessions, she fell in love with and freed the maniacal madman, adopting her own nefarious clown identity by his side. She’d also forge a friendship with fellow female baddie, Poison Ivy, along the way. Her checkered red and black leotard and headdress ensemble paralleled her image in the series as a real card who didn’t need sex appeal to rule a room.