There is no comic book relationship as well-known or misinterpreted as the bond shared between the Joker and Harley Quinn. Despite the fandom that has rallied around their coupling, the history of the Joker and Harley Quinn is a strange, twisted, and startlingly violent tale. Even in a medium that is notoriously sexist, Joker and Harley give the term "toxic relationship" a whole new definition.
Looking back on all the times the Joker abused Harley Quinn, one might mistake the demented clown's actions as typically morbid; after all, when isn't the Joker acting like an unhinged killer? However, the character often takes his villainy to new heights when he's with Harley, resulting in scenes that are ugly in a manner that feels far too real for comics.
As the popularity of both characters continues to rise, it's important to look back at some of their relationship's darkest moments. While the duo certainly makes for a fun set of Halloween costumes, this isn't the type of romance you want to emulate.
It's hard to imagine anything worse than coming face-to-face with the your doppelgänger's corpse. Unfortunately, that's exactly what the Joker forces Harley Quinn to do in a particularly gruesome section of DC's Suicide Squad reboot.
After shackling Harley to a grimy prison wall, the Joker proceeds to delight in physically and mentally torturing her for hours on end. To make things worse, the Joker populated the cell with the bodies of several other victims, all of whom are dressed and styled identically to Harley.
Not exactly how one imagines a romantic getaway.
The comics have never hidden the abusive elements of the Joker's relationship with Harley Quinn. However, the plot rarely takes time to elaborate on Harley's perspective. While it's tempting to focus on the Joker's never-ending run of twisted antics, it's also extremely important to consider how Mr. J.'s actions might make Harley feel, especially when compounded over time.
One of the few glimpses into Harley's damaged psyche comes during an intimate conversation with Black Canary. Here, the reader learns that Harley was at one point pregnant with the Joker's baby, and that he knowingly abandons her for the entirety of her pregnancy. After Harley gave birth to her daughter Lucy, the child was sent to live with Harley's sister.
From the outside, it was clear from the very beginning that the Joker and Harley Quinn's relationship was not a healthy one. When they met, she was working as his psychiatrist, and he slowly drove her crazy over the course of their sessions.
In her first and largest act of devotion, Harley allows herself to be thrown into a vat of chemicals, changing her in the same way that Joker was once transformed. As was the case with Joker, exposure to the chemicals causes Harley to become increasingly unhinged. After experiencing this fate himself, it's truly sickening to see Joker doom the woman he loves to the same fate.
After years of being at each other's throats, it should come as no surprise that the Joker hatched a secret plan to murder Harley during their wedding ceremony. In Harley Quinn: Futures End, Joker agrees to marry Harley, and the two decide the hold their ceremony atop a fiery volcano on a remote island.
After finishing their vows, it is revealed that The Joker has agreed — behind Harley's back — to let the island's natives sacrifice her in the volcano. So much for their twisted happily ever after.