Actor Arleen Sorkin passed away on August 25 at the age of 67. She leaves behind a long legacy of roles, including one that's become iconic across TV, movies, comics, games, and more: Harley Quinn. Even though Sorkin isn't the only actor to portray Harley at this point, her mark on the character is indelible and inextricable.
Sorkin originated the role of Harley Quinn as a voice actor in a 1992 episode of Batman: The Animated Series titled 'Joker's Favor.' Writer and series co-creator Paul Dini initially planned for Harley to show up in just the one episode as one of the Joker's goons. However, rather than handing the role to one of the show's typical ensemble actors, Dini asked Sorkin to play the role, inspired by her appearance in a jester costume in an episode of the long running daytime soap opera Days of Our Lives, basing many aspects of Harley's mannerisms on Sorkin's voice and personality.
That one decision turned Harley Quinn from a one-off side character to the show's surprising breakout fan-favorite. Sorkin's performance and demeanor became not just an aspect of Harley's portrayal, but the continued core of how Harley has been portrayed across all kinds of media.
If not for the popularity of Sorkin's performance coupled with Batman: TAS co-creator Bruce Timm's striking design, Harley could have faded into obscurity as a background character. Instead, she became a full-fledged member of the cast, even breaking out of Joker's shadow early on to undergo her own growth and progression. And of course, she came to comic books, where her story has continued to evolve.
Since then, over 30 years into Harley's existence, almost every major portrayal of the character has taken its cues from Sorkin's classic Harley, right down to current Harley Quinn live action actor Margot Robbie's take on her voice and attitude, as well as her current animated portrayal in her own show by actor Kaley Cuoco.
Thanks in large part to Sorkin, Harley Quinn has become one of DC's most famous and popular characters, elevating herself far beyond the Joker's sidekick to an anti-hero with her own agency, her own stories, and her own comic book legacy - adding a touch of immortality to Sorkin's legacy as an actor and a storyteller, in turn.
It's the perfect time to dig into the best Harley Quinn comics of all time.