Saturday, August 9, 2008

batman: harley and ivy

Perhaps I should explain. Back in 1992, a villainess was created for the Gotham universe. Her name was Dr. Harleen Quinzel, she was a psychologist, and she fell for the Joker after being hired to study him in Arkham Asylum. She became Harley Quinn, a rather lightweight criminal dressed in a sexy black and red jumpsuit, who was pretty much around to provide some comic relief and indulge in her messed-up love for the Joker. This was in the animated series I watched as a kid on TV. She proved so popular a creation she was written into the Batman canon in 1994 in the graphic novel Mad Love. There aren’t many villainesses in that canon, so it’s not surprising that I much preferred her, as a kid, to any other female character in the animated series. I know much less about Poison Ivy.

Paul Dini and Bruce Timm were Harley’s creators, so I was really excited to check out this volume. It’s much, much lighter stuff than I’ve been reading, and it would never jive with the Nolan version of Batman. Still, I loved this collection. “The Bet” is purely for amusement purposes—neither Harley nor Poison Ivy (who Harley calls “Red” because of her red hair) even don their costumes. They’re both stuck in Arkham, Harley is boy-crazy, and Ivy bets Harley she can kiss every single man in Arkham. When you’re a green skinned sex-kitten with poisoned blood and aphrodisiac gas, this isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds. Both of the villainesses are appealingly drawn, and the whole thing is just fun. The punchline is really sweet.

I have a new favourite comic artist: Joe Chiodo. Gorgeous, gorgeous watercolours, this is high art. I can’t imagine how long this took him to draw. I don’t really know that it makes a lot of sense, the story, as it involves somewhat useless disguises, but it’s got those Phantom-y elements—mirrors and Two-Face!—and the Joker’s got two-toned shoes. Coo-el. It’s modern and funny, but poor Harley gets the boot at the end of her robbery, despite preventing a shoot-out and a nitro explosion! Ivy only appears at the end to take in the rather pitiful Harley and help her with a heist. Chiodo makes Bruce Wayne and even the Robin kid look hubba-hubba, quite a feat (and only fair, IMHO, since Ivy’s like sex on legs). Robin and Harley even work together (you see how cuddly-feely this volume is compared to the others!).

The second half is what happens when Harley decides to be serious about teaming up with Ivy. It looks like the animated series because it’s from the same team, and it moves fluidly. It’s hilarious. It’s amazing that Harley ever gets anywhere considering she’s a bit of a ditz. Ivy and Harvey both escape to South America (!), though not Santa Maria de la Loma. The kookiest story ever is “Hooray for Harleywood.” It begins with Harley kicking the crap out of the Joker. We all know this would never happen in real life, which is kind of sick since he sometimes kicks the emotional crap out of her. So we quickly learn it’s all in the world of filmmaking, as Harley and Ivy have gone to Hollywood to make a movie . . . about themselves. Silly as this is, it’s a great opportunity for skewering the film industry, all the way from an Animaniacs pastiche to marketing toys being “the bread and butter” of filmmaking. Dozens of actors playing Batman in their film are hurt before the real Batman puts a stop to their movie. (I like Harley because sometimes she reminds me of myself—or maybe the part of me that’s cooped up except on the page. “Whoa, daddy! Feed me some candy!” Harley screams when she sees the actors trying out for the role of Batman.) The end is the ultimate irony, a bit like The Producers in that respect.

I’ve noticed that invariably all these comics are written and drawn by men. A few of the colorists are women, but I have yet to see a comic written or drawn by a woman (graphic novels are slightly more female-friendly). Why is that? Since Doctor Who Magazine has just had its first comic written and drawn by the same person, what’s stopping me from being the first woman to write and draw a comic? Somehow I don’t think it will happen, but someone should do it. I say all this because, brilliant and funny as I find Harley and Ivy, it’s got Ivy and Harley in the shower twice, in their underwear most of the time, etc, etc. Whatever—you’re the artist, you have the prerogative (and if I’m honest, the stuff I draw isn’t completely PG either). Still, it makes me a bit annoyed, as if only boys read this stuff. Clearly, they don’t.

I want this book.

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