History Of Harley Quinn And Poison Ivy's Relationship
The news that Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy were officially a couple was met with a diverse gamut of reactions from comic book fans, from "neat" to "(unintelligible two-hour screeching about the homosexual agenda and SJWs ruining comics)." But the Harley/Ivy romance didn't come out of nowhere: Batman writers had, knowingly or unknowingly, been laying the groundwork for this moment for about two decades before it actually happened through moments like ...
Batman: The Animated Series Planted The First Seeds Of Their Romance
Harley and Ivy first met in a Batman: The Animated Series episode imaginatively titled "Harley and Ivy," first aired in 1993 (only four months after Harley's debut). After being kicked out of the Joker's gang, Harley decides to rob a museum by herself and bumps into Ivy carrying out a heist of her own. The two team up to escape the cops and hit it off so well that they become partners in crime. Pretty soon they're living together and looking quite ... comfortable with each other, despite the fact that Harley is still pining for her toxic assclown of an ex.
Harley's co-creator, Paul Dini, says that this was the episode when Harley became more than just another Joker goon who happened to have a nicer figure and a more annoying voice. Ivy was already a well-established character by then, but this team up showed us a new facet of her personality: unlike all of her previous supervillain partners, we see that she actually likes and cares for Harley, going as far as to inject her with some sort of magical poison immunity vaccine. This is a pretty big deal for someone who likes poisoning people so much she put the word in her name.
By the end of that first episode, Ivy is peeved with Harley for getting them both arrested by trying to get back together with Joker. She must have gotten over that at some point, though, because in the New Batman Adventures episode "Holiday Knights" (1997), they're still living together and we see them brainwash some dumb playboy millionaire into bankrolling their shopping spree (they could have probably just asked; dude looks like a total horndog).
Later, in "Girl's Night Out" (1998), the twosome briefly becomes a threesome when Superman villain Livewire visits from Metropolis and teams up with them. Once again, we get some domestic scenes in Harley and Ivy's shared living space, but this episode also features an important moment in their relationship: the first time Harley got jealous because Ivy complimented another woman.
Something similar happens in Gotham Girls, a Flash animation series that was posted to the Warner Bros. site between 2000 and 2002. In the episode "I'm Badgirl," Ivy mind controls Batgirl into going evil and helping her and Harley with their heists. When Ivy calls Badgirl "the ideal partner in crime," Harley is so jealous that she ends up giving her the antidote just to get rid of the competition.
Pretty much the same scenario had already played out in a 1996 issue of Batman & Robin Adventures co-written by Dini, only with Robin instead of Batgirl. This time, Ivy uses the mind-controlled Boy Wonder for more intimate activities than just robbing banks, which the jealous Harley describes as "cradle Robin." She ends up giving him an antidote, too.
According to Dini, even back then, the more he wrote Harley and Ivy the more he saw them hooking up, but he knew that this wouldn't fly in a '90s kids cartoon. At least in the comics he could joke about it, like in this scene from 1994's Batman Adventures Holiday Special:
And in fact, it was in the comics where their relationship advanced to the next step ...
Gotham City Sirens Made The Attraction Official (But One-Sided, Apparently)
Harley was introduced to the regular DC Universe in 1999's Batman: Harley Quinn special, where Joker dumps her by trapping her in a rocket that ends up crashing in Poison Ivy's territory. Ivy nurses this strange clown woman back into health and gives her the same poison immunity treatment from the cartoon, which somehow makes her better at gymnastics this time.
Harley reconciles with Joker by the end of that issue, but she remained friends with Ivy ... although it's hinted for the first time that the latter might want to be something more. In a 2001 comic written by Dini (Gotham Knights #14), Harley and Ivy are feeling lonely due to, as the DC Wiki puts it, "a lack of sensual contact with men while being incarcerated." It's actually Harley who's feeling nostalgic for male attention; Ivy says she's got "everything she needs right here" while surrounded by photos of Harley and, disturbingly, Supergirl. Damn, is she a "cradle robber" in every universe?
This parallels a scene from the Batman: Harley and Ivy miniseries published in 2004, featuring not just Dini but also Harley's other co-creator Bruce Timm as artist. In one issue, Harley and Ivy end up as producers on a movie about themselves. Harley's favorite part is auditioning muscular men for the role of Batman, but Ivy doesn't seem terribly interested in the dozens of hunks surrounding her.
It's interesting to note that Ivy is decidedly heterosexual in most of her comic appearances (she has called Batman "the perfect man" more than once) ... unless Harley is involved. This trend continued when they got their own regular comic along with Catwoman, Gotham City Sirens, which climaxes when Harley betrays her friends to break into Arkham and kill Joker, only to end up getting back together with him. In the ensuing fight, Harley asks Ivy if she's in love with her and uses her stunned reaction to beat the crap out of her. Dick move, Harls.
On the next issue, Ivy admits to herself that she might be in love with Harley, but they still go their separate ways when the series ends. How could a relationship ever come back from something like that? Easy: through a cosmic crisis that reset the universe and put Harley and Ivy back together as besties, setting the stage for ...
DC First Admitted They Were Gay In A Tweet, And Some Off-Universe Comics
One of the changes in the new DC Universe that started in 2011 was that Harley and Ivy's relationship suddenly went from running joke to serious possibility, but DC still played coy about it for several years. The two spent a lot of time together in the 2014 Harley Quinn comic, but the first confirmation that they were doing anything more than just robbing banks and having pajama parties came ... in a tweet by the official DC account (tweeted by co-writer/artist Amanda Conner while answering fan questions).
It would take a few more years before their romance was made explicit in the actual comics. By 2016, they were showering together (Harley Quinn vol. 3 #3, if you're curious) and generally acting pretty lovey-dovey, but DC still wouldn't show them kissing -- in the main universe, anyway. Their first kiss happened in a 2016 issue of DC Comics Bombshells, a tie-in comic for a series of collectible figurines of all places.
This was followed by more multiversal smooching in an early 2017 issue of Injustice: Ground Zero. Yes, the comic version of a video game about Superman punching Sub-Zero's head off made Harley Quinn gay before the regular DC Universe.
Harley and Ivy's first in-continuity kiss finally came in Harley Quinn #25 (2017) ... but DC still felt the need to edit it, so there was no tongue action involved as if any homophobes drew the line there.
The edit is especially baffling because the same issue also implied they're having sex, at least casually. After that, the two have been pretty inseparable in most realities. They got married in the Injustice universe in 2018, got a joint comic in 2019, and their romance finally expanded into the medium where they first met in 2020, when the Harley Quinn animated show did this:
It remains to be seen if the movies will follow the path of the show and develop Harley and Ivy's relationship in a believable and organic way, or be faithful to the comic and dick viewers around for 20 years.
Thumbnail: DC Comics, Warner Bros. Television Distribution