I recently watched Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, a 2000 direct-to-TV movie spinoff of the TV series Batman Beyond. The show was a part of my childhood Saturday morning lineup, but I’d never seen the movie. It’s really good, and I may be writing a post soon comparing it to The Killing Joke – it plays with some of the same themes, but in certain key ways it’s much better. Before I do, though, I wanted to make sure I let the world know about what I consider to be its most exciting bit of DC Animated Universe info: Return of the Joker strongly suggests that Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy had kids.
Batman Beyond is set decades after Batman: the Animated Series. Bruce Wayne is an old, bitter man, and Batman is his protege Terry McGinnis. Harley shows up in this movie in a flashback to the B:TAS days. At the time of that flashback, she and Joker are clearly in one of their honeymoon phases, playacting at being a perfect suburban nuclear family right up until the Joker is killed.
Near the end of the movie, Harley shows up to bail her ne’er-do-well granddaughters, criminal duo Dee Dee, out of jail, kvetching about how hard she’s worked to make a nice home for them. Obviously, this raises the question: who is Dee Dee’s grandfather? It is just possible that Harley was pregnant when the Joker was killed, but it seems unlikely. The two of them actually explicitly say during the flashback scene that they decided to “adopt” (i.e., kidnap) a child rather than have one “the old-fashioned way”. Theoretically, of course, Harley could have moved on from supervillainy and met someone new, but in that case, I strongly suspect she would have returned to her old name and identity, Dr. Harleen Quinzell. But there’s another option. In TAS and most other incarnations since, when Harley backs off from the Joker, it’s typically into the arms of Poison Ivy.
Though both are supervillains, Harley and Ivy’s relationship is generally presented as far more healthy than Harley’s and Joker’s. Even when Harley and Joker are apparently a functional couple, as in their scene together in Return of the Joker, she’s always subservient to him, his hench-wench and homemaker. At the worst of times, the Joker hits and mocks Harley, and clearly wants her with him because she’s a useful minion, not because he returns her affections. Harley’s tragedy is that she always comes back to the Joker, insisting that his abuse proves his love. Ivy, however, seems to bring out her independence.
Ivy and Harley together often get sympathetic moments, suggesting that their relationship is humanizing for both. Creators have flirted with confirming that the relationship is a sexual and romantic one for years, while never outright stating it in the comics or cartoons. Personally, I no longer get excited at new articles on comics sites saying “HARLEY/IVY NOW CANON” because at this point, so many different stories have depicted that relationship as a queer one that it’s not in the hands of the latest writer to say that it is or isn’t. It is nice when comics creators can acknowledge reality, though.
So, what’s this got to do with Return of the Joker? Ivy isn’t even in the movie. But given the years of context suggesting that Harley without the Joker is Harley with Ivy, it’s only reasonable to assume that “Nana Harley” lives in a cute little two-person greenhouse with Dr. Pamela Isley. After all, who would have rescued Harley from her apparently-fatal fall at the end of the flashback scene? Who would have had the medical knowledge to patch her up? (Though Dr. Quinzell is a medical doctor herself, to be fair.)
The most telling piece of evidence, though: Harley’s grandchildren have red hair. We know Harley herself is blonde, so either she had children with a redhead or one of her children did. Ivy is known to create plant-golems and I strongly suspect that splicing her and Harley’s DNA together and growing children in a huge seedpod is not beyond her skills. (Of course, either one of them could also be trans and they could have reproduced the old-fashioned way, but gene-splicing seems more in character for both of them even if that were a possibility. And as long as we’re going for trans headcanons, I prefer to reach for the stars and say both are.)
Okay, so it’s hardly conclusive. Maybe Harley moved on with her life and met someone new. Honestly, though, nobody has managed to move on much in the years between Batman: the Animated Series and Batman Beyond. Sure, Bruce Wayne and Barbara Gordon have quit superheroing, but they’re still deeply involved in the superheroics and crime of Gotham. The Joker has somehow managed not to move on despite being dead. Why imagine a red-headed son-in-law for Harley when it’s so much simpler to assume her granddaughters are replanted clippings from a hybrid of her and Poison Ivy’s genes?