For All the Ships That Sail: Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy

What’s a Harley Quinn celebration without a little Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy love? I opted to bring back our For All the Ships That Sail column for our Batman Day mini-takeover, to talk about a ship I can’t help but adore. Dr. Harleen Quinzel and Dr. Pamela Isley are a canon ship — especially in Gotham City Sirens and DC’s Bombshells. But Harley/Ivy still seem to get far less attention than Harley and The Joker, which is distressing on a number of levels.

Instagram post by Jen Bartel

To be frank, we need more LGBTQ representation in comics. Harley and Ivy are two fierce women with fascinating arcs; seeing them romantically entwined is kind of wonderful. Furthermore, Harley’s involvement with Ivy helps steer her away from the abusive Joker. He’s a straight-up creep, something that was basically ignored for the sake of “romance” in the theatrical Suicide Squad, which makes me all the more excited for Harley’s upcoming solo movie. According to reports, it’ll be significantly more focused on her relationship with Ivy… which, in my humble opinion, will make it worth watching even if it follows the DCEU’s trend of being generally bad.

Then again, Wonder Woman blew up. Perhaps the DCEU just needs to do all lady-led movies moving forward. (Please.)

Anyway, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy are, according to DC, “girlfriends without the jealousy of monogamy.” They’re decidedly romantic, which is refreshing as hell, and the fanart and fanfiction for them is delightful. I tend to exist on the fringes of the DC Universe, but every time I see these two on my social feeds, I feel a little twitch of excitement. So here we are!

Harley Quinn #25

Who Are The Characters?

Dr. Harleen Quinzel, better known as Harley Quinn, first appeared in Batman: The Animated Series 25 years ago. She was an Arkham Asylum psychiatrist who fell in love with the Joker and followed him devotedly despite his obvious lack of affection for her.

The Joker’s abuse of Harley has been a consistent plot through many of her stories in the DCU. She is victimized by him repeatedly, which could serve as an important commentary on domestic abuse, were it handled better. (According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, victims leave their abusers an average of seven times before staying away.) Harley’s slow crawl toward independence has been much aided by her friends, Poison Ivy and Catwoman, who allow her to be a supervillain in her own right without the help of an abusive man.

Dr. Pamela Isley, better known as Poison Ivy, was injected with poison by her botany professor. Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths, her origin story was altered and only this bit remained. She nearly dies twice from the experiments conducted on her by her professor, which drives her insane. She also develops deep misandrist feelings and eventually goes to Gotham, where she seeks to show power over men. This leads to an obsession with Batman, whom she can’t control, which makes her want to take him down even more.

Over time, Poison Ivy develops “plant-like superpowers”, including a literally poisonous kiss. Some time after Poison Ivy is broken out of Arkham Asylum, she finds Harley Quinn, who’s been near-murdered by the Joker. Poison Ivy nurses Harley back to health and the two become fast friends, who work together repeatedly… and eventually fall in love.

Why They Work Well Together

Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy work well together because they support each other, no matter what. They both have bad history with abusive, evil men; Ivy encourages Harley to stay the hell away from the Joker and Harley enables Ivy’s supervillain activity. Ivy reminds Harley that she deserves to be cared for; Harley reminds Ivy of her human roots. Best of all, they have fun together. 

They have a mutually beneficial relationship — as friends, lovers, and supervillains — that is actually pretty healthy considering they’re both villains. Together, they’re fairly unstoppable. It’s great. 

“Gotham girls” cosplay

Why They Might Not Work Well Together  (In Real Life)

Honestly, aside from the supervillain activity, there’s no reason that Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy don’t work together. They’ve been established as a canon ship (even if that’s not consistent), and they’re far healthier than most of the ships in comics. They care about each other, and they treat each other far better than any of the men in their lives ever have… especially Harley.

It’s shocking to me that this ship isn’t 10x as popular as it is, though its following has grown quite a bit in the last few years. 

Is It A Standard/Popular Ship? Are There Alternate Ships Involving The Characters?

I’d say this is a standard ship in the sense that it does have a canon basis in several runs. It’s also likely to make it to the big screen, at least in some capacity, in Harley’s upcoming DCEU solo film. This ship is popular, but not nearly popular enough. Too many people still ship Harley Quinn with the Joker. That disturbs me, because he abuses her so badly. We have to stop glamorizing these terrible relationships. Creators need to be on the frontlines of that fight, alongside fans, survivors, and allies.

Dream Fantasy (Kept PG)

All I want for Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy is for them to be happy. I want them to overthrow Batman and rule Gotham with Catwoman by their side (OT3?) and for Ivy to cover the entire world in plants. These two are great, and their relationship is great, and I want more.

Happy 25th, Harley!

Samantha Puc is a freelance writer, editor, and social media manager residing in southern New England with her partner and three cats. She likes Shakespeare, space babes, bikes, and dismantling the patriarchy. She also loves vegan food. Her work has appeared on Rogues Portal, SheKnows, Femsplain, The Tempest, and elsewhere. For more, follow her on Twitter!

Samantha Puc

Samantha Puc is a freelance writer, editor, and social media manager residing in southern New England with her partner and three cats. She likes Shakespeare, space babes, bikes, and dismantling the patriarchy. She also loves vegan food. Her work has appeared on Rogues Portal, SheKnows, Femsplain, The Tempest, and elsewhere. For more, follow her on Twitter!

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