Harley Quinn turns 26 this year. That’s why rebooting characters back to their “definitive” version is usually a bad idea.
As probably everyone reading Atomic Junk Shop knows, comics make lots of reboots based on restoring the definitive, best, most perfect version of a character. Which always turns out to be the writer’s personal favorite or their personal favorite as a kid. Go figure.
Joe Quesada ended Peter/Mary Jane because his definitive Spidey is a single, twenty-something guy. Dan Didio restored Barry and Hal as Flash and Green Lantern because they’re his definitive versions; he wanted to kill Dick Greyson in Infinite Crisis because if Dick’s not Robin, Didio wasn’t interested. I’ve read that Marvel thought “Peter Parker was the clone!” would work because Ben Reilly had lived through all Spider-Man’s adventures up through 1975 — that was the definitive stuff, nothing that came after was as essential.
The confidence that everyone’s going to agree X Was Definitive ignores not only differences in taste but the generational perspective. Which is why I’m bringing up Dr. Harleen Quinzel.
I love Harley. She’s an awesome character. But to me she’ll always be something of a “new” character. If I were ordered to pick a definitive Batman era for a new reboot, it would be an updated version of the 1940s (which isn’t that different from when I started reading the Bat-books in the Silver Age): Dick as Robin, Wayne Manor, Catwoman, Penguin and Joker as chief villains. Harley? She’s just too new.
From the perspective of a comics fan turning 18 this year, that would be nuts. Harley’s always been there. She’s not a new character, she’s as established as anyone from the Golden Age. It would be like DC telling me in my teens that it planned to dump the “new” Flash and Green Lantern in favor of the definitive versions, Jay Garrick and Alan Scott. Heck, Harley actually predates the contemporary 18-year-old more than the Silver Age predated me.
Definitive is subjective. If you started reading in the late 1990s, Superman was married. Peter Parker had never had any important relationships besides Mary Jane. Babs Gordon was definitively Oracle. Cass Cain was definitively Batgirl. Wally West was definitively Flash. If you were a kid reading Dr. Fate in the Golden Age, you more likely knew him as a two-fisted crimefighter in a half-helmet than the full-helmet mystic (the half-helmeted Fate was around almost twice as long).
Don’t get me wrong, taste plays a role too. I’m a Silver Age kid, but I wish Wally had stayed the Flash. That doesn’t change the point that imagining there’s a definitive definitive version is a delusion. Debating this can be fun (Barry or Wally? Dick or Damien? Hal or Kyle or John?) for fans. But when writers base decisions on their head canon of “definitive” it never ends well.
#SFWApro. Covers by Howard Sherman and Terry Dodson.