1) Harley Quinn (Harleen Quinzel):
from Batman the Animated series voiced by Arleen Sorkin. I'm having a BAD DAY! I'm sick of people trying to shoot me, run me over or blow me up!
So we have arrived at the end of my list, and the number one spot is occupied by no other than the flawless Harley Quinn. This character was so likable, so dynamic that she stepped up from being a throw away side character to one of Batman's most popular and memorable villainesss. Harley got her start in the Batman animated series but she was such a big hit that DC considered her canon in the comic verse and she was used in multiple spin offs as well. While there are many versions of this character (and many voice actresses), my favorite has always been the original.
To those who do not know who Harley Quinn is or are unfamiliar with the Batman universe, I shall enlighten you. Harley Quinn is the Joker's side kick and girlfriend. She is insane and completely obsessed with him even though she's treated like garbage. While its awful that the Joker treats Harley this way, this IS the Joker we're talking about. It would've been very unrealistic if he acted like a loving boyfriend since its very out of character for him. However the relationship on its own is extremely complex and it evolves through time, which makes it fascinating to watch. Here we have two extremely insane people dressed as evil clowns in a relationship breaking every rule in the book...but we can't help but want to see more? It is framed in a very negative light, which doesn't make it offensive like say Bella and Edward's relationship from Twilight (which is framed as the best love story ever).
But what makes Harley Quinn a strong, female character compared to the likes of Bella? They are both victims of domestic abuse and blissfully unaware of it, so what makes Harley a well written character and Bella a badly written one? Now don't worry I'm not gonna make this a 'Harley vs Bella' post since everyone and their grandmother knows that Harley will beat her in every single way. I want to point out what are the elements that make a character 'well written' in the eyes of the audience. To me, Harley Quinn is my favorite character because she represents everything I look into a character. Her inner journey is a roller coaster of emotions and her development in the Batman Universe is very well done for the most part.
In a lot of the episodes dedicated to Harley (particularly Mad Love, Harley and Ivy, and Harley's Holiday) pass the Bechdel Test, and the fact that she was the most popular female character in the series (beating the likes of Catwoman and Poison Ivy) what made her so special? This is the kind of character that could've easily fail (giving the Joker a girlfriend sounded like something from a bad fanfic) but why did she succeed? Lets find out!
Harley Quinn's first appearance was in the episode 'The Joker's Favor' (which is an amazingly funny episode might I add). She strictly acted as Joker's side kick but there was something else to this character compared to other Btaman villainesses. You see, usually Batman villainesses are sultry and sexy but Harley was really different. She was very upbeat and goofy, like a Looney Toon. This caught people's attention therefore she appeared in later episodes as the Joker's right hand. Her obsession with him was hinted at in the earlier episodes but the most things she did back then is have fun and act goofy. In a show as dark and grim as Batman, having a character like this was very refreshing. Later on, Harley and Joker's relationship was throughly explored and they wre officially an 'item'. Harley acted like a doormat (despite the fact that she's physically stronger than the Joker) and was totally convinced that her 'Puddin'' was rough around the edges but deep down he loved her. This kind of vulnerability was very heart wrenching to see from a character that seemed so peppy and upbeat. It reflected an inner tragedy within her, thus making a bigger impact and contrast.
In Harley's future episodes she seemed less of a doormat and more on par with the Joker. In 'Harlequinade' she almost kills the Joker after she realizes that he was going too far. This moment was one of the greatest moments in the series's history, and it was the scene in which Harley fully gained the Joker's respect (well his twisted version of respect to say the least). Everything seemed fine for our daffy anti-heroine, that is until they revealed her backstory which is one of the most beautiful and tragic stories I have ever seen, EVER. This episode alone made her my favorite, that is of course 'Mad Love' (you can find it on YouTube). I do like the comic version better though since it has more detail and the Joker looks like his old self (in the episode its his bizarre redesign). If you haven't seen/read it, go and find it! Its one of the best Batman stories ever and it truly explains why Harley is so insanely in love with this psychopathic clown. I reaaally don't want to spoil it for you, its that good.
But, how is Harley Quinn's character without the Joker? Can she stand on her own? She definitely can. In the episode 'Harley's Holiday', they explore Harley's character as a stand alone villainess an it works! Without the Joker she tries her best to be a good person but miserably fails because she's so broken inside. This is a truly hilarious episode (but a bit rushed at times). In her nature however, Harley is very submissive since its part of her character. She usually works for a more dominant figure like the Joker or Poison Ivy. And a lot of times, she steals the show with her wackiness! Harley is the embodiment of tragedy and comedy, and its constantly reflected in her character which makes her incredibly dynamic and fun.
Now you may wonder; What do you think of the Harley Quinn redesigns? Awful. While her personality is still there (with some exceptions due to bad writing), I really hate her 'grungy' look in the videogames. Not only that but they like to use her as eye candy, and it really frustrates me. Her original design was perfection; and it suited both her personality and physical powers. Her new outfits look awfully uncomfortable. The ONLY one I excuse is the one in 'Arkham Asylum' since she's dressed as a nurse, which in many ways is clownish. The rest however, ugh. No. Bring back the old Harley DC comics. Don't tamper with perfection.
I do believe Harley's evolution and role in the series made her a highly feminist character. The fact that she has so many episodes dedicated to her character's goofyness, tragedy and antics shows how much she changed the universe she was put in. People didn't love her because of her physical appearance (even if her outfit was really awesome) but her story and personality.
So yes, in my opinion, Harley Quinn is the best female character I've seen so far. What are yours?