on soaps and superheroes

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Harley Quinn, as every good Batman fan knows, started out as a character in Batman: The Animated Series. Most characters debuted in the comics first, but not Harley, who started as what was supposed to be a one-off appearance in a TV episode called "Joker's Favor." She then went on to comics, video games, movies, and her own TV series, making her just about the biggest multimedia star D.C. has right now.

The character in The Animated Series was based on something the voice actress, Arleen Sorkin, had done earlier. For six years in the '80s, she'd played a character named Calliope Jones on the soap opera Days of Our Lives. One weird scene from the show had Calliope walking around dressed as a court jester. It was one of her favorites (the scene had been her idea), and so she included it on a highlight tape she gave to her old college friend Paul Dini. Dini wrote for Batman—the animated series, then later the comics—and he called in Sorkin to voice a female counterpart to Joker based on her jester character.

We've told you about this origin before. But last time, we had just a minute of footage from the original soap to review. Maybe you'll enjoy a few more details about the episode. 

Last time, we joked that Dini had to assure himself that he hadn't watched some kind of fever dream, but in fact he sort of had watched a fever dream. It was a fantasy sequence: In the main part of the show, characters were reading a story to their kid, and then we faded into this fantasy in which we see the show's characters reimagined as medieval folk. It was a take on The Princess Bride

As with every medieval spoof, they make jokes by slapping references to modernity together with old-timey language—"I performed at the Knights of the Round Table Grill, just a fortnight ago," says jester Calliope. Sorkin hadn't created her Harley voice yet, but you'll hear traces of Brooklyn accent there as well as some Harley-style innuendo ("is it true what they say about men with large crossbows?").

The people at D.C. haven't forgotten where Harley came from. In the Birds of Prey movie (the one that has "Harley Quinn" in the full title), this Days of Our Lives scene plays for a few seconds on a TV in the background. 

For more on Harley's origins, check out:

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