Dedicated to Harley's best gal-pal, Poison Ivy, and their relationship!
Poison Ivy is a super villainess near unparalleled in genius, intent and strength.
Beginning life as a brilliant botanist and passionate plant-lover, experiments conducted on her changed her molecular and biological structure, bestowing upon her an unequalled ability to nurture and control plant life, as well as replacing her blood with a seething combination of virulent poisons and toxins. Ivy herself is immune to these toxins and can control them. She can push them through her skin, making her touch and kiss deadly. She can also extract them and create further mutations and other deadly poisons with them.
Ivy is incredibly beautiful, voluptuous and red-haired and shamelessly uses her physical charms, as well as a controlled release of intoxicating pheromones, to bewitch others and get what she wants. She is supremely confident in her sexual charms and sensuality, and yet seems to have no sincere sexual or romantic interest in anyone… although her relationship with plants is suggestive.
For Ivy values plants over humans. To her, they are the most perfect and magnificent of all the earth’s creatures and she despises humanity for the havoc it has wreaked on the natural world. She is a true misanthrope, preferring the company of her ‘precious babies’ to anyone else. An eco-terrorist, her crimes are largely motivated by her love and obsession with plants and funding her research.
Her brilliance and altered biology allows her to create all manner of incredible plant creatures she is devoted to and uses to help achieve her ends.
Ivy embodies in many ways, the old nature Goddess archetype, being at once enamoured of nature and indifferent to its necessary cruelty. The human deaths she causes are nothing to her.
Ivy is fiercely independent, generally acting solo without even the aid of henches (apart from her plant-creatures) to aid her. She insists upon being able to control every aspect of her life and resents that which she can not. She is dangerously and completely insane.
As time passes she is becoming more and more plantlike, beginning to breathe Co2, the natural colour of her skin becoming green from chlorophyll and requiring sunlight for nutrients and energy. In many ways, Ivy would like nothing more than to vanish into a rainforest somewhere, becoming fully one with nature, but her obsession and fixation on avenging plantlife against humanity keeps bringing her back.
More about Ivy here.
Some gorgeous Bruce Timm illustrations of Ivy. Click to see full-size!
HARLEY AND IVY
Harley and Ivy were first teamed up in the B:TAS episode ‘Harley and Ivy’. Paul Dini thought it would be funny to team these two incredibly different characters in a gal-pal type tale and the combination proved to be a winning one, and a huge hit with the fans.
Ivy, sultry, seductive and self-assured and Harley, perky, cute and insecure seem very unlikely as a team but somehow they balance each other out beautifully, creating a dynamic that isn’t often seen between villains of this nature.
The team-up has been seen frequently in the DCAU since, primarily in the accompanying comics, although there were a couple of other episodes. Harley’s mainstream debut, ‘Harley Quinn’ also established a relationship between them, although this has rarely been explored in the mainstream titles, apart from in Harley’s own series, in which Ivy co-starred in several issues.
There was also a Dini-and-Timm produced miniseries which ran for 3 issues and was a huge hit with fans.
Beautiful Bruce Timm illustrations of Harley & Ivy. Click to see full-size.
The relationship dynamic between the two characters works on numerous levels.
Much like Joker/Harley, Ivy here is largely the dominant and controlling partner of the friendship, with Harley cheerfully going along with the flow.
Ivy has real goals and motives for her crimes, while Harley’s rest largely around fulfilling Joker’s needs. When with Ivy, Harley seems to transfer this role to that relationship, happily participating in Ivy’s schemes.
Ivy tends to play ‘big sister’ to Harley. More mature, focused and driven, she frequently gets fed-up with her friend’s goofiness, lack of motivation and insensitivity to the plants she so adores. Likewise, Ivy is disdainful of Harley’s ‘babies, her two hyenas.
Additionally, Ivy gets fed-up with Harley’s obsession with Joker, wanting her friend to dump the clown and show some backbone. Ivy prizes her independence so highly that she cannot stand seeing Harley pining for the Joker and doesn’t understand the ties that bind people together, generally disdaining relationships with humans. Ivy also hates weakness and refuses to allow any for herself. True to this aspect of her nature, she has little need for Harley and is more than happy to be solitary for extended periods of time. She has genuine feelings for Harley, but little need for her in her life. By contrast, Harley is exceptionally needy and hates to be alone. She rarely acts solo and is always with either Joker or Ivy.
Ivy’s solitary nature, narcissim, psychopathic tendences and need to control others make her incredibly similar to the Joker in these ways. Yet, she cannot control Harley – as she gave Harley an antidote to all of her toxins so the two could be together without Harley getting sick. Likewise, Joker cannot control Harley and overtime his own behaviour towards her gradually modifies. It is interesting and worth-noting that two of the most indifferent, cruel and solitary members of the Rogues Gallery have formed a long-lasting relationship with the effusive and clinging Harley Quinn.
Also much like Joker/Harley, the Harley and Ivy friendship is abusive. Ivy, despite caring for Harley, is still insane and still demands control and is verbally and physically abusive towards Harley frequently (largely verbal). As in her relationship with Joker, Harley tends to roll with this behaviour, sometimes barely reacting to it, and seems to need the direction both rogues give her. It speaks loudly of Harley’s submissive nature.
Nonetheless, Ivy still demonstrates appreciation and affection towards her friend, provided all her own needs are satisfied.
Some black&white illustrations of the pair by Bruce Timm. Click to see full-size!
DO THEY OR DON’T THEY?
If you haven’t noticed the universal fandom-trend of pairing any and all characters together, you’re obviously new to the game.
However, Harley & Ivy fans have far more canon material to base a Harley/Ivy pairing on than many do.
It’s become a big question in the world of fans: DO THEY OR DON’T THEY?
The writers give us plenty to speculate with!
The debate was sparked off largely by the story ‘Holiday Knights’ in which Harley and Ivy are depicted as sharing a single bedroom, with only one bed.
This was quickly followed up an hilarious exchange between Batgirl and Harley in Batgirl #1.
In Harley and Ivy there is a scene that clearly shows them sharing the same bed.
And there are an enormous number of other subtle sub-text suggestions which prove incendiary to fans.
I once asked Paul Dini outright and his answer was, well, yes they do. There wasn’t a whole lot more detail than that, but based on all of the suggestions, and given the way the relationship is presented, I’ve a few further speculations of my own.
Harley is generally depicted as the more clueless one, with Ivy ‘pursuing’ her. Given both characters’ natures, I feel any sexual element of their relationship is less about true ‘romance’ and more about each individual’s particular pathologies.
Ivy’s need to control, for example. Her need to possess, and have everything on her own terms. Ivy’s use of her sexuality to get what she wants. It seems to me her seduction of Harley would be less about romantic feelings and more about controlling Harley completely.
Likewise, Harley’s need to be loved, to have company and affection. Her need to be wanted. Her active sex drive! This would make it easy for her to fall in with Ivy’s direction and demands in a sexual sense.
Also true to their natures, I think that it makes sense that for Harley the sexual relationship is more a playful, ‘innocent’ affair, in which Joker reigns supreme over her heart and playtime with Ivy is like experimenting at a slumber party in high school.
For Ivy, it would be more about dominating, feeding her own ego and sense of gratification, in which she makes Harley her willing slave even though she can’t affect Harley with her pheromones.
Some feel that Ivy is desperately in love with Harley and wants to take her away from the Joker and is just biding her time until she can possess Harley completely. I think this ignores key characteristics of Ivy’s nature – her emotional indifference to most things apart from plants and her preference for solitude.
What she ostensibly wants Harley to do is stand up on her own two feet. Of course, if Harley did this, Ivy could no longer control her either. Ivy would not be able to tolerate this.
It also ignores Harley’s obsession with Joker and his part in her life – not to mention it’s what keeps her motivated to a life of crime.
Even in the most heavily insinuating Harley and Ivy stories, there is consistent depiction the Joker is not far from Harley’s thoughts – posters of him, toys of him, references to him and so forth.
It’s clear the two have feelings for each other, but I argue these feelings are grounded primarily in friendship. I do think they have a sexual relationship, but that it’s largely based around pleasure rather than romantic emotion.
Either way, they are an incomparable super-villainess team!
A couple of playfully suggestive illustrations by Bruce Timm. Click to see full-size!