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Arleen Sorkin, the original voice and inspiration for DC’s Harley Quinn, dies at 67

Sorkin originated the character in 1992’s Batman: The Animated Series

Harley Quinn holding a pistol in “Mad Love” from Batman: The Animated Series. Image: Warner Bros. Animation
Toussaint Egan is a curation editor, out to highlight the best movies, TV, anime, comics, and games. He has been writing professionally for over 8 years.

Arleen Sorkin, the original voice behind Batman: The Animated Series’ Harley Quinn, died Saturday. The actress, who was also known for her role as Calliope Jones on the long-running soap opera Days of Our Lives and her work as a writer on 1990’s Tiny Toon Adventures, was 67.

Sorkin’s influence on the Batman franchise is considerable — not only for having voiced Harley Quinn, but for directly inspiring the character. According to 2006 interview with Batman: The Animated Series co-creator Paul Dini, the creation of Harley Quinn dates back to Dini’s desire to write a foil character to the Joker, one that was intended as a single-episode role. Upon seeing a performance by Sorkin, who was a college friend of Dini’s, acting as a court jester in a dream sequence on Days of Our Lives, Dini patterned Harley Quinn after Sorkin’s mannerisms and invited her to voice the character. After viewing the rough cut of Harley Quinn’s introduction, the series’ producers decided to make her a recurring character.

The popularity of Harley Quinn was so overwhelming that DC Comics officially added her to the Batman canon in 1993. Since then, she has quickly grown to be one of DC’s most prominent characters, thanks in part to a number of live-action performances by Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn across the DC cinematic universe, and an animated dark comedy series starring Kaley Cuoco. Sorkin would go on to voice multiple appearances of Harley Quinn across the DC Animated Universe, as well as in video games such as 2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum and 2011’s DC Universe Online.

News of Sorkin’s death elicited a flurry of tributes online from past collaborators and admirers, including DC Studios CEO James Gunn, Mark Hamill, Tara Strong, and Rocksteady Studios, which worked with Sorkin on Arkham Asylum.

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Sorkin’s death comes just shy of a year after the death of Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman in Batman: The Animated Series, who died last November of intestinal cancer. The legacy of Batman: The Animated Series is monumental, with Sorkin’s Harley Quinn standing as a particular highlight of its multifaceted reinvention of Batman’s rogues’ gallery.