Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Lady Joker Week: Duela Dent

Meet the Joker's Daughter.  Or the Riddler's Daughter.  Or the Penguin's Daughter.  Or the daughter of Two-Face/Doomsday/Dr. Light/ Punch and Jewelee.  Or Catgirl.  Or Scarecrone.  Or Card Queen.  Or Harlequin.  As you can tell from her many aliases and claims of villainous ancestry, Duela is secure in her identity and has no parental issues whatsoever.

Duela first burst onto the scene in a 1976 issue of Batman Family, dressed identically to the Joker and causing his style of mischief for Batgirl and Robin to deal with.  She was vanquished, but reappeared two issues later, this time calling herself the offspring of Catwoman.

Eventually, Robin deduced her real identity as that of Two-Face's daughter, Duela Dent.  As Duela's creator Bob Rozakis explained, "It didn't take too long to decide whose daughter she would turn out to be. After all, the only married villain was Two-Face. I convinced Julie (and associate editor E. Nelson Bridwell, the acknowledged keeper of DC's historical consistency) that Harvey and Gilda Dent had a daughter, that Harvey had been disappointed because she wasn't a twin, and that they'd named her Duela."

But the revelation of Duela's actual parentage didn't keep the character from changing her alleged paternity in nearly every appearance.  Over time, Duela became characterized as schizophrenic with acrobatic abilities who suffers delusions about her family lineage.  Rozakis was unhappy with the change, saying "I got a laugh out of it when I first saw it, but I thought they wasted the character. I realize that Marv and company didn't want her around anymore and felt they had to explain her away because of continuity, but they could have just as easily ignored her. Actually, I consider Harley Quinn to be a reincarnation of Duela."

Whatever her mental state, Duela uncovered Robin's secret identity as he discovered hers, and used that information to join the Teen Titans, with a new costume and the alias of Harlequin.  Duela explained her interest in the group was to atone for her father's crimes.  Harlequin used weapons such as bullet-firing lipstick and powder puffs that induced smoke.

Duela took part in various Teen Titans adventures, as well as assisting Batman under the name of Card Queen.  In her appearance at Donna Troy's wedding, Duela appeared as a middle-aged woman.  When Robin realized she was far too old to be Two-Face's child, Duela was amused that it had taken him so long to figure that out and suggested that one day she would tell him the truth.

Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths, Duela first appeared middle-aged and in a mental hospital.  Now re-imagined as a character with time-warping abilities - and madness brought on by the effects of those abilities - Duela later returned to help the Titans as a teenager, after being rescued from an institution by Cyborg.

Over the years Duela continued to assist the Titans, eventually joining the splinter group Titans East.  She was of major significance in the event Countdown to Final Crisis, where a new backstory was revealed and Duela's death kicked off the story's plot.

Countdown revealed that, rather than having the ability to manipulate time, Duela had the power to jump from one reality to another, though this gift was beyond her control and taking a massive toll on her sanity.  Duela hailed from Earth 3, a world in which Gotham was terrorized by the brutal vigilante Owlman, while characters such as the Jokester, the Riddler, and Three-Face fought against him in secret.  Duela was the daughter of the Jokester, a struggling comedian turned vigilante after Owlman took offense to his jokes and sliced his mouth open - as well as killing his manager Harley Quinn - and Evelyn Dent, alias Three-Face, who left the Jokester after developing multiple personalities.  Evelyn began a relationship with the Riddler, who helped to raise Duela.  Duela assisted all three of her parents in the fight against Owlman, using the Harlequin costume and title.

Being a teenager is hard enough without helping out a dysfunctional family on their quest for vengeance, but being a teenage sidekick with uncontrolled reality-hopping powers definitely didn't do Duela any favors in the sanity department.  Unable to understand her abilites, she often talked about the strange situations she found herself in, but these confessions were routinely dismissed by the adults in her life as Duela taking after her father.

Like many teens, Duela found solace in her love life.  Unfortunately, the boy Duela fell for also happened to be Owlman's teen sidekick, Talon.  Undeterred, the pair carried on their relationship, culminating in Duela presenting her boyfriend to her father, asking for his blessing to marry.  The Jokester didn't handle the news well and disowned his child.  Heartbroken, Duela fled, and eventually ended up in the world of DC Comics as a result of her powers.

Duela caught hero Jason Todd's attention in a Gotham nightclub, where she attempted to abduct a teen celebrity.  Jason pursued her into an alley, and Duela informed him that she came from an alternate Earth.  Duela escaped only to stopped by a Monitor, a being from a race that watches the Multiverse, attempting to prevent travel between worlds.  After being informed that "This world is not yours. Your presence in it is not tolerated. The penalty is death," Duela was shot, with Jason Todd witnessing her death.

The spiritual predecessor to fan favorite Harley Quinn, Duela was an intriguing character despite her ever-shifting, murky past.  Whether the light-hearted villain of her first appearances or the tortured heroine of her later days, Duela caught the readers' attention and refused to let go, cracking puns and styling adorable versions of iconic costumes.  Her fate as of the DC Relaunch is currently unknown, but here's hoping that she appears again, and that she's living life to the fullest when she does.

Tomorrow's addition to Lady Joker Week will cover Flashpoint's unique takes on Martha Wayne and the Joker: as one in the same character.  Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel.

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE the Joker's Daughter character; she should stay with the daughter of the Joker from another dimension story, and they should totally bring her back!