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

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

Sorkin’s influence over the Batman franchise is considerable not only for having voiced Harley Quinn, but directly inspiring the character. According to a 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, 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 after her 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 canon of Batman in 1993. Since then, Harley Quinn has quickly grown to be one of DC’s most prominent characters, thanks in part to numerous performances by Margot Robbie’s 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 video games such as 2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum and 2011’s DC Universe Online.

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

Sorkin’s death comes just shy of a year following the death of Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman in Batman: The Animated Series, who died last November following a private battle with 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 the character’s rogues gallery.