From the very beginning, “Harley Quinn” made it clear it was not going to follow any one particular portrayal of the DC canon, and turned the freedom to play around with iconic characters into a key component of its irreverent, inventive tone and world. This was made clear in several ways, including killing major characters like Penguin and Mr. Freeze to making Batman a big co-dependent baby. It doesn’t matter how familiar you are with DC comics and movies, there are bound to be at least a few surprises for you in “Harley Quinn,” and the creative team had a surprising level of freedom to change things around.
“Their sticking point in the beginning, which made a lot of sense to us, was [they] want to protect, they called them The Big Seven, so the Justice League, essentially,” Schumacker told /Film. “As long as you portrayed those characters, the sort of pillars of the DC pantheon, with respect, and treated them as pretty much how they have been characterized historically, then they let us do what we were going to do.” Essentially, as long as Batman was still a brooding vigilante and Superman a boy scout, practically anything else was fair game.
There were, of course, exceptions. Schumacker recalls early on that DC Comics had issues with the show’s portrayal of Aquaman. The original idea was to do a riff on Jason Momoa’s portrayal of the character — many of the show’s takes on the characters are exaggerated versions of movie portrayals, like Bane being inspired by Tom Hardy’s take on the character from “The Dark Knight Rises.”
“We really ratcheted up this sort of surfer bro version of [Aquaman] where he had a flip-flop that had the beer bottle opener on the bottom of it,” the executive producer and co-creator said. “I remember DC saying, ‘No, he’s a little too stupid.’ And then we sort of reframed him as this almost like Disney prince, and he was kind of pompous and they were like, ‘Yeah, that’s cool.’ And depending on who you ask, I don’t know, that character could be equally stupid.” The result, once actor Chris Diamantopoulos re-recorded the surfer bro lines, became closer to DC’s answer to Gaston from “Beauty and the Beast” — still a big galoot, but without the bottle opener flip-flop.
The best-known studio note on “Harley Quinn” and the scene that DC had the biggest problem with — according to the internet, at least — was what Schumacker calls “BatCatgate.” Back in 2021, it was reported that DC forbade the “Harley Quinn” team from having Batman perform oral sex on Catwoman in a season 3 scene (which eventually just portrayed the Caped Crusader giving his girlfriend a very bad foot massage). At the time, co-creator Justin Halpern said that DC let the showrunners know that “heroes don’t do that.”
According to Schumacker, things weren’t as bad as people thought. “I definitely think that through the sort of game of telephone, things got a little bit misconstrued and it became a bigger story than it probably would’ve been,” he told us. The way he recalls it, the DC executive who gave that note wasn’t concerned about the portrayal of Batman as a pillar of DC, and more about kids watching the show — even if it is clearly not meant for kids. Still, in a season that also contains a whole episode set at an orgy, to fixate on this one scene feels a little disingenuous from DC.