We all know there is a power in words. The right word, used perfectly, can make not only a character, but an entire story and even an entire career. And the example I am going to cite here is the word, “Puddin’.”
Fans of the Cartoon Network Batman incarnations will recognize this word immediately. Writer Paul Dini decided that the Joker needed a girlfriend as crazy as himself, and he created Harley Quinn. She became an instant hit because she is madly in love with her Puddin’ in every sense of the word. Every time she addresses the Joker with this preposterous endearment it is so ridiculous, so rock-hewn copper-bottomed crazy that everybody is enchanted. Harley not only became the most popular character in the cartoon, she rapidly moved over into the main Bat titles, acquired special issues and miniseries, and now is threatening to completely take over Gotham City Sirens, which she shares with Catwoman and Poison Ivy.
One of the new Batman titles, Sirens is still young enough that readers can easily pick up the several earlier issues. Unquestionably this is the pick of the bunch, with sophisticated art and tight, slick stories. Batwoman is depressing, the returning Batgirl does not inspire optimism, and the others are promising but not yet there. Sirens has a story frame that is instantly familiar to TV sitcom watchers — three wacky roommates! — and because all three are costumed criminals with unhealthy relationships there is endless material for exploration.
Unlike most writers Dini handles the Joker perfectly, as a psychopath who is really funny. The interaction between Harley and her Puddin’ is always hysterical, since the Joker in fact can take her or leave her. One priceless moment in the TV cartoon is when Batman embarrasses and emrages his foe by saying to him, completely deadpan, “Puddin’.”
As usual, in this issue the Joker is trying to either riddle Harley with bullets or blow her up. None of these attentions faze Harley in the least, and she (like Krazy Kat before her) looks on them as tokens of affection. It is worth the price of the issue in itself, to read the page in which Harley explains the attempts upon her life. “I made him so JEALOUS that he pulled out all the stops to get my attention!” she assures her skeptical roomies. “He hasn’t used classic shtick like giant balloons and wacky henchmen in years! My puddin’ loves me. Really.” And in the back you can see the latest Joker Balloon, laden with explosives, just coming into position! Don’t miss this title, it’s perfect.