Actor and voice actor Atleen Sorkin has passed.
When Batman: The Animated Series premiered back in the early 1990's, I was a skeptical Bat-reader, but literally by the end of the credits, I was in. By the time I saw Batman getting dragged behind Man-Bat through the skyline of Gotham, I was out of my mind. In many ways, I think the show is the epitome of Batman as a concept, but it also went beyond adapting a comic and movie concept to a cartoon, it restored and built upon the decades of Bat-mythology. And chief among those addition was Dr. Harleen Quinzel, aka: Harley Quinn.
We're still reeling from that addition. And brought to brilliant life through writing, art, animation and the unforgettable voice of Arleen Sorkin.
Sorkin was probably best known as an actress as Calliope Jones on Days of Our Lives, where she appeared for decades across hundreds of episodes.
As much as comic characters could be identified by their silhouettes, cartoon characters need to be specific and memorable to really work - and that was something voice director Andrea Romano brought to fore with BTAS. But with Harley Quinn, they'd found absolute gold in Sorkin.
A face of a Bat-villain might drive a certain thought process, but Harley was new, an invention of the show, and maybe the logical extrapolation of what the difference is between comics and animation - suddenly you can do new things with a voice alone. For comic fans and Batman fans, Sorkin's voice and character would be the magical ingredient. A kind of Brooklyn-ese taken to extremes. Funny, crazy, a little sad. High energy, with the potential for violence. A crack in the voice here or there could say it all. An octave jump something else.
Anyway, as soon as the show hit and Harley appeared, the doors of fandom were thrown wide open to Harley as a new addition, and she was soon appearing in comics as well as the show. If there was resistance by die-hard Batfans, those voices were drowned out. Harley became so popular, DC eventually realized they had to transform her. No more chasing after a killer clown, seeking his love. She'd become a sort of agent of chaos within the DCU, sometimes on the side of the angels, and sometimes... less so.
The voice of Harley by Sorkin would go on to survive art changes, changes in leadership in WB animation, and make the jump to video games. She's the voice you hear in your head when reading the comics, and what Margot Robbie borrowed across three feature films as a live-action version of the character.
Like Kevin Conroy before her, she passed way too young. But she also will have left millions of people with the memory of her voice, instantly recognizable, and which will be imitated by others for decades to come.