James Gunn, Tara Strong, and More Pay Tribute to Late Batman Icon

in DC, Movies & TV

Harley Quinn smiling and holding her costume, Arleen Sorkin smiling on a red carpet in a white jacket

Credit: Warner Bros., Kathy Hutchins via Wikimedia Commons

After the announcement of Arleen Sorkin’s tragic passing, multiple celebrities and fans have posted tributes to the Batman icon, reminding the world just how much Sorkin meant to everyone.

After starting her career as a cabaret performer, Arleen Sorkin would have her breakthrough performance as Calliope Jones on the long-running soap opera Days of Our Lives (1966-present). The role would earn her multiple Daytime Emmy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress.

However, she is probably most recognized for originating the character of Harley Quinn on Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1999). Creator Paul Dini based the character on Sorkin after being inspired by an episode of Days of Our Lives where she played a court jester. The rest, as they say, is history. She would go on to play the character for almost 20 years in movies, animated series, and video games.

Sadly, the DC Universe was shaken when Arleen Sorkin passed away on August 26, 2023, after a battle with lung cancer. She is survived by her husband, producer Christopher Lloyd, and two sons, Eli and Owen. And fans and colleagues are letting the world know just how much she meant.

The Late Batman Icon Will Be Missed

Joker pinching Harley Quinn's cheek in Batman: The Animated Series
Credit: Warner Bros.

Related: The Original Harley Quinn Has Passed Away

Since the announcement of her passing, hundreds of fans and celebrities have sent out tributes to the late Arleen Sorkin on various social media accounts. DC head honcho James Gunn posted on Instagram, saying, “Rest in Peace, Arleen Sorkin, the incredibly talented original voice of Harley Quinn, who helped to create the character so many of us love. Love to her family and friends.”

Voice actor Tara Strong, who has played Harley Quinn on multiple occasions, sent out a Tweet saying, “Thank you [Arleen] for inspiring women around the world to step out of the sidekick role, shadowed by abusive men and finding your own power. Myself included.” Strong also asked cosplayers to share their favorite Harley Quinn cosplay while she shared her own.

Related: Mark Hamill “Devastated” After Batman Co-Star Dies

Voice actor Jim Cummings also sent out a Tweet remembering Arleen Sorkin. “RIP Arleen Sorkin, the original voice of [Harley Quinn]. You paved the way for an entire generation, and I’ll never forget our time working together.”

While Jim Cummings is most well-known for his performances as Tigger, Pete, Winnie the Pooh, the Tasmanian Devil, and Monterey Jack, he acted alongside Sorkin on Batman: The Animated Series as Jekko the Clown.

Another fitting tribute to the late actor came from user ERod, who shared a hilarious quote from an interview in a Batman issue of Starlog Magazine where Sorkin talks about how she influenced the Harley Quinn character. “Her occasional use of the word ‘Oy!’ is very much me, that fantastic figure is also me, as is her joie de vie and those high, pointy breasts!”

There’s another great quote in the interview where Sorkin talks about how much she loves Harley Quinn, particularly her real name, Harleen Quinzel. “I love the name Harleen so much that if I had to do it over again, I would have made my name Harleen instead of Arleen. It’s a great name!”

Related: ‘Harley Quinn’ No Longer a Villain, Joins DC Heroes in SDCC Teaser

“Doing Batman has been terrific,’ Sorkin continued. ‘When we talk, I know Paul’s not really listening to me– he’s filing; filing away ideas while I’m talking to him!” And while it’s great to see that she loved Harley so much, it’s important to remember that Arleen Sorkin is more than just one character.

Arleen Sorkin Was More Than Harley Quinn

Harley Quinn in her classic Batman the Animated Series jester costume singing in a spotlight
Credit: Warner Bros.

While it is almost impossible to think of Arleen Sorkin without thinking of Harley Quinn, actor, writer, and comedian Guy Branum reminded the world that she was much more than just her iconic DC character.

“Arleen Sorkin passed away,” he Tweeted. “This is mostly reported as ‘Original Voice of Harley Quinn Arleen Sorkin.’ And Harley Quinn is a huge, ripe part of her legacy, but Arleen Sorkin was a big, major talent at a time when TV didn’t know how to deal with women who could do it all.”

“I became aware of Arleen in the late 80s when she was kind of everywhere on TV: she was on a Fox sitcom, she hosted America’s Funniest People (1990-1994), a bunch of talk show stuff, and she was always introduced as ‘Comedian and Writer,’ and I didn’t know you could be both things. America’s Funniest People fired her and replaced her with Tawny Kitaen, a younger, conventionally hotter woman. This busted my young brain, as I couldn’t believe this network misunderstood Arleen’s talents and appeal so completely, but they did.”

“Arleen pivoted. She sold pilot after pilot. She created and ran Fired Up on NBC, a thing that was left out of most of the industry obits. She was the second thing I searched on a search engine after I got access to the internet. I wanted to know what she was doing. The answer is she was surviving as a woman in this industry. When the industry decided to dispose of her as a performer, she pivoted.”

Branum continued, “But mostly, I wanted to say that Arleen Sorkin was an amazing talent who taught me that you could be a multi-hyphenate and thrive, and that if Hollywood closes a door, you chop a hole in the wall and squeeze yourself in.”

While many publications and media outlets have focused on the Harley Quinn aspect of her career, Inside The Magic included, it turns out that there is so much more to the person than just a single character. Arleen Sorkin is an inspiration to performers and creatives everywhere, proving that just because you’re down, that doesn’t mean you’re out. Sorkin was extraordinary, and the entertainment industry is worse off without her.

What’s your favorite Arleen Sorkin moment? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

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