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Villainous Harlequin

A step down from the Monster Clown, a Villainous Harlequin is a villain that taps into the same vein as a Monster Clown but is usually Played for Laughs and rarely attempts to be outright scary.

A Villainous Harlequin (if female) will often be the Perky Female Minion of the Quirky Miniboss Squad, rarely going any higher on the Sorting Algorithm of Evil. Compared to the Monster Clown- which is genuinely threatening- she is closer to an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain. She has shades of The Trickster in her impulsive and anarchic ways, but lacks the intelligence necessary for this trait to provide any real danger. Whether male or female, a Villainous Harlequin may fancy him or herself as a Smug Snake, but his or her childish demeanor and outlandish appearance (which can range from traditional jester costumes to impossibly cool outfits and incredibly impractical poofy dresses if female) ruins any chance of anyone taking him or her seriously. Expect temper tantrums when his/her plans inevitably fail, and for him or her to either be a Chew Toy of The Dragon or a member of the Goldfish Poop Gang.

But be careful: if the Villainous Harlequin gets promoted to The Dragon or Big Bad levels, you're going to have a serious case of Who's Laughing Now? on your hands.

The Villainous Harlequin is the product of the popular view of The Jester, which is that of an idiotic buffoon. (This is despite the fact that The Jester was one of the most insightful members of a king's court, due to his position outside the usual social ranks). Interestingly, in some Renaissance art Death itself is often portrayed dressed in motley, or "pied" clothing, which is often conflated with the true Harlequin outfit. The more danger a Villainous Harlequin poses to the protagonists, the closer he or she gets to Monster Clown.


Examples

Anime and Manga

Comic Books
  • The Joker has wobbled between More Monster / More Clown depending on the decade, with the 50s and 60s leaning most strongly to the latter. Interestingly, the addition of his sidekick Harley Quinn (Who takes this to a literal example) ends up balancing the 'more Monster' situations. It's interesting to note that Harley is only Played for Laughs when she's fawning over The Joker. When she goes out on her own, especially when she's out to prove herself to The Joker, she takes a serious level in bad ass and becomes a dangerous threat to even Batman himself.
    • The Joker's one-time sidekick Gaggy (a dwarf in a jester costume) also fits. The character was recently revived in Gotham City Sirens where he sought vengeance on Harley Quinn whom he viewed as having taken his place.
  • The Charlton/DC villains Punch and Jewelee are a married couple who both fit this role, as did the version of Toyman who was a member of the Legion of Doom on the Superfriends.
  • The Golden Age Green Lantern foe the Harlequin (aka Molly Mayne), who he later ended up marrying.
    • And Molly was just one of four DC villainesses to use the name The Harlequin over the years, not including Harley Quinn (who doesn't count because she spells it different...and it's a shortened version of her real name).
  • Pierrot Lunaire is a foe of the Musketeer who dresses as the Commedia dell'Arte character Pierrot. He was a member of the Club of Villains that appeared in the Batman R.I.P. storyline.
  • Averted in Astro City — Jack-in-the-Box may have the Joker's fashion sense, but he's definitely a hero.

Film

Literature
  • Foundation and Empire has Magnifico Giganticus, who plays the Sad Clown part so well at first that nobody even suspects him of being a villain. In fact, he's the Mule himself.
  • In Murder Must Advertise, Lord Peter Wimsey takes on the persona of a sinister harlequin in order to infiltrate a murderous drug ring.
  • One of the Oz books featured a jester who went evil after getting his hands on a Magic Wand.

Live-Action TV
  • Many, many villains from Power Rangers. Rita Repulsa (even when she was the Big Bad), Jindrax (from Wild Force) and Marah/Kapri (from Ninja Storm) are probably the most straight examples of this trope.
  • Maaen from Tomica Hero Rescue Force.
  • Evil Jester from Amazing Extraordinary Friends.
  • Five Characters in Search of an Exit had a menacing clown. He wasn't quite evil, but he was all nihilistic and ominous and strange.
  • One episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air has Will, Carlton and Uncle Phil dealing with one of these, who demands to be taken to the courthouse (where Phil is to preside over a trial that will be televised) just so he can show his act in front of the cameras. He uses dynamite sticks strapped to his body in order to persuade people into following through with him. However, the bombs later prove to be gag props complete with a "BANG!" flag. He's promptly kicked out of the court for his troubles.

Pinball

Tabletop Games

Video Games

Webcomics
  • Jokerella from The Non-Adventures of Wonderella would probably fit in here.
  • The Riddler's Gammon comics by MS Paint Adventures' Andrew Hussie feature a harlequin who menaces people with nonsensical puzzles and complicated rhyming schemes. He tends to get arrested, or shoved into garbage. Every enemy is decorated with Harlequin garb in Homestuck!
  • In the KITTEN II storyline of Sluggy Freelance, the commander of a paramilitary group devoted to battling the forces of evil is inexplicably dressed as a clown, which terrifies the normally-stoic Riff. It turns out he isn't really a clown, it's just a disguise to divert attention away from them. Somehow. But then it turns out that he's gone insane and believes himself to be chosen by God to control The Evil. And then it turns out that he was a clown all along.

Western Animation
  • Harley Quinn from Batman: The Animated Series. Though it's worth pointing out that her Nightmare Face and insane cackling as she lowers Batman into a vat of piranhas thinking she can finally have the relationship she dreams of with the Joker pushes her this close to Monster Clown levels.
  • The Joker goes back to his Silver Age Harlequin feel in Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Even so, he is hilariously no less Made of Awesome than in the comic books or The Dark Knight.
  • I'm Dr. Rockso, the rock-and-roll clown! I do cocaine!
  • Quackerjack from Darkwing Duck.
  • Hexadecimal from ReBoot.
    • Though being Axe Crazy with main motivation It Amused Me and appearance heavily inspired by traditional Harlequin costume, she's usually played as Humanoid Abomination rather than this with Harlequin part further highlighting her otherness.
  • Jimmy Two-Shoes has a bike gang called The Rodeo Clowns.
  • In a Squidbillies episode, Rusty and Early become Clowny Freaks (a parody of Juggalos). To advance up the Ziggurat of the Clownies towards full ninjahood, aspiring clowny freaks must smash stuff while playing "that evil-ass calliope". Clowny Daggers, baby!
  • Jack-In-The-Box from Cool McCool.
  • The Jester in the "Court Musician" segment in Garfield: His 9 Lives. He keeps taunting "Freddie," the titular court musician, that if he doesn't please the king with his concerto, he faces the guillotine.
  • An actual royal court jester was a villain in one Woody Woodpecker cartoon; he wasn't really evil, but he was a pretty bad jester, and when the king threatened to fire him after thinking Woody was much funnier, the guy went after Woody in an attempt to keep his job. (The cartoon ended with Woody getting the job with the guy being punished by being part of Woody's act - getting pies thrown in his face.)


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