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
Anime and Manga
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- One of these shows up as an antagonist in a Pathfinder Dungeons & Dragons module. She's also cheerfully Ax-Crazy, Too Kinky to Torture, and has a crush on her boss.
- In the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 Edition Monster Manual IV is a creature called the Taunting Haunt, the vengeful spirit of a clown or preformer that can only be destroyed if beaten in a game of wits.
- Champions has the Black Harlequin, a cheerful, smiley villain who just wants to have fun. His signature wepaons are armies of lethal toys, like teddy bears with metal claws, toy soldiers with real rifles and a rag-doll that causes aneurysms.
- Warhammer 40,000: Interestingly subverted by the Eldar Harlequins, which are technically good (i.e. they fight Chaos), are best described as psychedelic space elf killer clown ninjas, and are so competent even the Dark Eldar, who have an almost psychopathic urge to horrifically maim, torture, and kill every living being they can get a hold of, are afraid to keep them from the otherwise impenetrable Hell dimension they reside in. Oh, and they use some of the setting's most horrific weapons when they're not doing psychically enhanced cautionary interpretive dance, not that they much care for the difference, though.
- Harley Quinn from the Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City Games.
- Harlequin, the psychic gambler pig from Link: The Faces of Evil.
- Shannon, the succubus-slash-stripper from God Hand.
- Deathjester in Seiken Densetsu 3, who lapsed into Monster Clown at times.
- Tira from Soul Calibur.
- Kefka in Final Fantasy VI is initially presented as a Villainous Harlequin. That perception doesn't last long. Good thing we still have Ultros.
- The appropriately named Harle from Chrono Cross. However, she's far more of an Enigmatic Minion than an ineffectual villain. And being a villain or not doesn't really seem to be under her control.
- Reala and Jackle from NiGHTS Into Dreams. Turns out NiGHTS itself was originally planned to be that, but a Heel-Face Turn turned it into the hero.
- Dimentio, from Super Paper Mario, fits this trope perfectly, but while his slightly hammy antics and overall Friendly Enemy demeanor is played for laughs, he definitely proves to be a Not-So-Harmless Villain by the end of the game.
- Also, Bowyer, a Boss from Super Mario RPG, is like this.
- Malcolm the Jester from The Legend of Kyrandia, who goes from being a Chaotic Evil Sorcerer to a depowered Villain Protagonist trying to Clear His Name in the third game.
- Overlord has the Minion Jesters, whose duties are to give their Evil Overlord Masters amusing names (or make little limericks in the sequel) while also serving as their Training Dummies at times.
- Played with in regards of the Royal Jester in Princess Maker 2. Everyone thinks he's a bad guy and going talk to him actually drops your daughter's social reputation each time, but he's actually a rather good-hearted fellow... if a bit of a Trickster Mentor to the heroine. Who can choose being a Jester as her main work in the end, if some requirements are met (specifically, having him give her his Royal Harp after several visits, as well as possessing a strong Constitution and very high Art and Conversation skills).
- "The Harlequin" Cahin from Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, who uses his acrobatics to dazzle and distract his opponents while he (or his sister Caha) move around to deliver a fatal strike.
- Cicero from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, who's a Cloud Cuckoo Lander member of the Dark Brotherhood prone to dancing a jig at the spot.
- The Dragon Age II DLC Mark of the Assassin has enemy rogues as Harlequins to fit the flamboyant Orlesian setting.
- Shaco the Demon Jester in League of Legends. If the title or his glowing green eyes didn't give it away, his name is an anagram of "chaos"
- Dhoulmagus, the Big Bad Wannabe from Dragon Quest VIII is one of these.
- The redesign of Thanatos in Kid Icarus: Uprising goes for this. While he's a rare example who's The Dragon and can prove to be powerful and threatening, more often then not he's the butt of many jokes thanks to his childishness and laziness.
- Clown Man, one of the Robot Masters from Mega Man 8
- The Dark Wings from Tales of the Abyss subvert this troupe. Initially they seem to be a trio of annoying (if relatively harmless) thieves disguised as circus clowns, but they're actually in league with Asch, putting them at least slightly on the side of good.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)