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Happy Birthday, Poison Ivy!

This flora fatale has had both Batman and fans wrapped around her green thumb since her debut in Batman #181 in June 1966. Look back at some of her most memorable appearances as she turns 50-years-old!

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1. Batman#181 (June 1966)

Art by Carmine Infantino, pencils, and Murphy Anderson, inks. / Via en.wikipedia.org

Ivy first set down roots in Gotham City in Batman #181 (June 1966) by Robert Kanigher and Sheldon Moldoff. Her first scheme was using her plant-based wiles and arsenal to become public enemy #1 and oust the other female criminals in Gotham. She also developed a thing for both Batman and Bruce Wayne, making Robin concerned/jealous.

With the Infantino art, and the fact that she debuted in '66, it is easy to imagine Ivy on the Adam West Batman show which premiered the same year. For some reason, that never transpired. Ann-Margret would be my fancast.

Purchase and read here!

ZOK!

Kanigher drew from a couple of different inspirations for the character: Pinup model Bettie Page who Ivy initially shared a Southern drawl with and the title character in Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1844 short story Rappaccini's Daughter about a medical researcher in medieval Padua who grows a poisonous garden that his daughter tends to and who eventually becomes not only resistant to the poisons but poisonous herself.

DC Comics - Dave McKean, Neil Gaiman

After the character's debut, however, appearances proved sporadic through the '70s and better part of the '80s. It wasn't until author Neil Gaiman's 1988 Black Orchid miniseries (a dreamy masterpiece) that we get a glimpse of a darker, more twisted Ivy that imbued the character with a richer backstory and a soul. She only appears for a few pages, but her appearance is memorable and alludes to a new origin that Gaiman elaborated on later that year in Secret Origins vol. 2 #36.

2. Secret Origins vol 2 #36

Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham

Here, Ivy is being interviewed by a recruiter who is looking for potential members for the Suicide Squad (yes, that Suicide Squad). He interviews her about her troubled childhood as well as how she became Poison Ivy (her asshole college professor seduces her and performs horrendous experiments on her). Hilarity ensues. Just kidding. It's pretty bleak, and Ivy ends up in Arkham where she has since rubbed elbows with the likes of the Joker and Two-Face.

Purchase and read here.

3. Batman: The Animated Series - "Harley and Ivy"

In September, 1992, Batman the Animated Series premiered to critical acclaim, creating what many consider to be the definitive version of Batman and his supporting case of characters. Along with classic Bat-rogues such as the Joker and the Penguin, the series also shed a spotlight on lesser-known villains including Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy and also introduced fan-favorite Harley Quinn.

Legendary comic book and television writer Paul Dini, who was a producer and also responsible for some of the show's most memorable episodes, wrote a majority of the Poison Ivy episodes, starting with "Pretty Poison", the 5th episode of the series. Dini, who is known to be a big fan of Neil Gaiman, may have been partly influenced by Gaiman's Ivy tales.

Her appearances in the show would propel her to the front line of Batman's Rogues Gallery where she has enjoyed A-list status ever since, being popularized to the point of being featured in 1997's Batman & Robin.

"Harley and Ivy" marks the first meeting of Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, one of the most popular and enduring partnerships/team-ups in fiction that endures to this day. In this episode, Harley, who has been kicked out of Joker's gang, strikes out on her own to prove herself to her "Mistah J" and steal a diamond from a museum. However, in the middle of her job, she runs into Ivy who is pilfering plant toxins from the museum lab.

Ivy takes Harley under her wing, and the two become the new "Queens of Crime", resulting in a 4-way scuffle with Harley, Ivy, Joker, and Batman and an explosive ending.

Available on Amazon Prime.

4. Batman: The Animated Series - "House & Garden"

"House and Garden", also written by Dini, is not only the best Poison Ivy episode, but it probably holds up as one of the best episodes, period.

Rich bachelors are being poisoned throughout Gotham. Of course, Ivy is Batman's first and only suspect. However, he discovers that not only has she been released from Arkham with a clean bill of mental health, but she has also settled down in the suburbs with a husband, kids, and a lovely little garden.

A nice twist with an emotional punch that you don't see coming, this episode is a great multifaceted portrayal of Ivy as both devious and sympathetic.

Also available on Amazon Prime.

5. Batman: Poison Ivy

John Francis Moore, Brian Apthorp

As mentioned before, Batman: The Animated Series popularized the Ivy character to classic Bat-rogue status, and she was featured as a main antagonist in Batman & Robin in 1997 portrayed by Uma Thurman. While the film was a certified shit show, DC released four one-shots featuring Mr. Freeze, Batgirl, Bane, and Ivy. Of the four, Batman: Poison Ivy was the best, written by John Francis Moore with gorgeous artwork by Brian Apthorp.

In this tale, Ivy escapes the urban cesspool that is Gotham to resuscitate a desert island in the Caribbean and make it into a second Eden. Ivy has had enough of plant-based crimes and people and has decided to retire to her piece of paradise, only to have it firebombed by a Gotham-based weapons company testing out their new incendiary product. Ivy then comes back to Gotham with a vengeance, tearing shit up and punishing those responsible for torching her posies. Batman's in it too, his cape concealing his boner.

Not available on Comixology, but available for purchase.

6. Batman: No Man's Land - "Fruit of the Earth"

Greg Rucka and Bill Sienkiewicz

In 1999, a yearlong, crossover event took place in Batman comics called "No Man's Land." The story follows Batman and co. as they deal with Gotham City not only being practically leveled by an earthquake, but also being abandoned by the U.S. Government and isolated from the rest of the country. While the rest of the bat-villains become crime lords and squabble over territory, Ivy decides to set up shop in Robinson Park (Gotham's version of Central Park) and, again, creates a second (third?) Eden. Kids who were orphaned by their parents being killed in the earthquake seek refuge in the park, and Ivy, also the victim of a youthful trauma, decides to take care of them. Things go well until big brute Clayface barges in and imprisons Ivy and the kids to force her to grow produce that he can sell to the starving hoards that still cling to Gotham's ruins.

This story, written by legend Greg Rucka, is great in that it continues to portray Ivy as a multifaceted character who doesn't choose to straddle the line between "good" and "evil", but rather divines her own morally-ambiguous path that runs counter to Batman's. This story also picks up on themes addressed in the B:TAS episode "House & Garden."

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Also worth mentioning is the 2-part followup after the city is restored and the mayor is trying to kick Ivy out of the park, also by Rucka.

7. Batman: Harley and Ivy

Paul Dini and Bruce Timm

In 2004, DC put out Batman: Harley and Ivy, written by Paul Dini with stellar art by Bruce Timm. Drawn in the style of Batman: The Animated Series where the duo first met, the 3-part story starts with Ivy becoming fed up with Harley after the clown girl screws up one of Ivy's schemes and deciding to dissolve the partnership/friendship/les yay. From there, the two find themselves in one shenanigan after another, encountering a drug lord and mercenaries in the Amazon rainforest, and then, worse, Hollywood executives who want to make a Harley and Ivy blockbuster film in the style of Joel Schumacher. So much is packed into so little space, and the end result is magnificent.

Collected edition and individual issues available here.

8. Batman & Poison Ivy: Cast Shadows

Ann Nocenti and John van Fleet.

"Suicidal men adore me."

Also from 2004, Batman & Poison Ivy: Cast Shadows, written by Ann Nocenti with haunting art by John van Fleet, is about Ivy freaking out after the sunlight streaming through her small window in Arkham is obscured by a giant skyscraper, then developers behind the building project mysteriously being poisoned.

Simplistic description aside, this is probably my favorite Poison Ivy story of all time. As one reviewer put it, this is a "hybridized" Ivy, taking elements from her many portrayals: her vampy humor and scientific intellect from B:TAS, the earth mother persona from Rucka and Moore's stories, and the fractured and haunted woman at the heart of the Gaiman tales. This is a brilliant woman who can offer so much to the world, but who is also sick.

It's not available on Comixology, but please, do yourself a favor and find a copy.

9. Batman: Li'l Gotham #4 and #19

Up until recent years, Catwoman and Poison Ivy, whenever placed in the same comic together, would have an obligatory, pardon the pun, cat-fight, because, as we all know, strong, independent females cannot get along or work together without tearing each other down in some way. Catwoman and Harley stories up to this point hadn't fared much better.

I was considering including Paul Dini and Guillem March's Gotham City Sirens, the series that follows the misadventures of Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman not only teaming up, but becoming sexy roommates as well, but I always felt that, while I enjoyed the 3 interacting and getting along, the reasons for them living together seemed a tad flimsy. I love the concept, just not so much the execution.

Instead, I chose to include issues from Dustin Nguyen's Batman: Li'l Gotham, a gorgeous, watercolor rendition of Batman and co. as chibis.

The whole series is worth a looks-see, and is kid-friendly ta boot. But for our purposes, I turn the attention to #4 where Catwoman, after promising Batman to give up stealing for a year, is coerced by her gal pals to break that resolution to join them for a night of debauchery.

The second, #19, is about Ivy battling depression in the autumn when all of the leaves are falling off the trees and Harley, Catwoman, and even the Joker trying to cheer Red up.

Simplified storytelling with laughs and occasional moments of drama.

Available here and here.

10. Harley Quinn, Vol. 2 series

Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, and Chad Hardin.

And of course, Ivy pops up as a supporting character in the Harley Quinn series quite frequently as well, written by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti with art by Chad Hardin. There is good reason why this is the #1 selling female-lead comic out right now.

Catch it here.

11. Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death miniseries

Amy Chu and Clay Mann

And of course worth-mentioning as well is the very recent Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death. Worth noting that this is the first time in 50 years that the character got her own series.

Written by Amy Chu with art by Clay Mann, the series follows Ivy as she gets a job at the Gotham Botanical Gardens (because apparently background checks don't exist in the DC Universe), trying to turn over a new leaf and grappling with her plant and human sides. Amy Chu describes the character as "Lex Luthor-smart" and views her as not having "understanding of good or bad."

Many fans hope that the success of the series may lead to a true ongoing.

Here's hoping!

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