Comic Character Spotlight: Poison Ivy

Welcome to this week’s Comic Character Spotlight! Harley Quinn was the first character highlighted by this column, so it only felt natural to revisit the DC Extended Universe through looking at my personal favorite love interest for the bubbly blonde. Today we’ll be looking at DC’s favorite half-plant, half-human beauty, Poison Ivy. 

Since her debut in 1966’s “Batman,” Poison Ivy, made by Robert Kanigher and Sheldon Moldoff, has been a popular foe within the Batman comics. She is a unique villain, as her motivation is grounded in a clear love for the earth and a continuous attempt to stop those who would trample on it. She utilizes her enhanced physical capabilities and mystifying control over plant life for the purposes of ecoterrorism – violence for the sake of environmental preservation. Her love for nature is depicted in the “Gotham Girls” episode “Pave Paradise” (2000), as she works to prevent Gotham’s mayor from demolishing a park.  

In Neil Gaiman’s short story “Pavane” (1966) Poison Ivy’s power is traced back to the environmental force dubbed “green” which gifted her with great power. However, this story is altered in the 1988 comic series “Secret Origins” as she is revealed to be a Dr. Pamela Lillian Isley, studying botanical biochemistry at university. Her professor, Dr. Jason Woodrue, seduces Ivy and injects her with dangerous toxins that subsequently lead to a drastic mutation in her appearance and result in her hospitalization. After dropping out of school, Poison Ivy’s abilities flourish and evolve into a plethora of plant and poison infused superpowers. 

In later issues of the series, Poison Ivy unveils one of the primary motivations behind her crime is to garner enough profit to secure a place where she can live at peace with her plants, away from the disturbances of humanity. She temporarily succeeds at this goal, as she finds an island that she is able to transform into her own nature-adorned paradise. However, this land is destroyed as a result of a US corporation using the location to test their weaponry. Infuriated by humans who carelessly tarnish lush and green lands, Ivy returns to Gotham to deal with the perpetrators. Despite being apprehended by Batman, Ivy is filled with a renewed determination to reside in Gotham until she can make it a safe haven for plants.   

Despite much of her motivation being centered around plant life, Poison Ivy’s has been shown to extend her care to others on varying occasions. After Gotham City is wrecked and rendered desolate by an earthquake, Ivy converts Robinson Park into a lush, foliage-filled location. Her nurturing side is also unveiled as she cares for 16 children who were left homeless after the devastation of the earthquake.   

This earthquake also leads Poison Ivy to meet Harley Quinn, abandoned and almost killed by the Joker, for the first time as she locates the blonde among the debris and tends her back to health. After, the two become inseparable best friends and allies. The friendship between Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy differs from other villain alliances as theirs is based on true love and friendship, rather than the manipulative and unhealthy bonds often shown between other villains. 

2016 finally saw the release of a solo comic book series for Poison Ivy entitled “Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death” by Amy Chu. As Chu sought to expound more on Ivy’s character, the series saw the return of her human persona Dr. Pamela Isley as she worked at Gotham Botanical Gardens. Focusing on Ivy’s intuitive side, throughout the series she is shown investigating the murders of her colleagues. Her maternal and caring features are also illustrated as she raises genetically engineered and rapidly growing plant-human hybrids – Rose and Hazel.  

Although Poison Ivy has been a staple in DC comics since the 1960s, she has not been introduced to the live-action DC Extended Universe. Fans are eager to see the superhuman, vine entangled beauty and force of nature grace the big screen in a future DC film. However, the wait for her on-screen debut may continue for years. Thankfully she has been brought to life through animation such as within the HBO Max television series “Harley Quinn” (2019) that features the positively devious sapphic relationship between Harley and Ivy.