There was a time when animal sidekicks frequently stood by the side of comic book crusaders. For example, in the 1960s, Supergirl was assisted by Comet the Super-Horse and Streaky the Supercat, while Superman’s allies included Krytpo the Superdog and Beppo the Super-Monkey. Those animals also formed their own alliance called The Legion of Super-Pets, which also included a parrot, a cow, and more.
The trend died down in subsequent decades, but it hasn’t disappeared completely. In recent years, several superheroes have been given their own pet sidekicks, and some of them are finding their way to the screen. Earlier this year, Captain Marvel introduced moviegoers to Goose, an alien cat who looks adorable but is dangerous underneath his orange fur. Now DC is about to up the ante by featuring a few animals in Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of Harley Quinn, which only adds to the film’s quirky qualities.
We’ve already seen glimpses of Harley Quinn’s hyenas, Bud and Lou, in the promotional materials for the film. However, the latest batch of posters reveals that Bernie, her taxidermy beaver, will also make an appearance in Cathy Yan’s hotly-anticipated blockbuster. Bernie is a minor character in the DC lore, but he’s played his part in the development of Harley’s story throughout the years.
Created by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti and first appearing in 2014’s Harley Quinn Volume 2, Bernie isn’t like other adorable sidekicks. He’s a stuffed animal who has been dead for years. Of course, Harley isn’t exactly of sound mind and believes that the beaver is not only alive, but is also able to speak, eat, and do other things that talking rodents can do.
The story of Harley’s acquisition of Bernie is actually pretty sweet. The stuffed animal initially belonged to the family of her first crush, Bernie Bash. When he was sent to a juvenile detention center, Harley stole the beaver as a keepsake. Over time, however, their relationship morphed into something so much more.
Bernie is also reflective of Harley’s love for animals. She’s a homicidal maniac in many ways, but one of her most redeemable qualities is the way she’s willing to care for every animal she encounters. If someone loves animals, then their tendency to take human lives doesn’t seem so bad. That’s the Harley we’ll get to see more of in Birds of Prey.
Bernie isn’t as cute and cuddly as other beavers, though. For a start, his body is a mutilated mess after experiencing some horrific ordeals, such as being shot and burnt in an explosion. He’s also been eaten by alligators following a plane crash, which led to a very entertaining storyline where Harley was marooned on a volcanic island talking to his skull. Needless to say, this beaver is the kind of grotesque wonder that only Harley could love, and that’s what makes their relationship so oddly endearing.
While Bernie’s appearance might be off-putting to some, his personality traits are even worse. He’s a pervert at times, and the comics’ creators have been unable to resist incorporating him into suggestive, innuendo-laced jokes about beavers from time to time. Bernie hasn’t crossed a female character who he hasn’t hit on (he once told Poison Ivy that he’d like to “gnaw on her twigs”), but that aspect of his character will likely be toned down for the movie.
That said, despite his flaws — and the fact that he’s a product of Harley’s imagination — Bernie has been there for his master when she’s needed him most. On top of being her personal confidante, he’s saved her life once or twice. A notable example came in the “Nocturnal Omission” storyline when Harley was putting out hits on her own head while she was sleepwalking. Bernie urged her to wake up and ward off incoming assassins, which proved to be lifesaving advice in the end.
Bernie is one of the stranger elements of the comics, but he’s been an entertaining presence all the same. Like his role in the literary source material, his purpose in the movie will be to provide some comic relief and reflect the breakdown of Harley’s mental state. However, if Harley is going to remain an important part of the DC Cinematic Universe moving forward, the deceased beaver will likely make a few cameo appearances for years to come, and perhaps even become an unlikely fan-favorite character