DC Comics isn't making any new fans this month: Last week, the editorial team responsible for Batwoman resigned after the comic book publisher refused to let them show their main character Kate Kane's long-awaited same-sex marriage on panel. And on Friday, just a few days shy of National Suicide Prevention Week, DC initiated a talent search asking aspiring artists to submit drawings of villainess Harley Quinn, naked and taking her own life.
The obvious discrepancy is glaring to some fans: Same-sex marriage for a character who's long been an out lesbian isn't allowed, but objectifying a mentally ill female figure in a gratuitously naked death scene is a moment to be celebrated.
The open contest invites the public to "Break Into Comics!" by submitting four panels depicting Harley Quinn in various suicide attempts, the last taking place while she's naked in a bathtub surrounded by plugged-in appliances like toasters and blenders. The winner will have their work appear in an upcoming issue.
Here are the four panels artists are asked to interpret:
Harley is on top of a building, holding a large DETACHED cellphone tower in her hands as lightning is striking just about everywhere except her tower. She is looking at us like she cannot believe what she is doing. Beside herself. Not happy.
Harley is sitting in an alligator pond, on a little island with a suit of raw chicken on, rolling her eyes like once again, she cannot believe where she has found herself. We see the alligators ignoring her.
Harley is sitting in an open whale mouth, tickling the inside of the whale’s mouth with a feather. She is ecstatic and happy, like this is the most fun ever.
Harley sitting naked in a bathtub with toasters, blow dryers, blenders, appliances all dangling above the bathtub and she has a cord that will release them all. We are watching the moment before the inevitable death. Her expression is one of “oh well, guess that’s it for me” and she has resigned herself to the moment that is going to happen.
The writer of the upcoming series, Jimmy Palmiotti, initially responded with these tweets:
He expanded on his 4th wall explanation with this comment:
"What is happening here is Harley is breaking the 4th wall...and talking to the audience about the writers of the book...and how nutty they are. We used the words "naked" because we did not want the artist to draw harley in her costume and we all know you can't show nudity in the comic...and we also know you have to cover her "parts" with objects and what not...but the idea was she is taking a bath with all this hardware around not believing how far the writers went. The whole story is one big long imaginary scene done by different artists of extremely absurd over the top circumstances."
DC's Co-publisher Jim Lee also took to twitter to defend the contest, writing a tl;dr example of how context is everything using panels to illustrate his point (which can be seen at the source). Here are some of his comments about Harley Quinn:
"So w/o the context of the dialogue or preceding or following imgs, it is near impossible to glean what a description of a scene is “naked”
Which brings me to the next hot button.
Asking an aspiring artist to draw a female character taking a bath carries with a lot of baggage. Fully unintended btw.
I know Amanda&Jimmy who wrote the HarleyQuinn tryout pg & I know their intent was 2break the 4th wall & poke some fun at their own expense
It was not to “sexualize suicide” or even create a story about suicide.
Are these memes about suicide or are they about the extremes of frustration we all face in our daily lives?
I can assure you that Harley Quinn #0 is not about suicide. Not even close.
So many of our lives including mine have been affected by such true acts of despair.
As far as the objectification of Harley Quinn by having her take a bath naked. It comes down to how the artist interprets that shot.
Any talented artist can draw it a hundred ways, none of which are demeaning to women. #ultimategoal
I think if an aspiring artist feels the approach is creatively wrong-he or she is free 2push bk, discuss&rework w/his or her writer&editor
It happens ALL THE TIME in comics. I regularly interpret & change visual elements in every script given to me.
Have since day 1. With collaboration & communication w/my writer & editor of course. It’s the challenge of bettering ideas.
But that’s a whole other bag of worms…back to Superman Unchained for me."