DC Comics Opens Harley Quinn Art Contest, Controversy Spreads

DC opened an art contest to find new talent, and it’s open to any submissions. Contestants are asked to draw the first page of Harley Quinn #0, and the winner may even become the series’ co-creator, alongside Amanda Conner, Jim Palmiotti, Paul Pope, Bruce Timm, and possibly some others.

While it is interesting, this news isn’t actually as great as it initially looks. As it turns out, the page that contestants are supposed to draw includes four different panels of exaggerated attempts of suicide, as follows:

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.

Jim Palmiotti, it seems, was not aware of the fact that next week is National Suicide Awareness Week at the time he wrote this.

In addition to this, a number of angry fans all over the internet have sprung up claiming that the last panel sexualizes suicide by having Harley appear naked in a bath tub (most of the fans who say this are female). Others say that it’s not sexualization at all, and that “no one would get into a bath tub with their clothes on anyway” (of course, the people who say this are usually men).

Whether or not the sexualization is as “blatant” as some people say, Harley Quinn is a highly fetishized character to begin with, so whatever she does may have that stigma attached to it regardless of what she’s doing, which is why the writers of her character need to be a bit more careful with how they portray her. Even the most subtle details of a picture can send a very powerful message, and when it comes to women in comics, it’s very easy to accidentally send a message that was not initially intended to be there.

In addition, in defense of his writing, Jim Palmiotti claimed in a Facebook thread that the suicide scenes were supposed to be over-exaggerated in a way that was reminiscent of the Looney Tunes, which only made things worse. This essentially means that not only is the last panel of suicide subtly sexualized, but that the entire page makes suicide into a sort of cartoony joke. Palmiotti may not have intended to be so hurtful, but it illustrates a negligence in the implications of what he’s writing, and that he needs to be a more careful from now on.

This, of course, happened at the same time that the creative team of Batwoman quit because of a number of different things they had been banned from writing, including Kate and Maggie’s wedding. Needless to say, DC hasn’t been having the best weekend.

Source: DC Comics