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DC apologizes to those offended by ‘Harley Quinn’ contest

harley quinnDC Comics has apologized to anyone offended by the controversial Harley Quinn tryout page that asks artists to depict the fan-favorite character naked in a bathtub, seemingly about to commit suicide, and reiterated “the entire story is cartoony and over-the-top in tone.” However, the publisher appears to be continuing the DC Entertainment Open Talent Search.

The statement was issued Thursday, shortly after the the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Psychiatric Association and National Alliance on Mental Illness expressed their disappointment in the publisher, calling the contest “extremely insensitive” and “potentially dangerous.”

Their comments capped off a week of growing criticism about the panel, which Harley Quinn co-writer Jimmy Palmiotti clarified on Tuesday is part of a surreal dream sequence intended to have “a Mad magazine/Looney Tunes approach.”

“We believe that instead of making light of suicide, DC Comics could have used this opportunity to host a contest looking for artists to depict a hopeful message that there is help for those in crisis” the three groups said in a joint statement, published by USA Today and The Huffington Post. “This would have been a positive message to send, especially to young readers,” the statement continued. “On behalf of the tens of millions of people who have lost a loved one to suicide, this contest is extremely insensitive, and potentially dangerous. We know from research that graphic and sensational depictions of suicide can contribute to contagion.”

In response, DC wrote: “The purpose of the talent search was to allow new artists an opportunity to draw a single page of a 20-page story. True to the nature of the character, the entire story is cartoony and over-the-top in tone, as Harley Quinn breaks the 4th Wall and satirizes the very scenes she appears in. DC Entertainment sincerely apologizes to anyone who may have found the page synopsis offensive and for not clearly providing the entire context of the scene within the full scope of the story.”

Although that was the company’s first official statement on the matter since the contest launched on Sept. 5, Co-Publisher Jim Lee addressed some of the criticism over the weekend on Twitter, stressing the importance of context. He said the intent of Palmiotti and co-writer Amanda Conner wasn’t to “‘sexualize suicide’ or even create a story about suicide. […] I can assure you that Harley Quinn #0 is not about suicide. Not even close.”

Here’s an example of how one artist, Phillip M. Jackson, interpreted the tryout script. “If each panel of a comic tells a story, this one is meant to relay that the apparently suicidal Quinn is about to fry herself … and she’s going to be thorough about it,” he writes about the controversial fourth panel. “There’s no reason for nudity to be any kind of hang-up or focus at all, hence its complete absence from my interpretation.”

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73 Comments

I think this is one of those instances where people are overreacting, but I can the need to acknowledge the seriousness of suicide. (it’s not like we’d ever think to depict child molestation in any kind of cartoonish way) Hopefully this statement will be the end of it.

That said, it’s interesting that Harley’s New 52 makeover is very much “Suicide Girls” inspired.

Phillip’s art looks completely acceptable to me, and she’s no more sexualized in the bathtub scene than she is anywhere else (probably LESS so given the angle).

Suicide is serious. Acknowledged. DC can cure the issue by giving free prominent adspace to an anti-suicide advocacy group somewhere in the comic. I’ll reiterate, though, that the juxtaposition of suicide and humor in mass media is nothing new, with “Groundhog Day” being one of the more prominent examples I can think of. Kenny on “South Park” killed himself at least once during the Chthulu episodes, too.

Joke or not I think the reaction was justified. Mental Health continues to get the short end of the stick in comics as well as the real world. Problem is Mental Health doesn’t have the money behind it like other humanitarian issues for people to care. Sure, little pockets pop up on issues that obviously affect kids like autism, but many people just do not take the time to learn about mental health and the Myth and Facts.

DC & Marvel both continue use terms like psychotic, schizophrenia, schizoid, sociopath, etc… wrong.

For all the crap we give corporate comics, or comics published by the Big Two, these days regarding their lack of sensitivity to creative freedom and lack of closeness to the visible spectrum of comic book enthusiasts… I side with them on this one. Context should’ve been better — perhaps — but I don’t think they’ve done (or projected) anything inherently, much less morally wrong or dangerous.

Jackson’s first panel is my favorite, by the way.

How many girls still champion the Suicide Girls as Grrl Empowerment!

Oh – and Dark Horse this week released a book called Resident Alien: A Suicide Blonde.

And yet no one is knocking on their door looking for an apology, are they?

Overreaction. That’s all this was and DC had NOTHING to apologize for.

And I say this as someone who lost someone I loved very much to suicide.

So all these same people are upset over Deadpool Kills Deadpool?

Anybody that knows Jimmy Palmiotti or Amanda Conner from just a con (or even their Facebook/Tumblr/Twitter feeds) knows they’re good people without vendettas. I’m excited to see their take on Harley and I hope this still ends up being a positive experience for them.

Part of the reaction came from the bad timing.

This week in September, I believe, is suicide prevention awareness or something along those lines. Hence, simply bad time, and juxtaposed with the sexual nature of the character inherent in any drawing, some people will react and potentially overreact. Four separate panels of the same topic, provide DC with an opportunity to gauge artists abilities through different settings and scenes.

That said, this also came on the heels of the issues with Batwoman (I’m not getting into my opinion of that here), so it compounded the perception of DC’s poor choices. However, issue this challenge and creating the contest was not a poor choice.

The contest itself is a great idea, and one I wish they will take the chance with more in the future. The choice of panels for the comic is acceptable as well. The context given for the panels could be improved, but this is really the first instance (I can recall) of one of the Big Two open auditioning an important character.

What should have been a great thing for DC turned into a publicity nightmare because of bad timing. Had the contest been held last month, I think they could have avoiding some of this. I do agree that DC is taking the brunt of the force, especially since suicide has been conceptualized elsewhere in more offensive ways.

I think the cartoonist was going more for a Looney Tunes vibe. Hey, do any of you remember that one cartoon where Yosemite Sam and Bugs Bunny fight each other to be the town mayor? It turns out they misheard, they were looking for a town “mare,” and it concludes with Bugs and Yosemite going into a suicide pact. (Bugs put a gun to his ears, but they reflexively withdraw and it ends up blasting Yosemite in the face instead.)

I guess the timing is bad, but… jeez, I don’t see this driving people to suicide either, especially since it’s a given that good ol’ Harl isn’t going to stay dead past that last panel.

(Actually, the reaction reminds me of the Simpsons in Australia episode, which was boycotted in that country, I believe. Sure, a little mean spirited, but there was no way anyone in the world was going to interpret Australia as a place where you could be punished with a “bootable offense,” right?)

Go home Didio! :)

Reply to Michael

Actually, the contest came out the week before the Suicide Prevention Awareness Week. Not good, but not as bad time if it was during the week of S.P.A. The story just got steam during this week and why people are think the contest was announced during the week.

Anyhow, to the people who are still bothered by suicide being played up for laughs, you must also get mad at the following properties and complain about them as well. After all, don’t want to look like a hypocrite or something.

Rugrats, Looney Tunes, Borderlands, Simpsons, South Park, Monty Python, Arrested Development, Grand Theft Auto, Paranoia Agent, Scrubs, One Piece, Airplane!, Nextwave (Marvel series), Whose Line is It Anyways?, Mikey Mouse (seriously, it has happen), Adventure Time, and so many more.

Yeah okay, out of context, it’s a cartoony picture, yadda yadda, but um….. why choose THAT PANEL to be part of the contest in the first place!?

Y’all are some apologists.

“This would have been a positive message to send, especially to young readers,”

There ARE no young readers. “New52″ is really a pretty accurate description of the average age of the reader base.

Brian from Canada

September 13, 2013 at 9:58 am

DC has no need to apologize.

Anyone who knows anything about Harley Quinn knows she shares Joker’s interest in the macabre. A contest to find out which artist can be most creative about her suicide would seem something Harley would do to try and locate someone with her same sense of warped perception of the world.

And, as DC has noted, Harley is asking for tryouts, commenting on each. We don’t have the text that accompanies those panels, nor do we have Harley’s reaction to the whole thing afterwards — though labelling it issue 0 and leading to an issue 1 implies she ain’t givin’ up on life quite yet.

Sure the timing is bad — and DC could follow it up with an article about why suicide is wrong. (In fact, this would be a great motivation for DC to do so, which may be what the organization may be hoping for in their criticism.)

But Lee is bang on on saying there’s context to consider. And knowing Palmotti and Connor’s writing, that’s precisely what they want us to see.

Robert M, I tend to complain about anything having to do with Deadpool, but that’s a different story.

Correct me if I’m wrong … Harley Quinn isn’t exactly mentally stable, right? I have my mental health issues (a near-debilitating anxiety disorder and major depression) and have dealt with suicidal ideation. I don’t really see this as out of bounds for her character.

I can see why others would, but I think that we have to remember that this woman is pretty far out there. This whole thing could be her sick version of a joke. Because she’s sick.

As for nude in the tub … Who says? Maybe normal people get in the tub naked, but since when has Harley Quinn been considered normal? I sort of think that in the next frame, the Joker walks in making no mention of the whole electrical rig. She stands up (in costume) and shouts, “Hey! A girl needs her privacy!” and he snorts as he describes his next plan to blow up the Gotham Hair Dryer Factory (because “blowing up” hair dryers would be hilarious).

@JT–

Because there’s a difference among implied nudity, full nudity, and erotica. Mainstram comics have nudity ALL the time, particularly in bathtub scenes, but they 1) usually don’t show the genitals or exposed breasts, and 2) don’t go further and show the character posing provactively, gratifying themselves, or anything else that takes it into the sexual territory. We’ve all probably read LOTS of comics showing someone in a shower or a tub. As the above sample shows, it can be done without any sexuality.

Coming to mind is Fantastic Four Roast #1, the opening page of which was a full spread of the Thing in a bathtub with nothing but bubbles to cover his nether regions. I had no objections to that either.

While I may not agree with everything DC has done editorially at times (and the same could be said at other times about Marvel, Dark Horse, and of the Image studios, and pretty much every other publisher/studio out there), I really think this was blown WAY out of proportion.

I posted this before online right when the brouhaha started, but I feel the urge to re-post my thoughts:

So, DC Comics seems to be getting a lot of flak recently over the Harley Quinn #0 open call for submissions (http://www.dccomics.com/node/305151). The main subject of ire is the character’s increasingly absurd failed “suicide” attempts. Some people seem offended by the subject, focusing on the last panel in particular:

“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.”

I’m in a peculiar sort of situation here. It’s no secret that I was affected a lot by suicide, as my mother shot and killed herself a few year back on my birthday. That was the first call I got that day, and it’s a memory that sticks with me. I think it’s safe to say that I’m certainly not in a “pro-suicide” camp by any means.

That being said, I’ve also been a fan of comics since I was a kid, AND I’ve been lucky enough to get involved in the industry through my work and also to meet and become friends with some pretty amazing people (including the writer of this particular issue, @Jimmy Palmiotti). What I’m seeing is that people seem to be focusing bits and pieces of things, and not the whole story. Context is vital here. In this story, Harley, who has already been established since her debut as more than a little bit “off-kilter” (to put it nicely), is being put through more and more absurd situations via the writer. Putting on a chicken bikini and jumping into an alligator pond? You can’t take it seriously. There’s also a bit of breaking the fourth wall, as Harley known she’s getting in these more absurd scenarios … and FAILING (which is what she’s resigned herself to).

Honestly? How is this any worse than anything done by Looney Tunes characters in the past? Remember the cartoon where Daffy Duck was constantly being redrawn and his life was made a living hell by an anonymous cartoonist? It turned out to be Bugs Bunny, ending with him turning to the camera and saying “Ain’t I a stinker?” And as far as the suicide angle goes, how many times have cartoon characters done something similar, and in similarly ridiculous ways? Hey, even Daisy Duck thought it in a Disney cartoon (http://youtu.be/RROhHtlc1zI?t=3m15s).

Now, maybe the timing could have been better, but I’ll admit that with all the [INSERT NAME HERE] Awareness Weeks/Months/etc. that always show up, even *I* didn’t know that September was Suicide Prevention Month, and I’ve been personally affected by it more than most. I’ve sat and had talked more people than I care to remember out of suicide during my time as a counselor’s aide. I’ve stumbled into a situation where someone had slit their wrists while they were strung out on drugs and been the one to get rescue to their house while sitting with them to help stop the bleeding. I’ve dealt with suicide a lot and I’m far from numb to it … but I also don’t let myself dwell on it either. Suicide is a subject that will always strike a raw nerve for me, but it’s not something I let consume me by any mere mention of it.

And as a writer, I can even appreciate that this IS a test of the potential artists. You need to see who can get creative with the material given. Some people who submit to the contest WILL probably just do some boring cheesecake splash of a naked, overly sexualized Harley as the focus. I’m pretty sure that these guys (or gals) WON’T be getting a callback. Others might take the idea and the description in a different direction. Personally, knowing the context of the story, I actually DO get a laugh out of the visual in my head of the panel, as described. I see Harley Quinn sitting in a bubble bath holding a rope. Hanging above her, not just “a toaster” but, like it says “toasters,” [plural] “blow dryers, blenders, appliances all dangling above the bathtub”. I even see things like a laptop, a flat screen TV (maybe with a game console attached, playing Arkham City), an alarm clock, a washer AND a dryer, and even a refrigerator for good measure … all hanging precariously over this tiny tub. All the while, Harley having the “oh well” apathetic look on her face as she knows it’s just going to keep getting more and more ridiculous. To me, it’s funny and it’s fitting for the character.

But that’s simply my opinion … one of many that’s going around.

The problem with having Harley in the current DC universe at all is she doesn’t really work with the Joker of the DC universe. She does with the Joker of the Timmverse who is a villain, IS evil, can even be horrific but is intrinsically a more comic and more subtly monstrous character. The Joker in the comics is currently a monster movie boogieman. A glittery eyed charnelhouse of a character with his face stapled to raw flesh. There’s nothing of Mark Hammil’s sinister charm or mirthful inventiveness, he’s just an inhuman atrocity. Its impossible to perceive a character obsessed with such a monster and in a demented relationship with such a monstrous figure as ‘funny’ or ‘light-hearted’. Yes, the Joker should be a sinister figure and Batman’s worst foe but they’ve take the monster archetype as far as they can. Time for acid lapel flowers and chortling bank robberies again I think. In the meantime every time you look at Harley you are thinking about the malevolent Texas Chainsaw Massacre style psychopath she is fixated on and any light hearted portrayal founders on that image.

My friend did take his life. I think about him & the friendship. But suicide is serious. Live life to the full. I do like the 4th panel.

The main thing I’m taking away from this?

That is some really nice art.

Can I just say that the artist nailed the indifference on those crocs.

If you’re apologizing, then take the contest down. Otherwise the apology is meaningless.

https://www.change.org/petitions/dc-comics-terminate-drawing-contest-of-harley-quinn-naked-and-committing-suicide

Whatever…I’m so done with DC after Batwoman #26 anyway. Strong lesbian characters who commit their lives to one another are apparently bad, while showing a female character committing suicide while naked in a bathtub is good. I’ll take my money elsewhere, thanks.

Jeremy

If you’re using the United States Government’s petition website to complain about comic books while people are being slaughtered in Syria you’re missing the point.

Wow, mr. Phillip Jackson amazing page!! I liked!! and about apologies.. forget it!!!

DC (and Jimmy and Amanda) are not the first people to use suicide of any kind in fiction. If you can’t handle this subject matter in your made up stories and are looking to have it removed from public sight, you should also go hunt down a little story called Romeo and Juliet by some guy named Billy Shakespeare.

It’s fiction, people. It’s not real.

@Robert — Change.org isn’t a government-run site, and it’s actually widely used to petition businesses for changes in their practices. Some of their bigger “Victories” (as they call them on the site) have been targeted at businesses. And there are plenty of lighthearted petitions (like one asking Marvel to make a Loki movie).

But since you raised the point about Syria, here’s (in my opinion) a very worthy petition: http://www.change.org/petitions/don-t-let-syria-down

I am seriously reconsidering whether I should be giving DC comics any of my money.

Thanks for the complete non-apology DC. Please try again. THIS time, actually remove the contest and put in a different sequence for promotion. Try to pretend you’re “taking it seriously”.

And then maybe you guys could actually state what you’re paying the “winning” artist, because that’s an entirely other complaint about the wrongness of this “contest”.

The artist above did quite nice panels. Kudos to him for downplaying the sexualization, but I feel bad that someone as good as he is even has to bother with something as insulting as a “contest” instead of getting a straight up JOB from a portfolio review as it should be done.

@David

Wow. I am sorry for your loss and the hardships in your life, but thank you for clearly explaining what many have been trying to argue against a side that simply raises its voice and says “No! It’s offensive!”

@Tereska

Please stop dwelling on the fact that 2 lesbians couldn’t get married. It’s painting the scenario in a false light with unfair implications. All characters can’t get married. That’s the real issue.

I’ve been near suicidal before. Not only does this NOT offend me, but the controversy ITSELF is more offensive, especially when murders and assaults are regularly depicted in comics and yet SOMEHOW suicide is where we draw the line. Come on, if a guy getting his face pounded in can be funny, then so can Harley comedically trying to off herself.

Everything, at least in abstract, is funny, to a degree, and in the right context. Nobody bitched about Futurama’s Suicide Booths. Suicide IS funny. Rape can be funny. Hell, GENOCIDE can be funny. The whole array of the human condition is funny from the right angle, the trick is finding that angle.

Enough with the hysterics!
The script provided for this exercise was one page from a yet-to-be-published 20+ page book.
If you’re up in arms about the narrative provided it’s because you’ve elected to apply your own context to it.
Out of context, ANY narrative can be made to sound distasteful.
“A father savagely cuts the hand off his son”
Yeah, that alone sounds pretty grim, but you add in the rest of the story and you have an iconic and dramatic scene from Empire Strikes Back – a family film.
Why not wait to see how this page works within the context of the completed book before crying and screaming at how offensive you’ve chosen to perceive it?

iola

Actually, the artist who did the page… I’m very familiar with his work. He’s an extremely cheesecakey artist and techically has his own job already. He releases his own line of comics, with his own characters and specifcally stated that he only did this pages for fun. Just click the link in the article above to hear his thoughts on the whole situation, which thinks is completely stupid and blown out of proportions.

I correctly assumed this comments thread would be a bunch of “overreaction!” etc etc etc. Yuck

Personally I am Disgusted By the need For the national suicide Association To have to comment on This. And I do not feel like DC. Comics Owes any apologies to anyone For it is the artistic right Of the creator to put the character in any situation they see fit And the only reason the national suicide Association Is a tacking DC comics is for the The notoriety that the story will get Because I sure don’t remember them attacking Johnny the homicidal maniac Comic book series Are any of the other half dozen series that involves suicide Because those are all underground comics would not generate enough buzz to make it worth their while I am tired of everyone having to walk on egg shells To prevent offending somebody It is seriously time for people to start differentiating Real life from entertainment Because if you want to nitpick They have no problem with a character killing thousands of people As long as They doesn’t kill themselves in the end And that is Asinine Everyone at one point in Their life Are affected or have to deal with suicide And I am not making light of the subject But to simply pretend like something does not exist in the social psyche Is inviting it to Happened Also If it’s the character character

Everything that Lee said is right on:

“Joke or not I think the reaction was justified. Mental Health continues to get the short end of the stick in comics as well as the real world. Problem is Mental Health doesn’t have the money behind it like other humanitarian issues for people to care. Sure, little pockets pop up on issues that obviously affect kids like autism, but many people just do not take the time to learn about mental health and the Myth and Facts.

DC & Marvel both continue use terms like psychotic, schizophrenia, schizoid, sociopath, etc… wrong.”

I do not accept the apology. As someone who has had several brushes with suicide, and not mine by the way, it’s certainly isn’t looney tunes. And with everything they have been doing, I feel personally attacked by every other thing DC seems to be doing. Just look at Batwoman. They didn’t let their creative team finish and already planned a tie in with a character Batwoman wanted nothing to do with. And their stance seems to be, “screw you we can do what we want no matter if this part of the audience doesn’t”.

I agree with Charlie…the apology is not sincere. If it was, they would have changed the contest.

This is not about being offended. This is about making suicide “fun and silly”. This is a potentially dangerous approach to a serious subject. Why minimize a situation that I am sure some of their readers have or are considering? Changing or clarifying the context changes nothing.

But, while they are at it, why not make rape, child molestation, and racial beatings part of the comic books repertoire. I am sure there are some grins and giggles in there somewhere.

COMIC BOOK! It’s a COMIC BOOK! Does there have to be a group for everything. Can’t do anything without offending some group somewhere. How about talking to your kids and explaining to them it’s a COMIC BOOK! You know Tom and Jerry go around smashing each other in the head with bats and blowing each other up. Maybe if your kid thinks blowing himself up, or jumping in a tub with a toaster is fun he/she should be dead and mom and dad didn’t do there job. I’m sick of a small group of people deciding for me that DC is wrong. And if u lost someone to suicide I’m sorry for you, but the world doesn’t need you protecting it.

John "Ratty" Arbuckle

September 13, 2013 at 5:08 pm

I can’t stand the character of Harley Quinn. What a stupid idea for a character. Is its 15 minutes of fame over now? How about we all forget this stupid creation even exists. Dumb.

@Tony

Sorry, but if you think that cultural objects such as comics are politically inert, then you’re living in a dreamworld or a world of intense privilege. Culture influences society just as society influences culture. Comic books are not produced in a political or sociological bubble. I’m not saying that all comics are corrupting or dangerous or even beneficial; rather, comics, like all cultural objects are not inherently benign based on their social capital.

So sorry, spokespeople. I couldn’t hear you over the choir that filled my head the second I saw that art.

The only reason it was a big deal was because of misinforming propaganda style headlines relating to the contest. Having the headlines scream out they were looking for naked suicide drawings is not the same as factually reporting on the issue. Inside with DC on this and think anyone who is upset about it needs to take a hard look at themselves and figure out why they need to look at everything in a way that will offend instead of just taking things for what they are.

That should have said “I side with DC” lol

“But, while they are at it, why not make rape, child molestation, and racial beatings part of the comic books repertoire. I am sure there are some grins and giggles in there somewhere.”

I’m pretty sure these are regular jokes on Family Guy, and I’d be astonished if a majority of CBR readers didn’t watch that show.

Granted, the episode where Quagmire’s sister was being abused was pretty over-the-top and tasteless. On the other hand, Herbert-the-Child-Molester is a running gag on the show and has been for years. We all laugh/cringe and move on.

Matt,
Stephen king wrote a story about a girl who goes to the prom and gets pig blood poured on her so she uses her magic powers to kill a bunch of people. Maybe we shouldn’t have proms anymore. Or the news paper prints a bunch of stories about gang violence every day, maybe the paper should apologize every day for offending someone who knows someone who was killed by gang violence. Black sabbath wrote a song about a Suicide SOLUTION and people thought it was about trying to kill themselves. Maybe ban all music,Books , and newspapers because they might influence someone who isn’t smart enough to know that magic isn’t real , gang violence is wrong and someone interpreted a song wrong. Oh what a wonderful world it would be. People are influenced by lots of stuff , smart enough or are taught right you know the difference. Why cater to the minority of people.

Why apologize yet continue the contest? Better to stand by the context that it’s fiction and appropriate for the character than to offer an apology with no concrete correction of an error. No error? Then no apology.

I think DC was right to issue their apology. Someone dropped the ball on not checking the timing of their contest, but worse than that someone got paid WAY too much money to come up with this lame idea in the first place. Of all the things a character as interesting as Harley is, and they come up with THAT as a contest idea? Not incredibly inspiring on DC’s part. Sorta reflective of how their whole New52 is going–retread, retread, retread. Make a big deal about breaking boundaries but don’t really break anything.

This was just one more example of DC dropping the ball, which has been the norm. It’s not surprising, and their “remember the context” back-pedaling wouldn’t have been necessary if they’d come up with a decent idea in the first place.

The fact that any one is upset about this is asinine. You made no sense, everyone who listened is now dumber for doing so, not once In that incoherent babble was anything intelligent said. I award you overreacting award of the year and may God have mercy on your soul and I weep for humanity. Now apologize to me for being whiny psuedo intellectuals and find something real to crusade about. Also to cbr, this controversy is yours, posting about this completely mute topic every day.

basically, if you have to apologize for something, then it wasn’t a good idea to start with, or one you should be proud of.

@Tony

I never suggested banning everything and you know it. Nor did I make the claim that cultural objects were entirely dangerous. In fact, I explicitly stated that I wasn’t asserting such a ludicrous thing. Instead, I was offering the not preposterous idea that culture influences society and vice versa. In the society this comic book character is most famous, mental illness is demonized and stigmatized and massively misunderstood. This “contest” is gross for both sexualizing suicide and contributing further to an incorrect notion of mental illness. Having the creative freedom to depict anything also implies the creative freedom to choose *not* to depict things. It’s not about censorship, but about a better understanding of mental illness, of culture’s influence on society, and acknowledgement of how culture shapes the morals and ethos of the time.

You might be sick of people “overreacting” but frankly I’m sick of people like you dismissing other people’s valid reactions to such things, specifically when those other people live with mental illness.

When did being offended and whiny become so trendy?

DC did not need to apologize IMO, fans just need to be less critical of everything they do. I can imagine this would happen a lot more often if DC released scripts before publishing books, just because rabid internet complainers who take everything literally and always find something to complain about will go nuts over every little detail.

Let the people who know how to make comics make the comics people.

There is nothing funnier then sucide, unless it happens to you

Funny is terrible things happening to other people

I can’t help but think, that if DC wasn’t so busy chasing away all of its writers and artists, they wouldn’t HAVE to have a contest for new artists.

I feel like a lot of people completely don’t get why anyone could possibly be offended by this. I’m gonna try to break it down. I’m not saying anyone HAS to be offended or anything, but I feel like these are the major reasons for the controversy.

1. It happened immediately after the “Batwoman” thing
I kept hearing the story of the contest as an addendum to stories mostly about the Batwoman creative team leaving. This suggested to a lot of people that the DC editor’s had no interest in telling good stories, and was instead more interested in extreme fan-service and cartoony character’s

2. It was Harley Quinn
Similar to the New 52 Starfire controversy. The most iconic version of Harley Quinn to the average person (and likely many comic fans too, actually) is the Timmverse version. It’s a real innocence lost scenario, Harley Quinn committing suicide…. for a joke.

3. The use of the word Naked
Comics are not known to be the most progressive places as far as woman are concerned. While it is probably somewhat unfair to latch onto the word naked and assume DC’s looking for a cheap, fanservicey, suicide scene, it IS understandable. I mean, they have fanservicey everything

4. It’s the last straw
This just sounds like the kind of thing DC would do. It became somewhat symbolic of a lot of problems people have with modern comics.

@tony .

1. So what. That was another non-ocntroversy that a small number of people made a stink over. The it suggest DC editors had no interest in telling good stories is just silly. No reasoning behind that statement. I don’t even get the logic behind your fan service statement.

2. So what. Harley Quinn has walked the line between sweet and sick in DC from the beginning. She’s the Jokers GF for gods sake. She ripped out a young girls eyes in a previous series in the old 52. This is not your little character to protect. And looking at the great art above it makes me realize how great she is at walking that line.

3. Naked isn’t a bad word and men read these comics. Women are always drawn sexy. It’s comics. If you were really offended by that you would have left superhero comics long ago. It’s another non-controversy people like to whine about because they think it makes them sound deep and intellectual. It’s a self serving complaint (like pretty much all of these “controversies”)

4. Yawn. Every time ANYTHING happens in comics from a death to a costume change we have fanboys come out saying “this is the last straw.” Sadly they never mean it. You’ll all stick around and being calling the next non-controversy ginned up for website hits the last straw. I wish it really was the last straw so we could stop hearing from people who get the vapors over this stupid stuff.

@ryan

Your “rebuttal” boils down to a repetition of “this is the way it is, deal with it” which is facile and ignorant.

There are attempted suicides among my friends and family, including myself, and in my opinion the wowsers who are taking this contest to task have overreached themselves. I read the contest brief and chuckled. It’s slapstick. Could it contribute to some individual’s suicide attempt? Take it from someone who tried it: an unhappy glance can contribute to some individual’s suicide attempt. Stop walking on eggshells, and stop playing these NGOs’ agendas. Screw them if they can’t take a joke.

Brian from Canada

September 14, 2013 at 8:29 pm

@Coreyartus: you are making a judgement call about the story before it’s even published in full. If you are reading the New 52 and are familiar with its portrayal of Harley Quinn, it’s not lame: it’s APT for the character.

@ryan: you missed the point of Tony’s post. Tony was pointing out the reasons people are complaining. And the reason for statement #1 is the whole knee jerk reaction to JH Williams & Blackman’s departure from Batwoman. The common belief is that DC wasn’t interested in good stories, just hard rules.

@matthew: while I agree that everyone has the right to their opinions, I do side with those who think DC is not intending to be offensive nor really needs to be apologizing right now. IF the panels fit the story, they are appropriate. What isn’t appropriate — and Lee is 100% identifying this — is the lack of funds to promote awareness of mental health and why we need to be more aware of it as a society. There is nothing funny when a real human being does it. But Harley isn’t human, nor is she normal.

@pietro: you’re dead wrong. Apologizes are meant to placate the complainers, but I would bet with confidence that DC is going to let the product stand for itself because the issue isn’t offensive to rest of the 99.9% of the readership. (Unless the offended was a reader of Batwoman, who now promises to be out of that .1% too.)

But that’s the problem with political correctness: in our push to be more aware of others’ feelings, we’ve now got an entertainment industry who has to apologize and step back from anything they may fear is offensive to some people.

To have a macabre-minded character considering suicide is akin to an emo talking about the afterlife: it’s there, but it’s not a danger unless they actually act upon their ideas. I see no offence in that and am saddened that so many people would be complaining about one scene from a larger text.

Especially when there’s a host of other things we should be protesting about comics, like the continued unrealistic portrayal of women or the promotion of violence as the answer.

Mistress of all Evil

September 14, 2013 at 11:36 pm

Blah! A back-handed apology! “Sorry we’ve hurt you guys but we don’t really care!” “Sorry I didn’t mean to steal your car and run over the old lady who lives down the lane! She’s still breathing! It’s not like I killed her! You shouldn’t be upset because I did something stupid!” All I get from DC covering their tracks is, “I’m sorry you were offended, but we at DC don’t care because you consumers are stupid and just don’t understand anything! I’m sorry you’re so dumb and not as talented and as genius as we are!”

Was there overreacting? Of course! However DC should apologize because of their bad timing and their constant disregard for their fans, their consumers!!!! Besides suicide was a poor competition theme! Even if it was Looney Tunes style! These competitions should have less serious themes or ones pertaining to the title character!!! Why not make her fantasize about getting rid of the Batman family or her future with the Joker? DC has upset most of their fans with the Nu52! People have a right to lash out. Suicide was a poor choice of a theme! Especially during Suicide Awareness Month. DC’s on a slippery slope! They knew this theme was controversial and would be offensive! They chose their action an now they pay the price with fan outrage.
It’s not like DC cares how hurt or offended the fans get! If they did, Nu52 wouldn’t be here and DC would’ve just kept editor’s hands out of books and told better stories like the fans wanted! I don’t care either way about the competition. They chose a stupid theme, now they will suffer the consequences. I wish DC would learn from their mistakes! But they just seem to be growing more offensive and dumber at each turn! It’s like dating a college frat boy who just doesn’t know what the hell they’re doing! Time to pull out DC! You keep planting horrible seeds you can’t handle! Plus the more we all bring it up, the more DC gets what it wants, publicity. DC can’t rely on good stories and listening to consumers anymore! Oh no! There must be costful gimmicks, insulting fans, over sexualized women and lots and lots of controversy that draws the readers away! Wonderful DC!! Keep doing what you’re doing!!!! -_-

Now cue the Nu52 fans to come to their beloved Nu52 DC’s aid…. Bring on the insults for me gentlemen! Show mamma what you’ve got! ;D

Brian from Canada

September 15, 2013 at 5:50 am

@Mistress of all Evil: no insults are needed to point out the flaw in your argument.

All promotion is publicity. DC wants to promote Harley Quinn as a series and have been focusing on the contest for quite a while. Harley also isn’t interested in the Bats as much in Nu52, she’s been an independent operator for all of Suicide Squad, and her future with Joker was damaged badly by “Death Of The Family.” If you had bothered to read Nu52 stories, you’d know that.

This story is not meant to be controversial and offensive. This story was meant to fit in with the character — and we haven’t actually seen the story yet at all. We’ve seen one page of it. Fans aren’t expressing outrage, social groups are because they see the page as running contrary to their social agenda. DC is right in pointing out the agenda has merit, but the target is misdirected here; when the dialogue and context come in, THEN raise a fuss.

Heck, if you’d bothered to read Nu52, you’d notice that stories ARE what’s driving the line forward, unlike endless cycles of hyped events like their Marvellous competition. And more to the point, DC didn’t upset most of their fans with the Nu52. Their sales are still higher than pre-52 and, if you look at history, you’ll notice DC experienced the same type of boom/drop/return when “Crisis” happened twenty-five years earlier.

The only fans who are walking away completely miffed these days are Batwoman fans who refuse to accept that DC has to look after their property. That whole problem stemmed from a difference of opinion and anyone too stubborn to accept it shouldn’t be reading comics: they should be out promoting Fox News or the ultra-leftwing equivalent. REAL people think about things and let the ends speak of the merit of the decision.

@Brian from Canada

You say, “everybody has a right to their opinion” and then you say, “anybody who vehemently disagreed is a political extremist” thus dismissing their opinions. I mean, really, if somebody was “ultra left wing” they wouldn’t be reading comics anyway; they’d be participating in anarchy. One’s political stripe *does not* invalidate their position on poor decisions from DC. To claim otherwise is logically fallacious.

Political correctness is a meaningless phrase, a dog whistle for conservatives and privileged people who are upset that they’re being forced, for the first time in their lives, to consider the feelings of other people on the planet. Is it so fucking hard to acknowledge that those offended might have been so for valid reasons?

Since when did “ultra left wing” equal anarchy, and how does one participate in it?

Right on Matthew. “Politically correct” is indeed an empty phrase. people from all political perspectives use it to mean they disagree with a viewpoint they don’t want to actually discuss. It’s a lazy term.

Someone earlier mentioned they lost someone to suicide and or okay with what was depicted. That’s fine for them. I’ve also lost family to suicide. It’s a tricky subject. If I were a DC editor I probably wouldn’t have wanted to use it in a joke strip. I find it odd that the reasoning DC uses to state that it’s acceptable is the strip is comical What?

As for DC Comics I gave up on them a few years ago. I check in to see what’s going on and think it’s sad for the most part, but that’s another discussion.

this is light compared to video games. nothing to be shocked or react about.

….this is so funny. now even the National Suicide Association is considered not worthy to have any kind of criticism towards comics. “how dare they make a comment about….”

Look I know DC didnt mean to hurt anyone or do this out of malice….but

what offends me is that whenever any comics creator gets any negative criticism, its ALWAYS the critic who has no rights or “over-reacting” and the creator who is deified, with a divine right to say, to create and to do whatever they want.

oh well…

why cant the comics creator community realize that maybe, just maybe, they arent ALWAYS perfect or ALWAYS divinely inspired .

the only dog i have in this race is that i feel the comics community thinks its better than anyone else when they are no better. they can make mistakes like anyone else. be nice if comics publishers and creators admit to that. dont worry the ghost of Werthem wont kill the industry. Just try some fkn common sense once in a while…ya know???

In my opinion why cant DC simply do a standard storyline for creators to try and draw for. Sure make it alittle kooky & inventive since it is comics and it is HQuinn. But when did comics become to difficult to describe to the general public? its HQuinn for crying out loud not Kafka. Yeah yeah i know, i am the first to say it, “comics arent just for kids” I realize that. well, with the net we are all connected and many people visit. How did comics, which are known for “connecting” wit the gengeral public, become so “disconnected”???

instead now comics are being FURTHER tossed in with the other mass-pop-culture-knuckledheads since WE just had ANOTHER Miley cyrus moment. ugh….

fkin THINK PEOPLE!!!!

Directly from the contest page:

“PANEL 4
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.”

Observations after I read that….

– Well, THAT’S not depressing (end sarcasm). What a cheery way to get into the business.

– What were the rejected ideas for the contest script?

– I find it both interesting and disturbing that the contest does not ask the artist to have Harley wake up from her dream in a final panel.

– The script does not read in a Mad Magazine tone. Maybe for the first three panels I can see the possibility of dark comedy or slapstick. But the last reads “Harley Quinn IS going to kill herself in her dream.” I cannot find a way to do it in a slapstick way and not deviate from the script.

– And my initial reaction: We’ve come a long way from the days of the Marvel Try-Out Book.

Wow. All of this over a little comic book contest.

This is like the violence in video games argument. Pointless.

The key point here, as DC pointed out, is CONTEXT. To say that people would not react to the panels when they are in context is true, but misses the point. By using the suicide panels as the theme of the contest, DC chose to take them out of context, and to present them to a wide, non comic reading audience. This made it look like a contest on suicide, which is reasonably seen as offensive. This is not a case of artistic freedom, but of a badly thought out PR campaign.

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