Robot 6

Jimmy Palmiotti clarifies controversial ‘Harley Quinn’ tryout script

harley quinn0Responding to the backlash to the tryout page for DC Entertainment’s Open Talent Search, Harley Quinn co-writer Jimmy Palmiotti has clarified that a scene depicting the fan-favorite character in a bathtub, seemingly planning suicide, is merely a surreal dream sequence.

“That the tryout Harley Quinn page went out without an overall description of tone and dialogue is all my fault,” he wrote this morning on his Facebook page. “I should have put it clearly in the description that it was supposed to be a dream sequence with Amanda [Conner] and I talking to Harley and giving her a hard time. I should have also mentioned we were thinking a Mad magazine/Looney Tunes approach was what we were looking for. We thought it was obvious with the whale and chicken suit, and so on, but learned it was not. I am sorry for those who took offense, our intentions were always to make this a fun and silly book that broke the 4th wall, and head into issue 1 with a ongoing story/adventure that is a lot like the past Powergirl series we did. I hope all the people thinking the worst of us can now understand that insulting or making fun of any kind was never our intention. I also hope that they can all stop blaming DC Comics for this since It was my screw up. The idea for the page to find new talent is an amazing one and we hope that can be the positive that comes forward from today on … that we get some new talent working in our field because of this unique opportunity.”

Palmiotti added, “All I write are strong female characters. Ever. Here is the short list: Painkiller Jane, Powergirl, Tallulah Black, 21 Down, Terra, The Resistance, Ame-Comi girls, Triggergirl 6,, Alice in Monolith, The lead in Queen crab, Retrovirus, Misty Knight and Colleen Wing, Beautiful Killer, Gatecrasher, and so on …. For those worried about Harley Quinn.”

Announced Thursday, the talent search is for an artist for one page of Harley Quinn #0, a prelude to the new series by Palmiotti, Conner and Chad Hardin. The script called for a panel in which Harley is depicted “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.”

Harley Quinn #0 arrives Nov. 6.



I swear, it was pretty obvious that it was supposed to be madcap and silly. Are people truly that incapable of reading between the lines?

People are incapable of a lot of things when it comes to reading… Humanity is not known for its composure.

People are also incapable of gauging what would be in bad taste in almost any scenario in comics it seems, and hiding behind YEAH BUT I WRITE STRONG CHARACTERS WHO ALSO HAVE VAGINAS seems kind of a weak rationale tacked on.

It was a dumb, bad idea for a scene, for more reasons than I care to write. Kudos to Jimmy for stepping up in front of it though.

Why do I like Jimmy Palmiotti’s explanation more than Jim Lee’s and Dan Didio’s lack of apology? Probably because his rings of honesty, and that whole not condescending to your audience bit . . .

Yeah. I’m cool with his explanation, and if I didn’t dislike the remake of the character I would gladly buy the book. Sadly, I’m not fond of DC or where they’re going with their comics so I’ll have to pass. But I have to say, I admire his honesty and his not talking down to the fanbase . . . he should be running DC editorial maybe? Just a thought. Someone who doesn’t feel that alienating the fanbase (who were here before the movies and will likely be here afterwards) is a pretty good choice, in my opinion.

Further, I think most can agree aside from offense, that sexualizing suicide of a character owned by a billion dollar company who frequently markets said character to kids and teens is a dumb, not thought out choice at all. Not much to read between the lines on that point.

Erech O! how is the scene sexualized suicide? Yes, the tryout page description includes 4 panels of Harley Quinn trying to commit suicide in 4 different over the top and ridiculous ways, but nothing in the description of the panels describes anything sexual. The closest you get is the last panel description that states “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.”
It seems to me a lot of people are judging this based on headlines written by people trying to get clicks on their website, and not based on what was actually written, which can be viewed at

Metal Woman

Yes, Charlie- people are that incapable. Especially when their agendas/nerd rage get in the way of comprehension.

Yes, it was obvious what his intentions were with the scene.

No, that does not make it okay.

Why is that not ok, David?

Even with a character as crazy as Harley, the idea of potentially sexualizing a scene of suicide just seems wrong. While there is nothing inherently sexual about a naked woman in a tub, the art direction, as well as it being a comic, strongly suggests that it would be. And it seems grotesquely insensitive and inappropriate

You know, I’m not a big fan of the new DC at all…and I REALLY don’t like the changes made to Harley as a result of the new DC…but this entire thing smacks of the same old internet “overly sensitive people trying SO hard to stamp out an ‘obvious injustice’ that common sense goes out the window” kind of bullshit that’s far too prevalent anymore.

It’s a darkly comedic character making a darkly comedic joke. If you can’t put two-and-two together in case like this, maybe you should go back to your hyper-sensitive oxygen tent filled with gumdrops and unicorns and hug yourself to sleep, because the real world is NOT your friend.

The people saying this was sexualized are the ones putting that on the scene. No one – not even Mark Waid – can look at the script and point out “There. That’s the sexualization”. The word “naked” does not mean anything more than what it means. You put your own spin on it.

But sure – let’s continue to cheer the Suicide Girls as empowerment. Nothing sexual there, right?

In “Groundhog Day,” Bill Murray got naked in a full bathtub and dropped a toaster in to kill himself. It was hilarious, particularly in Murray’s comically defeatist mannerism.

What’s the difference here–that Murray was a middle-aged male who wasn’t athletic, while Harley is young and attractive?

Then here’s a question.

If the scene is meant to be innocuous and silly why not just have her fully clothed? Suicide by electric appliances thrown into a water-filled bathtub still work even if you are fully clothed (especially if you consider Harley’s Suicide Squad outfit).

I think if the description were left as “Harley Quinn in a bath tub” sans naked mention fewer people would have a problem though the pitch is still asking fans to show depictions of female suicide, which as one blogger pointed out is incredibly unfortunate considering September is national Suicide Prevention Month.

It’s a gag. Her going with the standard “cleavage just being above the water” pose is supposed to bring “sexy” to mind, and then be juxtaposed with her killing herself, similar to the other instances

This plays with the core of what Harley has always been, fanservicey with a dark comedic edge

“…the pitch is still asking fans to show depictions of female suicide…”

Devil’s advocate: is male suicide any better? I have a number of Incredible Hulk comics that portray Bruce Banner trying to kill himself.

Um, folks? You do know Harley is in a comic called SUICIDE SQUAD, right? Wherein Amanda Waller has explosives implanted in criminals? But that’s OK I guess.

For Wil Wheaton to say, (quoting from his Twitter feed) “The Harley Quinn thing may be the dumbest and most offensive thing a major publisher has ever done in comics.” Really? Apparently you don’t remember the call-in line for deciding if Robin #2 lived or died.

C’mon people. This is a tempest in a teapot, nothing more.

If you know Jimmy and Amanda’s work, the tone and intention was obvious. Jimmy shouldn’t have to take it on the chin like this.

I don’t feel the pitch was meant to have bad intentions and it’s true there’s no sense of sexualization in this pitch outside of “naked” Harley (which when left up to interpretation will most likely be hyper-sexualized).

Where the biggest fault is by offering the chance to be a coveted DC creator by drawing a series of panels where a woman is trying to kill herself. In Jimmy and Amanda’s hands I’m sure this would’ve come off much more in the Looney Toon tone that Jimmy intended, but the powers that be saw this as an opportunity to get fans involved (which they really should’ve thought twice about considering the content)

If one of the most celebrated DC moments is when Superman talks a young girl down off the edge of suicide (All-Star Superman #10) shouldn’t it have been predicted that a potential PR pitfall could’ve been a contest where you draw a series of panels in which a young girl is trying to kill herself repeatedly?

Why are we focusing on this one instance when the other examples areole outwardly silly and looney tunes-esque?

Isn’t one of the scenarios Harley in a chicken-suit trying to get eaten? How is this supposed to be anything but silly?

People are focusing on that she is naked, but not that she has set up a rope that is holding up an absurd number of toasters and electronic appliances, which is comedic overkill (bad pun)

Are not areole

Because SUICIDE IS NOT SILLY!!! That’s the problem. Sexualized suicide is even worse. It doesn’t matter if the made-up character doesn’t actually commit suicide. She doesn’t exist and the end of her existence (or not) doesn’t matter. It’s the making light of suicide that matters and it matters a lot.

Yep. None of those old Looney Tunes gags were ever funny. Neither was Groundhogs Day not the countless other suicide gags in popular culture.

Nudity =/= sexualized.

It’s kind of sad how Jim Lee spent like a dozen tweets trying to stave off this issue by explaining “context is everything” and then blaming all the readers because the information was presented with *zero* context. It’s not just the creators walking away from DC, it seems their PR folks have jumped ship awhile ago as well. Keep digging that hole…

This is total crap, the fact that it is more offensive that it is a woman is what’s truley sexist. if people really cared about portraying negative suicide ideas, that would be the real issue. This is just another opportunity for people who like to bitch and complain to have a voice and people actually will listen to them, I mean really the fact that anyone would quote Wil Weaton??? Most of these adamant protesters just want a cause to scream about so they can get attention. And for all of you that are going to say I’m wrong, how many of these protesters supported suicide awareness last year, or the year before that?

So 95% of the DC and marvel comics have extreme violence…why is no one protesting it?

Dead pool can get shot 1000 times

The hulk/banner can try and commit suicide

How about avengers arena which HAS kids getting killed every issue?

The walking dead kills people every other issue, even shows rape…

But BECAUSE its DC and everyone wants to jump on the hate band wagon they get targeted…what about the other 1000s of comics each week and month? Why no protest about them? Or is it only cause its a FEMALE character? So anything bad happens to a female character is horrible? Give me a fucking break.


I’d give you a fucking break if we lived in a matriarchy and women weren’t the ones being treated as mere objects for literally centuries.

Yeah, dude, there is a difference in the depiction of sexualized violence done to women for a myriad of reasons. The easiest and quickest reason is that sexualized violence is *rarely* depicted being done to a man whereas sexualized violence against women is the norm. There is a distinct and obvious difference between “rape” and “murder” and I shouldn’t need to quote from legal textbooks in order to make the point, I should think.

There’s a reason why we have a trope about fridges and women and nothing analogous for men.

The “everybody is just too sensitive” is the weakest fucking excuse. As an artist, you have the ability to depict whatever you want. You also have the right to choose *not* to do whatever comes along because you have a moral compass. The idea of carte blanche as an artiste is some sort of fin de siecle utopian nonsense that we wisely did away with because we realized as Westerners, we weren’t the center of the universe and there are other people’s feelings to consider. Yeesh, try a little empathy, guys.

I have always loved Harley, and always will. These potential scenes are neither offensive or all that shocking. It’s Harley Quinn. I wouldn’t let my kids read suicide squad or the obviously-also-not-for-kids future Harley series. People who are outraged at the thought of thier kids getting the wrong message should show more care in what they present to said kids. A psychopathic, self hating criminal with an obsession with a doubly insane murderous and abusive villain. Yes, get mad when you’re kids read a panel that shows her cleavage and blankly considers over the top suicides. Then go shoot thier faces off in call of duty.


head hurts from reading half of these comments.

As a female comic book reader who lives with mental illness, I was worried about the approach that Jimmy was taking but I’m also relieved to see that he’s dealing with it and that it’s sparked a lot of really smart and interesting dialogues within the community of fans and creators on the whole. I think he’s handled this the best he possibly could.

It’s been incredibly disheartening to deal neurotypical people who aren’t even interested in comics talking over the people this issue actually effects, especially when media behemoths like Jezebel are trying to dictate how I and people like me should feel.

With the creative approach going back to the classic cartoony Harley we all know, love and deserve, I think this will end up being less problematic than people are anticipating.

It’s not the context that’s important here. It’s that, in the entire comic, THIS was the page they picked to be some hopeful artist’s breakthrough. Not a page that tells a story, but a series of pinups mocking suicide and capped by nudity. “Wanna get into comics? Draw this naked chick killing herself! And then go forth my son. I’ve taught you all that you need to know.”

As has been noted, teens are a huge part of the targeted audience. I found the description of the required panels a bit disturbing. In each one, she has placed herself in dangerous situations that can only be interpreted as suididal. The only panel that I’ve seen critiicized is the last, with her naked in the bathtub. Are images of suicide attempts only disturbing when “sexualized?”

1. Suicide isn’t silly. Suicide is awful and tragic. Depicting it as otherwise marginalizes people (ALL people, not just women) who are struggling with mental health issues.

2. There are a lot of ways that they could have broken the fourth wall and been silly without being this bloody distasteful.

3. Yes, Banner trying to kill himself bothers us as well. Here’s the difference though: that’s not meant to be lighthearted and funny. It’s meant to be tragic and we’re supposed to sympathize with him. In this we’re supposed to be laughing at Harley and all the things she’s being put through. Oh ha ha ha, look at poor Harley, who has no control over her life. We can make her do *anything* against her will. (Yes, ok, fiction so technically they can, but they’re the ones breaking the fourth wall here)

4. If context is everything, they should have provided it. Even though the context doesn’t really help.

5. We’re not *just* complaining about the last panel. The last panel is just the final straw. The rest of it was also awful. And having her naked in a bath? That takes it to another level. No, being naked in a bath is not inherently sexual, but how often have you seen someone in a bath in a comic book where is *wasn’t* sexualized? The intent behind her being naked here is to sexualize, because that’s how things work in this business where everything a female character does is sexualized.

6. Actually, yes. We do do a lot during national suicide prevention week. Also, we care about other things that are going on in the world. We are capable of caring about more than one thing at a time, promise.

7. I’m worried about the number of anonymous messages kids on Tumblr get telling them to just kill themselves. I’m worried about the message it sends, not to those of us who are struggling with mental health issues, but those who aren’t, and who don’t understand that it’s not just silliness. That it does try to make it silly and funny, makes it seem like telling people to go die in a fire is ok. Because hey, suicide is funny and not all that big a deal. And yeah, I know that that’s not the intent, but desensitization is a subconscious effect.

8. That last quote makes me want to gag. You only write strong female characters. Gratz, bro. You’re winning so many points back there. How about writing characters with more than one dimension?

Because of course the superhero genre can’t handle any mature subjects.

Mainly because it’s audience is a collection of immature tits.

RegularSyzed Wayne

September 11, 2013 at 12:05 pm

All this hub-bub kind of makes me want to go do the submission now.

Carlos Futino Barreto

September 11, 2013 at 1:54 pm

@O. Moore
Lot’s of things are dead serious in real life. It doesn’t mean jokes can’t e made about it. Comedy about serious issues have always been around. Sometimes the joke can hit a little to close to home form some people, but It doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have been made. Trying to rule out certain issues out of comedy will leave us with no comedy at all.
Now, that aside, this page is not funny at all. All these “jokes” are overplayed as hell.

You’re totally 100% right. And there is certainly a way to do it, and do it well and with respect. I’m not against dark humor, but this (unfortunately) wasn’t it :/

((also: hah, dead serious. I see what you did there.))

If the “problem” is ismply one of context, DC could easily make some amends for this blunder by adding this context to the competition page, which they have not done, even despite the fallout.

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