Ignorant Art: DC Comics Redefines Disappointment (Again)

by Jannika Coons @JerkasaurusRex on September 12, 2013

in Comics

Calling all the basic bigots! Calling all the basic bigots! DC Entertainment is hiring!

It’s National Suicide Prevention Week, and DC Entertainment probably wishes they were dead. Honestly? So do I. After officially saying “I don’t” to the long-awaited marriage of (canonically lesbian) Kate Kane/Batwoman and her fiancé/Gotham City police officer Maggie Sawyer, DC proceeded to redefine disappointment by launching an EXTREMELY objectionable PR campaign to promote the upcoming Harley Quinn comic book series.

Entrants are required to draw Harley in various “Looney Toons”-esque suicidal tableaus, each more offensive than the last, and if that wasn’t enough to fill you with the joys of spring, one of them must also be nude! Co-Publishers Dan Didio and Jim Lee will select one lucky budding misogynist to receive a golden ticket into the DC He-Man Woman Haters Club and have their paraphilic night terror featured in the debut issue of HARLEY QUINN issue #0.

Yes! You are cordially invited to participate in a competition eroticizing violence against women. Won’t you please RSVP and indicate your preference for prime rib or fish?

In case you’re having a problem grasping the levels of taste being crossed, here are the submission requirements:

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.

– PANEL 2 
Harley is sitting in an alligator pond, on a little island with a suit of raw chicken on, rolling her eyes as if, 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, and other appliances 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.

[art by: iambossoftheapplesauce]

Refreshingly, in a move not unlike the Mary Jane Drinks Coffee meme, the Internet – monkey paw wish that it is – marshaled its outraged masses to deliver swift justice in the form of a pretty fantastic ongoing spam war on the contest inbox (example above). Alternatively, on the other side of the argument, some people, including Didio and Lee, seem confused as to why this contest is causing such a stir. C’mon, guys. Doesn’t anyone understand irreverent satirical black humor anymore? Of course Harley is naked in the tub. Her rubber suit would only insulate her from the electrical shock! If you can’t get on the level, bro- this comic obviously wasn’t written for you.

In an attempt to mansplain away the controversy as one big miscommunication, Lee took to his Twitter account, punctuating his privileged POV with condiscending hashtags. Wrong choice, but hey, bitches, amirite? “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,” he wrote. “As far as the objectification of Harley Quinn by having her take a bath naked… Any talented artist can draw it a hundred ways, none of which are demeaning to women. #ultimategoal”

No, Lee, you are wrong. Make no mistake, it is a problem that the “challenge” aspect of this entrance exam is to mask DC’s sexist fuckery and transform it into subconscious Tyler Durden white noise. It is a problem that artists, who might be morally opposed to perpetuating this degrading buttslop, are either forced to participate or prohibited from submitting a legitimate entry. It is a problem that the panels chosen for this PR contest put forward the worst stereotypes of comics. It is a problem that there is nothing remotely empowering, complex, or fun about this idea, just a set of “humorous” panels in which a disturbed woman tries to kill herself in decreasingly elaborate ways, you #whacksackofshit!

Harley could have been shown in a multitude of equally craptastic set ups, but you chose to specify that she must be nude. Maybe Harley should have worn the raw chicken bikini into the bath so that when the Joker finds her boiled corpse, he will have a hot dinner waiting to soften the blow.

“O brave new world that has such people in’t! Youse aren’t considering the context that the DC verse exists within.” Oh, did you mean THE REAL WORLD? The real world in which suicide and the casual objectification of women are serious capital “T” things, but their actual impact and overlap are largely ignored? That real world?

On a personal level, I don’t necessarily object to suicide being used in a humorous way, though I think it’s a delicate balancing act and is clearly beyond the capabilities of DC’s ham-fisted mouth-breathers. That said, let’s talk about context. There is still zero context for this prompt. It comes alongside a bunch of woefully unfunny, writer’s room in-joke scenarios that smack of desperate contrivance and is very much in context with a long history of DC Comics mistreating its female characters and a very relevant recent history of messing around with Harley’s character to needle fans.

So what exactly is the joke? Is it the nekkid boobies? The Team Rocket-style shenanigans? The suicide? This shouldn’t be news to anyone, but saying, “Oh, it’s intentionally zany and totes cray-cray” doesn’t make it funny or justify the scenario. If you have to explain a joke, there is no joke! Bottom line, DC is still requesting a non-contextualized panel of a naked woman committing suicide, which, that shit, in case you missed it DC, is rude and gross.

The competition is set to run until Tuesday, October 1, so there is still time to break out the Crayolas and glitter glue. If you are interested in submitting an LOL or two, you can do so here.


Jannika Coons (@JerkasaurusRex) is a pop culture enthusiast, amateur historian, and a self-confessed geek. She loves puns, b-movies, and Byzantine history. IRL, when she’s not writing, she dabbles in freelance graphic design and marketing. Jannika is also one third of the creative talent behind Cullen the Kettle Black, a Twilight parody web comic.


ClarenceRHM September 12, 2013 at 11:18 am

Stupid panel ideas, stupid timing.

Cybermat47 March 1, 2016 at 3:03 am

As an update, I own a copy of the comic in question, so I can tell you that fortunately, they replaced the bathtub with Harley riding a rocket while wearing a fishbowl on her head.

Also fortunately, it IS actually funny in the context. Harley’s trying out different artists for her series, and when one artist hears she was in the Suicide Squad, the artist draws her in the aforementioned positions, assuming that the Suicide Squad is a group of people who try to find ridiculous ways to die.

And, as someone who just got over a sever depression that involved multiple suicide attempts, I didn’t find it offensive.

Hopefully, though, DC learns from their mistakes, and doesn’t set up another competition that, at first glance, seems insanely offensive.

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