Green Room

DC Comics’ suicidal fan-art contest

posted at 2:51 pm on September 14, 2013 by

That headline has more than one meaning, as DC Comics may soon discover.  The comic-book publisher has launched a contest to give a fan a chance to break into the business by drawing four panels of DC supervillain Harley Quinn from the Batman series.  That’s not exactly the most original concept ever, but it does sound like fun — until you get to the descriptions of the panels, and specifically the fourth and final panel:

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.

Naked in a bathtub and suicidal to boot? Well, that’s a fetish I’ve never heard of before, and I really have no desire for enlightenment in that regard at all.

DC Comics announced this contest on September 5th, which turned out to be three days before the start of … National Suicide Prevention Week.  Great timing! The California chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness isn’t amused by it, needless to say. They demanded on Thursday that DC strike that final panel from its contest:

This week we commemorated the 11th annual World Suicide Prevention Day with the theme “Stigma: A Major Barrier for Suicide Prevention.” Too many people who die by suicide suffer in silence due to fear of the perceived stigma surrounding mental illness.

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

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.

While we understand that this may have been unintentional, nonetheless this contest was a mistake in judgment. We hope the company acts responsibly and moves quickly to revise this contest. Our organizations would welcome the opportunity to be of assistance with such an action.

Rick Warren, who just lost a son to suicide after a long fight with depression, is also not amused:

Huffington Post reports that feminist groups aren’t very happy about the sexualization of suicide, either:

Since applicants must draw each of the four scenes, “it essentially prohibits comic artists who are opposed to the eroticization of violence against women from applying for the honor of drawing a strong female character,” writes Jezebel’s Callie Beusman.

The Daily Dot notes that Quinn, who is a member of the covert Suicide Squad working for the U.S. government, is already “arguably one of the most sexualized” female characters in the DC series.

The DC Comics script writer for this sequence responded by claiming that he erred in not making clear that this was supposed to be a dream sequence. No, seriously:

That the tryout Harley Quinn page went out without an overall description of tone and dialogue is all my fault. I should have put it clearly in the description that it was supposed to be a dream sequence with Amanda 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.

Maybe they should just kill that panel instead.  This genre is hardly known for its good taste, but this is a little much.

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Does Bishop care about this bilge?

S. D. on September 14, 2013 at 3:20 PM

I have a better idea.

1. Kill Harley off, once and for all. The character isn’t even good comic relief.

2. Revamp the costume. Lose the white (especially that mask) and make it all black and red. And definitely lose those jester horns on the headpiece.

3. Give it to a heroine, and call her Hellequin. That, BTW, is the original correct name for the pantomime character that DC has been committing indignities upon with Dr. Quinzel.

4. Revamp her gadgets into moderately less-than-lethal ones, and make her a female version of Marvel’s Moon Knight. (Yes, I know he was a rip-off of The Bat; what’s sauce for the gander…)

DC needs some new characters. This would do for a start.

clear ether

eon

eon on September 14, 2013 at 3:25 PM

As someone who’s a) a Batman fan and b) been hospitalized multiple times for Major Depression and knows a thing or two about suicide, I’d say these people need to lighten up. If you find yourself on teh same side of a debate as the shrieking hags that populate women’s groups, you’re on the wrong side. Suicide isn’t a laughing matter, but it’s not so taboo that it can’t be addressed in a comic or in a contest.

Here’s a thought: Maybe those women’s group could spend some time focusing on why men are far more likely than women to actually kill themselves?

King B on September 14, 2013 at 3:27 PM

Rule One of graphic artists: never draw ANYTHING in spec.

This is offensive, not only from the suicide angle, but from the “doing work for free” vector.

This is a long-established no-no in graphic arts. It’s amazing that nobody in the publishing business spotted the lunacy of a free art contest.

DarthBrooks on September 14, 2013 at 3:35 PM

Bad timing on their announcing of the contest, but otherwise whatever.

mythicknight on September 14, 2013 at 3:44 PM

I always chuckled when she and Poison Ivy teamed up in the Batman series.

rob verdi on September 14, 2013 at 3:46 PM

I always chuckled when she and Poison Ivy teamed up in the Batman series.

rob verdi on September 14, 2013 at 3:46 PM

Poison Ivy driving away with Harley: No man can take us prisoner!

Officer Renée Montoya shoots out their tires and then says: All right, ladies… raise ‘em.

thebrokenrattle on September 14, 2013 at 3:57 PM

2. Revamp the costume. Lose the white (especially that mask) and make it all black and red. And definitely lose those jester horns on the headpiece.

As I understand it, they already did. These days she apparently wears a bustier, micro-mini short shorts, and leggings.

DC is being so badly run that someone has started a web site keeping track of how long it’s been since DC did something stupid.

Rip Ford on September 14, 2013 at 4:09 PM

Hey next let’s protest violence in comic books because violence isn’t cool or funny either.

jhffmn on September 14, 2013 at 4:26 PM

DC giving Miley Cyrus ideas for her next video.

Dongemaharu on September 14, 2013 at 4:59 PM

It’s Harley Quinn. Let’s not clutch our pearls and retire to the fainting couch, m’kay?

S. Weasel on September 14, 2013 at 5:19 PM

Maybe Harley Quinn’s suicidal because she just found out that Justin Beiber will play Robin in the Batfleck movie.

JimLennon on September 14, 2013 at 5:58 PM

Speaking of fetishes, I just met someone online who says she is eager to satisfy her clients’ desire for “liquidity.” She is very beautiful and her native language is French.

Seth Halpern on September 14, 2013 at 6:24 PM

I always chuckled when she and Poison Ivy teamed up in the Batman series.

rob verdi on September 14, 2013 at 3:46 PM

Poison Ivy driving away with Harley: No man can take us prisoner!

Officer Renée Montoya shoots out their tires and then says: All right, ladies… raise ‘em.

thebrokenrattle on September 14, 2013 at 3:57 PM

well done

rob verdi on September 14, 2013 at 9:07 PM

I stopped buying comics about 30 years ago, when they started putting dark edges on the characters.

Now, it’s their characters, and it’s their First Amendment rights, but it’s my mind, and I have enough trouble with the dark characters we all have to deal with in real life.

Comics used to be an alternate universe where the heroes were better than we could ever be, and the villains were just a tiny bit more sinister than we could ever be.

Well, make everyone sinister, and you have comic books today.

unclesmrgol on September 14, 2013 at 9:51 PM

“Kill the panel,” you say?

Sherman1864 on September 14, 2013 at 10:15 PM

So it’s supposed to be okay since it’s a dream sequence in which Harley breaks the fourth wall to kvetch at the writers about all the crap they put her through. Were I an artist looking to make a submission to the contest I think I’d make the fourth panel the writers naked and tied up sitting in a bathtub as Harley prepares to drop a variety of electrical appliances in. That would seem much more appropriate to me.

Rip Ford on September 14, 2013 at 10:25 PM

Lots of little nancies complaining about nothing really. You peggies get your panties bunched about Daffy Duck too?

JohnBrown on September 14, 2013 at 10:57 PM

Sounds like graphic fun.

Comic, even.

*~@):~{>

profitsbeard on September 15, 2013 at 2:05 AM

Rip Ford on September 14, 2013 at 4:09 PM

Is there by any chance a website that keeps track of Marvel’s biggest botches?

Avi Green on September 15, 2013 at 5:48 AM

Its a comic book… If you don’t read them… and don’t care about the stories or characters… then why care? We have bigger fish to fry then this nonsense.

Karmashock on September 15, 2013 at 9:00 AM

Lots of little nancies complaining about nothing really. You peggies get your panties bunched about Daffy Duck too?

JohnBrown on September 14, 2013 at 10:57 PM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kq8F8PeDBOU

:-))

SagebrushPuppet on September 15, 2013 at 9:11 AM

Suicide, the real not the purposeful failed attempts at attention (see: female ‘cry for help’ as men are far more successful), while no laughing matter, should still be a “choice”.
And then, there is the “whoops!” factor as in “auto-erotic asphyxiation”, or, in tandem, “the choking game” . It happens regularly, you just never hear or read about it. As he/she comes, he/she goes. Might as well go out happy!
(should anyone desire or require an explanation, I will provide one)

Death by electrocution is rather grisly however, particularly execution by Electric Chair. For those who have no idea, there are pics and vids (maybe gone by now) of Ted Bundy being zapped to death by “Old Sparky”. The movie “The Green Mile” was close in its interpretation.
Now, if voluntary euthanasia were an option, it would rule out variables such as depression, anger, unrequited love, etc., but still focus upon relieving the “patient” from suffering. Why is it still illegal in America to administer heroin to a cancer patient who is dieing a slow painful death is a mystery to me. Denying a patient said meds seems much more cruel to me than the silly drop an electric appliance in the bathtub.
♫♪ Suicide is painless, it brings on many changes … ♫♪
The comic book is just that. As a fan of “The Incredible Hulk” in the early 1960s, did anyone believe that he could rip apart his adversaries? Of course not. It’s a Comic Book!
My guess is that most people don’t recall the “underground” comics of the 1960s, especially those from San Francisco.
~(Ä)~

Karl Magnus on September 15, 2013 at 9:55 AM

Here’s a thought: Maybe those women’s group could spend some time focusing on why men are far more likely than women to actually kill themselves?

King B on September 14, 2013 at 3:27 PM

Because men are far more serious and choose a far more effective and violent method. Men don’t send out a “cry for help”. They Just DO It!
~(Ä)~

Karl Magnus on September 15, 2013 at 10:02 AM

Maybe they should just kill that panel instead. This genre is hardly known for its good taste, but this is a little much.

Number one rule for living in this world: Not everything is about you. In truth, the world is mostly indifferent to the existence of the individual.

What’s next, protesting coal powerplants with the leftist loons because carbon makes for rainy Mondays?

M240H on September 15, 2013 at 12:05 PM

Naked in a bathtub and suicidal to boot? Well, that’s a fetish I’ve never heard of before, and I really have no desire for enlightenment in that regard at all.

..reminiscent of the old Playboy cartoon of a guy naked on the bed with an empty light socket hanging over his — er — mid-section while he’s looking at the centerfold.

:-D

The War Planner on September 15, 2013 at 4:09 PM

Is there by any chance a website that keeps track of Marvel’s biggest botches?

Marvel has done some bone-headed things, “One More Day” springs to mind, but nothing on the order of what DC has been doing in the last few years.

Rip Ford on September 16, 2013 at 12:38 AM

All this fuss and concern over a single comic book panel. This country is nuts.

CrustyB on September 16, 2013 at 11:37 AM