DC Comics’ suicidal fan-art contest
posted at 2:51 pm on September 14, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
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:
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:
Suicide is neither cool, nor funny. Please join me in protesting DC Comic's sickcontest: http://t.co/JOTxTdyzXz
— Rick Warren (@RickWarren) September 13, 2013
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.