With J.H. Williams III and Haden Blackman announcing their extremely premature leave from “Batwoman” due to continuous, badly timed editorial interferences — which include, but aren’t limited to, DC’s refusal to let series’ namesake, Batwoman (Kate Kane) marry her twice proposed to partner, Maggie Sawyer on panel — you’d think the reverberating backlash heard ‘round the internetz would spark some sense of self-preservation in the folks at DC headquarters. You’d think… but you’d be so unbelievably wrong.
First the uncredited “Villains Month” covers. Then the “Batwoman” thing. Not even 24 hours after the fact, DC announced its controversial open talent search calling artists to draw a suicidal Harley Quinn, in various questionable — and sometimes naked — scenarios for a chance to win a one-page feature in “Harley Quinn” #0. It’s another case of outrageously bad timing, considering World Suicide Prevention Day is the 10th of September, as it’s ALWAYS been; and Suicide Prevention Week began yesterday. I’m beginning to wonder if their PR guy is on sabbatical or something. I mean, just how ridiculously out of touch with reality do you have to be to run this type of contest, during this specific time?
Besides the fact that it’s a tasteless gimmick that detracts from DC’s deserved reputation as one of the greatest, and most successful, companies in the comics industry, it almost feels like the artists are being commissioned to create Harley Quinn Snuff Porn for Dan Didio, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Jim Lee’s amusement. Maybe that’s a bit harsh, but it’s naïve to think that the sexualisation of suicide isn’t an issue in regards to this situation; and to suggest that a lack of understanding concerning the context of the character is the main reason for all the negative reaction, is honestly just lazy denial.
Yes, Harley has always been sexualized and especially designed to attract attention and increase appeal. Yes, she’s a crazy little nutter with an extremely unhealthy dependency on her abusive relationship with the Joker. Yes, she’s a member of The Suicide Squad, and has even handled the subject of suicide as buoyantly as only she could in the books. But just because an argument can be made to support the context of this character’s fictional journey in relation to the talent search, that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to ignore the cultural context of which it fills: the ubiquitous culture of sexualizing death and violence through the excessive use of the female gender in comic books.
For instance (pls forgive my dialogue–a writer, clearly I am not): pic.twitter.com/0MuW3355X7
— Jim Lee (@JimLee) September 7, 2013
In response to the controversy, Jim Lee condescendingly, and disingenuously, tweeted his thoughts on the matter, yesterday morning, and apparently missed the whole damn point. He was trying way too hard to disprove the exploitive nature of the contest, stating that they were attempting to break the fourth wall, by way of showcasing Harley’s exasperation with the writers. Even going so far as to patronizingly tweet rough panel examples, illustrating how the intended meanings of said panels can be distorted and taken out of context. Which is completely ridiculous, considering the fact that there’s absolutely ZERO context provided in the rules and regulations listed on the official site, only what’s required of the artist to illustrate in the four panels they have to work with. The last — and evidently the most controversial — of which asks hopeful contestants to illustrate “Harley sitting naked in a bathtub with toasters, blow dryers, blenders, appliances all dangling above [her, holding the] cord that will release them all.”
Furthermore, how exactly is this talent search supposed to showcase an artist’s capabilities within the comics medium, when all that’s required of them is to present four, unrelated, standalone illustrations that don’t need to be strewn together for the sake of storytelling? The main role of the artist is to effectively move the narrative along with their illustrations. Without any context, how are they supposed contribute the full scope of their talents to the overall project?
The whole thing is bad, and DC should feel bad.
I’ve said all I care to say at this time, but if you want to discuss things further, and pick at my brain, you can reach me (ShadowJayd) over on Twitter.
Editorial by – ShadowJayd