There’s No Such Thing as Bad Publicity… Unless you’re DC Comics

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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.



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

  • Canucklehead

    And DC manages to throw one more shovel full of dirt on itself. Wont be much longer now. A sad ending to a once great brand.

    • ShadowJayd

      There must be something in the water

  • Spike0037

    @Lonmonster who the hell do you think you are to judge art. For the love of God IF THIS WAS ROBBIN OR THE JOKER would you be doing this. Your being so fake in this story.

    • ShadowJayd

      Judging art is an expected practice, that very much has to do with personal taste, so opinions will definitely vary. A common way to do so is to see how effectively the art transmits feelings/emotions, and examine how it could possible present a recreation of reality. This article questions DC’s public relations troubles, their terrible timing in light of recent social issues, and provides commentary on why it can be considered tasteless. But it’s not suggesting anything outrageous, or promoting censorship of any kind; it’s just opening a discussion on the subject matter, which is essentially, the whole point. And to respond to your last statement, the problem is that it wouldn’t be Robin or the Joker.

      • Igor Teixeira

        Agreed. And here is the deal, it could even be Robin or Joker. It wouldn’t be because we know that comics use the female sex appeal to sell to their target demographic. But still, even if it was Robin or Joker, spreading this particular thing in a contest is utterly nonsense. There’s no context or story behind this, and it’s not even challenging in comic art terms. It’s just a bunch of illustrations together in a page. There’s no storytelling whatsoever. If you put this inside a magazine and carefully tell a good story in which this makes sense, which I hardly doubt DC would even have made with this, then you have an argument. You don’t ask and choose artist based on illustration skills and fucking sexy characters.

        • ShadowJayd

          @igorchakal Definitely not challenging enough to showcase the artists true potential. The requirements for the talent search aren’t even adequate enough to really distinguish which contestants are better suited for the medium, because one of the most detrimental qualities that a comics artist should have (knack for visual storytelling) isn’t being tested. It’s just a really confusing move by DC.

          • Igor Teixeira

            Exactly. This drives me crazy. I’m an low level comic book artist, I’m always excited with new “Break into comics” stuff, but I have no place to stand on this. Of course I would love to give it a shot, it’s god damn DC comics. I don’t read most of it, but I would love to draw some of those, to make a good money and stuff, but I really don’t know how to even start this sample. I can work within those criteria, violence is something funny for me, “sexyness” can be proper used and be fun to, but let’s suppose I get picked if I make a ONE SOLO FUCKING PAGE (which by itself make it really hard to evaluate someone) and I’m not on the level they need me to be? Because all I did was put together 4 illustrations with no relation or storytelling whatsoever? What the fuck is the point of it? Is DC trying to shock someone or what? I still haven’t wrapped my mind around this whole thing.

      • Spike0037

        What bothers me and gets under my skin is that it seams to be wrong that it’s Harly Quin and peopl are saying There is know story telling. So what people are saying on here at least is that on panel of a comic with know dialog. Can not tell a story. I also asoume that goes for paintings. Or lets look at some horror movies that have had some very sextul death scenes. Why does it have to be sextul. This is very annoying we as a country are trying stop our own first amendment. Its also why we dont get NC-17 movies because people dont want them in there neghnihood and its the people here and that complain about this stuff that make this great country look weak.

        • ShadowJayd

          @Spike0037 When most people mention the fact that there is no storytelling element to the contest, they’re merely pointing out the lack of context provided by DC. What DC is essentially asking for, is a series of pinups that don’t flow together, so there’s no real challenge or originality to the project. Honestly, I don’t think I quite understand what you’re saying about The First Amendment, but as I mentioned before, this editorial isn’t trying to stop artists from entering the contest, or drawing the subject matter, or even promoting censorship in general. It’s just pointing out some of the questionable issues relating to the controversy.

  • Spike0037

    @Lonmonster how mature you wont discuses it on the site. Way to stick to your convictions.

    • Lonmonster

      @Spike0037 I did not write this piece, it was ShadowJayd. Though I do share a similar opinion on the matter. I have no problem discussing it on the site (a link to a writer’s twitter account is common practice for editorials).

      I don’t believe ShadowJayd ever judges art in the above piece. If DC put out a request to have a nude Robin or Joker about to kill himself in a tub, I would be just as concerned and shocked (if not more so). I think a lot of this art contest has been taken out of context, but that doesn’t excuse the way DC has reacted to the backlash. I know things get read out of context all the time, but still, you would think SOMEONE at DC would have thought about how strange it was to ask artists to draw one of their most loveable characters killing herself? Again, I have no problem discussing this on BD if you would like to discuss further.

  • Pulagatha

    I love this editorial. The moment I read that practice submission thing the other day I thought it fucking ridiculous. Should I be able to draw it? Yes. Is it necessary or prevalent within any given storyline that anyone is going to have to draw that. Fuck, No. It was fucking stupid. Between that and the other few things DC seems practically misogynistic at this point.

  • Pulagatha

    I love this editorial. The moment I read that practice submission thing the other day I thought it fucking ridiculous. Should I be able to draw it? Yes. Is it necessary or prevalent within any given storyline that anyone is going to have to draw that. Fuck, No. It was fucking stupid. Between that and the other few things DC seems practically misogynistic at this point.

    Sean Russell

    • ShadowJayd

      @pulagatha Thanks Sean. At this point, I’m not particularly surprised by DC’s shenanigans; misogynistic or otherwise.

  • Evan3

    @ShadowJayd – I agree that DC has made one stunning leap after another beyond the realm of logic. From super-sexualizing Starfire to sexualizing Harley (who, while she may be sexy, was sexy in a twisted wholesome way and with almost no skin shown) to *ugh* sexualizing Amanda Waller (not to mention the needless loss of Joker’s face). I hadn’t heard of this contest before, but there seems to be no reason for it at all. I used to respect/enjoy Lee’s work, but no longer.

    • ShadowJayd

      @evan3 Speaking of Starfire, my issue wasn’t necessarily with the hyper-sexualization of the character so much. It was mainly about the general lack of agency, and cheap pandering gimmicks. Pretty ridiculous. Thanks for your input!

  • Igor Teixeira

    Well, as a comic artist, this is pretty depressing. I’m not against sexualizing violence or anything, as long as it has a purpose inside the story. One thing is to put this page inside a whole magazine with 23 other pages and carefully making the story and everything fits this. Now, putting this solo page, that is poorly designed when it comes to evaluate comic skills, as a contest, when this page is totally out of context and doesn’t even tie up a story inside itself, please, this is a whole new level of stupidity. Of all the samples they have, why this specific page? DC is ultimately digging their own grave.

    • Spike0037

      You should be ashamed at what you said. You are basically say lets censor everything. And don’t say your not. What is the difference between this and something hanging in a musam, let say arts drawings what ever comic character doing what ever. dose it have the right to hang in the museum. Does fan art or fan fiction have to be policed. And like I said if this was a male character like joker or Robin this would not be a topic. How about. Here somethin Tayra Banks paints her body white to look like other modelsand its called art but if a white model did it to look like black models its racist. Why cant art be art

      • Igor Teixeira

        About the racist thing, that happens mainly because we white people did not get killed because of our color through history, or went down into slavery. It’s not same thing. I agree that it’s a sensitive subject and that “if it was the other way around it would be fine”, but my point is that it wouldn’t. It’s a page, out of context, of a stupid scene and a stupid subject. AGAIN, not stupid as a whole, it can be greatly used in a lot of cases, but in a talent hunt, with a SINGLE PAGE used, this is just stupid. Because that’s the only page of the script that the artist has access to. It’s stupid to put something so important out of context. I’m not going PC all over it, because I’m definitely not a PC guy, look at my art featured here and you will know, but I just can’t understand why to use this page of the script, which doesn’t have any storytelling to be evaluated to choose an artist. It’s just dumb.

  • Spike0037

    God reading the crap that men are saying on here is ridicules. Are you guys trying to be the knight in shining armor. That just said and pathetic.

  • Chelsea

    Interesting. I’m going to be completely honest and say that I didn’t even know there was a suicide prevention week (sounds like a no brainer actually). It looks like DC is trying to create a distraction (more like jingling keys) Not really surprised by this though. Pulling cheap misogynistic tricks like this is kind of common place in comics.

  • Spike0037

    @shadowjayd looknat on of you favorite movies UNDERWOLD all the women in skin tight leather. Did they have to do that did it in hence the story? Or look at one of your favorite shows True Blood all the female nudity how much male nudity is there. But I see your a Browncoat and a Canadian which rocks. By the way. All am say really is if you complain about this small thing you have to look at every thing

    • ShadowJayd

      @spike0037 I understand that you’re passionate about the topic, just as most of us are, but I just need to say that I’ve never said anywhere that I have a problem with skintight clothing. There are a few specific things I have a problem with in regards to this subject, and I’ve stated them clearly in the editorial. Of course, we can’t always agree, that’s just life, but there’s nothing wrong with encouraging open discussion. Everyone has a right to state their opinions, so we welcome any and all comments here.

  • iamtheCOMICNERD

    Seriously people need to lay off this topic. Yes, they should of chosen 4 different panels to have artist display their techniques BUT each panel will show case the said Artist’s ability to show depth, texture and line work. Which is all very important to drawing comics.

    secondly, its Harley Quinn, the dame dating a mass serial who cut off his own face. The same lady who has murdered hundreds of people for “jokes” and yet people are all “OMGZ”

    Thirdly, this is the chance for people to break into comics. If you don’t want to take a shot at a gig for working with DC then don’t do it and maybe drawing comics isn’t for you because as an Artist you don’t always get a say in what or how you draw.

  • MackieMagpie

    Art doesn’t have to conform to anyone’s moral compass.

  • Ashley

    All of new 52 is an abortion, the horribly done shock-values and ‘writing’ is like a bad fanfic gone worse. As far as I’m concerned, New 52 has never existed and never will.