DC and Harley Quinn Writer Respond to Artist Contest Controversy

You probably heard last week about the latest DC controversy involving a contest to find an artist for the new Harley Quinn book. One of the panels, which asked potential artists to depict Harley Quinn naked in a bathtub, about to commit suicide, was understandably upsetting to many. Now, one of the writers and DC Comics have both stepped forward with apologies.

From The Huffington Post, quoting DC Comics’ statement:

“The purpose of the talent search was to allow new artists an opportunity to draw a single page of a 20-page story. True to the nature of the character, the entire story is cartoony and over-the-top in tone, as Harley Quinn breaks the 4th Wall and satirizes the very scenes she appears in,” the statement read. “DC Entertainment sincerely apologizes to anyone who may have found the page synopsis offensive and for not clearly providing the entire context of the scene within the full scope of the story.”

And from the Facebook page of Jim Palmiotti, one of the Harley writers:

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.

While it is good to know the context of the images, and good to see DC respond to controversy for once, it still begs a couple questions… such as why this context wasn’t given in the first place. Or why those particular panels were chosen for the contest at all. Or why not a single person involved thought that this could be offensive to a number of people. Also, “I am sorry for those who took offense” is perhaps not the best way to word an honest apology to people you may have offended, or worse, triggered. Particularly not during National Suicide Prevention Week.

As numerous comics professionals have pointed out, the contest is a rare opportunity for the artistic community. It’s not often that Marvel or DC offer non-established artists a chance to get their work seen by people in the business. This should have been a fun, exciting exercise for comics fans and hopefuls everywhere. Sadly, the lack of foresight has left us all edgy and grim on the subject.

Apologies are important. But we need to do better.

Emily Asher-Perrin would like to direct anyone who would like more information to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.

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