Naked Suicidal Harley Quinn Gets DC Comics in Trouble

9th Sep 2013

A message from DC Comics: marriage between two popular lesbian characters = not cool.

But the oversexualisation of mental health and suicide = totally cool, apparently.

DC launched the art contest on Friday and invited artists to have their artwork featured in the new Harley Quinn book launched in November written by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti.

The competition asked participants to draw Harley Quinn in a number of life and death scenarios ending with the fourth panel in which Harley Quinn sits naked in a bathtub ready to commit suicide.

For clarity, the competition text reads as follows:

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.

The competition – launching just one day before suicide prevention month – comes from Jim Lee and Dan Didio, co-publishers at DC comics. With the launch of the new Harley Quinn book in November which promised to explore the many layers of this complex and previously often mishandled DC character, we see instead the over sexualisation suicide.

It would be pretty unusual to see an art competition asking artists to draw The Scarecrow or The Joker naked in a bathtub in the same scenario. Both characters are also DC villains with histories of extreme mental illness not that dissimilar to Harley, but it’s only poor old Harley that is sexualised in this way.

Audiences demand to know why glorifying suicide and sexualising the act is a necessary aspect of having your work accepted by DC...This completely inappropriate competition has made headlines as audiences demand to know why glorifying suicide and sexualising the act is a necessary aspect of having your work accepted by DC.

Jim Lee took to Twitter in an attempt to justify the competition. Lee argued that the nature of Harley Quinn appearing naked in the bathtub wasn’t necessarily sexual, but as a male creator speaking about a female character who has spent most of her time on panel in cheesecake poses and various modes of undress, that’s not entirely true.

Harley Quinn is indeed a complex character. She has suffered various degrees of mental illness, been subjected to abuse, and is indeed a violent madcap villain with a twisted sense of humour.

There was never any doubt that the newly launched Harley Quinn would veer on the dark side, but we were promised something new, and a real exploration of her past and her motives, looking beyond the image of Harley Quinn we have previously seen.

While creative team Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti will no doubt seek to provide audiences with something new, it’s incredibly disheartening to see DC get things so wrong yet again.

It’s disturbing that new artists are being asked to eroticise women characters before even stepping foot over the DC threshold these days, and for DC to take no amount of responsibility in provoking glorified images of suicide under the guise of an art competition.

We wish the head of PR for DC the best of luck.

(Image via ElDave)