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DC Comics asks artists to show their skill at killing off naked women

Posted by on Sep. 8, 2013 at 2:14 PM
  • 20 Replies

Fans of DC Comics must be starting to wonder if its many recent PR problemsaren’t deliberate self-sabotage.

It's been less than a year since the artist-driven Hawkeye Initiative gave female comic fans a chance to ridicule the objectification of female characters in comics. It's also been less than a year since Anita Sarkeesian's Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series pointed out the long and storied tradition of women being treated as disposable in gaming. This itself comes more than a decade after DC's own Gail Simone first coined the term "women in refrigerators" to describe the long list of women in comics who've been violently killed or maimed in order to provide a story's male hero with "manpain."

But DC's latest art contest, featuring popular villain Harley Quinn, they're offering lucky artists the chance to begin their careers in the industry—if they can effectively draw a naked woman preparing to kill herself. This seems, at the very least, tone-deaf.

The contest comes on the eve of National Suicide Prevention Week, and many comics fans are outraged.

Harley Quinn is one of the most popular—and arguably one of the most sexualized—female characters in DC's deck. A member of a covert group of villains called Suicide Squad, she currently works for the U.S. government. The four panels DC wants fledgling artists to draw all depict Harley courting death. Panel 2 shows her hanging out in a crocodile pond, Panel 3, sitting happily in the mouth of a whale. But the final panel is both grim and blatantly sexual: 

PANEL 4

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.

When comics fans on Tumblr discovered the contest this morning they were immediately incensed. "In order to participate in DC’s latest talent search, you have to draw a female character committing suicide naked," wrotekstipetic. "I’m gonna assume I don’t have to explain what’s fucked up about this."

"I feel like there should be a PANEL 5 specification where you have to draw Harley walking into a refrigerator and closing the door behind her," echoed kviri.

Kstipetic encouraged artists to create their own "submissions" and flood DC with them. Theyatagarasu commented, "I’m reversing the gender later Hawkeye Initiative style and encouraging people to do the same. Also, suicide???? How fucking horrible."

But a baffled thebigomastar pointed out that suicide is a rather obvious choice for a member of the Suicide Squad, while genocider-cabbage opined:

I don’t see the problem with this tbh. Harley Quinn is fucking crazy to begin with, and it seems to me she never actually pulls through with any of these suicides? I mean it’s just a fictional character in a fictitious universe. Who cares?

But DC's move comes after an onslaught of conversations and controversieswithin the past few years around the topic of misogyny in geek culture, from women getting shamed in comic stores to #1ReasonWhy and the effects that systemic sexism in geek industries have on real women. Harley Quinn doesn't exist just on her own terms, but as a representation of DC's attitude towards its female characters. And the contest is essentially serving as a job application, with DC wanting its artists to be able to successfully draw and objectify nude female bodies.

On the DC Comics blog announcement, Seairra Willett expressed her discomfort directly to the contest creators:

I'm a sequential art student, and I find it a bit appalling that the requirement for panel 4 is essentially drawing a female character committing suicide naked. The sexualization of suicide is something I will not be putting effort into for a talent search. I'll let the other fanartist draw naked Harley in a bathtub. I'll gladly draw anything but sexualized characters and suicide scenes for a very well-developed character.

Meanwhile contest collaborator Jim Palmiotti allegedly got defensive with one fan who complained, then deleted his thread. 

"Its done in chuck jones loony toons style [sic]," Palmiotti allegedly protested, although naked women looking "resigned" to their fate doesn't exactly summon up Daffy Duck—and comparing them to animals probably isn't the best way to endear yourself to an angry public.

It's already been a rough week for DC fans. On Thursday, the creative team ofBatwoman walked off the series after two years, citing editorial mismanagement and DC's unwillingness to let heroine Kate Kane, a lesbian, get married to her fiancée. For an alarming number of fans, this seems to be the last straw, coming after what seems to be an endless cycle of DC alienating its readers, driving away writers and artists, and jettisoning beloved characters and storylines.

"Literally never paying for anything from DC ever again," tumbledskiesofpluto.

On his blog, Stephen Harred had the last word--or rather the last draw. "Well, I submitted my entry. Sure hope I win:"

by on Sep. 8, 2013 at 2:14 PM
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Replies (1-10):
FromAtoZ
by AllieCat on Sep. 8, 2013 at 2:18 PM
1 mom liked this

I'm not a comic fan so I am not up on any thing they are talking about in this article.  The characters, and such.

But from what I read, I am not all that surprised that a woman must be drawn killing herself, naked or otherwise.  Sadly.

Not really a 'community' I could ever get behind or want to be a part of.  

PrimmednPunked
by Bronze Member on Sep. 8, 2013 at 2:21 PM
1 mom liked this

I love comic books and especially the Batman comics.  Harley is one of my favorite villianesses (sp?).  I just think this is a bit sad on the part of DC.  Don't they realize they have female fans as well?

KelliansMom
by Bronze Member on Sep. 8, 2013 at 2:26 PM
DC comics to me were always a little on the darker side of things. I didn't follow them enough to really have an opinion. I was more of a marvel kid growing up. But I do find that you have to search harder for strong femal comic book characters.
terpmama
by Silver Member on Sep. 8, 2013 at 3:08 PM
Who does Stan lee draw for DC ? Marvel? I can never remember...
PrimmednPunked
by Bronze Member on Sep. 8, 2013 at 3:11 PM

Marvel.

Quoting terpmama:

Who does Stan lee draw for DC ? Marvel? I can never remember...


JTE11
by Member on Sep. 8, 2013 at 3:16 PM

Wow, I am glad that I'm not a fan of DC comics. It seems that they have lost sight of what their fans will buy. And in the end, it is just a business like any other business. You do what sells, and apparently this isn't it.

terpmama
by Silver Member on Sep. 8, 2013 at 4:21 PM
Good I like him, I can't imagine him being incolved in that kind of thing... Seems like a decent guy. Really liked his "reality" show


Quoting PrimmednPunked:

Marvel.

Quoting terpmama:

Who does Stan lee draw for DC ? Marvel? I can never remember...



Mommy_of_Riley
by Jes on Sep. 8, 2013 at 7:15 PM
DC has and will always be darker than Marvel. It's always been that way and this depiction of Harley (while I understand why so many are upset by it) is something she would do. She's always been on the crazy side of things and has tried suicide in past comics so I understand where the idea came from...
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PrimmednPunked
by Bronze Member on Sep. 8, 2013 at 8:11 PM

I want to see it this way as well.  I guess I was just taken aback when I read this.  But you are right...it is "within character"

Quoting Mommy_of_Riley:

DC has and will always be darker than Marvel. It's always been that way and this depiction of Harley (while I understand why so many are upset by it) is something she would do. She's always been on the crazy side of things and has tried suicide in past comics so I understand where the idea came from...


Mommy_of_Riley
by Jes on Sep. 8, 2013 at 8:24 PM
There were certainly better ways they could have gone about it but I do see it as something Harley would do... Ya know? I can totally see her chilling in a bathtub with that look of "Mr J. Doesn't like me anymore" ready to end it all...

Quoting PrimmednPunked:

I want to see it this way as well.  I guess I was just taken aback when I read this.  But you are right...it is "within character"

Quoting Mommy_of_Riley:

DC has and will always be darker than Marvel. It's always been that way and this depiction of Harley (while I understand why so many are upset by it) is something she would do. She's always been on the crazy side of things and has tried suicide in past comics so I understand where the idea came from...


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