It appears DC Comics is having second thoughts about the controversial Harley Quinn tryout page released for an “Open Talent Search” for an artist to draw part of the series’ zero issue. The script page, written by series writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, depicts the title character attempting several ways to commit suicide while sitting in a bathtub.
A portion of the script was released with panel descriptions but no dialogue. The last panel description read:
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.
In a statement released Thursday to the media, DC Entertainment “sincerely apologizes” for the offense nature of the script page, while arguing that the page misrepresents the full context of the story.
"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. 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."Jim Lee, who in addition to being DC’s co-publisher is also arguably the company’s top artist, spoke on Twitter last weekend about the scene, saying that the script wasn’t intended to “’sexual suicide’” and that the issue itself isn’t about suicide at all.
While this panel followed several others showing Harley putting herself in ridiculous and dangerous situations, some found this one too literal and exploitive. Earlier in the week, Palmiotti attempted to explain the overall context of the scenes and issue:
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.However, many were still upset, especially considering the contest just happened to be announced right before National Suicide Prevention Week. The American Psychiatric Association, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the National Alliance on Mental Illness released a joint statement picked up by mainstream press outlets such as USA Today decrying the scene for “making light of suicide” and being “potentially dangerous” for young readers.
Over the past 10 years, suicide has claimed the lives of more than 300,000 U.S. citizens and is the third leading cause of death among youth and young adults, the group noted. More than 90 percent of those who die by suicide have treatable mental illnesses.
The MarySue posted:
What this issue boils down to for me is not the actual script or intended depiction but the continuing lack of awareness by not just DC, but entertainment sources in general, when it comes to spotting potential issues before putting something out to the masses. While those at the company clearly understood what the creators were going for, no one suggested it might be seen any other way, and that’s a problem.
I don’t expect everyone to be looking over every single item with a critical eye but wouldn’t it be easier to try and catch these things before they become an issue and save everyone a lot of trouble? Any other number of pages from the story could have been presented for the contest instead. In fact, I witnessed industry members suggesting this page isn’t even the best way to showcase an artist’s talents. Of course, what’s done is done, and we’ve seen that even when things are considered beforehand, they can still pass through.
If you need more information, or need to talk to someone, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.