DC’s recent contest to draw a page of the new Harley Quinn book stirred up a storm of outrage when it was suggested that it promoted suicide—although the mthod, covering one’s self with chicken and jumping into a pit of alligators was unorthodox to say the least. It was suggested that the tone was more comedic than it came off. In fact, co-writer Jimmy Palmmiotti has explained on his Facebook page that the script will get a clarifying rewrite:

For everyone:

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.

The new book sounds like it’s going to move away from the grimmer, Zenescope like take on the character, and go back to the more Animaniacs version that was originally created for the cartoon.


  1. I really think this was an honest accident of poor timing… but when there have been so many wrong and dumb moves by a publisher an innocent mistake can be misconstrued as another insensitive choice.

  2. I was a teeny bit exasperated at the usual “let’s panic and wring our hands at DC” over this one. It’s Harley Quinn, if you couldn’t tell where they were going with this then you don’t know Harley Quinn. I have suffered from mentally crippling depressive illnesses nearly all my life, attempted suicide and you know what, this didn’t bother me.
    That said, I hope they give the job to the wonderful Lea Hernandez for this:

  3. the problem besides the atrocious timing (right before National Suicide Prevention Week, way to go) was basically the fourth panel. The whale panel, the alligator panel, the lighting panel, these were all comedic and clearly cartoony. It’s the fourth panel that has the big problem: 1) naked cheese pic / death porn and 2) unlike the others, the method shown is doable (rigging electric devices to fall into the tub) if not in that order of magnitude.

    Couple that with asking for a page that is basically four pinup pics instead of a cohesive page — the biggest complaint from pros looking at amateur portfolios is that it’s all pinups, no indication that they can tell a dynamic scene with a string of pictures — and yeah, that was a really REALLY bad idea.

  4. When the initial executive response to complaints is not to get the articulate and likeable creators of the script to explain (like this), but for Jim Lee to get all professorial and mansplain the concept of “context” to people – when the only context available was everything else DC’s done badly lately – well … that’s something else DC’s done badly lately. They’ve gotten incredibly “tone deaf” in the PR department.

  5. “It was suggested that the tone was more comedic than it came off.”

    The comedic tone seemed pretty obvious to me. People have just grown so just to jumping on DC outrage lately that they did it this time without thinking it through or–seems like in some cases–more than vaguely hearing about the situation.

    And you know what? This page was a good choice for this contest. It’s not part of a longer scene and doesn’t show any characters aside from Harley or any important locations–all of which would have required reference to be given out to the entire Internet.

  6. “when there have been so many wrong and dumb moves by a publisher an innocent mistake can be misconstrued as another insensitive choice.”

    —so what makes you think you have the full story on ANY move DC makes?

    cause the aggrieved creator tells you so?


  7. Harley’s “old” costume is far superior to her new one. Seriously, there’s really not anyone who disagrees, is there (And it’s too bad Bruce Timm doesn’t do sequential art anymore)?

  8. Knowing that Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner were on this book, I knew straight away that they were going for something humorous and daft but the main thing that went through my mind when I found out about it (thanks to an influx of e-mails and tweets sent my way) was “oh no, this is such bad PR”.

    In a week where DC were already getting a kicking, and handled the departure of JH Williams III with what seemed like very little tact – plus the upcoming Suicide Prevention Week – the lack of context was really damaging. I feel like a lot of people less familiar with the character and/or recent DC comics, who might have been interested in such a book, will have been left with the impression that superhero comics are once again a very unwelcoming place for female characters.

    I know that Gail Simone questioned why the situations with Harley were different from those inflicted on Deadpool and the discussion revealed, quite rightly, that the difference lies in the recent sexualisation of Harley (and other female DC characters), plus the fact she is not invincible like Deadpool, but I think it’s the sudden jump in tone with this book that will have thrown most people.

    I adore the old Harley, I love Mad Love. I’d love to see that Harley come back, but without the sexualisation as that seems even more rampant amongst female characters than a few years back, and Harley was fun of the few really fun non-sexualised female characters that I loved.

    But I don’t think it’s fair to chastise those who “jumped” on DC for this. It was poorly managed, and I think more damaging than many realise for DC itself, and superhero comics in general. It’s difficult when outrages are often caused by just a handful of pages out of context (see the recent Superman Annual #2 debacle) but at the same time, the publishers are courting that exact reaction by releasing such things.

    I appreciate Palmiotti holding his hands up on this one, and I still think it was a very dangerous page to pick for this kind of thing even with context given considering how triggering suicide can be compared to your run of the mill comic book violence, but lets not bash those who were rightfully offended by the original released information.

  9. “Harley’s “old” costume is far superior to her new one. Seriously, there’s really not anyone who disagrees, is there (And it’s too bad Bruce Timm doesn’t do sequential art anymore)?”

    I do wonder if she’s now covering her whole body in make-up, rather than just her face? Because it seems like that would be really time consuming and messy during a fight. Or did she get Joker-ized in the New 52?

  10. “Can we all stop jumping on DC and actually wait and see what the truth is now?”

    You mean ‘wait for the spin’, which is their usual M.O.? It’s been pretty obvious for years that the DC suits simply can’t handle the truth.

  11. For me the most interesting part of this whole situation was definitely watching Jim Lee get all Scott McCloud in his Twitter lecture on the matter. He made some sound arguments about the role of context in sequential art … while completely missing that context also matters when single panels are being used in a contest that was meant to generate PR for an arm of a huge corporation that’s gotten a reputation (deserved or not) for casual misogyny.

  12. Wait. Someone read Mad Love and still says Harley wasn’t sexualized? Even though she walked around in a nightie, her body silhouetted? So that’s okay but the word “naked” is OH MY GOD SUICIDE PORN!

    Wow. We’ve really tipped haven’t we?

    I’m still wondering why those screaming the loudest about this aren’t also going after the Suicide Girls. I mean come on – talk about sexualization.

  13. “I’m still wondering why those screaming the loudest about this aren’t also going after the Suicide Girls. I mean come on – talk about sexualization.”

    Because they come up a lot during comic book discussions… o_O

    Re: Mad Love – people do understand there’s a difference between a character being overly sexualised and a character being sexy/sexual right?! Please jeezus, I hope so.

  14. @Mikael – I suppose you are speaking to the snuff porno/suicide aspect of the controversy but I don’t think it’s an apt comparison.

    Suicide Girls are straight up cheesecake porno targeted at punk rock guys. Harley Quinn, on the other hand, is a complex character who, at least by the yardstick of many readers, doesn’t really need to be overly sexualized to get her freak on.

    That said, I think Jimmy’s Facebook post handled the whole thing in a sincere and gentlemanly way. But DC Entertainment’s PR should’ve flagged it if offending people was a concern.

  15. I thought the dream sequence was obvious with the chicken suit and alligators. Anyone who actually studies the language of comics or using basic common sense would know that all of the different locations cannot mean Harley is literally in danger. So much for the critical thinkers out there.

  16. @Wes: I don’t think there’s anything about the language of comics that suggests outrageous scenarios automatically mean dream sequence. For example, if you’ve ever read Deadpool (a series Palmiotti has written), those could easily be things Deadpool actually did with his day.

    I picked up on the comedic tone, and while it seemed Deadpool-esque to me, without any context I couldn’t figure out what was supposed to be funny about it. Now that Palmiotti has mentioned that the text would involve the writers teasing the characters in a fourth wall breaking moment, I understand the joke. But the context was necessary.

    My biggest issue with the script (aside from not letting the artist in on the joke, keeping them from properly serving the story) is that there’s no actual storytelling in this page (outside of text we can’t see). It’s just a script telling an artist to draw four seemingly unrelated self-contained illustrations. This is useful for testing whether an artist can draw a wide variety of things, but would give no indication of whether an artist is any good at panel-to-panel storytelling.

  17. Said this somewhere else here it goes.
    I don’t think the page needs explanation of its comical intents and, despite the 4th frame I see no problems with.
    That people see problems with the 4th frame, DC comics like it or not, should acknowledge the fans’ concerns and directly address it on an official statement. That is part of a relationship between publishing company and its costumers, to demonstrate they care about it, that the reader’s opinions matters. You can tell it matters for Jimmy Palmiotti.
    DC itself demonstrated, on this and other cases, anything but that. The attitude of not directly answering the concerns, besides Jim Lee offending people’s intelligence going on unrelated tangents to divert the subject, comes across as “we decide whatever we want, you don’t like too bad.”
    This mentality of “the dogs bark the caravan keeps moving” seems pretty ingrained to the point where DC wasn’t able to foresee which was a pretty obvious PR mistake, brushes off fair criticism, repeat mistakes and alienate the audience.
    They don’t need to stop producing a comic book to get opinions, there are deadlines, people understand that, but their relationship with the readers really needs improvement.
    People can love the books but nobody likes to be taken for stupid every time they mention a problem with the product.

    DC comics doesn’t demonstrates to care about its audience

  18. The moral of the story is there’s too many stupid people on internet with too much free time on their hands.

  19. I got the comedic intent reading the script. Cosmic irony, I believe it’s called.

    She was trying to kill herself, and failing miserably. Just like that O. Henry story.

    I think the four panels do tell a story, and require the artist to be skilled in a variety of art (architecture, animals, facial expressions, everyday objects).

    She’s Harley Quinn. She’s a crazy character, in a variety of ways. I’m hoping for a return to the Harley Quinn who dressed up as Batgirl, and who made Gotham City Sirens so interesting.

    But yeah… DC needs better corporate communications. I guess we should ask what Courtney Simmons is doing, and if the LA/NY divide is causing these missteps.

  20. Did anyone tell anyone else that Harley is supposed to be not too serious? …because the Harley Quinn comic had her murdering children across town using exploding Nintendo gaming systems. And I don’t think we should be super paranoid about exploding buildings in comics.. it’s just shitty timing that DC would have a dark and grim comic where Harley blows up a good deal Gotham today of all days. Plus it’s just a bad lead in to what is supposed to be a lighter Harley book. Is DC that clueless and bipolar with how they show these characters?

    Jimmy and Amanda may have a brilliant book. And while I think Deadpooling up Harley is kinda a too simple solution, it’s a thousand times better than this garbage. Yet it seems this upcoming book is the only one with a lighter toned Harley. If you look at Suicide Squad and this needlessly dark and violent book, can you blame people for not understanding the tone of this scene? DC has had a weird take on Harley since the reboot, so even if this is supposed to be a more lighter approach, the prior examples of the character point do not point toward such a thing.

    This Harley Quinn book might be awesome, but it’s a fine steak presented on a trash can lid.
    A comparison I steal from Bill Cosby’s speech on presentation:

  21. If it was a dream within a dream within a dream within a dream, you’d still get people saying that it was “INSULTING” and “NOT FUNNY”.

    There’s a disconnect going on. It’s like people are forgetting that this is all fictional in the first place.


    Like Kate Kane is a REAL PERSON you feel sorry for?!

    People are just looking for a reason to complain, and they’ve lost all sense of reality.

    We are literally a hair’s breath away from having internet protests due to the Joker threatening an innocent citizen of Gotham. “THAT ISN’T FUNNY! WHY DOES DC THINK IT’S ACCEPTABLE TO SHOW SUCH THINGS!” And God help us if a gun is ever pointed at an underage female hostage.

    That’s now nutty these indignant fans have gotten.

Comments are closed.