DC is having a hard week. Aside from the baffling backlash against Ben Affleck being cast as Batman, two other incidents happened which has pissed off a LOT of people. Here's a quick summary of each.
Harley Quinn Contest
In case you haven't heard yet, DC is holding a contest to hire fresh young artists to help work on the new Harley Quinn series. www.dccomics.com/node/305151 This is fantastic news for a lot of artists, as "breaking in" to the big comic book companies can be extraordinarily difficult to do and this helps level the playing field. However, the way they've chosen to hold the contest is to have everyone submit 4 illustrations based on 4 separate scripts... all of which depict Harley Quinn as suicidal and trying to kill herself "comically."
Now first off, I get the fact that Harley Quinn is part of the "Suicide Squad," and that these illustrations are likely poking fun at that. However I feel that fact falls on it's face since the term "Suicide Squad" is using the word suicide in the "that job is so crazy it would be suicide to even attempt it!" vernacular. She's not actually suicidal herself, last time I checked.
I also get that these are meant as pin-ups (we'll get back to that in a minute) that are suppose to be humorous in nature, like a chuck jones cartoon. And while I understand what they're going for... the way the descriptions are written come across as quite the opposite to the fun and carefree nature these are suppose to be.
It was also extraordinarily bad timing on DC's part since this contest is being held during the month of September, which happens to be national suicide awareness month. If this was an attempt to tie-in this character to the month to raise awareness, someone at DC needs to be fired for that.
The one illustration that really has most people offended is the one where Harley is naked in a bathtub about to kill herself with electrical appliances. There's so many things wrong with this scenario you have to start wondering if something rotten is festering over at DC right now to allow them to approve of this concept.
The problem I have is the potential to sexualize suicide. Obviously a character being naked doesn't have to mean they're inherently sexualized to begin with... but come on here, think about who the character is and what the purpose of these illustrations are for. They're pin-up illustrations to entice readers to pick up a book. Harley's own re-design has sexualized her more and more as the years have gone on, making her a lot more "skanky" looking than her original much more modest design. And there will most likely be far more male artists applying for this job (since this contest has offended so many women already), and if there's one thing you can count on for male artists working in/for the comic industry is to sexualize EVERY woman.
I've heard a lot of accounts of things like "Bruce Timm did Harley fan service respectfully!" but the problem with that is... Bruce Timm isn't the one doing it. It's amateur artists trying to make a name for themselves. Maybe it's just because I've seen so much evidence in support of the fact that male artists sexualize female characters so much that I don't have faith that this contest is going to be treated with the respect that it deserves.
Personally, while I understand the possibility that this is being blown way out of proportion by the media, I also feel that it's pretty obvious that women now more than ever are paying attention to the comic book industry. 10 years ago if this came out, I don't think anyone would've bat an eye, and that's the problem. The times have changed, but the mindset inside the industry hasn't. They're still operating on outdated beliefs from decades ago and they're acting all confused and befuddled when today's modern audience looks at this stuff and says "that's not cool."
In case you're wondering how I would do the contest, take a peek at the recent SYAC series I did (they will be gracing DA soon), where I have Harley guest star briefly. syacartoonist.com/in-the-name-…
Batwoman Lesbian Romance Canceled
The other story involves the characters of Batwoman Kate Kane and her girlfriend Maggie Sawyer being denied marriage. Allegedly the writers of the new Batwoman series had been working for over a year towards getting the two characters hitched, only to be told by DC at the last minute that they can't do that. This had the result of having the two writers J.H. Williams and W. Haden Blackman decide to quit after issue 26.
I don't know about you, but if I had been working for over a year on a storyline with an end goal in mind and was told, last minute, by higher ups that I had to abandon the storyline for no good reason... I'd be pretty bitter and would probably quit too.
You can say "DC isn't against lesbian marriage, they're just against marriage of their characters in general" all you want, but this has 2 ugly aspects working against that theory. First, they presumably had been in contact with people in DC during that whole year of working on this storyline. I find it very difficult to think that the people at DC wouldn't have had ANY idea where this story was going, or that the editors wouldn't have spoken up earlier and said "hey this isn't something DC wants to do" before the last minute bombshell. And second, even if DC IS against just characters marrying for whatever bullshit reason, this last minute halting really comes across as being kinda gross and homophobic. Even if that's not their intent, the message they unintentionally send is pretty bad... ESPECIALLY when you consider that DC's way of trying to bring in new female readers is by making Superman and Wonder Woman into a Twilight style knock-off romance.
This is 2013 already. Gays exist. Gays marry. It's funny how comics (and video games for that matter) frequently like to have female characters be ambiguously lesbian and bi for sex appeal for a presumed male audience, but heaven forbid those characters actually be characters in love and want to be married! Oh no!
So yeah.. those are the two stories that came out this week. DC is rotting right now and I don't know what the hell is going on over there. They just seem to be making mistake after mistake after mistake. I used to really respect DC and they were my favorite of the big two companies. But lately with how well Marvel has been doing rebranding their characters and making movies and being part of Disney and all that... I dunno... DC just doesn't seem like the god almighty powerhouse it used to be.