So, yesterday, we reported on DC's talent search for a new artist to draw a page of Harley Quinn #0. For all the flak we give DC, it seemed like a nifty idea to promote new talent, a novel concept considering how frequently DC drives its existing talent away. Anyways, we chalked the contest up as a win in DC's books and then moved on with our lives.
Then DC released the script. For the record, this script was not initially included on DC's blog, or otherwise we might have had a different take on things.
Here it is in its entirety (Panel 4 bolded for emphasis):
Harley is on top of a building, holding a large DETACHED cellphone tower in her hands as lightning is striking just about everywhere except her tower. She is looking at us like she cannot believe what she is doing. Beside herself. Not happy.
Harley is sitting in an alligator pond, on a little island with a suit of raw chicken on, rolling her eyes like once again, she cannot believe where she has found herself. We see the alligators ignoring her.
Harley is sitting in an open whale mouth, tickling the inside of the whale’s mouth with a feather. She is ecstatic and happy, like this is the most fun ever.
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.
Unsurprisingly, the Internet lost its shit over that last panel. From Bleeding Cool noting that DC wants its next artist to draw Harley Quinn naked to many on Twitter pointing out that DC was "sexualizing suicide", what could have been a fun contest turned into DC taking one on the chin... again.
Before I go on, I want to stress that suicide is a pretty serious subject, one that affects plenty of people (especially online communities). Choosing this page (with no context to explain it) was a poor choice on DC's part. It turned what could have been a PR win into a PR fail that even has various creators (who usually shy away from beating up on DC) speaking out.
While we here at the Outhouse have PhDs in Knee-Jerk Reactionary Science, the one good thing about missing the initial wave of controversy is that some context to the page was provided last night courtesy of co-writer Jimmy Palmiotti:
So, according to Palmiotti, Harley is complaining about what DC's writers might make her do in the comic series. It's a pretty humorous meta reference, doubly so in the light of DC's constant editorial interference and bizarre directions for its characters. It's entirely possible that the panel being depicted is Harley Quinn complaining about DC sexualizing her suicide. In light of yesterday's reaction to the panel, that's a little bit funny.
I'll be honest, I'm not very familiar with how a comic writer instructs the penciller to layout and draw a comic. I feel this script would have benefitted from some context (to...you know, get the point across that this is Harley opining about what DC's creatives might to do to her), but to be frank, I don't know if that sort of detail is included in scripts or not.
Much like the recent Superman/Wonder Woman and Lobo controversies, this is more of a case of poor PR rather than poor creative choices by the creators. I'm a firm believer that no topic should be off limits in humor, but it's important to 1) know your audience and 2) provide enough set up to successfully deliver the punch line. Harley Quinn's traditionally been associated with a darker brand of humor, and I don't think a topic like suicide would be off limits for her. And let's face it, a comic about Harley Quinn complaining about what DC's creative team might do to her sounds hilarious. DC should have just mentioned that beforehand.
UPDATE: Here's a longer explanation from Palmiotti via his Facebook:
What is happening here is Harley is breaking the 4th wall...and talking to the audience about the writers of the book...and how nutty they are. We used the words "naked" because we did not want the artist to draw harley in her costume and we all know you can't show nudity in the comic...and we also know you have to cover her "parts" with objects and what not...but the idea was she is taking a bath with all this hardware around not believing how far the writers went. The whole story is one big long imaginary scene done by different artists of extremely absurd over the top circumstances.