You know you’re in for trouble, when the author has difficulty logging into the blog site. Anyway, it’s time for a nuther exciting edition of DC Talk – with Hal! Where Comical Musings turns their most dysfunctional contributor loose on the most dysfunctional publisher.
Golly, when I agreed to be the “DC guy” for the blog I figured DC would provide me with enough fodder to pull together a couple posts each month; but I woefully underestimated them. I have to run to keep up with the pace at which DC is able to make questionable decisions that merit discussion. Let me clarify from the start that this column is not meant to be another tabulation of DC’s latest gaffes. That niche has already been filled (and it’s probably more professionally and regularly maintained than I’ll ever do it.) I am a fan of DC. I see a lot of myself (both strengths and weaknesses) in their characters and in the way they run their company. I’m rooting for them to succeed. But in the last week they’ve done a couple things that have made me grit my teeth in anticipation of awkward repercussions.
If you’ve been following along, over the past year and a half DC has garnered a fare amount of publicity for incorporating LGBT characters and for hiring writers who are not popular with the LGBT community. But while all this went on, Kate Kane continued to fight crime in Gotham City as one of DC’s preeminent heroines. Kane not only lived up to the mantle of Batwoman, but she held the title role in one of the best written comics in DC’s New52. Oh, and she’s an open lesbian. But on September 5, J. H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman, the co-writers of Batwoman, announced that they would be walking away from the title, and the reasons for their departure lay at the feet of editorial decisions made by DC.
In my opinion, DC’s most egregious offense was that they put the kibosh on Killer Croc’s origin story. (I think Croc is an under-utilized character, and I would have loved to see that team explain how he came to be.) They also meddled with Batwoman‘s current story arc in a significant, but undisclosed way. However, those two complaints have largely been brushed aside. For the most part, people are up in arms because DC said that Kate couldn’t marry her fiancée, Maggie Sawyer.
DC has specified that they are opposed to the marriage part, not the gay part. Participating in the DC Nation panel at the Baltimore Comic Con, DC co-publisher Dan DiDio clarified that DC stands by Batwoman’s orientation, but members of the “Bat Family” (which sounds like an orientation in and of itself) don’t get to have happy personal lives.
Now, I can kind-of understand where they’re coming from. It may not make sense to everyone, but they want to maintain a dark, tragic component to all the bat-identified heroes and heroines. Yet even with double vision, I can see how this would be perceived by the public… especially in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA earlier this summer. I will NOT get into politics here, but the reality is that marriage between two women is currently recognized in some states. If you knew you weren’t going to allow Kate to marry due to her bat-orientation, then you shouldn’t have let her get engaged. And if you didn’t foresee that it would become a point of contention, then let her get married. You can still maintain her tragedy-cred if her spouse passes away after the nuptuals. (PS: DC, you already killed off the fiancée of a high-profile gay character. Do something different.)
In the wake of this upheaval, DC decided to smooth the ice by having a contest where entrants could potentially become future artists for DC. All you have to do is draw Harley Quinn attempting suicide in four scripted scenarios…
including naked, in a bathtub, preparing to electrocute herself with toasters and other appliances.
I’m really tempted to give a history of Harley Quinn as a character, but I think neither of us have the interest at this point. Suffice it to say that Harley was created as a acolyte for the Joker; forever adoring him, but never capturing his affection. I liked Harley in the animated series, but I have really been put-off by the evolution of her persona in recent years; especially the oversexualization of her character in the New52. And that seems to be what’s at issue with this latest solicitation; people are claiming that DC is sexualizing suicide.
In response, titan of illustration, Jim Lee took to twitter to explain that without story context or text treatment, the illustrations on any page cannot be said to definitively advocate for any point of view. And (again keeping in mind that I am perpetually biased in favor of DC) I can see that. Reading the contest announcement, it sounds to me like this page fits into a larger story. DC isn’t interested in finding the person who can best draw self-induced snuff porn, but they picked a page through-which artists could demonstrate their ability to convey a range of expressions and emotions.
Nevertheless, I am cursed with the ability to view DC’s actions from the perspective of the uninitiated; and this looks bad. I strongly suspect that DC has an explanation for how this is appropriate, but without any context included in the contest prompt it is impossible for us to know.
I’m more dismayed by the nonsensical nature of the description of the other three panels:
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… (So she’s developed super strength and is lifting an entire cellphone tower?)
Harley is sitting in an alligator pond, on a little island with a suit of raw chicken on… (ala Lady Gaga?)
Harley is sitting in an open whale mouth, tickling the inside of the whale’s mouth with a feather… (because if I were going to commit suicide the first two things I would look for are a whale and a feather.)
The “suit of raw chicken” is my personal favorite. If I were DC I would have just requested that artists send in illustrations of Harley Quinn wearing a “suit of raw chicken,” and I would hire the artist that could illustrate this nonsensical prompt in a way that was clear to the audience.
In a world where women in refrigerators is a trope, this contest seems like a bad call, especially without some contextual exposition to explain what is going on.[sigh]
They say that no publicity is bad publicity, but this current iteration of media churn makes me wonder… Does this keep DC’s name in the public eye, or does this distract from DC’s Villains’ month (is DC just playing along by assuming the role of villain themselves, or are they trying to draw attention away from what has been described as 3D-nado?) It makes me wonder, but it keeps me reading, and I hope it does the same for you – on this blog if not in DC’s publications…
Forever Evil #1 was great, while also confusing (Ultraman pushes the moon to provide a permanent eclipse, but he was clearly in the sun as he did so…?) And I look forward to the continuation of Villains’ month (especially Dial E!!!) So keep it tuned here for your latest (semi-current) update on what’s going on in DC, or all around the comics universe in general.
If you have strong opinions about topics covered in this blog, feel free to leave a comment below and we will be glad to converse with you. Thanks for reading; and if you think you are a Bat-o-sexual, try your best to avoid being happy.