DC Comics’ Harley Quinn Open Talent Search Sparks Controversy

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An open art submission for DC Comics' upcoming Harley Quinn #0 has sparked more controversy for the publisher.

Harley Quinn’s new series from Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, and Chad Hardin was announced at this year’s Comic-Con, with the opening issue to feature a number of artists. An Open Talent Search was announced, offering a full published page to applicants that would appear in Harley Quinn #0. The controversy came from the content of the page, which many took to be an overtly sexualized take on suicide. The panel in question is below:


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. 

You can check the full contest details at the bottom or at the link above if interested in applying.

While there are certainly issues to be had with this presumably inappropriate panel, without a description and narration the full impact of the story is obviously out of context. The way it was advertised on various media sites certainly didn’t help, with claims of ‘nude drawings of Harley Quinn for a job at DC comics’ only stoking the fires. Jimmy Palmiotti was quick to add some context to the panel:

Harley Quinn 0 Cover DC Comics Harley Quinn Open Talent Search Sparks Controversy“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 [Conner] 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. 

All I write are strong female characters. Ever. Here is the short list: Painkiller Jane, Powergirl, Tallulah Black, 21 Down, Terra, The Resistance, Ame-Comi girls, Triggergirl 6,, Alice in Monolith, The lead in Queen crab, Retrovirus, Misty Knight and Colleen Wing, Beautiful Killer, Gatecrasher, and so on …. For those worried about Harley Quinn.”

Jim Lee also went to Twitter in reaction to the controversy, using panel examples and basically giving a lesson in comic story construction in regards to the misconceptions this one page of art caused. Here is but a small snippet of his twitter comments:

I thought I would take a lil time to address something called context as it has come up a bit in discussions.

And I wanted to come up w/some examples to make a point.Comics are a unique art form created thru the interaction of words & pictures #duh

There are some great examples of wordless comics (#Gon) but most often, it’s the combination of words and pics that create story.

It is essential to understand that in the context of a standard 20pg story, seeing 1 pg of the whole offers just a peek of the whole issue

And ultimately it is impossible to ascertain the intent of an entire story from one page. #bearwithmethiswillbelong

It’s a very interesting read that you can find in full over on Geeks of Doom, complete with his various panel examples and more on the presentation of suicide and the nude Harley descriptions.

So was this really a controversy or simply an overblown media event that focused on an unknown context? That, as always, is on the reader to decide. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below. The actual contest announcement is below:

Harley Quinn by Bruce Timm DC Comics Harley Quinn Open Talent Search Sparks ControversyHarley Quinn is no stranger to a little breaking and entering for a good time and now, she’s going to help one talented artist break into comics with DC Entertainment’s Open Talent Search. That’s right, we’re looking for someone to draw one page of HARLEY QUINN #0 alongside some of comic’s most amazing talents, including Amanda Conner, Paul Pope, Bruce Timm, and a few other surprises, maybe even you!! 

Beginning this November, Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner will be writing the madcap adventures of Harley Quinn and they’ll need all the help they can get to handle her, so they’re opening the invitation to one undiscovered talent to join them. If you think you’ve got what it takes to be published in this special issue, then put on your working hat and start drawing now, because an opportunity like this doesn’t come along very often. 

Submissions can be Pencils, Pencils & inks or Pencils, inks & colors. Please keep in mind, the level of your work should be of professional-quality, so don’t feel the need to ink or color your work if you’re only confident in penciling. 

Oh, and did we mention that we’ll be reviewing the submissions ourselves to personally select Harley Quinn’s new creative accomplice? 

Harley Quinn. One page. Published work. Breaking into comics was never this fun. ;) 

— Jim & Dan

Check DC Comics for more on how to enter here.

Images: DC Comics

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