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Jim Lee Weighs In On DC’s Controversial ‘Harley Quinn’ Artist Tryout Script
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Harley Quinn #0 banner

Jim Lee, Co-Publisher of DC Comics, took to his Twitter tonight to publicly air his thoughts regarding the controversy surrounding the popular comics publisher’s current Open Talent Search artist contest, which was met with some backlash from those feeling that it was sexist and disrespectful to women.

The contest guidelines, which ran on DC’s website under the headline “Break into comics with Harley Quinn,” requires entrants to draw four panels featuring the DC female villain Harley Quinn attempting to commit suicide because of outlandish situations the DC writers put her in. The contest winner would then get to draw one page of DC’s Harley Quinn #0 by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner to be released this November.

DC’s panel descriptions, which include showing Harley Quinn naked in a bathtub surrounded by hanging electronics preparing to launch another suicide attempt, prompted public outcry accusing DC of being sexist towards women and insensitive about suicide (you can read of this over at The Daily Dot). The general interest women’s website Jezebel, which is part of Gawker Media, felt that DC’s contest was “disturbing” and “showcases DC’s blatant disregard for women.” This issue comes on the heels of another recent controversy for the publisher, who were accused of being homophobic for not letting Batwoman marry her same-sex partner, which prompted Batwoman‘s creative team of J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman to leave the title.

Since Twitter is not exactly the premiere platform for discussing delicate, polarizing subjects, we’ve compiled all of Lee’s tweets and photos all together here below. The end includes the sneak peek of Superman Unchained that Lee sent as his final tweet.

Read the full text of Lee’s explanation from Twitter here below:

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

ESPECIALLY when that sneak peek is just descriptions of the panels to be drawn without benefit of narration, captions or dialogue.

As a micro-example of this, let’s imagine a small 3 panel story using the following images: A,B and C

Jim Lee tweet 01

We can infer what the story is without dialogue. Kid gets up off floor, open fridge and drinks a vial of Venom which makes his body morph!

That said, we can also deduce other kinds of narratives based on new arrangements of the 3 panels A, B and C.

ACB give us perhaps a dream sequence or nightmare–

Jim Lee tweet 02

In A, the kid thinks if I don’t take my meds, then I will lose control over my body as seen in C

So Panel C becomes a vision he sees in his head. It is a visual bit of story which shows us the reader what his internal fears may be.

So he summarily does his body good and looks for his meds in panel B.

Less clear but still a valid arrangement would be C, B, A as we get a different “story”

Jim Lee tweet 03

Perhaps our hero comes in as his powers are wearing off…famished he heads to the fridge. Then collapses as he is exhausted.

Or maybe he dies in A unable to find the antidote in B. #awfulendingIknow #tragicexample

Truth is & I hope this didn’t come off too simplistically-there are so many many “stories” w/diff narrative intent that can be created.

And we don’t know if he is asleep in panel A or unconscious or dreaming or dead.

So you see how our understanding of each panel is profoundly affected by the panel which precedes it and the one that follows.

And the same applies to an entire single page within a story of 20 pages.

Throw on top of all this that once you add dialogue and captions, the narrative and intent can go an infinite # of possible directions.

For instance (pls forgive my dialogue–a writer, clearly I am not):

Jim Lee tweet 04

or this (#notToddKlein either)…

Jim Lee tweet 04a

So w/o the context of the dialogue or preceding or following imgs, it is near impossible to glean what a description of a scene is “naked”

Which brings me to the next hot button.

Asking an aspiring artist to draw a female character taking a bath carries with a lot of baggage. Fully unintended btw.

I know Amanda&Jimmy who wrote the HarleyQuinn tryout pg & I know their intent was 2break the 4th wall & poke some fun at their own expense

It was not to “sexualize suicide” or even create a story about suicide.

Are these memes about suicide or are they about the extremes of frustration we all face in our daily lives?

Jim Lee meme 01

Jim Lee meme 02

The last…

Jim Lee meme 03

I can assure you that Harley Quinn #0 is not about suicide. Not even close.

So many of our lives including mine have been affected by such true acts of despair.

As far as the objectification of Harley Quinn by having her take a bath naked. It comes down to how the artist interprets that shot.

Any talented artist can draw it a hundred ways, none of which are demeaning to women. #ultimategoal

I think if an aspiring artist feels the approach is creatively wrong-he or she is free 2push bk, discuss&rework w/his or her writer&editor

It happens ALL THE TIME in comics. I regularly interpret & change visual elements in every script given to me.

Have since day 1. With collaboration & communication w/my writer & editor of course. It’s the challenge of bettering ideas.

But that’s a whole other bag of worms…back to Superman Unchained for me.

Jim Lee tweet 08

Thanks for following along–much appreciated #sneakpeek :D

Jim Lee Superman Unchained sneak peek

Harley Quinn #0 cover by Amanda Conner

Harley Quinn #0

Follow me on Twitter.

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