Monday, September 16, 2013

Who's REALLY Committing Suicide, Here?

Recently--like seriously fifteen minutes ago--I learned that DC Comics is running contest entitled "Break Into Comics". Wow! That's exciting.  I've drawn three comic books, so the aspiration is there, although the skill isn't, even as I maintain this alleged art blog. They were amateurish, done on 8.5"x11" printer paper for small assignments in high school and in college. I think I might have colored one in MS Paint? So I'm excited. I like contests AND external validation, so I thought maybe I'd enter. There's no way I'd win, really. I don't think I'm equipped to draw any DC titles, but where's the harm in entering? I'll whip up a page, no problem.

But then I read the details of the contest. You, the contestant, must draw Harley Quinn, holding a cell phone tower above her head, trying to get struck by lightning. Then her, trying to get eaten by alligators. Panel three is Harley tickling a whale for some reason. And finally, Harley committing suicide by getting naked and dumping a bunch of appliances into a tub.

This is a bad, dumb contest. Put aside the fact that DC got a fair amount of backlash for Harley's new design both in Arkham Asylum and The Suicide Squad. We'll ignore the fact that creative staff has departed for creative differences regarding gender and sexual identity inclusion.

At it's heart, this is a company asking people to apply there, by telling prospective artists to draw a woman committing suicide in four hilarious ways. Okay, so they're not actually hilarious, although it's pretty clear that they were meant to be. That somebody--possibly a human being!--sat down and thought of four funny ways for a woman to kill herself is kind of weird and gross all on its own.

Especially because sensitive subject matter like suicide is hard to make funny. I won't say impossible, but there are correct channels to go through and criteria to meet in order to make it funny. You have to distance yourself from the reality of the situation, for the absolute horror of death and the incredible suffering a suicide victim must be going through to make it an option. Being dead isn't the punchline to a suicide joke. But then there's this sentence: "We are all watching the moment before the inevitable death." There is a voyeuristic element of anticipation in that sentence that completely terrifies me. That might be the second clearest way to tell somebody "I have watched a snuff film before." It makes the fact that this is a tortured psyche desperately trying to end her own life horrifyingly real, but we're intended to still feel excited about seeing it.

There has to be a better way to make my point. So, to underscore how creepy it is, let's do the same thing with The Joker. It's not going to make it funny, but I kind of hope it makes it clear how genuinely gross this is.

We are watching the moment before the inevitable death. - See more at:

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