DC Comics Apologizes (Twice) For Not Understanding the Importance of Context

The last couple weeks have been a notorious nightmare for DC Comics, who executed a series of gigantic PR blunders and then watched as the Internet feasted on the juicy byproducts of the scandals. The famed comics company has since spoken out about the more recent of the scandals; specifically, how severely messed up it was to ask the public to draw a panel of a naked woman preparing to commit suicide ... without any context ... immediately before National Suicide Prevention Week.

A quick backstory: DC announced a contest (billed as “DC Entertainment’s Open Talent Search") to draw in new artistic talent. The contest included drawing several panels of longtime character Harley Quinn in ridiculous circumstances; the last of these circumstances had Quinn naked, in a bathtub, surrounded by blow dryers, toasters, and other electronic appliances, apparently preparing to kill herself.

Needless to say, this last panel did not sit well with the general public, especially in the wake of the controversy surrounding DC's refusal to let Batwoman marry her female partner. The panels were meant to highlight the character's longstanding habits of finding herself in over-the-top, morbid, generally physical and violent situations, but unfortunately for DC, the unveiling of the contest came at a time when those unfamiliar with the context of the character were already looking toward them with a critical eye. A storm of anger followed.

Jimmy Palmiotti, who is writing the ongoing Harley Quinn series, attempted to explain (and apologize for) their blunder earlier this week:

I should have put it clearly in the description that it was supposed to be a dream sequence with Amanda 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...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.

In a continued saga of misfortune for DC's PR team, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention had already stepped in to express their disapproval. They called DC's contest "insensitive and potentially dangerous," and decried their choice to not go with a more hopeful message.

And so DC apologized again:

The purpose of the talent search was to allow new artists an opportunity to draw a single page of a 20-page story. True to the nature of the character, the entire story is cartoony and over-the-top in tone, as Harley Quinn breaks the 4th Wall and satirizes the very scenes she appears in. DC Entertainment sincerely apologizes to anyone who may have found the page synopsis offensive and for not clearly providing the entire context of the scene within the full scope of the story.

It's hard to get much clearer than that. It's true that, despite their intentions, the initial lack of context was still a pretty massive mess up. But it's also notable that DC is not usually a company that publicly apologizes when their fans and detractors think they've done something wrong. That they felt the need to publicly express their regret over their mistake is a good thing; they screwed up, but for once, they seem to actually understand why it pissed everyone off so much. 

DC Comics still has a lot of issues it needs to deal with, but hey, at least they're not quite as gross in this case as they initially seemed. 

[Image: Cool Toy Review]

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