|Final coloured cover art for the comic book HUMANS VS ZOMBIES: THE BEGINNING.|
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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. She is looking at us like she cannot believe what she is doing. Beside herself. Not happy.
Harley is sitting in an alligator pond, on a little island with a suit of raw chicken on, rolling her eyes like once again, she cannot believe where she has found herself. We see the alligators ignoring her.
Harley is sitting in an open whale mouth, tickling the inside of the whale's mouth with a feather. She is ecstatic and happy, like this is the most fun ever.
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.
First of all, let me say this page was a real challenge.
It's an odd choice for a try-out page, as it doesn't feature straightforward panel-to-panel storytelling. Four panels, showing Harley Quinn attempting to kill herself in four outlandish scenarios plucked straight out of a Wile E. Coyote cartoon. The challenge was to make the panels part of a cohesive whole, rather than four individual pin-ups. The challenge was to tell the story.
Composition is really my thing. A panel, the whole page, it has to balance. It's difficult to explain, but... I know it when I see it. I'm pleased that, to date, I've not seen anyone approach the third panel the way I have. My fourth panel's viewpoint is also quite original.
The panel description that has gained the most notoriety across the internet is no. 4.
FYI this page was scripted by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner. A good script should give the artist all they need to know in order to draw the page as best they can. The script describes Harley sitting naked in a bath. It does not describe Harley posing suggestively while rubbing soap between her breasts. Many detractors have seen the word NAKED and presumed the worst. Predominantly, I'm guessing, people that have never read a comic book script, let alone drawn a page based on one.
The script has simply informed us that the character is out of costume, in a bath. The claim of "sexualising suicide" is down to an individuals own misconception. There is nothing in the description to suggest anything erotic, or even vaguely attractive about suicide. When I thumbnail a page, I usually come up with a handful of compositions before- generally- going with the first one. It's just the way it goes. I came up with 6 alternate compositions for panel 4, and I went with my second. None of them showed anything more of Harley than a head, an arm and part of a leg (in this case, a foot). Yet, when looking at my page, there is no doubt she is lying naked in the bath. She's actually showing more skin in panels 1, 2 & 3- again, nothing erotic about those panels either.
I got into an argument on a message board about this, where someone said that just because I interpreted the page this way, it doesn't mean other artists won't just draw Harley Quinn in a succession of provocative images.
I replied, that was the difference between a good artist and someone not cut out for the job.
That was the challenge.