Friday, September 27, 2013

The Hassle with Harley

It's funny because I'm "Mr. J" too.

Avid comics reader on the Internet have likely heard about DC Comic’s controversial Talent Search contest involving the Joker's ever perky but long suffering henchwoman Harley Quinn committing multiple suicide attempts. 

While I had initial reservations about taking part in this at first but I didn't think I could afford to pass up the opportunity of getting my work in front of an editor of a big company and how it could potentially lead to steady, paying work.

While there was questionable content in this story, I think the experience was a good one for me as I learned a bit about my own skills and limitations as an artist in the process.

The script itself lent itself well to my illustrative style since the four panels were all separate actions. 

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. 

I went with a vertical panel to best showcase the lightning. The composition itself was meant as a homage the final shot of the opening to "Batman: The Animated Series", reflecting on the character's origins in that show.  

Harley is wearing a raincoat in this scene. I thought it might be fun for her to change outfits as she moved from situation to situation. Also because the entry rules for the competition said they didn't want any cosmetic changes made to Harley's existing costume, but didn't provide a picture of her current look. Given that she's had about three different costume changes since the reboot of 2011 plus her variant look from the "Arkham" video games, you'd that her appearance is something they'd want to set straight. So my plan was to conceal her duds as much as possible. 

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.

I took a good deal of creative license with this panel as Harley is standing, screaming and ringing a dinner bell to try and get the alligator's attention. Also she has sausage links around her neck rather than chicken tied to her because I thought that suspended meat would not only be funnier, but also read better.

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.

This panel was one of the most fun to draw what with all the craggy bits on the whale and its excess spit. I actually inked the whale on its own because I enjoyed it so much. 

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.

I didn't want to show much of Harley's body because I didn't want a piece about death to come off as "fanservicey". That and the more submerged she was, the less I had to draw!

I wasn't confident in the rendering of her "This is the end" face, so I added the bit of her popping to soap bubble to try and drive to point home better. Then I had Harley pull the rope to drop the appliances into the tub with her foot because I thought it would show her being playful to the end. 

It took about two-three weeks to complete this page (although I was juggling a number of other projects at the same time) so I may not have the speed necessary to complete a monthly book. Also I was frequently hung up on details, particular the anatomy which appears rather rigid. This is likely a result of my dependence on model pictures and piecing together multiple reference photos to create the desired poses. Most of my time during pre-production focusing on the composition of the panels than on practicing the poses. So don't be surprised if I start posting more gesture drawings in the coming month to try and improve. 

While I did enjoy planning how each panel would flow into the next, the level of attention I assigned to the space rather than on Harley herself suggests I may be better suited to more illustration based projects in the future.


  1. I like those a lot. I think you nailed it and I hope it gets you some more feedback. I enjoyed reading about the process you went through to complete these works. When is the deadline?

    1. Thanks for the encouragement Kal! I always enjoy tooting my own horn when it comes to talking about the process. I put these up before the deadline in hopes that I would get some feedback, maybe make some changes before I have to send it in on Tuesday.

  2. What a very interesting concept for a contest! I do like what you came up with though, it is full of creativity and a nice wink. Like Kal I love reading about your process. I think it is just so fascinating. I wish you the best of luck with these, I just see so much talent with your work. I hope you are doing well!

    1. Your compliments are like steps on an upward leading ladder and are always welcome.

      As for how I'm doing, I may just be doing a contribution for the Cool & Collected magazine, but I don't want to give too much away just yet! Thanks for asking.

    2. Well I am glad! And that is so awesome that you are doing something for the Cool and Collected Magazine! That has made it even more of a reason to pick it up when it is out. I can't wait to see what you will be contributing! Talk to ya later!


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