DC Comics, Accidentally Queer Coding In Article About Queer Coding?

DC Comics ran a rather good little article on the DC Blog about queer coding and queer baiting in comic books by Esper Quinn, stating upfront that "queer coding is a survival tactic" but that queerbaiting ""baits" a queer audience with themes and character interactions that appeal while never delivering on these themes, or closing their portrayal with a heterosexual relationship to cement characters as straight." Esper states that "we need to continue to move past queer coding" because "not only has culture and the comics audience always been at least partially gay: it's also getting gayer" and that "queer coding was a method that writers used to explore LGBTQIA+ themes they were culturally or professionally not allowed to explore" but that this is no longer sufficient. DC Comics concludes the essay with the following visual from Harley Quinn #25 by Chad Hardin, as if to suggest that things are getting better in that regard.

DC Comics, Accidentally Queer Coding In Article About Queer Coding?

Only for Chad Hardin to pop up and say "I have the unedited art if you want to post that too," before doing just that himself and adding "It is always easier to ask forgiveness than get permission" which clearly shows that the art was edited from a full snog to the published kiss on the cheek.

DC Comics, Still Queer Baiting In An Article About Queer Baiting

Which instantly reminded me of when DC Comics insisted that Midnighter no longer give Apollo a kiss on the cheek when he departed a scene, in Jenny Parks a couple of decades ago. The original artwork was bought by former Bleeding Cool writer Andrew Wheeler who now writes for DC Comics. But we can now add these comparative artworks into the litany of what we have called the straightwashing of Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn in the comics.

We've looked at the portrayal of Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy as a couple when DC were pushing the Birds Of Prey And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn movie. Portrayed as a non-monogamous romantic couple in the comics for years, including the scene above, the relationship was removed from the Harley Quinn comic book series without note. The Harley Quinn & Poison Ivy mini-series which portrayed them more as a Thelma And Louise-style couple concluded with a page-splash peck-on-the-forehead that screams out that it was also redrawn at the last moment.On Valentine's Day, DC posted Valentine's Day-themed posts that singled Harley Quinn out as being single. Changing the description of the pair on a statue based on artwork by Emanuela Lupacchino and sculpted by Jack Mathews, in a post that will have been approved by DC PR."the first official statue featuring a same-sex couple" was described by DC Comics a week later on Valentine's Day as "We all know Valentine's Day is usually about celebrating love, and these two characters know what it means to be there completely for someone else. They're the epitome of what it means to be a loyal best friend above all else and always a shoulder to cry on in times of need… That is why this statue is the perfect Valentine's Day reminder that to love someone can mean many things. But above all else, it's to always be there for the people you care deeply about, in good times and bad." Someone at DC Comics was told to write that, and did. There was more to come. In the comics, Harley Quinn was suddenly dating Booster Gold without mention of Harley Quinn, with the writer forbidden to bring back Poison Ivy in the series, and even forbidden from talking about her.  It is believed that DC Comics, editorially speaking, wanted Poison Ivy to return to a more traditional supervillain role, which also meant not being in a relationship with Harley Quinn, who had been transformed into an anti-hero. All the time, Warner Bros were showing the pair develop as a couple in the Harley Quinn TV show, even giving them an almost-marriage in the final episode. Then last year, there was a bloodbath amongst DC Comics executives and editorial. And suddenly things changed. The DC Comics website featured an article, The Importance of Harley and Ivy's Queer Animated Romance by Kat Calamia. While separated, the comics remembered that Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn were a thing. We have a comic book based on the animated series, focussing on the pair very much as a sexual couple. And they are featured in DC Comics Pride publications and imagery, with one scene by Mariko Tamaki, Amy Reeder, Marissa Louise actually taking the piss out of the way DC Comics had been portraying them in recent years.

DC Comics, Still Queer Baiting In An Article About Queer Baiting

Though even this DC Pride imagery…

DC Comics, Still Queer Baiting In An Article About Queer Baiting

…was bizarrely cropped to keep Harley Quinn but leave off Poison Ivy for a social media version of that image.

DC Comics, Still Queer Baiting In An Article About Queer Baiting

Probably purely for dimension reasons but you can see why some folk may be sensitive to this after everything else DC Comics had been doing in recent years. Now… will the Batman comics catch up with this new spirit at DC Comics?

Enjoyed this? Please share on social media!

About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
Comments will load 8 seconds after page. Click here to load them now.