Review – Harley Quinn #56: ComicsGate, Er, CatGate

Comic Books DC This Week
Harley Quinn #56 variant cover, via DC Comics.

Harley Quinn #56 – Mark Russell, Writer; Mirka Andolfo, Artist; Arif Prianto, Colorist


Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: It’s About Ethics In Pet Shop…Journalism!

Ray: Sam Humphries takes a one-issue break from Harley Quinn to allow Mark Russell to tell a story that has a lot of relevance to today’s issues in the comic book industry. It’s been impossible to avoid the presence of Gamergate and Comicgate in the comic news media over the last year, due to just how loud they are, although the good news is that the vast majority of the industry has stood with the people they’re targeting. They’re often cartoonishly evil with their antics, which makes them ripe for targeting for someone like Russell, who is one of the most prominent satirists in comics at the moment. The problem is, the real thing can be so cartoonish that it’s hard to imagine how to make the comic version more so – and that’s a problem Harley Quinn #56 never really gets over. The story, slight as it is, starts with Harley dealing with severe allergies due to a tenant who has dozens of trained cats that he used in his burglaries. He’s over the legal cat limit, so she offers to find his other cats good homes.

That’s where the trouble begins. She gives one to her favorite hot dog guy, and comes back to find him being beaten by a group of alpha bros. It turns out that the pet shop industry in Coney Island is run by “traditionalists” who have cornered the market and won’t let anyone else sell pets. They also insist that the pet industry was much better when only men were allowed to sell pets, and they have Very Strong Opinions about which pets are acceptable for men to own. Harley picks a big fight with them, and soon they’re brawling through the streets of Coney Island. By the end of the issue, this devolves into a bunch of zombie-like trolls yelling slogans from the Comicgate playbook. There’s some fun visual gags, and I liked how the book makes clear that a lot of these goons are dudes trying to overcompensate for their own insecurities. They’re pitiable cartoons, not the warriors they see themselves as. But while this issue definitely means well, it still lacks the style and depth of Humphries’ run. Can you really parody something that’s already a sad joke?

That’s a lotta cats. Via DC Comics.

Corrina: Comicsgate and Gamergate are not sad jokes to the people who’ve received death threats, been doxxed, and driven off social media due to excessive harassment. Ask Chuck Wendig, who lost a gig writing Marvel Comics because of them.

Indeed, I would point to Comicsgate as part and parcel of the Incel movement and the geek version of the alt-right. They’re horrible but they’re not, unfortunately, laughable–they’re a problem that nearly all creators who are not straight-white-men have to deal with, even at just the annoyance level.

So a story that spouts their catch-phrases and has Harley Quinn beating them down? I’m pleased with that beyond measure because bringing these people out into the light and showing them as they are is necessary.

I’m also pleased that Russell unmasks these villains, showing them to be everyday people who’ve decided to think it catch-phrases rather than thinking at all. This is commentary beyond Comicsgate and targeted at the current political situation.

I predict panels from this issue will shortly become a meme in responses to Comicgate posts.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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2 thoughts on “Review – Harley Quinn #56: ComicsGate, Er, CatGate

  1. Harley Quinn 56 (again…)
    I still can’t get over the weird message of Harley Quinn issue 56 and how awful this comic book is.

    1. Using the Pet / animal rescue industry as a thinly disguised allegory for “male dominated” comic book industry makes no sense. Do they not know the stats on who does most animal rescues and usually have for a very long time?

    2. Pretending people just want men to be the only ones working on comics “because that’s how it always was” – The irony is DC has had lots of female writers, editors and artists over the last fifty years. The first to come to mind is Karen Burger (editor for The House of Mystery and later founder of Vertigo). There’s also artists like Colleen Duran, and artist / writers like Jill Thompson. Both were working in the industry since at least the early 90s.

    What they are doing is erasing brilliant, well-established, and talented women who have been in the industry for decades by pretending they didn’t exist or don’t exist. This isn’t right. In your effort to be “Woke” and “Empowered” you are diminishing the women who came before. And dismissing any woman who disagrees with you as a self-loathing misogynist who wants men in charge.

    This is insulting and ironically actually degrading to women, not supportive of us.

    1. Of the three women you cited, it’s true that Karen Berger had a tremendous career. It’s also true that she was basically forced out at DC Comics, while Eddie Berganza, with his long and documented history of sexually harassing women who worked for him and otherwise, wasn’t fired until Buzzfeed wrote a news story about it.
      As for Doran, she’s been more than open about her experiences with sexual harassment in the comic industry:

      Doran still gets it from CGs on Twitter. Just spend some time in her mentions. So…I’m not sure what your point is here about their achievements being erased. They’re well-remembered and excellent creators but they have their own problems with the industry and some even with CG.

      P.S. Also you forgot Louise Simonson, Ramona Fradon, and Ramona Fradon. The fact these amazing women could have careers isn’t evidence that CG isn’t a problem, it’s evidence that these women persevered in the face of odds that remain stacked against them. (Just look at how many women DC asked to be in the big Action Comics and Detective Comics #1,000 issues. So far, the count is two.)

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