CBS's The Big Bang Theory tackled one of the biggest issues in comics using the help of a very saucy piece of artwork by Harley Quinn co-writer Amanda Conner. In this week's episode, Penny, Bernadette and Amy are asked to help make Stuart's comic book store more appealing to female customers. Amy suggests taking down artwork that objectifies women and points to a large, framed picture drawn by Conner featuring a scantily clad woman on her hands and knees with a leash around her neck. The full image can be seen below.
Conner is best known for using nuanced and humorous facial expressions in her artwork, which has appeared in series like Power Girl and Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre. She currently co-writes the popular DC book Harley Quinn with her husband Jimmy Palmiotti, Conner, a fan of The Big Bang Theory, drew the piece specifically for the show, using originally designed characters. Paul Mounts colored the artwork. Per Palmiotti's Facebook page, Conner kept the original art for the pin-up.
The Big Bang Theory tackled the issue of inclusiveness in the comics industry head on, alluding to the growing female demographic of comics reader and the push by many comics professionals to make comics more inclusive for members of both genders. Female readers are considered the fast growing demographic among comics readers, with some reports suggesting that as many as 50% of all comics readers are women. Both Marvel and DC recently added several more books starring female characters in the hopes of attracting more customers and female-centric books like Bitch Planet and Nimona (both of which were created by female creators) have attracted avid followings and critical acclaim by both comics critics and mainstream media.
In the Big Bang Theory, the female characters eventually come to the conclusion that it isn't the store that's keeping female customers away, but rather the store's owner, Stuart, who's portrayed as both creepy and pathetic (usually for laughs). This mirrors many women's real life experiences with sexual harassment at comic related events and stores, which has led to many stores and conventions adopting a more stringent sexual harassment code.
Conner isn't the first comic artist whose work has appeared on The Big Bang Theory. In addition to the many comics that appear in passing on the show, DC co-publisher Jim Lee once drew a picture of Big Bang Theory star Johnny Galecki as a Thundercat for a gag in an episode.