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Name: Garth Cameron Graham
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Pants or No Pants?

No comic this week folks.  I’ve been swamped in paid work and some big social obligations have eaten up my time.  However, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about some things, and so I’m going to share them with you for whatever they’re worth.

Something I’ve been noticing a lot lately is criticism of female superheroes, how they’re written, how they’re dressed, and a lot of the criticism bothers me.  Some of its legit criticism, and some of its just plain stupid.  Most of the complaining, ironically, seems to come from men.  While the whole re-writing of Starfire’s polyamorous alien culture of love and emotion into a cold and detached “no man owns me” frat-boy-esque get your rocks off wherever you feel is just flat out disgusting and bad writing, whether or not Wonder Woman’s pants or lack there of is sexist is just ridiculous.

Let us be clear about something regarding superheroes:  they are ridiculous.  They are larger than life, smarter, stronger, and better people than any of us.  They are ideals for us to live up to.  They are symbols.  Icons.  But they are ridiculous and extreme.  They wear flashy costumes, dress in symbols and capes, and their vigilantism is utterly ridiculous.  Real crimefighters would never dress or act like any superhero even if they did have super powers.  So let us move beyond arguments like “it’s not practical for her to have bare legs.”

Superheroes should be sexy.  They are idolized versions of human beings, why should they not be sexy?  Should our perfect versions not be strong, smart, competent, and beautiful?  If the answer is “no, they shouldn’t,” you clearly need to read something other than superhero comics.  Because I think you’re missing the point.

However, what is attractive about and for men is not the same for women.  While a woman looks good in a cocktail dress, a man does NOT look good in the same dress, even when it fits him.  Contrariwise, a suit that looks right sharp on a man does not flatter a woman.  Simple truth.  But just so we’re clear, just because outfits and costumes for men and women are different, does not excuse some designs which are beyond ridiculous and surpass bad design and delve into poor taste.  The kind of taste you find in sleazy strip clubs.

So how do you design a super hero costume that is sexy, but not sexist?  I’m gonna show you!  Over the next week, I’m going to take two of our most iconic superheroes, one man, and one woman, and design sexy costumes for them that are not degrading but empowering.  More-over I’ll explain the principles behind and reasons for my design choices.

Stay tuned.

28 Responses to “Pants or No Pants?”

  1. Gimarie says:

    Heck yeah! I haven’t ever heard the argument that bare legs isn’t practical, but I’m certainly looking forward to your take on the matter!

  2. Ana says:

    Fantasy and science fiction is just that, Fiction.
    Anything in regard to “practical” doesn’t apply.
    They’re either ignorant or arguing for the sake to argue about things they don’t understand.

    You press a good point here. I’m also interested to see what you come up with.

  3. Lord B0unty says:

    “re-writing of Starfire’s polyamorous alien culture of love and emotion ”

    Technically *THAT* was the re-write, and one done to tone a book at at older teens into a cartoon aimed at the 7-10 crowd. In the original story, Starfire was sold as a child sex slave in exchange for them not killing off her family. She’s slept her way through a dozen of DCs B-list, including at least one storyline where she admits she’s just using him for sex.

    Now I will give that she apparently had tyhis deep soul-level bond with Nightwing, and having her ‘not remember’ that did twitch me just a little, but all in all I think the character is a lot closer to the original source material than people want to admit.

    Also, her in issue 2 really alters perceptions from “flighty” to hedonist

  4. Garth says:

    @Lord B0unty I’m not even attempting to compare the cartoon Starfire to her current incarnation in comic form, that’s just silly. But comparing Starfire ala the TeenTitans comic line (which I read enthusiastically until some crisis or other happened, shit made no sense, and Conner died) to the rebooted Starfire ala Red Hood and the Outlaws, she is colder and more emotionless. For whatever it’s worth, I don’t like what they’ve done with her character.

  5. Ezarkal says:

    Hahaha! Very nice!

    I can’t wait to see those costumes. It should be interesting!

    By the way, I have to say: That’s the best troll I’ve ever seen!!!!!! :D

  6. Gharp says:

    a) Looking forward to the costume designs, sounds very cool!

    b) re: “Real crimefighters would never dress or act like any superhero”
    Oddly enough, some of them actually do… We’ve got a local one here in Seattle who goes by the name Phoenix Jones for example.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenix_Jones

    (Granted, the costume is more practical(?) than sexy, but still…)

  7. FlyingGekko says:

    That’s some very wise words you have there – the superheroes are extreme because they are superheroes :) Amen.

    One thing that always gets me though (even if it is just fiction and all that) is superheroines in high heels. Seriously – how and whyy?? It always boggles my mind XD.

    Of course this could be because of my distaste of high heels and knowing how uncomfortable and painfull they can be to wear. Running in them? I’d be flat on my face with the second step and my feet so full of blisters that chasing after that bad guy would’nt even be on the top of my to-do list anymore…

  8. Asilin says:

    I get your point in that superheroes are flashier and sexier than normal because, hey, they’re superheroes, but can’t I have a model to look at and say, hey, I could be her? While the whole pants, no pants thing is silly, it still brings up a point. Most female superheroes are not practical. In any way, shape, or form. Their proportions are large, outfits revealing, and frankly, seem to rely mostly on their sexuality to get things done. And yes, I know that most of comics have been traditionally written and geared towards males, but girls like comics too. But I’m tired of seeing big breasted women in too tight clothing running around flirting with the bad guys to get things done.

  9. Hikari says:

    @Asilin
    I’ll admit that I’m much more familiar with the world of manga and anime than I am with American comics. But coming from the perspective of someone who has seen the ridiculous, larger than life, blown out of proportion anime (and liked a few of them) and then the smaller, niche ones that pull away from all those things that make anime famous in America, I have to say that if that’s how you feel, why don’t you just not read the superhero comics that are like that?

    I like to roll my eyes now and then at some of the ridiculousness in my own preferred realm of comics. Giant boobs are practically a /staple/ of Japanese comics, almost more so than American comics because Japanese women don’t tend to have them, so they’re exotic and that much more attractive. But there are those out there which make fun of these stereotypes. Where there’s that one character with the size E++ boobs, and the other characters say things like “how does she eat that much junk and stay skinny?” “All the nutrients go to her boobs.”

    It’s fun to rant sometimes about the things you find ridiculous, but when it comes down to it, just walk away and find something you /do/ like.

  10. Asilin says:

    @Hikari

    I read manga as well, and part of why I do is because of the lack I see in American comics. Want to know my favorite female super? Catwoman. Why? Because she’s about skill and stealth and yeah, a little bit of sex appeal, but she’s written to be an equal to Batman. Most other American supers are written simply for sex appeal. And it’s ridiculous.

  11. Kristin says:

    The Earthmother has Cardinal, a troll beat up Cailyn and the cutting edge fell into the stream, yet Wonder Woman has managed to distract us with her pants. lol Not to be insensitive about the wardrobe issue, and not to put any pressure on the storyteller, but I’d rather see another page than a superhero fashion show. (…Unless said fashion show stars Cailyn and Cardinal! xD That would be fun.) Regardless, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next!

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