A project by Michael Lee Lunsford – of Supernnormal Step webcomic fame – that sees some of our favourite women superheroes dressed in non-revealing costumes has been causing a splash on the internet today.
Point of this: An exercise in character design, attempting to clothe the heroines nearly all the way and not making them painted-on, while still keeping the look of their original costumes in some way. Hopefully keeping them looking as iconic as the originally were. Just showing what can be done with a costume breaking outside the barrier of the norm.
NOT the point of this: some moral code I’m trying to push on you.
Judging by the reaction on my own Twitter and Facebook, the overall response is incredibly positive and the negative responses somewhat revealing in themselves. There’s criticism that all the women are wearing trousers for example, or look frumpy, with fellow Beat writer Steve Morris noting that he was somewhat initially taken back by the fact that these women are drawn with realistic body shapes – not something superhero comic readers are perhaps used to.
Other negative comments followed the predictable paths of, “but superhero men are half naked too!”, “they look like men in drag!”, “prudes!”, and the ever popular, “TWILIGHT!!”. Criticising superhero outfits is, of course, a favourite past time of all superhero comics fans, but when it comes to the women characters such criticism can skate worryingly close to the sexist edge (if not outright flying right over it).
So it’s easy to see why Lunsford is keen to point out that he is not pushing a moral code here. Let’s remember too, that women who like these outfits are not out on a crusade to ban all bare legs and boobs from superhero comics (Vampirella’s famous costume for example was designed by the wonderful and feminist Trina Robbins). But it is nice to see that these characters remain as iconic and powerful without all having to bare skin. Just as all superhero men should not have to sport the Namor speedo look. (Although actually, another illustrator has done almost exactly that to further illustrate this very point!)
I really love these, and it’s heartening to see the positive reactions. In my own world, superheroes would have more than one outfit because while some days we all feel like sex kittens, other days we just want to wear our pyjamas and veg out while reluctantly saving the world. And who wants to wear the same thing every day? Stick to a colour scheme to be recognisable, but work that capsule wardrobe folk. Lunsford is now working on a series called Super-Casuals, starting with Spider-Man.
Some of these characters of course have had (or currently have) equally non-revealing outfits. I think what sets these illustrations apart though is that realism in body shapes that Stephen spotted, and the fact that these also look like everyday wear for everyday women. I would totally wear that Supergirl outfit (minus the cape!).
(And wouldn’t these be great for real all-ages comics that aren’t just for kids but are suitable for them too?!)