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Supergirl's Guide to short skirts and the active lifestyle


Last week, NPR, of all places, made a big whoop-t over Supergirl finally deciding to stop flashing everyone — apparently the decision came by editorial fiat:

The man in question: DC Comics editor Matt Idelson. The pronouncement he issued was just eight words long, but such is its paradigm-shattering power that it will surely stand one day in the annals of comic book history, alongside “With great power comes great responsibility,” “Truth, Justice and the American Way,” and “Shazam!”

Thus spake Idelson:

“I never want to see Supergirl’s panties again.”

A profile in courage, indeed. The story was drawn from a Newsarama story covering the be-pantsing, which quoted artist Jamal Igle:

Idleson’s suggestions about making Supergirl’s costume a little more presentable was reinforced by a critic that Igle could not ignore. “I showed one of those older issues to my mom, and she said, ‘She looks like a hooker.’ That’s the exact opposite of what you should be doing. In my head, because Kara is Clark’s cousin, she’s a member of the Superman Family. She wears the ‘S’. That’s supposed to stand for something.”

Frankly, we’re all for a bit more modesty on Supergirl’s part, and glad that the biking shorts option was chosen rather than choosing, say, a Skort.

There is a third option, which we’re surprised wasn’t chosen, though. Artists could just stop drawing Supergirl’s panties. Or stop drawing her looking like a hooker. Because, it CAN be done.

  1. I’d pick the third option, too. I think it’s totally okay for a woman to look sexy and strong, without looking like a hooker or showing panties. However, there are many female (and male) athletes who ware very little, because it inhibits their movement to ware more. The “pantie shots” never bothered me with Super Girl or say Sailor Moon, because I always put it into context with ice skaters, who’s skirts are always flying up. My mind just didn’t go there until others started complaining about it, but once they did, it seems that there were all these artists that cropped up, wanting to exploit it. Now, it’s all anyone sees. Sure, I realize now that Sailor Moon was very tongue in cheek about it, but let remember my days of innocence. As for today, I think it’s good DC is trying.

  2. FBpCM, there IS a noticeable difference in what some male and female athletes wear, and mostly, it comes down to men being in charge of what they are ‘required’ to wear. Women athletes have always been forced to wear what is appealing to the male senses and what looks good on camera, as opposed to the men, who basically wear stuff that feels good.

    While I agree that she CAN be drawn less sexily, the thing is, that honestly, it probably sells. Personally, I like the change. The biker shorts are a decent idea, but why not just substitute pants and the belly-shirt serves no purpose. I’d be amazed if they did away with showing her flesh all over the place. Same ole, same ole; old, white, sexist men in charge, old, white, sexist men in charge……

  3. Ah… gotta love Moms. They speak truth, especially to their children.

    That NPR report is well-written and worthy of some comicbook journalism award.

    Myself, I would prefer a full suit, similar to Superman, no skirt or trunks. Something like Saturn Girl, but with a cape. Otherwise, she looks like a cheerleader. (The Johnny DC Supergirl was well done, and one of the better Supergirls. Definitely worth an action figure!)

  4. The recent Superwoman costume (as seen in Supergirl) was pretty cool, too (if you ignored how unlikely it would be that the hood would stay on her head while she was flying full speed, of course).

  5. “She wears the ‘S’. That’s supposed to stand for something.”


    Come on, Igle, you’re making it too easy!

    (And I didn’t even mention some ruder words that came to mind.)

  6. Sadly, there were a number of fans who were angered by Igle’s decision.

    I’m not making this up. This was kind of old news before NPR picked it up, and oh the hue and cry by people who could no longer see the underwear of an imaginary teenager.

  7. Michael, I do understand your point, but it’s only fare to point out that there are a lot of good looking men and women who do like to feel and be sexy, and in a tasteful way. The belly-shirt that serves no purpose might be an example of this. As far as the difference between what female and male athletes where, I will concede that there is some of what you say, but when I think about sports like ice skating, gymnastics, or competitive dancing, I think that the clothes are equally “sexy.” It’s just that what looks sexy on a woman, might not work for a man in the same way. I’m sure a mail gymnast’s would be freed up a little more if he wore a legless unitard, but his masculinity may (unjustly of course) come into question. I think many of these issues come down to how prudish or respectful the general public can be about these subject matters. I’d say lets ask Super-Girl how she feels, but she’s just pen and ink on paper.

  8. You mean those pink and blue thong panites with a pink “S” on them that you can get at Target?
    It mystifies me that Time Warner/DC will market Supergirl as nothing more than a pink “S” on girls underwear, tank tops and other accessories but in no way markets the actual character or her book. Has anyone else noticed that?

  9. Michael said:

    “Sadly, there were a number of fans who were angered by Igle’s decision.”

    It wasn’t Igle’s decision, so perhaps they shouldn’t be mad at him.

  10. I’ve noticed that Supergirl, as a cartoon character, appears on a variety of things aimed at preteen girls, but the comic book character is drawn to appeal to guys. I wonder if a SUPERGIRL series has ever been written to appeal to girls in the way that, say, a paperback series for teenage girls would be.


  11. SRS — because THAT WOULD BREAK THE INTERNET IN HALF. How dare you suggest NOT ONLY TAKING AWAY SG’s PANTIES but taking away THE REST OF THE FANTASIES from her core audience — middle aged pervs.

  12. I certainly wouldn’t want to promote breaking the Internet in half — but I wonder why a writer would want to do Supergirl, if not in ways that would appeal to teenage girls. There has been some back and forth on the subject online. From Curlee:

    I think that DC honestly believes they are appealing to two demographics:
    Pubescent teenage boys with super hero fixations, and girls. I would assume they’re hitting the first for sure, but the second? Does anyone truly think that stuffing an unattainable barbie-like plasticine nymph into a revealing costume sells merchandise?
    There is a third demographic that DC is making sales to: lonely virgins ages 30 – 55 who teeter on the verge of pedophilia.

    From Rachelle Goguen:

    Shut up, Eddie. I’m not reading Supergirl for the same reason I don’t read the new Flash comics, Batman Confidential, or the Martian Manhunter series: they suck ass. I don’t care that this comic is MADE for ladies so therefore I SHOULD like it. I don’t. It doesn’t interest me and I am busy spending money on and reading the comics that you actually bother to put good writers and artists on. Because, and maybe I shouldn’t speak for all women here because I don’t know, I think that we appreciate…quality. You know, good stories, good art, good characters, and costumes that don’t make you throw up in your mouth.

    From Mark Sable:

    Then there’s a separate issue of how her proportions are depicted. Without commenting on specific artists, not everyone has the same grasp of anatomy (some artists can’t draw, say…feet). And comics is often cartooning more than it is illustration – meaning certain features are exaggerated for effect, not realism. I agree that this exaggeration is used far too often for titilation, and as a result drives female readers away.
    As far as what Supergirl wears, personally I don’t know that I’d choose that outfit. But, in real life, if I told a girl she looked like a stripper because she chose to expose her midriff I’d get slapped and rightly so.

    There was considerable online response to a piece from Eddie Berganza in DC NATION #45, in which he apparently asked female readers to buy Supergirl comics, but I couldn’t find the actual piece online.


  13. “I’ve noticed that Supergirl, as a cartoon character, appears on a variety of things aimed at preteen girls, but the comic book character is drawn to appeal to guys. I wonder if a SUPERGIRL series has ever been written to appeal to girls in the way that, say, a paperback series for teenage girls would be.”

    From time to time, yes, but not as often as she should be, which it to say, all the time. I don’t want to see Super-Girl in that other way. I want to see her as a well rounded stable, “human being.” I’m a guy and I want to see her that way. I’d buy Super-Girl comics if she was always that way.

  14. Since she’s got shorts on, why on earth does she need the skirt? Essentially, just go back to Supergirl in the seventies. Which was a blue blouse with the S shield on the left and the red shorts–technically they were hot pants, but they were never really drawn that way. Looked more like red tennis shorts. Why complicate things?


  15. Synsider: Using those quotes is AWFULLY misleading, as they all refer to comics released over two years ago by an entirely different creative team. Judging the entire existence of the modern Supergirl based on Jeph Loeb and Ian Churchill’s unreadable sexist garbage is horribly unfair, especially given what a fun, straight-up action-adventure title the Sterling Gates/Jamal Igle run has been. It’s like night and day.

  16. Fans are still reacting negatively to Supergirl’s costume, despite the alterations. Kirk Warren saith:

    While I like the change over to the shorts (it’s practical and makes more sense than fighting crime in a mini-skirt, especially when you can fly), it doesn’t fix the underlying problem that this costume is just plain bad. I’m not the type of person that gets all worked up over gratuitous T&A or makes a big to do about how women are generally objectified in comics all that often, but Supergirl’s costume just plain does not work for me. It’s trashy and deliberately sexed up for an underaged, teenage girl. To fight crime in it is just plain ridiculous and I shake my head everytime I see her in a comic.

    If Supergirl’s stories were written for teenage girls, I wouldn’t buy them, of course, but I’m not going to buy stories about a teenage girl that are written for men, either.

    BTW, artist Bob Oksner had a sense of humor. See this cover for ADVENTURE COMICS #420, featuring Supergirl.


  17. Well, I guess we’d all do it differently. I like reading stuff made for all different age groups and sexes, and would read it if it were geared towards preteen girls. That’s one of the kinds of books I’d like to work on, myself. I’m sorry to hear that there are people who wouldn’t give it a chance because it was written by a 33 year old man. I love reading books with male leads, written by women, and I think most of them work very well so why can’t it work the other way around? I remember telling my dad that I wanted to do comics. He’d say, “but comics are for kids.” I’d then say, “Do you think everything made for kids is made by kids?” Of course not. Artists who feel they have something to say to an audience they respect, will do just fine writing and drawing books for that audience no matter who they are.

  18. The comparison to ice skaters doesn’t really hold up IMHO. If an artist chooses to draw an an upskirt shot then he is deliberately drawing attention to it for the reader to view the pose for as long as he/she wants. If ice skaters flash their knickers it’s for a brief moment; an unavoidable part of their sport. The comparison only works if people freeze frame a skater in mid-flash. Doesn’t sound so innocent now does it?

    It’s all a bit sleazy really. Haven’t followed the comic but isn’t this Supergirl only 15 or something? (I may be mistaken. I hope I am!)

  19. Ray, I know a LOT of girls who wear shorts or leggings under their skirts. It’s a fashion thing, and I think it’s a good idea for Supergirl to have that for all of the reasons that have been posted here.

    I do think it would be a good idea for the people drawing Supergirl to actually SEE what teenage girls are wearing and base her costume on that. I don’t mean what the teenage girls on MTV are wearing.

  20. I seem to recall that two years ago when Renato Guedes was slated to take over Supergirl (before he was moved over to Superman) he went ahead and gave her shorts, too. Check out his awesome sketches: http://livingbetweenwednesdays.blogspot.com/2007/05/new-and-improved-supergirl.html (pops)

    He also gave her a longer skirt, an ankle length cape, and a body type and body language that made her seem like a teenager. The sketch of her just sitting around clutching bunches of cape is my favorite.

  21. Kyle Baker and I talked about this four years ago:

    BAKER: What the hell’s a five-year-old girl supposed to do? When you make Wonder Woman a book that appeals to grown men, what the hell are you doing? Supergirl, same thing. I keep looking up Supergirl’s skirt. I shouldn’t know about Supergirl’s panties, I really shouldn’t. But I do. And so do you. What’s that about?

    FARAGO: You should have to guess, you should have to use your imagination.

    BAKER: I’ve seen Supergirl’s ass. She’s like fourteen. (laughs uproariously) We’ve really gone off on a tangent this time.

    (The whole interview’s here, if you’re interested: http://www.comicsreporter.com/index.php/resources/interviews/2251/ )

  22. When I heard this news I was all for the shorts, but those shorts look terrible!! Why are they red? They stand out to much. They should of been blue. Let it blend in.

    And by the way? get rid of the midrift. Its a fashion trend that has had its day, and it is still making her look cheap.

  23. I wonder how many (male) writers approach female characters, convinced that the readers are going to be guys, of whatever age, so the story will have to be written and drawn to appeal to guys. I don’t see stories about an adult heroine as being problematic, given a sufficiently skilled writer, because the situations she faces, in and out of costume, should be able to interest a reader of either sex.

    How many solo series about heroines have actually been successes, in terms of the quality of the writing? No Marvel series come to mind. Reed’s Ms. MARVEL has been a monumental disaster. SHE-HULK has had repeated failures. SPIDER-GIRL has committed fans, but too few for commercial success.

    Anyway, here’s an excerpt from a 2006 blog post, specifically on the subject of writing Supergirl for girls:

    The thing about Supergirl that no one seems to get, not even Peter David, though he was much much closer, is that she’s supposed to be for *girls*. She’s the character that little girls think of when they tie a towel around their necks and climb up jungle gyms. Or at least that’s what she should be. I’m not saying that Supergirl should have only very sanitized content and never deal with mature issues. But there’s a difference between dealing with mature issues and what’s going on right now.

    Hell, if you read any young adult literature, you’d quickly realize that the big difference between YA and Adult fiction is in subtlety. The horror, the sexuality, the death is a bit less overt. That dosn’t make their themes any less substantial. (Read Lurene McDaniel for drama or Christopher Pike for horror, for example, you’d see that the scope of YA literature doesn’t stop at Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley High, or whatever you fogeys think young girls read*)

  24. I read the final volume of ALIAS, although I came to it with the intent of looking for flaws I believed would be there, and found them:

    The poor characterization and absence of critical self-review are both evident in ALIAS #28. While Jessica is supposed to be triumphing over Killgrave’s domination of her, the actual content, viewed critically,is nothing of the sort. In the situation shown, the Avengers can take out Killgrave at will. Iron Man and the Vision aren’t vulnerable to Killgrave’s power (Thor shouldn’t be), and the other Avengers had plenty of time to protect themselves (see http://www.cf.ac.uk/biosi/staff/jacob/teaching/sensory/pherom.html ). Jessica doesn’t *need* to do anything at all to be freed from Killgrave’s control. What she does is ridiculous: invoke a “psychic defense trigger” Jean Grey implanted in her mind. The trigger isn’t activated by the pheromones themselves, Killgrave’s orders to her, or Killgrave’s evil actions. In fact, the trigger isn’t automatically activated by anything. Jessica has to tell herself to break Killgrave’s control. The trigger might as well not exist, except that Bendis needed to justify, somehow, Jessica’s breakout moment, given Killgrave’s inexplicably potent power.

    Given the “trigger” plot device, Jessica’s lack of reaction to Killgrave’s manipulation of the civilians, etc., Jessica’s triumphal moment is much more akin to someone pointing out to a docile, broken slave that if there’s no one watching her, she can leave the house. “You–You mean I can just open the door and walk out?! Wow! I hadn’t realized–” If Bendis isn’t giving the readers a cow, he’s giving them something far less than an actual heroine.

    I wonder how much of the trouble writers have with Supergirl, and teenage characters generally, has to do with finding opponents? Age-matched opponents will lack the dramatic motivations and abilities that adults have, or will be artificially enhanced. Subjecting teenage heroes and heroines to psychological stresses that adults would have trouble coping with is blatantly unrealistic.


  25. I don’t really agree with that. It confuses being a strong character with being a perfect character. Jessica is a deeply flawed individual, but a strong and believable female all the same. She exists in a very unrealistic world, so of course you can find flaws if you go looking for them. In our quest for the perfect “strong” female lead, I think we’re overlooking some very important moments in ALIAS, as well as other books like Promethea, Giantkiller, and Superman: Wrath of Gog, just to name a few. We dismiss them or frown upon them, because many readers mistake characterization (worts and all) as strikes against women as human beings, when in fact they are what makes a character more realistic, in said unrealistic background.

  26. hey you guys, let me know what you think of the supergirl strip Amanda Conner and i have done for Wednesday comics. i think Amanda did a fantastic job of capturing a teenage girl perfectly.

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