Comic Vine News


Off My Mind: Female Superhero Costumes - Practical or Exploitive?

Is it about comfort, style or getting readers excited?

No Caption Provided
When reading the recent issue of Birds Of Prey, I started thinking again about the practicality of the female superhero costume. While spandex has pretty much been a requirement for all superhero characters, sometimes it feels that the female characters are forced to cross the line with what is practical.
I don't have a lot of experience wearing spandex. I have worn a pair of spandex shorts underneath my running shorts back in high school during my track & field days. Spandex is said to have some practicability. Looking at two of the Birds Of Prey, I have to wonder how Huntress' "window" showing her tummy or Black Canary's one-piece bathing suit look (with the fishnets, of course) helps them fight crime.
"Comics are mainly written for boys." Whether or not that's the case, what is the message being conveyed? 
 == TEASER ==

No Caption Provided
I believe it's been said before that the reason Power Girl chose her costume design was for distraction purposes. This would allow her to knock out the bad guys when they weren't paying attention. If that's the case, I would question why someone with her strength and speed would need a distraction. 
No Caption Provided
I've heard from some female readers that the way women are portrayed can be a turn off to comics. Most heroes are drawn in a idealized but why are certain parts of female characters focused on and certain parts of male characters are not? There are other times where certain body types simply look impossible. Yes, I know you can say that "superpowers" are also impossible but the laws of physics and gravity say that some things just couldn't happen (see image to the right).
It may be that society wants to see "pretty" people. In most TV shows and movies, 95% of the people have a "Hollywood" look. In comics, most characters have "perfect" bodies (must be a side effect of gaining superpowers naturally). With female characters it seems the focus is often placed on their bodies rather than their character. Power Girl, Huntress, Black Canary...they're all strong female characters and I'm not talking about physical strength. Perhaps some women feel empowered wearing certain outfits but I don't feel it's absolutely necessary. Does wearing skintight or revealing clothing make a character better? Perhaps a better question is would you be comfortable reading a comic in public with these stylized women on the cover? Those unfamiliar with the comic might wonder what type of book you're actually looking at.
No Caption Provided
I'm not suggesting we do away with the revealing costumes altogether. I understand that some readers might really enjoy comics or characters that have them. I just think that there should be more to the characters, especially to the female ones. They deserve to be seen as more than just a body. Often, female characters that can literally kick ass are not taken seriously. I don't buy comics just because there's a female wearing a revealing outfit. I'm buying comics for the characters and stories. 
I'm also not suggesting all female characters should cover themselves up and wear big bulky trench coats either. There may be practical purposes to wearing tighter clothing to allow for more movement during combat or in stealth situations. But what practical purposes are there to Huntress' tummy costume? Am I the only one that thinks female characters should get a little more respect?