Wonder Women; Both Functional And Decorative.

Now that the hoped-for Wonder Woman TV series has died in production, I think this is a good moment to talk about superheroines (or, to be PC, female superheroes) and their treatment in comics and cartoons. I’m not going to try and cover the whole subject–that would take a book and probably has.

Let’s start with the most obvious bit–the cheesecake factor.For most superheroines, superpowers seem to come with a supermodel body and bustage that defies gravity (recognized as the Most Common Super Power). Unless they’re teen-heroes, any one of them is a potential Victoria’s Secret or Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model. But let’s be fair; almost without exception, all male superheroes could profitably moonlight as Chippendales dancers.


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When does running give you pecks like these?

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Which brings up the next point: costumes. Have you ever seen those “swimsuit” shots where for kicks and giggles they’ve actually airbrushed the swimsuits onto the models? (Insert pic of your choice here.) This approaches the apparent thickness of most superhero costumes, male and female.

Now a good deal of this can be dismissed as fantasy and wish-fulfillment, and, after the best part of a century, tradition. It’s even been mocked.

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Everyone remember Mr. Incredible’s “after” look?

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But movies and television shows, which are one step closer to real-life simply because they involve Real People no matter how artfully sculpted and made up, continually point up how artificial this style is. Here is a publicity-shot of the Wonder Woman we almost got.

Just screams grrl-power, doesn’t it?

Personally, I think they should have gone with Wonder Woman’s new comic-book look, which dispensed with the strapless corset and gave her a jacket.

Stylish, yet practical.

And less chance of wardrobe accidents in the heat of combat. The point here is… Did I have a point? Right. The most successful artistic treatments of superheroines have been recognizing reality–or at least nodding in its general direction.

As evidence, check out one of the recent incarnations of Jean Grey. Which brings me to my conclusion. As Mark Twain said “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” (Love that classical education.) As superheroines go from the comics to the small and big screens, even comic artists are discovering that we take them more seriously when they look less like Vegas showgirls and more like… biker chicks. I suppose that’s progress.

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It’s costume choices like this that made me think hard when I designed Astra’s various uniforms. After all, the above styles hardly fit a perky 18 year-old sidekick. Fortunately I was able to find an artist (not a comic-book artist), who came up with this:

Traditional yet modest, and yes, she wears cheerleader shorts under the suit (people have asked).

Next time: from Damsels in Distress to Girls with Guns.

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About George

I am a reasonably successful self-published author ("successful" means I can pay the bills and am highly rated in my Amazon category), former financial advisor (writing is more fun), and have something in common with Mitt Romney and Donny Osmond. Guess.
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