So a few smart people at DC Comics figured out that a female character flying around in a skirt might develop a sense of modesty at some point, and now Supergirl’s costume has red spandex-looking bike shorts on underneath her skirt. Seems practical, logical, and like a tiny little change right? Not so much. Apparently it was much-discussed. I’ll stay away from characterizing the discussion as “APESHIT” but really, some folks got very upset. Heh.
I had heard a little about the change a month or two back, but didn’t really think much of it. So when a reporter for The Toronto Star contacted me last week while I was in Japan, I actually hopped online to check out the hullabaloo. Wow! People are nuts! When she asked to interview me? Sure, why not, this would be great.
The story by reporter Paola Loriggio went live yesterday, and it’s a good one. Sadly because I got my comments on the story in about 4 hours before she had to file (stupid flight delay…!) there’s only one tiny, pithy quote from me in there, when I sent her a few hundred words FULL of pithy material. So first, go read the well-written, balanced story on this change (followed by one awesome bent-out-of-shape comment) and then come back here to read the full text of my answers about this epic non-story, which I have provided for you behind the cut. :)
(Bold Questions by reporter Paola Loriggio, not bold answers by me.)
Why do you think people are reacting so strongly to such a minor costume change?
I think that hardcore comic fans react so strongly to news like this is because of how little superhero comics really change at all, particularly ones from Marvel and DC. If you look at the history of the characters, how much has really changed about them since their inception? Even the smallest alteration to the status quo provokes a lot of passion from the die-hards… however misdirected.
Do superhero costumes typically inspire such strong feelings?
Well, if you look at it the costume is a huge part of the character’s identity. Without their costumes superheroes are just hulking, naked dudes with no genitals to speak of. The superhero costume is a character dressing in his or her personality… that Supergirl has decided to finally put a pair of short-pants on speaks directly to the tone of the series and the type of character she’s going to be now.
How often do the costumes change, approximately, and is there always a big response from the public?
Each artist brings their own flair to a character, costumes change in little ways all the time. The major changes are usually set out with a lot of fanfare. That there was apparently an editorial meeting at DC about having a character throw on a pair of bike shorts under her skirt? Par for the course, as is the reaction to it.
Costumes for both genders tend to be skintight, but superheroines usually show more skin – and so far, that’s stayed the case despite the industry’s attempts to attract female readers. Why do you think that is? And why the sudden move towards modesty/practicality?
Is this the start of a new trend, the sign of a shift in the industry? Or do you think people are reading too much in a one-time decision?
There are so many different reasons why the Supergirl character could be dressing a little more modestly these days, not the least of which is that it was frankly embarrassing to give a Supergirl comic to an actual teenage girl for… jeez, years now. In fact DC had to come up with a specific, kid-friendly Supergirl series just to stem the tide of complaints.
I don’t think it’s an industry move towards modesty, or practicality. Superheroes and their costuming are still as impractical as ever. I think it was a decision by a new writer and a new artist to the Supergirl series that wanted to pull the book in a different direction. I’m happy to see it, personally. Anything that makes a book like that more saleable is a good move, from a retailer’s point of view, and now that’s a book that’s far less embarrassing to have on the racks. But like all corporate-controlled superhero comics, a new editor, writer, or artist will come along soon enough, and it will all change back. Superheroes love the status quo.
Do you think having superheroines in less provocative outifits would draw more female readers?
I don’t think it’d hurt, but honestly if a woman came into the store looking for something with strong female characters or with a strong sci-fi/fantasy/superhero feeling, there are a dozen other books I’d recommend over DC or Marvel superhero titles, provocative costumes or otherwise. If there are women and kids out there that like those books despite… or because of… the skimpy and impractical costumes, that’s great, more power too them. But if a customer asks me for a recommendation, Supergirl probably isn’t going to be on the list.