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Your Mileage May Vary: On Power Girl’s Costume

by  in Comic News Comment

This week we’ve seen some interesting discussion stemming from a scene in the JSA: 80 Page Giant comic, in which Power Girl and Cyclone address Power Girl’s costume.

Esther Inglis-Arkell starts things off:


And I heard the justification about how Canary’s outfit was in tribute to her mother, even when that means she’s in panties and a jacket in the First Wave books. And I’ve heard the one about Poison Ivy being a plant and therefore unconcerned about human modesty. Oh, and I’ve heard the one about Supergirl being invulnerable and therefore not needing pants. There are a few about how Huntress wanted to show off the fact that she was shot, and she lived, and that’s why she fought in a bikini. And then there’s the one about Batman and Superman . . . oh. Wait. There aren’t that many excuses for how Batman and Superman dress because, golly, for some reason, the male heroes in this mostly male-controlled medium put their fucking clothes on when they’re going to fight someone.

Are you kidding me? I’m getting an ‘I choose my choice’ speech from a fictional character? Feminist fans are getting a slap because they won’t accept one bullshit excuse after another for why male heroes are mostly fully-clothed and female heroes mostly walk around in their underwear?

Ragnell offers a different perspective:

That’s why they keep going back to it, because it’s a good basic costume and as it was originally just a small cut-out on an invulnerable character it’s not inherently lewd/impractical. (Unlike the midriff-baring Huntress, or the monstrosity Carol Ferris is parading around in–though my hat’s off to Mahnke for making it less eyesearing.) All the attempts to change it have had her going to worse costumes. (The one with the normal neckline actually tends to show even MORE boob than the cut-out.) And it doesn’t need a reason any more than she liked the look better than any emblem she tried to put there, and now she’s just used to it. Anything beyond that is downright insulting, like you’re trying to fool us into thinking there’s something inherently empowering about baring your breasts. There isn’t.

(We all know good fashion isn’t dependent on the amount of fabric. Different cuts do different things for different bodies. And that’s not even getting into color. Aesthetics are complicated in this area.)

Now, if DC feels guilty enough that they feel a need to justify this costume, maybe rather than offer us some bullshit they can have the artists draw it tastefully. A cut-out is ideally supposed to offer just a hint of cleavage, not go down to or below one’s nipples. Just a guess, but that and the annoying high-cut bikini bottoms might be where all that guilt and disgust originates.

While Laura Hudson calls Jen Van Meter out:

You know what, Jen Van Meter? Go write an op-ed. I’m not even being sarcastic. You’re entitled to your opinion about Power Girl’s costume, and if you’d like to explain to the female readership about how they’re totally misunderstanding the personal empowerment and meaningful symbolism offered by the cleavage window, then I would be very interested in reading about that.

But quite sincerely: Do not lecture me when I’m in the middle of reading a superhero comic about why you think I’m reading it wrong. Or at the very least, write a scene well enough so I don’t feel like you’re lecturing me, because there are few things more disruptive to a narrative experience than watching the writer peek around the curtain and set up a teleprompter for the characters.

I already suspend my disbelief to ridiculous proportions for superhero comics, so watching someone manipulate Power Girl like a highly articulated action figure specifically to give me the stink eye pretty much destroys any sense of authenticity that exists for the story, the character, or the world. It makes me feel like I’m watching a Very Special Episode about why I should shut up, and for reasons that I think are obvious, that’s not very fun.

So what do you think?