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She Has No Head! – Superhero Fashion Week Edition

A very fashion forward Rogue by Nuno Alves for Project Rooftop

It was fashion week in New York City this past week and that, plus my love of Dean Trippe’s wonderful superhero re-design website Project Rooftop had me thinking about the great hits and misses of superheroine fashion.  So in honor of Fashion Week and Brian’s month of Top Fives I thought I’d do a nice light post about some of my favorite female superhero costumes…really just an excuse to post a lot of fantastic images.

I kept the list to five…but then added about a million honorable mentions…because, well, because I’m a terrible editor…the secret is out.  Oooh, and if you think I could keep my big mouth shut about a few costumes I think are in desperate need of an update…you’d be wrong…they’re at the bottom (where they belong). Bwahahaha!

Onto the list!

5.  Rogue.  Rogue’s had some major hits and misses over the years, but a few really worked for me.  My favorite is likely when Bachalo brought back the pared down green and white color scheme as well as the hood (which was also a nice nod to the film).  The simplified colors, full coverage it offered, and the fact that it had an awesome hood (and we all know everything with a hood is instantly at least 5 times more awesome) make this a slam dunk for me.  However, it’s true that not every artist could handle this costume as well as Bachalo.  The current version is actually not terrible – it keeps the nice green and white scheme and while I could do without the giant X target on her chest, I can appreciate the attempt at creating something more iconic with the symbol prominently displayed.  The boots, gloves, and extra-long tunic/shirt with pants is nice and highly functional.  The fact that costume zips up has been problematic for Rogue (and many other ladies – most notably Black Widow and Catwoman) in the hands of a variety of artists (you know who you are gentleman) so that’s not great, but otherwise it’s not a bad update.  It definitely beats that blue and red atrocity she wore in X-Treme X-Men – but what doesn’t?

The real problem with Rogue’s costumes – and really with most of the Marvel heroines as I went through trying to find something that spoke to me powerfully is that there aren’t many really iconic costumes for women in the Marvel Universe.  At first I thought it was true with the men as well, but between Spider-Man, Wolverine, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor…yeah, the boys are pretty well covered.  Ironically, one of the most iconic costumes I think the Marvel U has to offer for the ladies is Ms. Marvel (fitting considering the title I guess) but it’s not a costume I care for much.  It’s been growing on me as I’ve come to like the character more…but I certainly can’t put it on a list yet.

Rogue. From left: Bachalo, Bachalo, Hughes, Ramos, and Hughes

4.  Big Barda.  Barda’s costume is one that would likely look ridiculous on anyone BUT Big Barda.  She somehow manages to pull it off beautifully.  There’s a few too many bright colors for my tastes, but she gets points for going bold.  Most importantly I love that Barda’s costume functions as full body armor – complete with practical shoes.  A warrior of Barda’s level shouldn’t praise fashion over function but it’s nice to see that she manages to merge the two regardless.  As for the “bikini version”…I call this underwear…but whatever…at least it’s awesome looking battle underwear!  You know how awesome big Barda is?  She even has a my little pony version of herself.  AND while we’re looking at awesome hilarious stuff – did any of you see this great Wonder Woman/Big Barda bit that Polly Guo did after the Wonder Woman “new costume controversy”?  Fantastically fun.

Big Barda. From left: Kirby, Beatty, Rousseau, Beatty, Hardman. Lil' Barda by Joel Carroll.

3.  Catwoman.  Selina’s had a few great costumes – mostly via animation – her Batman The Animated Series costume and her sadly never used Catwoman Animated Series costume and her Gotham Girls and New Adventures of Batman (which are quite similar) costumes all stand out as particularly wonderful pared down looks that deliver.  She’s also had a few terrible ones – what’s up with that purple dress as costume?  Disgraceful.  But her current version has got to be my favorite – functional and sexy but mostly, uber-cool – especially the sweet goggles, combat boots, and silver hardware (belt, zipper, etc.).  It’s much more believable and practical for a thief to have tools with her – something that the pared down sleek looks never provided.  Of course with Selina we run into the zipper problem again and its indeterminate level of unzip…but she still rates on the list.  And it’s interesting to me that her costume feels pretty iconic – and always has – regardless of variations and despite the absence of a symbol of any kind.  Food for thought.

Catwoman. From left: Buscema, Cooke, Avon Oeming, Hughes, and Stewart

2.  Wonder Woman. OH THE CONTROVERSY!  Yeah, but love the strapless swimsuit or hate it –  it’s powerfully iconic and known all over the world instantly.  And in the hands of a lesser hero maybe I’d hate it, but Diana’s been rocking this look pretty consistently in one form or another for nearly seventy years now.  I will say this – I always found Wonder Woman’s costume kind of silly – until I fell in love with the character and once that happened I found it mostly awesome and suddenly felt even a little protective about it.  Do I think maybe she should have some pants and straps?  Sure.  Do I think it’s possible to design something excellent that offers a little bit more practicality?  Sure.  Do I think it ruins the power of that iconic image to not have those things?  No.

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I do have one question though…I keep seeing people refer to Wondy’s costume as a bikini…we all know this isn’t a bikini, right?

Wonder Woman. From Left: Perez, Chang, Hughes, Jimenez, Caldwell, Scott, Chiang, Hernandez, Byrne, Cooke, Scott, Dodson, Timm, and Bolland.

1.  Batwoman. I wrote in December that Batwoman (via Detective Comics) was the superhero book I’ve been waiting for my whole life – and no small part of that were the visuals.  And no small part of the visuals was the thought, consideration, and just straight up fantastic design skill that went into designing a nearly perfect female superhero costume.

J.H. Williams III's Batwoman from Detective Comics

From the materials and colors to the traditional bat cape and pouches for gear, Kat’s costume feels 100% bat and yet also 100% HER.  Some people don’t like the slightly pointy breasts of the costume, but it doesn’t bother me…it’s a specific look and I don’t find it distracting overall.  The costume well considers the history and origin, it considers Kate’s personality and lifestyle, it considers functionality and practicality – flat thick tread boots, gloves, mask, cape, belt – it’s all been painstakingly considered…and then made iconic and inspiring at the same time.  And never is it more important for something to ooze iconic than in Gotham where intimidation and awe is half the battle.  I think in a world of too few truly iconic looks for superhero women, one of the ways that the Batwoman look succeeds where Wonder Woman stumbles is that it restrains itself and doesn’t go for overt sexiness.  There’s this seeming need to sex things up when it comes to female superheroes and miss out on what actually works.  I don’t really have a problem with Diana wearing a swimsuit – she is nearly invulnerable of course – but it just doesn’t make much sense that she’d want to wear a glorified bathing suit in her daily life.  It would have been easy for the Batwoman costume to be sexed up (Huntress and her ridiculous hot pants and bare midriff?  Give me Cully Hamner’s version any day!) but they restrained themselves and made something lasting and beautiful that also makes sense.

Working it out...and getting it right.

Batwoman is already inspiring some great artists to share their takes on her look – Project Rooftop has a handful of excellent ones – below are a few of my favorites from Project Rooftop and elsewhere on the web.

Batwoman. From Left: Nord, Maihack, Timm, Danchin, Wang, Stewart, Cooke, and Shaner

Honorable Mentions:

Renee Montoya as The Question: Another area in which creators could have tried to sex things up, but instead did the right thing and stuck with the classic look – realizing that the look of The Question was more important than what gender was inside.

Cully Hamner's designs for Renee Montoya as The Question

Atom Eve: A costume I should hate for all its pink swimsuit impractical cape’s silliness.  But I find it kind of adorable.  The tiny cape, the great symbol, and the boldness for a superhero to pick an all pink costume (and to do so as a natural redhead).  But it works, and I kind of love it for bucking the trend.  It doesn’t hurt that the image below is by Joel Carroll who could make trashbags look adorable.

Joel Carroll's Atom Eve

Monica Rambeau (aka Photon aka Captain Marvel): And if you think it takes balls to wear an all pink costume…then imagine what it takes to wear all white? How do you get blood and grass stains, not to mention rubble out of white?  I love the simplicity in Rambeau’s costume, very pared down and functional, but effective.

Stuart Immonen's Monica Rambeau

Black Canary: Black Canary is down here and not up above because how much I love or hate Dinah’s costume seems entirely dependent on the artist drawing her.  Marcos Martin’s tough and determined Dinah?  Awesome.  Cliff Chiang’s torn up fishnets Dinah?  Awesome.  Justice League Unlimited’s sexy pared down non-fishnets version?  Awesome.  A lot of others?  Not so awesome.

Black Canary Trifecta. From left: Martin, Chiang, and Justice League Unlimited's Canary

Cass Cain’s Batgirl: A costume that perfectly fit her character both in personality and physicality.  Also, scary as all get out – as a bat SHOULD be. Here’s a note Steph…the purple?  Not so scary, and best left on your frankly, kind of awesome (when it was done right) Spoiler costume.  While you’re at it, lose the thigh pouch.  Also, have you guys seen this Joel Carroll updated Cass Cain Batgirl?  I think I’d pull out the yellow for grey or something less bright, but otherwise – fantastic!

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Cass in all her tiny badass glory

Emma Frost (Frank Quitely version): Most impractical costume ever?  Sure.  But it’s an X made out of FLESH?!  Who is ballsy enough to do that other than Emma Frost (and apparently Frank Quitely)?  I’m a pretty vocal proponent of less hypersexualization of our female characters, however I’m also a pretty vocal advocate of ‘context is everything’ and as such Emma Frost is a character that I completely believe would design and wear this costume.  The same way that I don’t believe that Rogue would unzip her costume to her belly button and then run off to have a serious discussion with Cyclops about battle strategy.  It’s also about context in that oversaturation is our biggest problem.  I can buy Emma Frost in this Quitely look, I can buy Poison Ivy running around naked…but I can’t buy those things as easily when I’m also surrounded by thongs, thigh highs, fishnets, stilettos, boob holes, bikinis, unzipped catsuits, plunging necklines, mini-skirts and bare midriffs left right and center on every other lady as well.  Context is everything people.

As a last word on this costume specifically…though it gets flack, it’s one of the more modern and “fashion forward” looks I’ve seen in comics in the last 10 years, practicality be damned.

Frank Quitely's Emma Frost and her X OF FLESH! OMG.

The Ladies of DV8 – Freestyle, Copycat, Bliss, and Sublime:  These looks skirt the line between regular clothes and costumes, and I kind of love that about them – they feel modern and wearable but also perfectly appropriate for being dropped onto an alien planet and becoming gods.  You know…it’s good for clothes to be flexible.

From Left: Freestyle, Copycat, Bliss, and Sublime by Rebekah Isaacs

Who is most in need of a costume overhaul?  Who do I wish the most excellent Project Rooftop would tackle next?  Oh man…the list…it’s so long!  Should it be Psylocke, who, poor dear, has NEVER had a good costume and has been stuck in the same bathing suit/thong for what…nearly 20 years?  Should it be Star Sapphire and her silliness that has never seemed to fit her personality…or anything else for that matter (puns!).  Should it be Power Girl so she can be relieved of the oh so tired giant boob hole?  What about Ayla Ranzz who desperately needs some pants?

All right, I’m going to pick one from each of the big two.  For Marvel I’m going with:

Valkyrie:  In part because I like Val so much and in part because it’s just hard to take her seriously with that crazy pointy breast plate.  It looks ridiculous even in the hands of the best artists (case in point – Mike McKone’s recent – stunning – rendering of her below).  Additionally, Chris Bachalo did a great take on her (also below) which was a slightly revised look that really rocked (although maybe it would not in a lesser artist’s hands) but even he still had trouble negotiating the pointy breastplate. The latest take – pretty cool looking cover art from Jay Anacleto (also below) for the upcoming Valkyrie one-shot – tries to do something different but fails horribly as I think it’s maybe even weirder looking than the old version.  Surely there’s a way to update this look to retain it’s hardcore warrior battle aspects without looking like Valkyrie has boobs that are going to take out someone’s eye…right?

Valkyrie Trifecta. From left: Mckone, Bachalo, and Anacleto

For DC I’m going to go a bit controversial:

Supergirl: Supergirl’s costume is certainly iconic thanks to the great big S symbol, and there’s nothing horribly wrong with it (well, not like poor Star Sapphire) and in Igle’s hands it’s become MUCH more appropriate…but it’s just terribly boring.  And really – I want to say – tragically unhip?  It looks like a cheap cheerleading uniform and our girl deserves more.  It’s also wildly impractical what with its silly exposed midriff and skirt (why on earth does someone that flies want to wear a skirt?).  Also?  There’s just so many great versions ALREADY out there – from Project Rooftop alone we’ve got Mike Wieringo’s bold version, Dean Trippe’s modified classic version, and Ross Campbell’s badass version.

A Supergirl Trifecta. From left: Wieringo, Trippe, and Campbell

There’s also Corey Walker’s MANY versions of Supergirl – a few of which are below and most of which are a massive improvement from both a fashion AND function point of view.  I’ve love to see DC take a run with one of these.  If that first one was shorts instead of a skirt…I think I’d marry it.

A Quartet of Cory Walker Supergirls, all different, all awesome.

Man…now all I wanna do is draw superheroes all day.  So what do you guys think?  What are some of your favorites?  Least favorites?


[…] September 20, 2010 in CSBG, DC Comics, comics, comics should be good, dean trippe, lists, marvel comics, rogue, she has no head! | Tags: she has no head!, things made of awesome If ever there was a She Has No Head! to check out, this is it, filled with dozens of stunning images by dozens of great artists of superheroine fashion.  Check it out! […]

One of my favorites not shown here, but mentioned briefly, IS Ms. Marvel. There’s just something I really like about that yellow bolt dividing the black of her costume, thigh-high boots, bicep-high gloves, and sash made her seem like a down-to-earth go-getter with a sexy streak to her.

Totally agree with you on Emma’s flesh X.

Isn’t Valkyrie’s costume an homage or a take off on the warrior women depicted in the paintings of Boris Vallejo or Frank Frazetta and the like?

That Campbell version of Supergirl is insanely awesome. I would get Supergirl if they did a revamp like that.

A personal favorite was the Huntress (this version http://www.dadsbigplan.com/images/uploads/2009/01/huntress-year-one-1.jpg ) When she went to the hotpants look, I was deeply disappointed.

I’ve been planning a superheroine costume for Halloween — mostly pretty simple and I’m going for cute and practical (and it will be mostly made out of real clothes because I’m too lazy and unskilled to do much more than basic sewing). So I’ve been thinking about superheroine costumes a lot lately (probably more than I should).

I *love* Batwoman’s costume, yes.

I also love Stephanie Brown’s Batgirl costume. It’s such a nice meld of her Spoiler look, and the classic Batgirl stuff – she’s really taken the costume and made it her own.

I’m actually surprised that Jean Grey’s Phoenix look didn’t make it on the list in some form.

Love Dean Trippe’s Supergirl, and (with the exception of Linda Danvers from the 90’s and early 00’s) I really have no love for the character.

All those Rogue costumes and you pick none with her iconic cowboy boots? Fail.

God, trainers on Rogue? Bleeeech.

P.S. Selina is not wearing “combat boots” (perish the thought). Those are classic Frye harness boots, thank you. And infinitely cooler than combat boots.

ha, thanks for the Supergirl inclusion! ;)

i’m no authority since i’m not a huge Rogue fan or anything but i never liked the hooded costume, it always made her look like Red Riding Hood or a wizard or something to me. i love the black bodysuit/green shirt over top look. there was an Alan Davis costume i think Rogue only wore once or twice that was a green bodysuit with a white stripe on the outside of either leg and arm and the stripes connected around her waist and upper back, respectively, kind of tough to describe but it was pretty sweet, nice and simple.

i love the Quitely Emma, too!!! such a great costume that other artists don’t really seem to “get.”

i think my all-time favorite costumes are, in no particular order: 1. the Batman Returns Catwoman DIY stitchy raincoat costume, but i guess your list involves the comics/original versions of the character and the BR Catwoman was a completely different version of the character. love her, though. 2. Ten from Batman Beyond. she is awesome and her costume is awesome, i love the split black/white, the red eyes and red lips and her face as part of the costume which makes no sense but it’s great. and 3. Venus Dee Milo from X-Statix, i usually hate red/yellow combinations (reminds me of McDonalds/mustard/ketchup) but for some reason i dig it on Venus, and i love the ratios of the colors and how she also has her face as part of her costume, and the thigh-high boots and shoulder-high gloves/sleeves give her this nice balanced weight or something. she’s probably my favorite, i love the simplicity. i wish she’d come back, maybe i’d read X-Men again! T_T

I would agree that Marvel has no iconic Female costume. The most iconic ones seem to be one of a crowd (Sue Storm) or without a real concrete emblem (Ororo Munroe). They did have a potential at one time in Phoenix (which is very close in black-and-white to Batwoman’s costume, by the way), but they killed her off. I disagree a bit that Wolverine has an iconic costume. I think people know it from overexposure (which is different in my opinion). And, as an aside and just because I remember it as a kid, I loved Catwoman in the long dress and cape. Very impractical.

You forgot to mention The Wasp aka Janet Van Dyne. An assortment of costumes, of hits and misses over the years, often reflecting the fashions of the times. Then again, that could be an article in itself.

The green Phoenix costume is not only one of my favorite female superhero costumes but one of my favorite all-time costumes. Just a great design by Dave Cockrum

what, no witchblade? That costume is so cool and extreme!!!!!!!! It strips her down and keeps her boobs perky.

Great choices. I love Catwoman’s and especially Batwoman’s suits.

Not on the list, but I also love Wonder Girl (Cassie). Jeans and a tank top. See keeps the iconinc Wonder chest emblem, but this is something a real teenage girl wears.

But my absolute favorite is Phoenix. Full body coverage, iconic emblem and the gold pops so well off the green/red backgrounds. The red looks more powerful, but the green offers better contrast with Jean’s hair.

– Brian

Man, that Wieringo Supergirl costume is a train wreck. Looks like it’s based on the Kristin Wells Superwoman costume, which wasn’t great to begin with but at least held together better. Actually all the versions above that have an S-shield bib attached the the cape look … well, like a bib. Good for super-lobster feasts, though.

But what do I know? I’ve always really liked Val’s costume.

The third Big Barda image is by Craig Rousseau.

@Gabe: Thank you! I updated it.

@Rob:I thought of including Jane Van Dyne…but really, it would have had to be it’s own post. And while I think it’s great because of her fashion background that she changes costumes so frequently…it does make it hard to nail down one iconic look for her…especially considering all the different artists that have drawn her as well.

Re: Phoenix. I agree that the Phoenix costume (I much prefer the green, and don’t much care for the red) is pretty great. I think my reason for not putting it on the list is mostly because Jean Grey has had so many costumes that the Phoenix costume, though clearly the best (to me), kind of just feels like a blip on the radar of her history of uniforms. I wish it was the first costume that popped into my mind when I think of Jean Grey…but generally I’d say it’s not.

The same could be true of Rogue I suppose…but with the exception of her X-Treme costume and a few other blips (the pink one she wore in outerspace with Mauderia) she’s at least had the same color palette – green and then either white, black, or yellow as an accent. Jean’s been all over the place…or at least that’s how it feels to me.

I think the A-list female DCs generate talk precisely because they are iconic. The classic looks of Wonder Woman, Black Canary, Batgirl and Mary Marvel define “female superhero” in the minds of a lot of people.

The Barbara Gordon version of Batgirl provided the basis for entire female Bat Family Cass Cain, Huntress and Batwoman. Barbara Gordon even inspired the re-design of Black Widow. Mary Marvel gave us Supergirl, Power Girl and Atom Eve. Black Canary gave us Zatanna. Like Superman, Wonder Woman is the template for everything. She is the visual box that her rivals are trying to escape.

As wildly creative as the first generation of male Marvel costumes were, the women were mostly inside the box DC provided. Sue Storm would be the lone exception and she is noteworthy for being indistinct. Dave Cockrum brought his style to Ms. Marvel and the female X-Men, but it was again in the WW box and the little that wasn’t (i.e. Phoenix) has long since been discarded.

So, Rogue is more a winner of “most iconic Marvel female” by default than anything. Still, it is a good costume and it suits the character in its zipped up version.

In the early ’70s, Supergirl went through a varying wardrobe of costumes (provided by readers), which though wildly different and inconsistent, it was nice to see variations. Ditto for the Wasp later in the ’70s & ’80s.

Honestly, I’ve never understood why there weren’t intentional variations on superhero costumes to meet different occasions (formal or specific tasks, a la Iron Man’s armor) or seasons. This though informed my own youthful designs for superheroes, informed by the old Lee-Romita-Mooney Spider-Man issues where Peter was always getting sick because of the weather (rain or snow). The tights made sense in the summer, but in the winter something thicker was obviously needed, and offered design variations.

I’m kind of surprised that no one seems to have ever taken WW’s outfit back to the WWII skirt, even for just an issue or arc. (Though I’m happy that the “bicycle shorts” version didn’t return when bike shorts were in fashion. Ugh!) lol

Aside from Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men run, I really haven’t read much X-Men over the last 25 years, so I think of green & yellow when I think of Jean Grey – either as Marvel Girl (2nd uniform), Phoenix or the initial X-Factor bodysuit.

And yeah, Batwoman’s suit is spectacular!

I like Supergirl in a skirt, it’s how I always picture her. (But what do I know? I’m only familiar with the ’70s Supergirl.) Mary Marvel looks good in her skirt, as well. I just really love the look of skirts and dresses. I know they’re not usually practical for action heroes, but the short cheerleader-type skirts allow enough freedom of movement (which is why cheerleaders wear them). Long evening dresses look fantastic, but could never work in combat, but I would still love to see one on a super hero sometime. (I’ve seen pictures of the old Blonde Phantom– I think that was her name. How did she fight in that gown?)

I think Rogue only looks good in green. I have no idea why that would be the case, but everything else I’ve ever seen on her has been hideous. I think she looks better in green-and-black than green-and-white, though.

I prefer Captain Marvel’s original suit (which she put together out of a couple of Mardi Gras outfits, believe it or not). She doesn’t look right without a mask– she was so protective of her identity in the old days (she even kept it from the Avengers for the first few years). I don’t know when or why her identity became public knowledge, but I don’t like it. Does anyone know why Marvel won’t let anybody have a secret identity anymore?

And I like the Valkyrie’s suit. It’s what comic-book valkyries are supposed to look like.

I love Arana’s new costume. And all the Avenger’s Accademy kids (except that Reptyl guy– his suit is boring, as is Mettle’s, but he looks distinctive enough because of his weird red skin).

I really, really like Batwoman’s costume. I think it absolutely deserves the number one spot. But I must admit, I feel very irked by the striking similarities to the Batman Beyond costume. In my head, I can’t stop saying “There can only be one!”

Does anyone know if J.H. Williams used it as a reference or even a tribute?

@Westlake: The design was actually created by Alex Ross, when it was going to be Barbara Gordon as Batgirl reborn, after having been put in a lazarus pit. I’m not sure if it was designed before or after Batman Beyond, though.

I liked the Supergirl costumes at the end of the article, particularly the last image of four. The one on the far left immediately brought to mind that that is excatly what Joan from Mad Men would look like as a superhero. And I really like the last one on the right as a very post-futuristic look.

@ Mary Warner:

I am with you on the Mary Marvel/Supergirl look. A cheerleader outfit with a cape is a nice short-hand for young and (relatively) innocent. It is a shame that no one can seem to figure what to do with those types of characters other than corrupt and/or kill them.

I would love to see a separate edition of She Has No Head on the Wasp’s costumes, Kelly. It would be great to see what you rate as her top five and her worst five.

One of my favorites is the one George Perez designed for her, and which he had her wearing in two separate runs on Avengers. I cannot locate a color pic of her in it by Perez himself, but here’s a rendition of it by, I believe, Eric Wolfe Hanson…


Least favorite would probably be the green & purple costume she was wearing around the time of Secret wars. I don’t want to even bother looking for any images of that one!

Darwyn Cooke’s Catwoman is the only on from the main list I really like. The honorable mentions appeal to me much more:

The Question works, even though I want to argue that it’s lazy and that I hate canon Rule 63 characters and blah blah blah – I can’t say any of that. It works. It looks awesome.

Atom Eve’s costume is great, only the symbol bothers me, I wish it were more simplistic, and maybe not so on-the-nose, but I love it.

Monica Rambeau’s Nextwave outfit is GREAT. So is everything else about Nextwave.

That Marcos Martin Black Canary is like a Cooke Catwoman/Atom Eve mash-up. I dig it, and totally agree that costume can look awful in the hands of the wrong artist, as they all can.

No one can do that Emma Frost besides Quitely.

Love all the DV8 designs.

BROTIP: 90s Rogue costume is best Rogue costume.

Emma’s costuming only works if the character is portrayed as being completely aware of, and dominant over, its implications. Sex appeal is a means for her, not an end in and of itself; she’s the ultimate ice queen, and titillating men who she wouldn’t spit on were they on fire is part of her charm as a character.

If you have Emma as a flirty and charismatic character in a white corset, as she’s been portrayed by too many recent X-Writers, she just becomes another X-Girl, rather than a warped contrast to the book’s oft-stereotyped ingenues ( Jean, Kitty, Rogue, and debatably, Storm ).

A personal favorite was the Huntress (this version http://www.dadsbigplan.com/images/uploads/2009/01/huntress-year-one-1.jpg ) When she went to the hotpants look, I was deeply disappointed.

I have always thought that the Huntress’ original costume, designed by Joe Staton, was very cool and distinctive. It also made a lot of sense in terms of the original backstory of the character, namely that she was the daughter of Batman and Catwoman. Her costume borrowed elements from both of her parents’ outfits.

As for Ms. Marvel, if we’re talking her second costume, I think that it is iconic. It was devised by Dave Cockrum, who I consider to be one of the top character & costume designers of the 1970s and early 80s.

Speaking of Cockrum, another iconic female costume would have to be his design for Phantom Girl of the Legion. Over thirty-five years later, and artists are still utilizing variations of the outfit Cockrum designed for her in the early 1970s.

And, while Storm of the X-Men has had a lot of costumes, a great number of those have incorporated her original head dress which, again, was a Cockrum design. So that specific element of her first costume is iconic and has endured over the years.

As you can tell, I am obviously a huge fan of Dave Cockrum. I really like Joe Staton’s work, as well.

The problem with Montoya Question’s costume is that the artist of her backup stories seems to be compelled to sex things up. Insted of a nice fitted suit as pictured, she usually has a physics defying tanktop that shows off her giant muscles and Michelangelo-esque (ie. horrible) breasts.

Eeh, costumes as fashion statements never mattered much to me. When I was a kid, I just loved the sheer crazy inventiveness in them, especially when I found the 70s Marvel comics and came to discover the REALLY wild designs (Nova, Starhawk, Jack of Hearts etc.) DC’s looked boring next to them!

As an adult I’m more pragmatic: I just can’t help but think that costumes should first be practical (in particular, fit to the character’s powers: Rogue should cover her WHOLE body, even her face) and secondarily, fit the character’s personality (the humbler characters would wear more normal clothes). Which isn’t to say there’s no room for the really artistic designs, but they should be worn by the Madonnas and Princes of the Superhero/Villain set.

very fun post, great stuff lol. i sympathize with the idea of practicality, but i also read comics to escape. i want stuff that isn’t necessarily real(istic). superheroes in costumes is just one niche in comics these days, but it’s still an important one.

I’m a big fan of the original, Jessica Drew Spider-Woman. Aside from not being a straight-up female copy of Spider-Man, she has an awesome costume! Love it! And bringing back the black and white Spider-Man costume for the Julia Carpenter Spider-Woman was great just because it was such a cool costume!

Being an Excalibur fan, I also loved Rachel Summers Phoenix outfit, and the spiked hair! :-) I’ll also always picture Shadowcat in her blue puffy-shirt costume. I don’t recall Meggan (Captain Britain’s honey) having too many changes in costume, but her original Excalibur one was simple yet effective and cool!


Some of my favs from various companies:

Storm’s original outfit: This fit her mood and was fully functional. It was sexy and majestic without being all gratuitous. Remember she was a “goddess” and the costume fit that air about her in the beginning…

Raven: The costume changed color to fit her mood sure, but the look was always mysterious and terrifying. The perfect counter to Storm because as Ororo was open and joyous when riding the winds, Raven was sullen and introverted with hints of possible evil….

Liberty Belle: Talk about iconic and fully functional, the Belle outfit just exuded patriotism without any denigration and it truly a shame that DC?Johns felt the need to ditch the costume for sexification….

Huntress (Pre-Lee): No need to sexify the buttkicking you’ll receive if you stared at her “assets” for too long. Plus it felt like an inverted bat costume, totally fitting her character.

Dazzler/Dagger: Both essentially have the same costume and the same purpose: to be the light counter to the darkness. Alison’s of course was for her fun disco/rock outlook in life and it was a shame that she ditched it for that blue get up during her X-Men years… I won’t miss the roller skates though….Dagger’s more ironic as she was the yin to Cloak’s yang and the “day” to his “night”.

Donna Troy: Yep here come her haters, but I love both of her “modern” looks. The Red Uniform was fully functional and made sense during battles… The Starry Night uniform paid tribute to the Titans and Gods. When put in the hands of the right artist, it leapt off the page…

Black Widow? Sif? Crystal? Snowbird? Medusa?

Raven? Black Orchid? Jade? Stargirl? Ice?

I would also love to see a Wasp fashion column, if mind having your ‘Feminist column’ devoted once again to fashion.
Janet’s constantly changing outfits were such a major part of who she was. I only saw her a few times in the decade before her unnecessary sickeningly gratuitous death, but every time I did see her, she had the same suit, which was just so horribly wrong. No wonder the recent writers didn’t know what to do with her if they were this ignorant about her characterisation. In the first issue of Mighty Avengers, when Stark suggested Janet for the team, Carol Danvers thinks ‘If she changes her costume, then Yes’. The fact that she could even have a line like that shows how badly misunderstood Janet was by this time.

‘Here’s a note: Steph…the purple? Not so scary, and best left on your frankly, kind of awesome (when it was done right) Spoiler costume.’
That’s the whole point – she doesn’t want people to call her Cass Jr!

Just as an aside, this made me smile:
“Barda’s costume is one that would likely look ridiculous on anyone BUT Big Barda. She somehow manages to pull it off beautifully. There’s a few too many bright colors for my tastes, but she gets points for going bold.”
This pretty much applies to Jack Kirby’s costume designs in general – think Omac or Mr. Miracle as well. Completely ridiculous and over-the-top, yet they work beautifully – and woe to any subsequent artist who tries to “modify” or tone them down…

The Batwoman costume is divine. Created by Alex Ross for Babs’ glorious return that never happened :(

Also, Walker shows that designing a kick ass Supergirl is not hard at all. The Campbell version is not Supergirl, at all. She’s always been a bit of a sweetheart with a badass core. Putting the badass on the outside goes against the essence of the character a bit. Unless you invert the whole concept.

A great post, Kelly. Some comments:

1. Rogue: Complete and utter agreement.

2. Barda: As you say, somehow that very busy look works on her.

3. Catwoman: Seriously, her current costume is by far her best.

4. Wonder Woman: Although I agree that the shorts/hot pants look needs to be modified, I don’t think that pants are the way to go, as the powers that be will simply have those pants be inhumanly tight (cf. the current WW look with the spray-on pants). I think that a Xena style leather mini-skirt over shorts design is the way to go.

5.Batwoman: I agree. It is a fabulous costume.

6.The Question: I’m afraid that I will have to disagree on this one, as I don’t think that the classic Ditko design works on a woman frame.

7.Emma Frost: Although I normally loathe hyper-sexualized outfits, I think that Emma Frost carries it off. As you say, it’s all about making the costume suit the personality of the character.

8. Valkyrie: Actually, I’ve never minded the metal breastplates. Are they any sillier than Thor’s chest plates?On the other hand, I wouldn’t mind if they brought back her 70s full body costume.

9. Supergirl: I rather like the skirt; it just seems to suit her personality.DC just needs to make sure that the artists always draw it as a skirt over shorts combo.

On # 6, that should read “woman’s frame,” not “woman frame.” Damn typos.

Excellent list, Kelly! I’ll add my own #1, Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superwoman, Lois Lane. :)

[…] of real clothes because I’m too lazy and unskilled to do much more than basic sewing). …This Blog Written on septiembre 21st, 2010 & filed under black widow Tags: basic sewing, black […]

Like trajan23, I also believe Wonder Woman should wear a warrior-style skirt over shorts. Shorts or the old-style swimsuit trunks. Just not a bikini bottom.

On the subject of Valkyrie, I don’t mind the breast-plates. Well, they’re more like breast-cups. *But*, I don’t think they should ever be drawn with concentric circles on them. Even if they are drawn more conical, without that artistic flourish, I believe they’d look more like chest-plates and less like metal boobs!

And as for Supergirl and other similar-costumed young women, I don’t mind bare-midriffs and skirts (with shorts underneath) as long as the women themselves are drawn properly for their age. Supergirl’s breasts and waist should not be too big or too narrow, respectively, in relation to her hips. And she shouldn’t be bony, IMO. Sure, some young women her age are naturally bony, but when she’s drawn that way she tends to look like an emaciated model. She should still have some baby fat on her.


Great list. The Batwoman really is a great costume. And I loved the explanation Rucka gave of why the original boots, as seen in 52, had heels – they were the only red boots her Dad could find.

Cass’ costume I am torn about. It was second-hand (Helena Bertinelli created it during No Man’s Land) but did end up fitting Cass’ personality and fight style. And while the sewn up mouth piece was perfect for her early on when she didn’t use a lot of verbal communication, in retrospect I wish they had removed the lower half of the mask as time went on.

Huntress has had a horrible costume history http://dcwomenkickingass.tumblr.com/post/833081752/hutresshistory, but I think the one used at the end of the last run of Birds of Prey was pretty good.

And @darrylB I agree with you Liberty Belle. I love her JSA costume – functional, retro and distinctive. I was sad to see her go back to the Jesse Quick costume for JLA.

The women in Elfquest were always super-sexy, and the costumes were both functional and suited their personalities and climate very well. Favorites are Dewshine, Khavi, Nightfall, Leetah, Savah and of course the majestic Winnowill. Probably a whole column there too, as the women had as good or better roles as the men, were sexy but not sexualized, and while there were very few fight scenes in the whole series, there was a great sense of real “justice” about the whole book. If you haven’t read them, you should definitely seek out the first few arcs, through “Siege at Blue Mountain”.

Also, Hela the death goddess from Thor. Not an action-suit by any means, but she’s a presence and that giant black headdress and flowing costume were beyond regal. Simonson and Art Adams also did it proud.

I always kinda like Moonstone from the Hulk, though her helmet is a bit much like Ultraman (the big Japanese one), her whole look fits pretty well. I was shocked when I later saw the earlier male version, didn’t like him as much.

PENNY CENTURY!!! Los Bros. Hernandez perpetual superhero girl rocks more looks than Jan Van Dyne and Kitty Pryde combined, but her stance, attitude and platinum beauty are iconic in themselves, at least she sure stands out in any Love & Rockets comic.

Maggie & Hopie (Love & Rockets) – not super-heroines, but an iconic look that actually changed over time as the characters aged, wow what a concept!

I liked Natalia Irons’ short-lived all-black armor from 52, though the elongated head looked a bit like something from the Alien movies, I thought it was a really cool badass look for a hero.

Harley Quinn- not based on anyone else really, just in the theme of her dear Mistah J, and a whole lot better looking than the old Herlequin or Duella Dent (or were they the same character?)

Jocasta- Kickass psychic robot with laser eyes who reminds me of the robot from Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” film.

I loved how John Byrne drew the FF uniforms just slightly baggy at the boots, gloves and waist, those little fabric folds added some very nice but realistic touches to Sue’s figure.

And I know a lot of folks don’t like her, but I’ve always been a little bit in love with Wanda the Scarlet Witch and her weird headdresses. I figure that pink bodystocking must give her some amount of protection, and at least until the terrible 90’s she’s always been more or less a sweetheart unless she was going insane for some plot or another.

I mostly agree with you on a lot of this, but I always like Supergirl’s look.

I thought it was cute and fun. In some shots you can see that she’s wearing shorts underneath her skirt-just don’t let Ian Churchill(pencils) and Norm Rapmund(inks) do it, they’re the ones who drew this issue, after all: http://images.wikia.com/smallville/images/4/43/Supergirl_super.jpg
and I’m not sure they had her wearing anything under that skirt.

And I don’t get how the booty shorts in the last image are any better than her skirt?

As for bearing her stomach being unpractical-who needs to protect a lot of skin when you’re invulnerable?

Also, to Ganky:

Duella Dent was supposed to be “The Joker’s Daughter”, but I think she actually ended up being Harvey Dent’s daughter? She was also a good guy for a little while, and even a member of the Teen Titans.

I see what they mean when they say they wanted to update Harley’s old look, but I really hate her Suicide Squad look; they could have made her look more modern without looking like a total skank, right?

…And now you have me wanting to draw some re-designs. lol
If/When I do, I’ll link you to them. :) ?

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