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CSBG Archive

She Has No Head! – 6 Sublime Superheroine Redesigns

I’ve been thinking about superhero redesigns, in part thanks to our awesome interview with Kris Psylocke AnkaAnka on 3 Chicks Review Comics. We talked a lot about the difference between good artists and good designers, and how important getting an artist that knows about design and fashion is to having a modern and functional looking costume. Any time you change a costume, no matter how necessary the change is, or how great the new design might be, it tends to ruffle fan feathers as there is surprising emotional attachment to things like this. And when you change design as fundamental as a superhero costume you’re changing brand identity and recognition. It’s kind of a huge deal, and not something that should be undertaken all willy-nilly.

For this column I decided to focus on 6 recent redesigns that are actual canon (i.e. you can actually see them in comics – or will – and they have been embraced by the publisher) but because I hate actually sticking to the limits I set for myself, I added a couple brilliant redesigns that are “unofficial” or considered “fan art”, because honestly, there is A LOT of great design being done on the fringes. Skilled artists that know a lot about design and fashion and perhaps more importantly, care about characters, and the resigns for said characters are killing it out there. Anyway, I hope you’ll enjoy!

 #1. PSYLOCKE

Psylocke Final

Before and After

I’m hard pressed to think of a character more in need of a redesign than poor Psylocke. So it’s great as she gets more and more focus (post Remender’s great work with her in Uncanny X-Force) that she got a redesign before getting some even more intense exposure in both Marvel Now’s “new” Uncanny X-Force and Brian Wood and Olivier Coipel’s upcoming X-Men. And having Kris Anka do the design is really exciting. He’s a smart designer and one interested in both form and function. A designer that takes personality and purpose into consideration. Gone is the ridiculous thong swimsuit, as are the impractical thigh and arm straps. In its place is something with clean lines and a sharp design but with complete functionality. The addition of the sash is also a nice callback to her previous look. Nothing in Anka’s redesigns feels ill-considered. Check out this process shot as he worked out several different designs:

Psylocke Anka Sketches

Versions of Psylocke via Kris Anka

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 #2 GLORY

Glory Final

Before and After

One of the things that actually made Glory work as a reboot was Ross Campbell’s hardcore redesign. In one brilliant re-design Campbell updated Glory for a new age of comics and made her an unequivocal badass instead of a “90’s badgirl chick joke” full of silicone and impossible proportions. And that design influenced the entire tone of the series bold groundbreaking relaunched series. With giant gorgeous armor and more practical considerations as well as height and muscle to spare, Glory went from joke to best of the best. And yet she kept that unreal hair, and Campbell somehow made it all work.

Glory Campbell Sketch Process Final

Glory by Ross Campbell

#3. POISON IVY

Poison Ivy Final

Before and After

It’s disappointing to me that this is the only lady of the new 52 that I saw fit to put on this list (considering nearly all of them got serious redesigns in the last couple years) but I just didn’t see much innovation or consideration in those designs. A rare exception was Cully Hamner’s new take on Poison Ivy…and man was a new take overdue! I know a lot of us (myself included) have a lot of affection for what is basically a green one piece swimsuit, but man was it boring. Sure in the right hands it could look amazing (which was probably why we got stuck with it for so long) but in the wrong hands (see above) it was a train wreck. A fussy ugly ass non-functional trainwreck.  And while Pamela is one of a handful of characters that I’m okay with seeing wearing less, as it fits her character, since we can’t just see her nude, a compromise has to be reached. And how it was decided that an impractical solid green swimsuit (sometimes with tights and little boots) was the compromise I’ll never know. That long history (and a bizarre one at that) make it all the more cool to see Hamner’s design (and Jesus Saiz’s interpretation – as these images are Saiz’s) as an entirely new tact with her costume. Bringing us a full body suit that had incredible functionality, not just from a practicality standpoint, but also from an ability to adapt standpoint (and what is Pamela if not adaptive?!) – from its ability to change color, to the constant shifting to the pattern, and the badass shapes on her face, this was a costume that really embraced who she was and made her costume actually feel a part of her. Check out these variations that Saiz showed us in just a few short issues:

Poison Ivy 2 Final

Poison Ivy via Jesus Saiz

If there’s a downside to Ivy’s new costume (does she even have it anymore?) is that not all artists have executed it as well as Hamner and Saiz. They have found the perfect blend of simple and stylized with just enough detail to feel organic. Some artists push it too far so that it feels overly design and fussy, which is a shame. It’s a surprisingly good design and one I would love to see more artists embrace.

#4. CAPTAIN MARVEL

Captain Marvel Final

Before and After

While there was nothing aggressively wrong with Ms. Marvel’s longstanding classic costume – although I still maintain that a one piece swimsuit and thigh highs are a ridiculous thing to be fighting crime and supervillains in – the updated look is exactly what she needed along with her name change. And the story behind this update, that Kelly SueDeConnick funded the redesign (by Jamie McKelvie) on her own dime and Marvel agreed it was so good that they’d have to use it – is priceless. There’s nothing I like more than creators that love comics so much that they’re willing to risk it all to get the best possible comic out there.  McKelvie’s redesign is clean and smart. And most importantly, she looks like a superhero. The colors are bold and the images are graphic. The costume screams strength and confidence. And nobody is going to mistake her for a Miss America contestant that lost her way. :)

#5. JUBILEE

Jubilee Final

Before and After

Jubilee’s costume was never a favorite of mine, when it was new or old, but whether you liked it or not you have to admit that she was badly in need of an update. The one she got, post losing her powers and becoming a vampire, was incredibly smart as it addressed all of these issues at once while still maintaining that essential Jubilee vibe. This was designed by Phil Noto prior for the Wolverine & Jubilee mini-series he did with writer Kathryn Immonen (the image above is from the Olivier Coipel cover – and thanks to Jeanine for the correction/confirmation!). Regardless, going for a black catsuit instead of dated pink and blue shorts and t-shirt combo brings in a bit of edge and darkness to address Jubilee’s new Vampire state, but in keeping with a slight pop of pink on the zipper we still maintain a bit of the old Jubes. Similarly, she keeps her traditional yellow trench coat (a must!) but it’s fitted and fashionable, rather than bulky and absurd. To top it all off she’s got her quintessential giant pink sunglasses, but again, with a bit of an updated edge. The whole look is fantastic, and already we’re seeing great interpretations of it, like this image by Kris Anka:

Anka Jubilee

#6. VALKYRIE

Valkyrie Final

Before and After

A very new addition to costume redesign, this new Valkyrie design for Fearless Defenders by Mark Brooks just surfaced last week and it’s so long overdue I can’t even believe it’s finally happened.  Gone is the ridiculous high cut swimsuit and thigh high boots. And most importantly the absolutely ridiculous metal torpedo boobs which have NEVER been a good idea. I’ve yet to see a single artist, no matter how talented, execute that insane metal boob holder design well (case in point, the brilliant Art Adams illustrating the Valkyrie on the left in our before shot – ridiculous!).  Now we have something much cleaner and more practical, less revealing (and way less silly) but something that still feels like Val – the boots – easily the most impractical part if you were to dissect the costume further – are a great shout out to Val’s roots (also, they look AH-MAZING). The costume is a LITTLE fussy for my personal tastes but the more I look at it, the more I like it…and anything that saves us from metal boob torpedoes is worth its weight in gold.

So what about the non-canon stuff? Well, there’s a ton of it out there, but I just picked two of my favorite (relatively) recent things from the internet and from two of my favorite artists. First up is Meredith McClaren’s take on Domino:

Domino Final

Before(s) and After

Domino has had so many shitty costumes over the years it’s hard to keep track (although for my money that pink and grey one on the bottom is the worst. yuck!) It seems nobody has known what to do with her for years. So imagine my surprise when McClaren scrapped the whole superhero-y catsuit-ish look and instead went with classic but cool military/spy garb. The results are incredibly cool while still looking absolutely functional. Domino has never looked better!

Ross Campbelle Jem and Misfits

Jem & The Holograms AND The Misfits via Ross Campbell

All that said, for my money, Ross Campbell wins everything with his redesign of all the Jem characters (including The Misfits!). Never have I seen such a complete and wonderful redesign of an entire property that made me so happy. Campbell’s tight consistent style helps them all to look like they belong in the same badass world, but he’s not afraid to give them all their own looks and personality. He draws beautifully from the (boring and uninspired) originals and does something magnificent with each. Even as a kid I was never that in to Jem, but I would watch the shit out of a Jem show with Campbell’s redesigns.

 

132 Comments

Sam Robards, Comic Fan

April 29, 2013 at 9:20 am

I pretty much knew Glory was going to be on here, and with good reason. I adore her new look. It’s simply fantastic.

I agree with the rest of the picks here, too, with the exception of Poison Ivy. Not because I think the old one looks good (it doesn’t), but because I think the new one’s just as bad. But that’s just me.

Valkyrie’s is also really good. I haven’t been picking up Fearless Defenders, but I might at some point.

Couple of very good redesigns (partly because the starting point was atrocious) and others I nod to but Captain Marvel’s new look is a bit blah, she looks like an extra from Star Trek. Which is probably practical and all but if one takes that route why bother with sashes and colour schemes (especially the bright yellow target spot on the chest).

I always wondered how Ms. Marvel kept her parts under wraps while crouching, running, and kicking.

Valkyrie’s is nice (though I love Art Adams’ picture of her). Ms. Marvel looks terrible. Psylocke looks better than the old example here, but I always liked her original purple hooded outfit the best. Not sold on Poison Ivy although the colour-changing is a good idea.

It’s not recent enough to be “recent” for this list, but Darwyn Cooke’s Catwoman still has to reign as the all-time champion.

Speaking as someone who mostly recognises the difference between awesome costumes and fan service, I have to say I like most of the redesigns, though there’s something so iconic about green skinned Poison Ivy and her classic look which I really miss with the new design. The one I utterly loathe is New 52 Harley Quinn. I understand that the character has changed from her cutesy TAS days to become more punkish, and I do love the design in Arkham City, but the full-on goth look they’ve opted for her is terrible in my opinion.

The real thing these days for female characters in mainstream comics seems to be one large ‘cover the legs up’ deploy, which is fine I guess but one does miss some classic looks, and I’ll firmly stand by my glee to seeing Power Girl back in her classic duds once more.

One thing I think is good about the new Captain Marvel design is that the seam/zipper on the front gives plausibility to “how does she get into that thing”?

The Valkyrie metal-bra thing always reminded me of a Wagnerian Opera costume (as I suspect was the intent). I think the new design could have done well to have retained some of the metal breastplate feel, but simply rein it in to something that was within the bounds of the normal and not ridiculous. That said, the design IS quite good, although if I didn’t know who it was, I wouldn’t immediately think “valkyrie” as an archetype (and perhaps THAT is good too…)

I like all the redesigns you mentioned tho I prefer Ms. Marvel with longer hair.

Timely topic for me as I was just discussing Black Canary’s costume yesterday and how much I dislike the New52 version. It’s so generic and super-hero-y and reminds me of what she was wearing at the start of the original Birds of Prey – that’s not a compliment. For the record, my fav of hers was the fishnets with short jacket and the torso top that zipped all the way up to her neck. It was not just functional, but it harkened back to the pre-Crisis design, gave it a little bit of a S&M feel, and subtlety called attention to her throat.

Count me in as unimpressed with anything other than the original Valkyrie costume. By design, it screamed “Vagnerian” and you could pretty much tell what she was supposed to be on sight. For the sake of gender equality, I’ll also note that I hate the modern redesigns of Thor’s costume, too–the classic costume ALSO had giant metal plates on them, yet looked just dandy.

For Carol Danvers’ new costume, I think my main dislike of it is that the colors are backwards. It’s intended to be evocative of the classic Mar-vell costume (the red & blue one, not the green & white), but Mar-vell had blue where Carol has red, and vice versa. I think if they had just flipped the colors, but kept the sash and the yellow stripe, it’d look fine.

I love Valkyrie’s and Jubilee’s redesigns. Jubilee’s retains the coat, which helps to ease the transition, but it also looks so much better than the other one, which was great for a kid, but not for an adult. Is Valkyrie’s for when she starts hanging around in Misty’s world, since we’ve already seen Misty and Annabelle in hers?

And, while it’s probably too old to make this list, Mockingbird’s will always be a favourite of mine. Going from what was essentially either a swimsuit or leotard to an outfit fit for a badass Avenger/spy was a great choice, while still retaining the basic design (and going closer to her first costume as Mockingbird).

Have to disagree with Poison Ivy. She’s the only character that a green swimsuit works (and I agree about the green boots), IMHO. She’s supposed to be alluring and deadly, the new design doesn’t convey that at all.

I’m not keen on Valkyrie’s boots, but the rest of her costume looks much better. All the other designs are good as well (especially Captain Marvel).

Jubilee’s seem the best. Ivy being the worst. Not a huge fan “cover ALL the body parts, ladies!” DC seems obsessed with. Power Girl’s outfit might not have been functionally appropriate or practical, but neither is dressing in a yellow and blue clown suit like Wolverine routinely does. Now she’s just another generic lookin superchick.

Don’t get me started on trading Zatanna’s magician outfit for Goth Chic

I have really hated Psylocke for a long time time and one of the reasons was that horrible, HORRIBLE costume. The redesign is really slick!

(She is still a white character pretending at diversity, but that is a whole other argument)

The Jubilee redesign is great!

Captain Marvel is an improvement, but that doesn’t make the costume very exciting.

The old look for Jubilee did have a purpose–she was a KID back then, remember?

Great article, and agree 100% on all figures, but I’m curious to know who do you still think needs a redesign that still is stuck with horrible threads?

PS. is the “AH-MAZING” a Happy Endings shout out? -_-

I wonder if Liefeld fainted when he saw Glory’s redesign.

You really don’t like swimsuits, do you? I really don’t find the swimsuit to be all that bad as a costume. I don’t really go for the “how is it functional?” argument as self-powered flight renders “functional” irrelevant. I do agree that Poison Ivy’s outfit was rather bland, though. I’m ok with the Captain Marvel redesign because she’s taken on a new identity. I’ll always love that Cockrum design for Ms. Marvel, though.

Great article, but I have to disagree with you a bit on the Poison Ivy and Captain Marvel re-designs.

On Poison Ivy, she has never had a great costume. Her old design was at best generic. At its worst, it managed the difficult trick of being both too fussy and too bare. I am not sure how the Jesus Saiz redesign really fixed that. It keeps the busy leaf stuff and moves from skin to painted on spandex. My favorite version of Ivy was the Bruce Timm take. He used her hair to move the focus up to her face. The costume was so plain that you barely noticed it. That seemed like a good call for a character that is so emotionally driven.

On Captain Marvel, I am not averse to a good swimsuit style design and the old Ms. Marvel costume was one of the best. Dave Cockrum took a really generic costume and used a couple small details to make it memorable and iconic. To me, that is a great character design. Literally any artist can draw Ms. Marvel and she reads as the same character. McKelvie’s redesign is fine, but it takes one step too many toward the generic super-suit for my taste.

Great calls on the others. Psylocke is a huge, huge upgrade. So is Glory.

My favorite is Valkyrie. Like the old Ms. Marvel design, it takes a generic super-suit and uses a couple details to identify the character. The boots and the skirt detail over her tights read “Viking” to exactly the right degree. I guess that her metal bullet bra did the same thing, but no one could ever make it work. Terrific redesign.

thank you, Kelly!!! i still have more Jem designs to do, i still have to draw the Stingers, but i can never find the time or energy to finish it all up. hopefully someday.

I’m not a fan of Poison Ivy’s new outfit. I don’t see “organic”. I see a full black body suit with a leaf pattern. It doesn’t matter that the leaf pattern can change colors or move about. In the images you post, it still looks like a full black body suit with a leaf pattern. Rorschach’s mask looks more organic than Ivy’s new outfit.

For Valkyrie, I don’t know. It isn’t worse than the previous look, but for better or worse the old outfit made her immediately recognizable. Stick a “4” on it, and the new outfit would look like some new Fantastic Four design (excepting the boots). As for the old suit’s impractical metal boobs, I’d be more concerned with that presumably metal belt buckle she sports on that Secret Avengers cover. How can she even bend forward without it painfully digging into her body?

Random new Valkyrie thought… Is the sword in her left hand supposed to go in the scabbard on her back? Because the back scabbard is way too short for that sword.

I still say the Psylocke costume by Jim Lee is a classic, it endured for a long time and I think part of that has to do with his design sense – it’s not always bad. I’ve said before, it’s actually more accurate to what I’ve read on ninjas in feudal Japan (the less clothes, the less noise, and they’d also grease up their exposed skin to slip into narrow gaps and whatnot when they had to assassinate people). Now, I don’t think this similarity was intentional, but to me, it looks very anime (something I’d like to see more influence of in the X-Men, since I think it’s a franchise really suited to not only those kinds of visuals, but that kind of plotting as well), and to me it actually does seem practical. Plus, I really like characters with costumes that have cloth strips wrapped around limbs; once again, it’s an anime thing. That said however, she’s had that thing FOREVER. I’m glad they went with something new in X-Force, it’s about time she had a change, and you’d be hard-pressed to design something better than her current costume.

Also, Glory I think should get #1 if only because of the drastic improvement. Not only was the cheesecake-warrior angle she had before lame, it was generic. Campbell didn’t just give her bad-ass armor, he made her bad-ass to the bone! So much of the excellent character work wouldn’t have worked without that redesign, and big props to Cambell for taking the queen of generic 90s characters and making her unique and cooler than any superheroine I’ve read. I hope Campbell and Keatingue get more mainstream work, I think they could do great things with some of the Big 2’s women.

Must agree with Scott Psylocke’s old style hooded costume was my favourite, although the new one is okay. Must disagree with Kelly on the Captain Marvel costume though I hate it with a passion. If she’s going to be “Captain” Marvel why can’t she wear Mar-Vell’s costume instead of this terrible new thing which to me looks like something out of a 1950’s musical

The Campbell redesign is no small part the reason I picked up the reboot trade. Glory actually looked interesting. If the original look had been kept, yet the praise for the reboot remained, I don’t think I would have picked up the trade.

Terror and Love

April 29, 2013 at 9:35 pm

I still wish Ms Marvel had the mask on the new costume. Its cool other than that.

I rather like the new design for Psylocke, I just wish they’d kept her hair purple. That hair was a nice callback to her anime/manga influences.

And that Glory redesign is a joy to behold. Pure badassery.

I rather love the ’90s Jim Lee X-Men redesigns. It’s clear that functionality and realism were not he what he was going for. He went for cool and sleek. The redesigns managed to accomplish that quite nicely in my opinion. And frankly, I don’t really like the emphasis on functionality when it comes to comic book costumes. Above all, the design should be striking, visually engaging and interesting. ‘Would it work in the real world?’ Should be a very distant concern for comic book artists.

Is it just me, or does Captain (formerly Ms of course) Marvel’s new costume look just a bit like Marvel/Miracleman’s ,which Marvel acquired the rights to a few years back? And how many decibels was the sound of Alan Moore’s head exploding?

Stephen Conway

April 30, 2013 at 6:44 am

Tanzim, I liked the purple hair on Psylocke because that’s how her hair was all the way back in the Marvel UK stuff when she was still just Betsy Braddock, Captain Britain’s psychic sister before any of the silly ninja body swap shenanigans began.

Stephen Conway

April 30, 2013 at 6:50 am

Also, I kinda like this new Zatanna design that’s on the way, combining Perez’s pre-Crisis design and her stage magician post-Crisis design. Her pseudo-Goth design that DC have been using in the New 52 isn’t bad per say, but it is phenomenally boring.

I think the new Poison Ivy look would be more interesting if the green areas were drawn as actual leaves and the black areas were skin – adjusting the green to cover the necessary bits of course. Add some neat vine details and it would be great.

My problem with the Captain Marvel design is that it’s too utilitarian and dull. I’d kill the yellow except for the star burst and fancy up the gloves and boots. The triangle formed by the upper red and yellow also just seems to cut her off at weird proportions.

I think Poison Ivy is a beautiful looking character, possibly THE most beautiful comic book character, who looks great no matter what she is wearing or who draws her.

Also, who is that very last character (bottom row, far right) in the Jem and the Holograms artwork?

I love Poison Ivy’s new outfit. It is quite badass while still sexy and it also makes her a lot more powerful…my favorite New52 redesign!
But sadly, like you said many artist don’t quite get it right and they just miss the details I like, like her black eyes and the vines in her face.

I’m sorry Glory still isn’t ongoing; I really, really HATE Valkyrie’s new boots, though I like the rest of her outfit just fine; and despite no redesigns, I sorry the article didn’t pick on Supergirl and Wonder Woman; the first to point out, again, how dumb her current look is, and the second to hammer yet again at the seemingly impregnable fortress of backward thought of people (like “justin,”) who not only want no change, but who, it seems, are insensate to and uncaring about whether women are objectified or respected, so long as they get their jollies.

Why people still make use of to read news papers when in this technological world all is presented on web?

I LOVE the Captain Marvel redesign! Her previous costume and title is the only thing I didn’t like about her. Bye bye dominatrix! Hello air force superhero (as it should have always been)!

@Justin

First and with respect I don’t think capitals and insults will make people see your viewpoint. Secondly as a guy who reads comics I figured there’s a difference between there being plenty of attractive, interesting and developed female characters and full-on fan service attire. I’ll be the first to say that I like Psylocke’s old get up and will miss her purple hair, or that it took me a while to accept Carol Danvers’ new look. But we have to understand that comic writers want a wide range of readers for comics and I’m sure female readers like their heroes to be awesome role models and not just soft porn eye candy. Is there a place for sexy heroines? Of course, but probably not within the ground of the main comics.

You ought to take part in a contest for one of the most useful blogs on the internet. I am going to recommend this web site!

Searching delicious.com I noticed your website bookmarked as: She Has No Head!. Now i’m assuming you bookmarked it yourself and wanted to ask if social book-marking gets you a ton of traffic? I’ve been thinking about doing some bookmarking for a few of my sites but wasn’t certain if it would yield any positive results. Thank you.

@Justin

Find other jerk-off material. I prefer my superheroines to actually LOOK LIKE SUPERHEROES instead of porn stars in a superhero parody!

Hey, Kelly! Love this piece, especially love that you included Jubilee :)

It was actually Phil Noto who did the redesign. He and Kathryn Immonen brainstormed the new look together — Kathryn actually sent over a bunch of coats from the fall-of-that-year (2010?) collection of a designer (can’t remember his name!) to base her new coat on so it would look modern, and Phil nailed it!

Boo! Putting pants on Psylocke was a crime against humanity!

I prefer to equally objectify males rather than just covering up females, but that would require a different approach to artwork than the current crop care to explore. You COULD put all the women in spandex or Kevlar Burqas and there would still be artists who might have them bend over suggestively. It is the nature of our natures. Tone it down? Absolutely. Remove it or cover it up completely? Never.

After Justin’s first comment I thought he was trying to parody such backwards attitudes.

His second comment was very disappointing.

@justin

Well every reader will have different opinions on what characters should look like and be wearing, male and female alike. But the fundamental thing to remember is that it can have an impact on how people perceive comics and their reading audience, as well as female readers who might or might not have a problem with heroines dressed in certain ways. Think of matters as trying to think what it might be like if you had a daughter you wanted to let read comics. Would the average attires heroines wear be right to her?

It’s a tricky question to answer. I like sexy heroines. I also like to think that it’s entirely possible for female readers to have the same situation with characters like Hawkeye, Nightwing or Gambit, and the same for readers who are homosexual of either gender. Ultimately, I and yourself are not everyone.

@Justin

No one’s saying you are asking for porn. I will give you the leg thing, since Marvel and DC in recent years seem to have panicked about mostly bare legs on women and seen most covered up, but then it’s debatable to say if that’s impractical going into fighting or not. I imagine that costumes like Power Girl’s boob window are going to be debated for the rest of existence. And I do admire many artists, male and female alike, who can draw comics both awesomely and attractively. The trick is to recognise the varied audiences comics can draw in.

So to sum up the article – skin bad, bodysuit good. Okay, but I don’t think you need to cite the same example over and over again.

And that Poison Ivy redesign is just plain dull.

Love the new Valkyrie and Ms. Marvel. Both look like capable (read: believable) heroines with some gravitas to them now. And still showcases their beauty. Bravo!

@justin I don’t have any way to confirm your statistics, so I tend to err on the side of equal treatment. As a gay guy I have no problem with covering all female characters from head to toe to appease a portion of the female readership, but it’s somewhat unfair to both the characters and to a large portion of readers that might be looking to be visually entertained.

I think it’s fair to say that there are certain characters like Catwoman, Poison Ivy and Emma Frost where the seductive, flirty nature of the characters means it makes sense that they dress in a certain way if the writer and artist think it makes sense for them to be. Covering up ladies completely is one option, certainly, but in my view not the best way to go. The trick then is most likely compromise.

I don’t have a problem with something being softcore masturbation material when it’s marketed and sold for that purpose. But I find it very strange in Marvel/DC when the writer is also trying to tell a story, and if you’re not a lonely hormonally-driven male teenager (or the equivalent), then you’re gonna find all those strangely contorted women in ridiculous skimpy clothing to be silly and distracting. It takes away from the story.

It’s okay to have alluring, sexy woman in a story to attract the male audience. All media makes use of that. But there are limits that once crossed take you into the territory of unintentional parody and the grotesque. Even in Marilyn Monroe movies they don’t have Marilyn strangely contorted to expose her ass and tits in every single frame she is in.

Of all the “old” costumes being commented on, I think only Poison Ivy’s matches her personality, powers, and role in stories. Maybe Jubilee’s too, as she was supposed to be this clueless teenager, and the color scheme was supposed to be a homage to Robin. The other costumes are abominations, even Ms Marvel’s old costume. I think most of Dave Cockrum’s costumes have aged as well as John Travolta’s outfits in Saturday Night Fever.

Except for Poison Ivy, the new costumes are all vast improvements.

I love all of these designs, except for 2. I have to argue with the Jubilee Redesign getting a spotlight. Jubilee hasnt worn the original short shorts and pink shirt for almost 2 decades now, starting with her Generation X bodysuit, and then her Wondra look with the new Warriors. Her black jumpsuit is awesome, but its not a major thing.

Poison Ivy’s new look always irked me, not because of the sudden covering of skin, but because of her skin in general. for years we’ve had a green skinned Poison Ivy, as a mark of all the chlorophyll in her body. I miss that. if DC would fix that I’d be content.

for me, the most important thing about a costume redesign is that it plays homage to the original in some way while presenting somthing new. All of these do that. But the best one is the new Captain Marvel suit. It’s just AWESOME. My only complaints to it was when they shortened her sash and hair, and that’s been fixed thanks to artist interpretation.

Ross Campbell’s art is the best!

And it seems to be like a default thing for female characters to wear either cat suits, or bikinis with long boots and sashes. Seems kind of stupid, and yeah, Domino’s redesign is pretty cool. I’ve loved her character forever, since I was a kid . . . she really is an awesome character who should hang out with Cable more . . .

Jubilee and Valkyrie have the best redesigns, and Captain Marvel should have kept the long hair. I just like her with long hair more . . . but whatever. Her new outfit is more cool. But Poison Ivy’s I don’t buy. Its cool in some respects but the black just doesn’t work . . . gah. No.

And yeah, Psylocke seriously needed to be updated . . . but that’s all well and cool. Still Ross Campbell . . . best designer here . . .

I also disagree with Kelly’s statement that March’s Poison Ivy is a trainwreck, but that’s just me. I find a lot of superheroine/villainess costumes do tend to lean more towards a sexy portrayal, but at the same time, I don’t think any woman wants to dress up as a superheroine/villainess on a daily basis. Even in the instance of cosplay. women have a choice in how they want to portray themselves as the character and even make the costume their own. They don’t have to objectify themselves just because some artist draws the character that way.

Also, I believe that Wonder Woman looked better with pants rather than without. I could not believe the gnashing of teeth that occurred when DC revealed her New 52 character design. If anything, it’s not so much the objectified drawings that put female readers off, it’s the attitude/viewpoint of male readers.

Love these new outfits, and most of them are in comics I follow, too!
However, why I really liked that post-curse Jubilee outfit was because her yellow coat is such a throwback to her 90’s look, as opposed to that horrible Wondra look.

I always have mixed feelings about this sort of thing.

On the one hand, it is terribly juvenile to advocate unnecessarily revealing outfits on female characters and insist they must look sexy at all times. And the notion of a superhero charging into battle, wearing a straight-out thong and high-heels, is preposterous.

But at the same time, I also find it extremely obnoxious when people say they can’t take certain female characters seriously or look down on them because they might wear a leotard.

Oh, I see….I can look at Psylocke and Ms. Marvel, and regard them as dignified, bad-ass, awesome characters even if they’re wearing essentially bathing suits–while you throw them under the bus because you can (GASP) see their upper thighs–and somehow, that makes me the shallow one.
F**k you.

And yes, I know for a lot of people it isn’t so much the outfits, but the sexualized way they’re drawn in said outfits, blah-de-blah-de-blah….
I agree on that.

Having said all that…
I’m good with Psylocke in either outfit…but I’m always tempted to proclaim the old one with thigh straps better purely out of spite.

I personally prefer Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel’s old outfit. I thought the black, with yellow stripe, and red sash was striking and sleek. Current one strikes me as generic and bland. I also am not a fan of the mullet they gave her–though I’ve noticed more recent comics have been giving her back her hair, so at least there’s that.

I’m not a fan of Poison Ivy’s redesign. She looks dull and, unless pointed out to me, I’d never have guessed that was supposed to be Poison Ivy.

I agree on Valkyrie, Glory, and Jubilee.

I don’t mind the new Valkyrie redesign. But she had ALREADY been redesigned. She still had the metal breast cones, but she was out of the swimsuit and into pants already. Not everybody was drawing her that way yet, but that outfit was used in Fear Itself: The Fearless and the Fearless Defenders series. I prefer the last redesign, I think, as drawn by Frank Cho on the Fear Itself cover.
http://www.comicbookencounters.com/post/35930956623/valkyrie-and-red-skull-by-frank-cho

All of these redesigns are amazingly ugly. There are so very few good superhero costume designers these days. Dave Cockrum, you are greatly missed.

I was disappointed in Carol’s new direction. While Ms. Marvel is kind of 70ish it’s much better than Warbird or Captain Marvel VI (or VII). I agree the that superheroes fighting in one pieces is nuts, why can’t they just add material to the existing costumes? Keep Ms. Marvel’s design and just make her costume a sleeveless body suit. You don’t necessarily have to throw out the bath with the bath water.

Justin,

I’d say it depends. Sometimes it takes away from the story, other times not. I suppose it’s an integral and traditional part of a certain kind of jungle stories. Shanna is a character that shouldn’t be covered up, IMO. Psylocke and Ms Marvel, not so much.

I like Frank Cho, by the way. He does sexiness in a fun way, like Alan Davis. I don’t much care for Greg Land, Jim Lee, Deodato, and others that go for agressive sexiness.

As the father of a little girl, I’m glad that they’re fixing certain costumes that I felt really got out of hand in the 90’s (at least the renderings of the costumes) but alot of redesigns are a tad boring. I like Val’s new look and Carol’s as well but when we start discussing things like practicality of a super heroes costume, we might need to re-evaluate reading super hero comics. That said, I’m glad that Psylocke’s old eye sore of a costume is a thing of the past.

Imraith Nimpahis

April 30, 2013 at 12:13 pm

I quite like all of the re-designs choices shown. However, the designer could have “suggested” Poison Ivy’s suit display bits of skin here and there (yes the one-piece was boring…but I do like my Ivy a bit revealing) to go along with the shifting patterns and colours (although I imagine it would be a tad difficult for that artist to decide when, where and how).

I would also add Storm (that one-piece bathing suit and thigh-highs with the ridiculous cape that no artist ever drew correctly or tastefully) to the group with Anka’s superlative design.

Ross Campbell’s Glory doesn’t have “impossible proportions?” She’s like a truck with arms and legs. :) I get what you were going for, just thought that was funny.

The new Captain Marvel’s my favorite costume revamp in ages. Kris Anka’s designs for X-Force are all great. I like the new Storm even better than the new Psylocke (and he somehow made Puck of all people look cool). That new Valkyrie is long overdue. The boob cones only got more absurd as the years went by.

Truthfully I don’t like the redesigns that much with the exception of Jubilee, there was really nothing wrong with Valkyrie, Domino, or Posion Ivys designs they were fine the way they were.

I could see chaning Ms. Marvel and Psylockes costumes somewhat but the redesigns just scream yeah we are going to pander to the feminists and much as possible and cover the characters from head to toe making them as boring looking as humanly possible. As for Glory I never really read that paticular comic so I don’t really care about that one to much.

And laughably it has been proven that while the costume redesigns are bascially to like I said quiet feminists and try to get girls to buy more comics, it really has not worked that well. For example look at DC they revamped a lot of their female characters, changed some of the costumes etc, but none of the female character or female team of character books honestly sell that well.

Heck people hated Wonderwomans revamped so vocally they changed it back to her original design before the book was released, DC has also switched Powergirls costume back to its original design due to fan hatred of the new one. I personally think Zatanna from DC got the worst treatment as her “costume” now is simply an out fit an Emo-Goth kid would get at Hot Topic, I would love for them to change it back but since Zatanna has been changed as a character I kind of doubt it.

One thing that always makes me laugh however is how people go GaGa over the new more conservative designs, but if you ever go to Conventions no one Cosplays the new costumes they cosplay the old ones, because the new ones are pretty boring. Also if you ever check out the artist alley or independent artists artwork for sale, the pieces almost always have the female characters in the old designs, you could also check sites like Deviantart to realize that even when the costumes are redone, people who do not actually work with the comic itself always draw the characters with the older costumes and rarely the new ones.

The core reason for this being that a lot of people do not like the new designs or believe that at best comic book artists are changing the look of characters simply to pander to certain people, and lots of fans do not appreciate it.

Psylocke’s new design is pretty cool, I must admit. Jubilee’s is also pretty good.

Poison Ivy’s new costume is all right, but I think the original suits her character better.

The Captain Marvel costume for Carol Danvers is very good, but my favorite is still the Dave Cockrum Ms. Marvel redesign.

The Valkyrie’s redesign doesn’t work for me at all, with the furry boots looking particularly absurd. Give me her original costume any day. No opinion on the rest, as I’m indifferent to the characters.

Jakbobus –

Heh, Deviantart and cosplayers are now a indicator of what the “real” fans want? What is next? Saying that the makers of sex dolls and porn movies aren’t adopting the new costumes in their designs as prove that they’re “boring”?

But seriously, changing anything about the comics isn’t going to attract new readers, female or otherwise, when comics dwindling readership is a matter of price, availability, and marketing.

That said, I don’t think Wonder Woman or Power Girl really had to have their costumes changed. WW’s costume is too iconic, and Power Girl’s cheesecake is pratically a part of the character. Keep them as they are. But Psylocke and Ms Marvel are just silly dated – 1990s silly and 1970s silly, respectivelly.

But you know what really gets to me? The squizoid stuff. You say covering Psylocke is pandering to feminists? Okay. Keep her in a stripper costume. But why try to write serious stories with her and Ms Marvel? Why the disconnect between writing and pencilling? The greatest disconnect I ever saw was Gail Simone writing with Mike Deodato pencilling. Why not write softcore porn stories if you’re going to have softcore porn costumes? I have more respect for Hericane of Penthouse Comics than for Psylocke. At least with Hericane the art matches the creative direction of the stories.

I like how reasonable you all are being with “Justin” even though he suggested I all caps BURN IN HELL for writing a comics column about superheroine redesigns.

Also, not that Justin can hear me from the place he’s screaming from, but the reason I called March’s Poison Ivy a “trainwreck” has nothing to do with her cleavage showing. It has to do with his interpretation of her costume (in that image) looking hideous. It looks like she went swimming in a lake filled with algae and moss and seaweed and it all got stuck to her costume and is hanging off of her like hair or something. Ick.

I think the Captain Marvel and Poison Ivy redos are terrible. I like the others though.

Yeah, justin’s gone. You can comment again, justin, if/when you apologize for being so rude to Kelly (and the “Burn in Hell” comment wasn’t even the worst thing justin had to say).

I’m a bit indifferent to a lot of these but that’s more to do with the characters, since I rarely read any books these are in. Psylockes is a lot better but it needs more purple, I also liked her look in wolverine and the xmen cartoon a few years back.
I think ivy is back to normal though, wasn’t she green skinned in dark knight – where she married clay face (only saw previews)

Kelly –

I suppose I was reasonable because I couldn’t help myself, I had to feel sorry for a guy that admits publicaly that he can’t get laid, no matter how rude and unreasonable he is.

@ Kelly (or any female commenter able to answer)

Being a man, I have no idea what type of women’s clothing helps mobility and what doesn’t, so this is an honest question. But olympic sprinters wear clothing that is pretty similar to what Psylocke/Ms. Marvel used to wear, which is why I never found those outfits to be egregious examples. Granted, some (most) artists accentuated the amount of visible ass cheek WAY too much, but the basic gist of legless uniforms always felt realistic to me for the same reason most top tier female athletes wear legless uniforms. Would Maria Sharapova be able to play tennis in tight spandex pants? If any of these redesigns switched to yoga style pants, then I could understand the “more appropriate for physical activity” argument, but tight pants just don’t seem more logical to me, they seem the opposite. Same with a character like Elektra. Sure, the leather pants that Jennifer Garner wore in the film seem less overtly sexualized than the mini-skirt/bikini-bottom look in the comic, but the leather pants also seem infinitely less realistic for what a ninja would be able to do her thing in.

Like I said, I’m a guy and it’s highly possible I have no idea what I’m talking about, which is why I’m asking the question. And I’m also not trying to insinuate that female super-heroes should be portrayed as sex objects, because I totally disagree with that notion and I can’t get behind Power Girl’s costume in any way, shape, or form. But trying to think purely in terms of super-hero functionality (in as much as one can seriously consider such a thing), it seems to me that old Psylocke/Ms. Marvel. had more athletically appropriate attire than new Psylocke/Ms. Marvel.

What do the women out there think?

Like some others I agree with all but the Poison Ivy choice too. The one piece can stay away but I also think the new outfit’s boring and bland. This is a woman who can do anything with any plant and hates traditional female roles (and clothing) and she chooses a black jumpsuit? I was hoping it was only a temporary thing. But all the others are definite improvements (Glory’s is like a completely different character) and I love the shout outs to Psylocke’s stupid leg bands and Marvel’s knee highs. Though a lot of people dislike Captain Marvel’s outfit and hairstyle. The hair maybe doesn’t fit her character so much but I do like the outfit.

Good column, Kelly. I’m not a fan of Carol’s new look and indifferent about Ivy’s, and I have to admit that I’ve always loved Valkyrie’s old costume for all its ridiculousless, but I agree that most of these were sorely needed. And honestly, it’s irrelevant whether I agree or not; I just enjoy reading your analysis of them.

Full disclosure: I haven’t read any of the comments above, because something tells me I’m better off not doing so.

Bryan Stelfreeze’s Domino was amazing!

I like Valkyrie’s old look and I really miss Ivy’s. Capt Marvel’s new look varies a lot with the artist. Psylocke’s new looks is SO great as are Jubilee’s and Glory’s.

I love McClaren’s redesign of Domino, but am I the only one noticing she put the black eyespot on the wrong side?
It’s her actual SKIN, you can’t change that part! haha

Kris Anka should be redesigning everyone at Marvel.

Worst new design is still Magneto’s ugly ass white thing.

PietroMaximoff

April 30, 2013 at 9:09 pm

i disagree with Poison Ivy, her weird old clothes fit her well
and the new costume looks like a lazy jumpsuit

That David Finch Psylocke picture is so terrible. Somehow she twists her body around so that both her ass and her cleavage manage to both face front toward the reader? It’s like an indecisive cheesecake artist:: “Ass shot or boob shot? Ass shot or boob shot” ARGH I can’t decide. Wait, why not both? That’s anatomically possible, right?”

I swear, DC stealing away David Finch was the best move they ever did for Marvel.

@ T.

David Finch art always looks like a clever satire of Image Comics/Wizard Magazine style from the ’90s. He kind of bums me out, because he plainly very talented and works very hard. It is just that he works at all the wrong things and no one seems to have told him.

I think some credit should also go to Ron Marz’s Witchblade, since though the promotional materials still presented her as a barely-dressed fanservice character, the interiors of his stories (and the artists he worked with, such as Stepan Sejic and Mike Choi) had her dress appropriately for an NYPD detective, with the Witchblade Armor actually covering her body when in use.

@ Rusty Priske:

I assumed Justin was (poorly considered) satire, too!

Who tells someone to “burn in Hell”? That one went out with buckles on shoes for men. The hysterical freak outs over perfectly calm and reasonable posts by Ms. Kelly Thompson never cease to astound me.

Anyway …

Comics as a medium can obviously convey a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For me, I have always liked cheesecake imagery that is in service of the story. I like images of beautiful women as much as anyone, but I read comics for the stories. Mixing sexualized imagery with action scenes has always seemed sort of pathetic to me.

For me, that has kept me following certain characters, or reading certain titles. A character like Psylocke seems very plainly to be designed with a certain fetish appeal in mind. As a result, I am not especially interested in learning anything more about her. The Kris Anka redesign signals to me that Marvel is interested in courting a broader audience. That makes me more likely to read about her. Therefore, I think it is an awesome design.

Maybe that matters and maybe it doesn’t.

The new Captain Marvel outfit is *iconic*. It represents everything the character is, her heritage, her background her powers, everrrrrrrrrything. It’s a modern classic, simple as that.

On the flipside, I am not impressed by the Poison Ivy redesign AT ALL. It’s fussy and boring. Sometimes, simple is better.

Most of these (Glory excluded) seem to just be variations on “dark-colored jumpsuit”.

Well, ass-bearing swimsuits and pouches and huge weapons were the style in the 90s. Call it hypersexual violent fetishization or something. Now the style is utmost practicality, with an emphasis on seams and sleekness. In the Golden age, it was capes and tights and underear on the outside, and in the silver age it was bright funky leotards and chunky armor.

Just saying, I wonder how we’ll be dressing superheroes and heroines in 10 years?

Way to keep it classy Justin, you’re making us all look bad when you say shit like that…

@Paul
In ten years, it will probably be a different fad.

But that doesn’t change that Psylocke and Jubilee both needed new outfits.

Jubilee’s “girl Robin” look worked when she was introduced, but she grew out of it. Unfortunately for her, she grew into worse outfits and worse stories. The black body suit (with the yellow coat) fit her older, more serious, character. She also switched to that style years ago, so she’s not a bandwagon jumper.

As for Psylocke, she was one of the X-Men who seemed stuck with her design. While the other X-Men went through several outfits (some good and some not so good), she seemed shackled to her Elektra outfit.

Captain Marvel, I don’t really care about. That may be why Marvel gave her a new costume and a new haircut, though, to try to get people to care about her.

Valkyrie isn’t hurt by a new outfit. I’m sure she won’t keep the jumpsuit for more than a few years. She may end up in a swimsuit again, or she may move to something else. While the swimsuit and metal boobs are what she is recognized for, they didn’t necessarily fit her character and more than it fits the warrior incarnation of Wonder Woman.

The Poison Ivy redesign still looks bad every time I look at it, though. I can kind of see what it was trying to do, but it just isn’t good.

Also – whoever mentioned that we should stop emphasizing practicality in costumes – I totally agree. For one, it makes them harder to draw by adding all the realistic stuff to make it look like Batman’s wearing body armor from the Nolan movies, and this may be a huge part of why artists get burnt out so much these days. I do like the idea of streamlining costumes, because I believe that can make them ‘pop’ more visually, and also add to the timeless quality, but trying to make them look more realistic because somehow realistic is automatically better is naive and illogical considering we’re talking about a medium where the worlds the characters live in are populated by clones, time travellers, people who dress up in bright costumes to fight wacky super villains (or at least the costumes used to be bright before they started adding so much black to all the color ink), and space aliens that look like racoons.

@Third Man

I’m not opposed to ladies being pantsless, but it does seem odd to me that female superheroes should be running around without pants and it’s an extreme rarity for male superheroes to be without them.

But I’ve already said about all I can muster on this topic:
http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2012/02/21/she-has-no-head-no-its-not-equal/

I wish you’d kept some of justin’s comments, just maybe posted his IP address or something for future reference. Exposure is more damaging to trolls than trying to bury them. Also, what an asshole.

I like most of the redesigns, but it seems like in almost half the cases, it’s less an issue of costume redesign than costume recoloring. Psylocke, Poison Ivy and Captain Marvels costumes hug the character’s curves just as tightly, there is just less “skin” exposed. Especially in Ivy’s case, it just seems like a knee jerk overreaction to her previous levels of exposure.

Which paints the change of Harley’s duds in an odd light. Did they think if they covered Ivy up, they could totally slut HQ up? In the context of the Arkham games, I’m mostly fine with the design changes. I don’t believe that the changes to her appearance in those games drove sales enough to bring that look to the comics.

I still have Justin’s comments; I saved the email notifications containing them. If anyone wants to see them, I will happily forward them to you. Frankly, I wouldn’t bother; I read too much of that sort of stuff online already. But everyone is entitled to their opinion, no matter how uninformed, asinine, misspelled, or ungrammatical it may be, Regarding the person posting as Psylocke; not remotely funny. On the other hand, I always had a problem with how a British psychic got turned into a vaguely Asian ninja in a swimsuit. At least, the new design actually looks like an Asian person,

@Third Man:

So, you’re saying that this athlete right here (http://www.smh.com.au/ffximage/2005/02/18/batman_ent-lead__200x354.jpg) is not as successful at his job than a half-naked female athlete sprinting in her bikini?
LOL
For clarification, there’s a new garment called leggings (made of spandex). They are the ultimate stretchy pants. I can roundhouse kick anybody and still not expose my lady parts while doing it.

Specifically in response to the Third Man/SyIV discussion:

I don’t think this is specifically supporting either side, just noting a fact, but the image SyIV links to is basically the male version of the female “legless” running suit. Both are about the least fabric a person of that gender can have on their legs. A woman can get away with having completely exposed legs (as long it doesn’t go too far into something ridiculous like a thong), but a man would need just that small amount of extra coverage due to… anatomical concerns.

Whch beggars the question: Why don’t we see more male characters dressed like the athlete in that image? Off the top of my head (and it sucks that this is the only example I have, since this character exists for no other reason than to be an awful, misogynist douchebag), the only one I can think of is A-Train, from “The Boys”. He basically dresses exactly like that runner (oddly, right down to the color) with the addition of goggles, and it all makes sense, because he’s a speedster.

Another point I sometimes think about during these discussions is that I’m basically cool with any amount of coverage on either gender (the ridiculous cheesecake poses notwithstanding) as long as the writer actually takes the time to go into the character’s head and figure out why they would choose to dress that way. For two extreme examples on the ‘less covered side”: Dr. Manhattan and the Engineer (from “The Authority”).

Manhattan simply does not see the need for clothing. It’s constricting and pointless to him. He wears whatever amount he has to when forced (a speedo when in most public situations, a full suit when guesting on a talk show, etc.), but prefers complete nudity. The Engineer is literally a woman covered in liquid technology. When the “New 52″ Stormwatch brought her back, I was pissed that they covered her up (well, that and many other complaints). Not because “hurr hurr boobies”, but because it didn’t make any sense. In the original series, I wasn’t any more offended by her metal-covered nipples being visible than I was by Manhattan’s penis occasionally making an appearance.

Obviously, there’s the things that just plain don’t make sense that have been mentioned already (Stiletto heels while fighting? That’s retarded.), but as long as it makes sense character-wise and situationally (as a few people have brought up with Poison Ivy’s more seductive personality and methods) it’s fine. So I guess this is all just a TL;DR way of saying: I wish we didn’t have to have the conversation at all, not because everyone was covered up all the time, but because it was story/character-based and not exploitational nonsense.

@ TJCoolguy

I agree with you on keeping the costumes true to the character. Sometimes covering them up would do them a huge injustice, like for Dr. Manhattan. I can even understand why Emma Frost would have to wear nothing but a bustier most of the times, because she is using her sex to get what she wants. But for the rest of most superheroes is doesn’t make sense. Not for men and not for women.
Although I would really love to see these male costumes in comic books from now on. Especially Spidey… =D

http://img.gawkerassets.com/img/186c65znwnfxsjpg/ku-xlarge.jpg

I think it covers everything up nicely. ;)
Equality for all!

Alternate Article Title:

TOP 6 SUPERHEROINES WHO COVERED UP IN ORDER TO SATISFY MY FEMINIST OUTRAGE

I like the way that all the canonical redesigns involved covering up their skin.

my thoughts (in an arbitrary order)
Jubilee – didn’t particularly like her old outfit. New one more suited for her new dark side.

Valkyrie – again I wasn’t too keen on her old look (quite liked that white outfit she wore for a while but I presume it was too difficult to keep clean). New look seems okay and I DO like those boots.

Glory – was created while I was avoiding Liefeld. I do not find the new look particularly aesthetically appealing though it is distinctive and makes sense and the comic worth buying. I don’t expect to buy any posters of her (but more likely than the old version). The question is ..Why don’t the She-Hulks have physiques like that?

Poison Ivy – I remember being somewhat jarred when she was dehumanised – while the reinvention found a place as a sort of goddess/monster she felt like she belonged more with Swamp Thing or Spectre rather than Batman. This new look seems to restore some of her humanity but looking sinister rather than frivillous.

Psylocke – being male (and a bit sexist) I found the old look with some appeal but, while it was good for distracting sentrys with her exercise routines, it did lack dignity. The new look seems fine (though a bit too early as I’ve only seen previews of it) and should restore some of her self respect so I’ll give it a provisional thumbs-up.

Carol Danvers – I must admit I loved the old costume (I think I have a thigh-boot fetish). Not too happy about the new look though it’s too early to judge the effect of her new mask/helmet (and the story is more important than the costume). Though I definitely prefer the new look to her original red outfit – Maybe now that the black outfit is no longer in use maybe Karla could try it on (I’m certain she could look good in it and employ it in a vampish manner).

[…] month on our sister blog Comics Should Be Good, columnist Kelly Thompson wrote a piece titled “6 Sublime Superheroine Redesigns” that profiled several recent costume makeovers she thought effective and true to the characters. In […]

[…] read if this topic is at all interesting to you. Here is the essay I took the quote from, here the article that lead to the essay and here the one that lead me into this whole deal. Surprisingly I found a […]

Hey, just ran across this fine article, and… well, I don’t know if it matters that I point this out or not. But, in the interest of the accuracy of the piece, I feel I should point out that the amazingly talented and bad-@$$ Jesus Saiz didn’t redesign Poison Ivy…

Actually, I did. Just sayin’. :)

Derek Metaltron

May 8, 2013 at 12:50 pm

@ Cully

Out of interest since you were responsible for redesigning ivy… can I ask why DC choose to lose the green skin look? It’s one of the things I was saddest to lose with Ivy as I thought it defined her character.

Also do you know why they decided to make Harley more ‘gothy’ in place of her classic, more cutesty look? I was curious whether it was inspired from her Arkham City attire, but I have to admit I’ve not been a fan of the new Harley look in the New 52.

@Derek:

Well, first, I should point out that traditionally, Ivy hasn’t had the green skin. Unless I’m mistaken, that was a relatively recent take, stemming from the animated DC stuff. In this case, I just had a design that they responded to immediately, and unlike most of the other designs I did, this one made it through exactly as I first drew it. There really wasn’t any discussion behind keeping the green skin, frankly– at least with me.

As to Harley, I had nothing to do with her current look. I’ve designed or co-designed literally dozens and dozens of characters since the relaunch, consulted on dozens more– and there are still dozens that I had nothing to do with. That was one of them.

In any case, when you’re rethinking the looks of this many characters within a pretty short span of time, it’s a huge job to try and make them all fresh. And there are always some that some like while others don’t. It’s impossible for it to be anything but a mixed bag for a lot of fans. I’d argue we were generally very successful, but there are always going to be some that are controversial.

I’m sorry that Harley is one of those for you, but trust me when I say that everyone involved was just trying to the do best job possible. No one was unimpeachable– not me, not Jim Lee, no one. I’m only speaking for myself here– I’m not a DC staffer and do not officially represent them in any way– but we all ran a gauntlet of opinions to even get them approved, and by and large, I’m real proud of the stuff we came up with.

There is indeed a difference between sexy and sexist, but it will always be in the eye of the beholder.

Anyway, I think Ross Campbell’s GLORY redesign would be a very good place to begin trying to establish the boundaries between the two. And, since we are at it, between a bad design and a good design. And also, why not, between a terrible artist and a smart, modern one.

Derek Metaltron

May 8, 2013 at 1:36 pm

@Cully

That makes sense, I guess as someone who was a child with the Animated Series was on I’ve grown very used to the designs that the show made for characters like Ivy, Joker, Harley, Freeze, Two-Face and more. So Ivy growing up has always had green skin and I guess I’m just used to it.

I do respect that the various concept artists and workers at DC have some ideas on the New 52 and I’d like to stress that there’s many redesigns I love like Super Girl, Wonder Woman, Nightwing (one of those where I love both the before and after), Batgirl (even if I miss Steph a bit) and the like. Clearly some fans are a sucker for traditionalism and other harp for change so clearly you can’t please everyone. Harley is probably the only design I completely dislike, there are some I’m so-so on but I don’t think any detract from the storylines they tend to appear in. So your mixed bag idea holds up just fine. And I’m glad that you’re happy with the overall outcome. Keep up the good work! :)

@Cully:

I am SO sorry – I found that information nowhere – although I confess it was late when I was writing the Poison Ivy section – so perhaps I just missed it.

Regardless, the article is updated/corrected, and thank you for a gorgeous redesign. I love it!

I’ve said it before, but one of the things I love most about this blog is that we often have the creators themselves show up to give us insight on the process. Also, Mr. Hamner, I hope I don’t sound too ass-kissy when I say that I’m a big fan of your work. I’ve been a cartoonist most of my life, so I really enjoy comic artists who bring the fluidity of cartooning into more “serious” comic-book style art, and that’s a feeling I’ve always gotten from your art.

Coincidentally, I was just thinking about the Ivy redesign today (they’re using the newer look Cully designed for the character in the upcoming “Infinite Crisis” PC game, which I’m trying to get beta access to right now). I was actually realizing that this is one of the odd redesigns where I’m about equally into both the “new” and “old” versions. While I know that publishers tend to stick to one costume at a time, for a number of reasons including continuity and visual cohesion, it seems to me that Ivy’s two looks could actually be used interchangeably. The new bodysuit look works for combat and stealth, whereas the “Green Swimsuit” is more in line for when Ivy is being seductive, or when she’s just hanging around being a plant-lady.

The redesign looks great in motion, incidentally. They have the constantly-moving leaf pattern fully animated for the in-game model. I did notice that they have some promo art on the site of her pre-52 look, so I’m hoping they might use it for one of her other versions or skins (the whole plot of the game is based around the 52 different dimensions of the DCU, so there are multiple looks/power-sets for many of the characters).

@TJ: I appreciate the kind words. Thanks! :)

Greg Giordano

May 8, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Kelly-

You are spot on with your criticism; in this and other op-ed’s you have written on the subject. The fact is, many (if not most) male comic readers are socially awkward, often smart but sexually/emotionally stunted at the maturity of adolescence to maybe 21 yrs. old max. The older they are in real life the more their uniquely socially awkward sexism calcifies into the type of thing that Justin represents- and of course, degrees of lesser immaturity. I’ve worked and hanged out (like everyone here I imagine) in comic stores, cons and forums. In more than 30 years of participating in fandom, I have yet to see the shades of misogynism fade away in my fellow male fans. The crits you and other women who actually love superhero comics(and the medium as a whole no doubt) are simply asking that their own gender be represented with equivalency of grace, power and RESPECT; not 2-dimensional, hypersexualized(without cause or context), super-bimbos.

If you think “so what it’s just a comic” or that somehow you’re entitled to have characters and your fantasy fiction be static- you don’t. Signs and signifiers EXIST. Visual codifies metaphor, denotation and subtext. When women are depicted in a universal way- according to their sexual attributes ONLY- this is in the visual sense I’m referring to, society(in this case chronologically pre and post pubescent males and females are taught by the visual metaphors symbols and so on what things are “hot”, desirable, strong, weak and the rest. When you show only one kind of depiction that drills right into the brain. We learn what we are shown. Superhero comics for a very long time (post WWII Wonder Woman is a fairly good demarcation line) have been operating under a sexist groupthink- it’s high time that women and girls get their due and are depicted with, once again, grace, power and respect. Nothing is harmed in the precious canon, there is no lack of “hotness” to suffer. It’s time to grow up and learn about adult modern and postmodern, female empowered superpower and sexuality looks and feels like. This alpha-male fan, geek, sex-crazed, post-neanderthal is looking forward to it.

If the rest of the my fellows will just relax.

Kelly, the people who would attempt to spar with you( and apparently threaten you) in this thread are not your intellectual, emotional nor design criticism equal- the guys who would not give up now ancient, bad-80’s male-oriented sexualized portrayals of female characters are stuck in a phase where the females in their fantasy are just objects to satisfy arousal. The worst of the detractors are pre-and post-adolescent, cultural illiterates- don’t ever let mindset that get under your skin. Enough of my mansplaining- Keep it up!

Hey Kelly – don’t know if you are reading the comments (I probably wouldn’t on an article like this) but I completely agree with you about all of these costumes! I usually won’t pick up books if there are half-naked women on the cover for no reason. I first picked up the recent run of Glory because, omg, there was a non-standard size/looking female badass on the cover. Captain Marvel’s re-design has been absolutely stunning, the colors are in your face gorgeous. Also, Valkyrie’s re-design does grow on you slowly! Sidenote – I’m loving Fearless Defenders right now and it’s like a textbook for how to deal with diversity in comics (include lots of it!).

Like you pointed out, I don’t mind Poison Ivy somewhat more naked, it does go with her character but the new design does look neat (even though I’m not reading many DC book right now). I think what we really need is more variety in looks, whcih is what these re-designs give us. I don’t mind sexily drawn women, and even sometimes really like them, but I get tired when that is the only thing I see over and over again. These costume re-designs have really been a breath of fresh air!

Don’t get me wrong I like Psylocke’s 90’s outfit. It’s classic, but I love the new one. Finally, a nice change!

Greg –

I agree with most things you say, but would just like to correct one little point. It’s the 1990s, not the 1980s, that are the baddest of the bad when it comes to sexist portrayal of superheroines.

Greg Giordano

May 8, 2013 at 7:12 pm

@ Rene-

The memories hurt. My ptsd from broken backs and helium boobs caused a flaw in my decade. Thanks for the correction- now for the bourbon. :D

Psilocke’s looks fine but I find it lacking in personaity, the same for Poison Ivy, all of the others are awesome, specially Jubilee’s.

[…] Tap’ quote aside, a suggested redesign of female superheroes costumes uncovers a comment war about the difference between sexy and sexist. Best comment from […]

2 points I’d like to make

1- I’M NOT BAD I’M JUST DRAWN THAT WAY
It’s usually not the costumes that are sexist but the artists interpretation of the suits. The artist can draw a physically fit Psylocke defeating a crowd of Ninja and looking strong doing it to serve the story, or the artist can place the camera under her butt and draw a booty shot to sell the original art for more money to serve himself. We don’t need to place extra padding on her to not be sexist we just need editorial to tell the artists to not draw her from the crotch up.

With that said, the major companies are hiring more artists form different countries, cultures and backgrounds that may not be as reserved as American artists and may draw something that is culturally acceptable to them but not so to the American crowd.

The costumes from the 90’s that people find sexist mostly stem from the work of Mike Deodato Jr. who is from Brazil and I am sure has seen these Carnival-bigger than life-costumes his whole life and designed his Wonder Woman, and his Glory to match that sense of style. On one hand you can look at his work and see a Carnival inspired outfit for a epic hero, or you can look at it and see a booty shot.

Deodato changed the landscape. I was there and saw it happen at Extreme Studios, it happened across town at Top Cow and south of us at Wildstorm. (I remember discussions at Extreme about what made Deodato’s art so beautiful- it was the expression he has on the characters, especially the normal background characters against the other school of thought which was, “it’s the booty shots”) As it happened at Image it made it’s way to Marvel and you can see the horrible way they gave the Invisible Woman that outfit in the 90’s that did not fit her personality at all.

Which ties in to my second point.

2- WHAT DOES GOD NEED WITH A ZIPPER
Costume design comes from a couple of schools of thought. One, is that everything needs to be gritty, realistic, or logical meaning that if Huntress is going to be jumping around on roofs she will need a good strong heel and really great knee pads. The second school of thought is that costumes should be more grand, and theatrical and not practical. Jack Kirby designs for nearly every character falls into this discipline. The costumes of Brazil’s Carnival can be applied to this design sense as well. Heroes are the gods of ancient myth and they need outfits that make them more mythic and extraordinary than a pair of shin guards.

These are the ingredients that make up modern comics and the war that is being fought with the mythic style of Kirby and the house his imagination built, and the design sense of a realistic war movie or navel gazing indy flick. You either make a grand play out of your myths and aspire to be like these gods of legend or you bring the gods down to our level and take into account that Galactus may need some extra padding on his shoes so skyscrapers don’t stick through his soles like a tac going through your casual shoes on Friday when you pin a “gone fishing” note to your corkboard.

WRAP IT UP, FUZZBALL
In closing, Psylocke’s original outfit is not sexist it’s the way the artist draws her that is sexist. That being said, when Marvel has a great artist like David Finch drawing a crotch shot they know will sell extra books they can either use some editorial control and ask him to change it, or cover her up. This boils down to, “MAKE CASH or SASH COVER ASH” John Byrne from a generation prior always covered the crotch shot when the superhero got into a necessary pose that exposed too much.

Our gods don’t need zippers. Cosplayers dress in all kinds of outfits and that has inspired many artists to emulate what is going on at the cons. This has lead to a microscopic view of costume designs that we don’t necessarily need. We don’t need seams running all over the costumes to make them realistic. I do not want a realistic Power Ranger team. My wife cosplays as a Power Ranger and it takes her at least 5 minutes to put that helmet on without pinching her ears-I’m fine with the Power Rangers saying it’s Morphing TIme and being dressed. I’m fine with them grabbing their helmet and a cut shot later it’s in their hands as if they just pulled it with ease and their hair is perfect.

The Starship Enterprise does not need a bathroom. Chewbacca can run around naked without body armor.

I don’t need hyper-realism in my fantasy. It’s not 2 great tastes that taste great together.

Brian makes a good point regarding the artist’s mind-set making a big difference. Just look at the difference between that awful Finch-drawn Psylocke image up there, then look at almost any depiction of her from the awesome “Uncanny X-Force” run that Remender wrote. Basically the same costume (aside from color), and one looks like a stroke-pic, while the other looks like a strong female leader in a (perhaps too skimpy) ninja outfit.

As a long time Psylocke fan, since before she came across the pond, I find her new design amazing. I do wish it had some some personality to it, like Make it a deep Purple, with the X and other sections cream or grey. I want her hair purple again though. In a perfect world she would also go back to being white, and not faking the Eurasian funk. But with that said. I’m extremely happy that HORRID thong is gone.
The biggest issue I had with it, wasn’t so much the stupid sexual poses she got stuck doing, but that her Personality got completely thrown away. Psylocke became a new character. Even Now Humphries writing of her, as this ultra angry, PMS’ing woman drives me bonkers.
Here’s hoping woods does her as good as her outfit. With that said, I miss the Australian Armour she wore.

As a male I dont mind a woman wearing a bathing suit into battle, there are some heroes that still do.I just hate how they are always in the DO ME NOW pose. Captain Marvel was sexy, without being slutty. Much of Psylockes fame/infamy came from her suit and poses, rather than her personality.

I’ve always been a Jubilee fan, so her new suit looks great, I do miss Ivy’s old generic look though. She should actually go for a fully nude, plant covered look, with plant material covering up the intimate parts!

Out of the six redesigns, Captain Marvel is the only one that doesn’t work for me. I think all the others were improved, but I still like Marvel’s old uniform better than the new. Having said this, I think Valkyrie lost a bit of identity. I never liked the old look with those torpedo boobs as you called them, but she’s too bland or generic in the new garb.
Overall, positive changes.

It’s a comic book. What’s wrong with Fan-service? Who the hell do you think keeps these things on the shelf?
FANS.

And seriously.
Functional?
Once again…
IT’S A COMIC BOOK.

Big Damn Hero

May 12, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Oh man, I’m so happy you brought up Captain Marvel. Her redesign is 100% the reason why I picked up her new series. I only barely knew about her before then. And then I stayed for the awesome writing.

I didn’t know Psylocke or Poison Ivy had been so well redesigned either. They look amazing! Every design that you brought up perfectly reflects the characters (except for Glory: I have no idea who she is so I can’t judge the design as fitting or not).

Not crazy about Jubilee’s new look. It’s a little too . . . black. Yeah, I know she’s a vampire now, which is a whole other pet peeve of mine. I do agree that the old look needed to go. Mainly because it wasn’t really anything more than a joke that overstayed and got unfunny. For those that don’t know, the old Jubilee look was just the original Robin costume made into civilian garb. The yellow cape became a jacket. The red tunic became a pink shirt. The green trunks became a pair of shorts, etc. The big, pink shades were left over from her previous costume which was made from stuff she “jackdawed” from the Australian era X-Men (as befit her status as an unwanted and unknown guest at their headquarters at the time). So, Jubilee never really had her own costume. They were always team uniforms or based on someone else. And now we have . . . this black thing.

[…] of the ideas that kept coming up [in the comments section of this article] was the notion that there is a trend in current female costume designs that the designer must […]

[…] is a topic I’ve been meaning to get too. A few weeks ago we linked to this article on facebook. It brought a couple of questions to […]

I like these more practical costume re-designs too, although I still have kind of a soft-spot for Jubilee’s old outfit, I used to watch the cartoons a lot so it’s kind of a nostalgia thing for me.
Only one here I disagree with you on is Poison Ivy, personally I think her old costume fit her character more, she’s often a seductress after all so it’s part of her character to wear something scanty.

Shame Power Girl’s new outfit didn’t last long. Grumblemumblenew52isrubbishanywaygrumblemumble.

Speaking of which, love your costume designs for Harley Quinn, Starfire and Raven from the other article, though the Cheshire and Power Girl costumes seem kind of “grungy”.

I like Black Canary’s recent costume re-design, very much like the Birds of Prey costume she had a while back… in the 90s, was it? Can’t remember, but anyway, why does she still have fishnets? Give her some trousers, DC!

BedknobsandBomsticks

June 12, 2013 at 4:35 am

Jubilee’s new look would be better on Rogue. I’ve always preferred her mid 80’s Post-Punk/New Wave look, by JR Jr.

BedknobsandBoomsticks

June 12, 2013 at 4:37 am

Also, get Shadowcat back in mostly blue.

[…] sometimes the execution has not worked for me. Not so, here. THIS IS AMAZING. I love the costume (as we already know) but these illustrations are also great. Kind of an “Animal Man” vibe and just gorgeous […]

I HAVE TO SAY THAT THE CLASSIC IS THE BEST. VALKYRIE IS ONE OF MY FAVORITES MARVEL’S SUPER HEROES, IF I HAVE TO CHOOSE, MY FAVORITE IS THE SECRET AVENGERS COSTUME, “THE TORPEDO BRA” IS NOT BAD, REMEMBER THAT HE IS AN ASGARDIAN, AND THE ASGARDIAN LOOKS LIKE MEDIEVAL SHINING ARMOR KNIGHTS. THIS NEW COSTUMES DON’T SURPRISE ME, IN FACT, THE CLASSIC ONES ARE MY FAVORITES. SOME EXCEPTION FOR WOMAN’S NEW COSTUMES ARE SACARLET WITCH, MAGIK AND EMMA FROST, SPECIALLY SCARLET WITCH, THAT REMINDS MAGNETO IN PAST AGES.

[…] late April of last year Kelly Thompson wrote “6 Sublime Superheroine Redesigns” over at her column She Has No Head! for Comic Book Resources. It featured six characters who had […]

[…] She Has No Head! – 6 Sublime Superheroine Redesigns ↩ […]

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