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She Has No Head! – 6 Stupid Superheroine Designs That Need Redesign, Stat!

A few weeks ago I wrote about 6 recent superheroine redesigns that I loved. People went, expectedly, nuts, even though there was nothing particularly dramatic or Powergirl-Low Res copymind blowing about the piece. Y’know, unless things like opinion pieces send you into a blind rage. Anyway, I had always planned to write a companion piece about 6 superheroine costumes that are in desperate need of an overhaul. Then Iron Man 3 came out and Pepper Potts rocked the hell out of things, so I wanted to write about that. Then Robot 6 linked to the redesign post, which stirred things up again, and now here we are, a couple weeks later, ready to possibly break the damn internet again with me talking about something as simple as some costumes that suck and need to be redesigned (for a variety of reasons).

The only caveat for the post is I’ve tried to stick to costumes that are currently being used, independent of when they were designed.

So, prepare to get pissed about all the completely non-anger inducing thoughts of one person’s opinion about some superheroine costumes. I’ll be honest; the only thing tough about this list was keeping it to 6 (which I sort of didn’t do).

However, we took it one step further this week! Because I am an incredibly fortunate person who knows a bunch of badass professional artists, the fantastic Kris Anka and Meredith McClaren generously volunteered to spend some of their free time redesigning the ladies on my list.

And because you’re here reading this, you too benefit from all that good fortune…fortune for everyone!

In no particular order…

Harley Existing

HARLEY QUINN: Original (1992), and “New 52″ Redesigns 2011 (Current).

HARLEY QUINN

Perhaps the most obvious choice, and most famous since the “nu 52”, Harley’s redesign is a straight up nightmare. In fact, Harley’s one of the worst victims of the reboot period. Her classic costume was classic for a reason – it rocked while effortlessly embracing her personality. But if DC felt it needed an edgier feel I wish they could have reined it in on a good update, rather than just taking its cues from one of the worst video game costumes of all time (Harley’s Arkham Asylum version). Perhaps most ironically, the new costume does actually fit a little bit with the “new Harley.” With her new (shitty) origin and her bitter, gritty, hard as nails, devoid of fun personality, the new costume is actually a better fit than the old, but this is a case where they’ve not only committed a horrible costume sin, but a character assassination as well.  The old Harley was one of the best female characters at DC Comics (though not exactly a role model – hey, she’s a villain) and she had a costume to match. Sure, an update wouldn’t be out of line (she has been in that costume for more than 20 years now) but what we got was a terrible direction, visually and beyond.

Kris Anka’s take on a slightly edgier but still classic Harley Quinn:

Harley-redesign

HARLEY QUINN by Kris Anka

Kris’s Harley Quinn notes: With Harley I wanted to take the approach of the super wacky and cute version of her that Bruce Timm created, but put her in the context of the more hardcore dangerous team. Given who she runs around with, and where she fits, it sort of makes sense that she would combat-ready up a bit, but I didn’t want to lose the charm of her character.

Phantom Lady Existing

PHANTOM LADY: “Classic” and “Nu 52″ Redesign 2012 (Current)

 PHANTOM LADY

There have been four different Phantom Ladies over the years and quite frankly, every single one has had a terrible costume. Ladies should think twice before taking on the mantle…because the first crime a new Phantom Lady faces will be one of fashion.  While the current design is certainly more modest (and on first sight more practical) than previous iterations (which wouldn’t be hard to do), it’s still crazy impractical, completely non functional and horribly ugly. An unzipped top that would never stay zipped, a cape attached to no other part of the costume so that it would instantly strangle you (even if you were standing still), an off the shoulder top in order to make raising your arms nearly impossible, random circular holes cut in the fabric of the arms (all the better to shoot bullets in – they’re like targets!), a horribly dated rope belt (?), and a random collar…which are apparently standard issue at the “DC Costume Shop For Lady Supes” (patent pending!). What were these designers thinking??? It’s an absolute nightmare – a swing and a miss for poor Phantom Lady once again.

Meredith McClaren, who has gotten tons of attention for her “Practical Costumes for Powerful Ladies” designs, took on Phantom Lady:

Phantom Lady-Low Res copy

PHANTOM LADY by Meredith McClaren

Meredith’s Phantom Lady notes: This one was the toughest. Partly because her wiki article is so sparse, with little in the way of character description except that in one of her iterations she’s a bitch to her colleagues. But there’s also a pretty big conflict of presentation here.  In almost every case she was a Senator’s daughter, or at least part of the upper crust. Which means she’s well off, and as a result, seen.  In some cases she makes it a point to be seen.  But her key ability is to disappear.  So you’ve got a ‘see me, don’t see me’ dynamic that makes it hard to place how she’d present herself.  In the end I started off with the idea that she’d wear a jumpsuit – something reminiscent of blue collar working class and often overlooked, thus allowing her to blend/remain unseen.  And her flare to be seen presents itself in her bold color choices

Starfire Existing

STARFIRE: “New 52″ Redesign 2011 and “Nu 52″ Redesign 2013 (Current?)

STARFIRE

Man, another lady who has been horribly mistreated by the new 52 in so many ways. A fascinating, sweet girl, with incredible power at her disposal, became a goldfish sex doll…with the threads to back it up. Starfire has had a lot of odd costumes over the years and none have really wowed me, but this one is the worst yet. It’s been slightly updated of late as you can see above, to offer slightly more coverage (and to at least pay lip service to the idea that maybe her “nipple covers” shouldn’t slide off when fighting supervillains). But what a mess, both of them! The continual argument regarding Starfire is that she comes from a world where sexuality and nudity are not taboo and her people are very free with their bodies. That’s cool. But that doesn’t mean her costume on Earth would be insanely impractical for battle. She’s a very active and powerful character…what point is even covering her nipples if they costume is going to slide off when you move your arm. The whole thing makes no goddamn sense and never has. I’d honestly rather see her just embrace it and go nude if that’s the argument.

Kris Anka took a swing at a new Starfire that takes her back to her roots with something still revealing, but far more practical for battle:

Starfire-redesign

STARFIRE by Kris Anka

Kris’s Starfire notes: This was a tricky one. I wanted to balance equal parts Alien-Princess and Warrior. To an extent, I approached her how I would Wonder Woman – I didn’t want to hide the royal side, but I needed the costume to serve her very physical activities. Because of her power set, and her alien nature, I didn’t adhere to human practicality and the costume restrictions that might entail (bare feet), but I didn’t want her to look outlandish either.”

Cheshire Existing

CHESHIRE: “Classic” and “New 52″ Redesign for 2013 (Current)

CHESHIRE

Just last week (as the comments were going nuts over on Robot 6’s piece), this horrifying new Cheshire design was released. This puppy is the definition of hideous. Cheshire, like Phantom Lady, has yet to have a good costume as far as I’m concerned, but this…this one is the worst yet and that is saying a lot. This new design offers slightly more coverage than the most recent version, but that’s not the only important thing here. It’s a fussy mess.  Too many elements competing for attention, total impracticality for movement. It’s pouch-tastic (and belt-tastic – double bonus points!) and a throw back to the worst elements of 90′s badgirl design.

Meredith McClaren brings us her take on Cheshire – and I like that she really went against type with this one. Cheshire has been hypersexualized every time I’ve seen her pop up – but for no real reason I can discern other than some weird “she has a “cat” name and cats are sex-kitten-y” logic? McClaren’s Cheshire is all guerilla business and I love that.

She actually reminds me a little of the Lena Headey Ma-Ma interpretation from the recent Dredd movie…totally looks like she run Peach Trees or the nearest country:

Cheshire-Low Res copy

CHESHIRE by Meredith McClaren

Meredith’s Cheshire notes: Of everyone, Cheshire is probably the character I’ve read most (from the first arc of Secret Six – which I loved). And that didn’t help me at all. Granted this was four years ago that I read it, but all I could remember about her character was that she had sex with Catman and wanted a baby. (What and awesome take away from one of the only two women on the team at the time). Oh, and she betrayed everybody.  Yes.  I’m glad I had a chance to look into her more for this project, because her wiki article puts her in a much kinder and dynamic light from my SS takeaway.  I would never have guessed from my introduction to her that she was a guerrilla fighter as well as a master of hidden weapons. She seems to have a rigid sense of justice too, it’s just been mangled by an extreme understanding of checks and balances. Anyway, I think her style would reflect some sort of militia type inspiration with top heavy layering to hide all her weapons.

Raven Existing

RAVEN: “Classic” and “New 52″ Redesign for 2013 (Current)

RAVEN

Raven’s design has never been a favorite of mine, but I truly don’t understand this new version. To quote…“that is so not Raven.”

I would actually almost be into the crazy headpiece/helmet, but because they’ve stripped her down and uber sexed her up there’s a decided “she has no head!” vibe to her new look that is super unfortunate. The design certainly holds with the “everything is grim/gritty/dire as hell” that comes with the DC Comics nu 52 line these days, but man is it depressing. If the rest of the line didn’t look like this – i.e. over the top and mean, or if they’d given the design to a character that it FIT with (or toned down the random hyper sexual aspects), I might not hate this – there are some cool design elements – but not for Raven. Especially not when it means exposing her breasts and most of her torso and covering up her entire head sans her mouth. Terrible.

Kris Anka gives us his take on the popular Raven, which I think strikes an awesome balance between the classic costume but with an edgier update:

Raven-redesign

RAVEN by Kris Anka

Kris’s Raven notes: When I think of Raven, “dark elegance” is what always comes to mind. With all her costumes, the “dark” is always apparent, but I felt there’s been a lack of “elegance” of late, and that’s what I sought to bring back. I also tried to incorporate as many design elements I could from an actual Raven. The tail inspired the shape of the cape, the wings inspired her shoulders, and I added actual feathers onto her, etc. I’ve never thought of her as a mobile character, so I chose to go a more “fashion route.”

Angela Existing

ANGELA: 90′s ‘tastic “original”, Quesada redesign for 2013, Pichelli interpretation

ANGELA

Another very recent addition to comics, is Angela. Just last week we got Joe Quesada’s redesign and it’s utterly underwhelming. While it’s certainly cleaner and less fussy than the 90′s original Spawn-tastic Design (but really how could it NOT be?) it’s uninspired across the board. I naturally hate the metal bikini look as it’s absurd – wearing a metal bikini into battle is roughly the equivalent of a swimmer wearing chainmail to a swim meet – but I understand that there’s some attachment to the classic look. I also get that there’s a certain currency in redesigning her but keeping her familiar enough to be recognizable. But for me, I think a totally different fashion forward approach would be a better tactic. Regardless of direction, I just really wish they would have taken more time to develop the look, finding something that made a lot more sense and felt more modern and fresh, reinventing her for 2013. And no offense to Quesada, but he simply shouldn’t be the one designing it. They should be sending this stuff to artists who have demonstrated a clear talent for costume design. All that said, in the hands of a very good artist (Sara Pichelli) the outfit does improve. Still, it was such an opportunity to innovate and start fresh and it just failed, right off the starting block. They also lost the coolest thing about her as far as I’m concerned – the hardcore eye/facial tattoos!

Meredith McClaren graces us with her take on Gaiman’s Angela, which is perhaps my favorite of all the designs, both because it’s a huge departure and also because it just makes SO MUCH SENSE. Love it:

Angela-Low Res copy

ANGELA by Meredith McClaren

Meredith’s Angela notes: I knew next to nothing about this character before taking on this assignment and had to wiki her to get any kind of context. What did stick out for me about her is that she’s an angel, (an archangel given her sword), and she had to have a permit at one time to even attempt to kill Spawn.  What this leaves me with is that she’s military.  Old school military (ed. note: yeah, about as old school military as you can get!)  And she has a certain amount of respect for higher authority and discipline, and may even flaunt her ranking within that establishment.

For the last post I also picked “two” non-canon redesigns I loved. I didn’t know how to do that here without ripping on some poor internet artists bad interpretations of existing costumes, so I’m not gonna do that. Instead I’ll just give you two problematic runners up. Enjoy!

Emma Frost Existing

EMMA FROST (back left), Magik (front right). Same high boots, same “shorts” cut on bottoms, same belt, same color scheme, covered shoulders and arms, similar collars, similar hair, similar exposed flesh. Emma don’t play that!

EMMA FROST

I am a HUGE fan of Chris Bachalo and think he’s a great designer, but in my opinion there’s a bit of a misfire on the new Emma Frost costume. Not because it’s revealing (or because it’s black, though I prefer white) but because it’s just far too similar to Magik’s. For the record the DEFINITIVE Emma Frost costume, as far as I’m concerned, is Frank Quitely’s “X of FLESH.” It’s badass and anti-establishment as hell, and impractical or not, that is Emma’s style – anti-establishment. So when the rest of the X-team says “we’ll be wearing black with big x’s on our chests” Emma goes “well, I’ll stick with white and you want an X? I’ll give you an X, yo!”

Some folks have an issue with Emma being paraded around as the “one example of a lady that can be sexualized with no problem.” For what it’s worth, while I feel a highly sexualized Emma is okay. But I certainly don’t think she’s the only character that can or should be portrayed sexually, and part of the reason I feel it’s okay is that because, right or wrong, that aspect is written into Emma’s character – then and now. It’s the difference between Emma, who openly discusses her sexuality, looks, etc., wearing what she does, and a character like, say, Dagger, who has a completely divergent personality, but somehow has an insanely revealing (and impractical) costume.

Another reason I don’t mind Emma in impractical/revealing costumes? She’s one of the few female characters I can imagine taking the time to tape herself into her uniform. Which would absolutely be necessary – and then some!

So for me, yes to a revealing Emma, yes to all sorts of things, but DEFINITELY NO to her sharing a similar costume with another blonde on her superhero team (especially a YOUNGER blonde). ;)

Kris Anka is a huge Emma Frost fan so he jumped at the chance to show us an updated Emma for this new very strange time in her life (love the asymmetrical hair!):

Frost-redesign

EMMA FROST by Kris Anka

Kris’s Emma Frost notes: In keeping with the idea that she is currently lacking confidence from her diminished/unpredictable powers and just the overall turmoil she caused, I wanted to keep the black costume and general personality change she has now. I chose to make the full body covered, because as a character who prides herself on her confidence, and the confidence brought forth from her body, I’d imagine with this weakened state of mental resolve she wouldn’t be too keen on showing it off. But that doesn’t mean Emma won’t still be fashionable.

Powergirl Existing

POWER GIRL: Nu 52 Redesign #1, Nu 52 Redesign #2 (Current)

POWER GIRL

No costume list is complete without a shout out to Power Girl. Some iterations have been very pretty (Amanda Conner’s pre-nu 52) and some have been very ugly (the first new 52 redesign – easily proving that more fabric does not necessarily make better design. I personally think the boob hole is ridiculous, especially as it gives artists too many opportunities to make it look absolutely absurd instead of reasonable. The new Mahmud Asrar version is actually quite good – as is his wonderful drawing of her (above) – but I doubt it has the impact to stick – i.e. while it’s nice, it’s too similar to the old version to feel different enough, and so I suspect artists will just default back to the old version. I wish we could think WAY outside the box on Power Girl. Not just tone her down or cover her up, or take her back to the original, but just a REAL redesign with HER in mind.

Meredith took a crack at the impossible Power Girl costume that has stumped designers everywhere for…just about ever. I love how she went more “sporty” with it, so functional and yet clean and crisp:

Powergirl-Low Res copy

POWER GIRL by Meredith McClaren

Meredith’s Power Girl notes: First, let’s just get it out of the way, yes, the boobs are significantly smaller.  No, I don’t have a problem with big breasts.  I have a problem with designing against body type and when ladies participate in the level of athleticism required by Power Girl it becomes real hard to keep a lot fat on your chest. Cup size is further diminished with the addition of a sports bra as well. Which ladies like to have when we’re being active because we don’t want to have to stop every five minutes to ‘tuck back in.’ Last time I redesigned Power Girl in the context of a wrestler/weightlifter.  This time I thought of her as a boxer.  And then I just had fun.

So, those are my picks for the worst costumes, that need the most rehab attention, and some wonderfully generous super interesting options by comic designers I love. I’m sure VERY many of you will disagree. That will be fun, or something.

For those of you that got a kick out of Kris and Meredith’s redesigns they’ll be available as rewards in these last couple days of Meredith’s Kickstarter project, so head on over to get your hands on those!

 

63 Comments

The simple problem with your redesigns is that they’re amazingly butt-ugly and boring. “Covered flesh” doesn’t always equal good, and “exposed flesh” doesn’t always equal bad.

The fact that Meredith McClaren’s “redesigns” are just her drawing the characters in street clothes inspired by their costumes hurts all the arguments made here about the need for redesigns, most of which are valid. Her just drawing a character from the movie Ronin for Cheshire also probably hurts the argument a little as well.

Agreed on the candidates, but some of the suggested outfits aren’t working for me, specifically PeeGee and Angela. Cool article regardless, those Emma, Harley and Raven designs need to be made canon ASAP!

The Raven one works well. Hadn’t seen the 52 version, someone must have been on drugs for that one. Or drooling all over the paper…

I like the phantom-lady one too. A character who could have a stealth approach to her costume.

Starfire works too. But DC has their “vision” for that character.

Powergirl is not a superherocostume in that it doesn’t stand out enough.

Cheshire is boring. Reminds me of Toad.

Ah, so Kelly Thompson’s war on skin continues. You know, fighting super-powered ninja bad guys in a jacket and pants still isn’t actually “practical” or “realistic” either, right? But, at least your articles are 100% predictable.

The people at DC need to realize its not the 90′s anymore.

The Anka designs are great, but I have to agree with the above comments about McClaren’s being kinda boring.

” The fact that Meredith McClaren’s “redesigns” are just her drawing the characters in street clothes inspired by their costumes hurts all the arguments made here about the need for redesigns, most of which are valid. Her just drawing a character from the movie Ronin for Cheshire also probably hurts the argument a little as well. ”

Which begs the question; why do most of these characters even need costumes? For a character like Spider-Man or Batman, whose iconography relies on dressing as an animal, the costume is necessary. For a character like the assassin Cheshire, the only time she’d wear something like her default costume would be if she was seducing a mark before killing him. Raven, also, requires no fanservice (the character herself keeps herself so emotionally closed off that she’d probably cover up to feel more protected). And while I know nothing of Angela, the chainmail bikini look is absolutely ridiculous in any circumstance.

On another note, I strongly disagree with the notion that Harley Quinn was ever “fun”, being the perpetual domestic abuse victim of the most despicable villain in the DCU.

Redesigns I Love: Harley Quinn, Phantom Lady, Starfire, Raven, Angela and Emma Frost.

Redesigns I’m Hesitant Of:
- CHESHIRE but only because this feels like No Country for Old Men type of outfit when I feel like Cheshire is a bit more sleeker. I liked her costume in Young Justice a lot. Very Ninja but not the faux female ninja costume which essentially a made up sex fantasy. More like male ninjas with slightly baggy outfits but are more clean and minimalistic.).

- Also wasn’t a huge fan of POWER GIRL only because it’s a bit too street? I feel like it’s a great start in a redesign because I hate Power Girl’s stupid chest window and boobs aren’t that huge on women if their superpowers are very physical (look up gymnasts, runners etc for examples).

Overall, this is great.

Duff McWhalen

May 20, 2013 at 9:43 am

The only bare legs I found fitting in comics were Namor and He-Man, who are both now covered. I’m fine with the side boob phenomenon disappearing, but putting Power Girl and Phantom Lady in track suits while most artists are out drawing the butt striations popping out of Batman’s pants is a bit silly.

What’s also silly is the difference in appealing design between the Raven drawn by Anka and the crap someone got paid to whip up.

Vanos_Of_Manos

May 20, 2013 at 9:47 am

I really like Anka’s redesigns, especially Harley and Raven. They really capture the spirit of the character while being different enough to be fresh takes. At first glance, I wasn’t that big a fan of the redesign on Emma, but reading the rationale for it sold me on it.

Meredith’s designs are interesting as a thought experiment, but I’m not sure they’d fit well in a world of super powered costumed heroes. Street clothes work for certain characters, and not as well for others, and unless this was a different version of their universes with “every day” characters, like the “Heroes” tv series, I can’t say I’d like them.

No matter what, it’s always fun to see artists and get in to their heads when it comes to design choices.

Duff McWhalen

May 20, 2013 at 9:52 am

also, while Pichelli is easily considered a better artist than Quesada, the design is the same… unless the shape of the belt buckle counts for more than I thought.

Kris Anka’s designs are pretty good, especially Raven’s costume but Meredith McClaren’s are terribly boring IMO. Practical? Sure but I’d like my superhero costumes to POP! when I look at them and not look like they went to JCPenney to clothes shop after they acquired their superpowers.

Harley and Raven… Go back to the original.

Phantom Lady… The character is supposed to be derivative of “good girl” pinups, and it would be lost in that design. BTW, that is not a costume

Starfire… I hate the proposed one, but not as much as the current one she has.

Cheshire… Not a costume either… and ignores her role as a seductress of heroes. Would look good in say, Madame Rouge

Angela… Amazing!

Emma Frost… great one, not a good fit for Emma Frost.

Power Girl… Not a costume, and involves changing the character.

By the way, I’m horrified at how bad the New 52 Raven looks. I’m glad that I’m not reading any DC these days outside of World’s Finest (and I’m considering not continuing with it).

I like the Raven design a lot, and the Angela one looks good as well (I haven’t a lot of familiarity with that character, but the redesign as presented looks like a character whose adventures I’d want to read).

But the Power Girl, Phantom Lady, and Cheshire costumes leave me scratching my head — they’re good drawings, but there’s nothing superheroic (or supervillanous) about them. Would it be possible to see redesigns of the costumes that don’t imagine a compete overhaul of superhero comics as they stand?

When we look at Power Girl next to Superman, we should instantly realize that they have essentially the same job, rather than thinking that one is a superhero and one is on her way to the gym.

As horrible as the NU52 remakes are, besides Raven these are all kind of the opposite extreme in that they are really boring….the green in Starfire really clashes, and Power Girl version made me throw up in my mouth.

I agree that a problem with a lot of these redesigns are basically “street clothes.” What’s worked for a lot of comics characters is find the “timeless” look that leaves a character instantly recognizable no matter what decade it is. Until two years ago, Superman’s costume was pretty much always red cape, blue suit with big red “s,” and red and blue trunks and boots. Its variations have been relatively small: different shade of blue; make the S bigger or smaller; etc.

Most of comicdom’s popular characters have had the same deal. Batman, the Flash (Barry, anyway), Robin, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, Captain America, the Hulk, and probably others have had a timeless “core” costume that’s never needed a radical overhaul. Most of the above costumes–either the actual one or the ones you’ve proposed–don’t really show me anything that won’t be overhauled again in a decade as fashions change.

I will say that there was nothing inherently wrong with Harley, Raven, or even Power Girl’s original costumes. (Even PG’s “boob window” outfit at least maintained the color scheme and general layout of the original.) I don’t see why we can’t just go back to those. Harley’s had a slight sex appeal, but mostly screamed “crazy clown girl.” Raven’s had a timeless sorceress mystique to it with perhaps a vague resemblance to a formal gown.

Aside: I *would* like to see someone develop a timeless and permanent costume for She-Hulk. I don’t think she’s ever had an outfit that’s struck me as “the one,” instead alternating between torn dress and various aerobics outfits. Her schtick may be “strong green lady,” but IMO she’s never had an outfit to match her appeal.

I love Harley and Cheshire’s new designs, and Angela hasn’t changed much at all. As for the “fan art” suggestions, are you serious? Yes, let’s make everyone look as frumpy and bland as possible. And let’s put Raven in a burqa! *shakes head* I’m sorry but they are all horrible.

Holy shit! That’s the new look for Raven? Why would they do that? Is everyone at DC perpetually high, or something? Oh, well. I already refuse to acknowledge the existence of a DC where Harley wears that awful costume. I don’t know Harley’s new terrible origin, and I’m going to continue not knowing. Admittedly, that’s just one of the reasons I don’t read DC.

As for the redesigns, they’re cute, but most of them don’t really look like superhero costumes.

Ms. Thompson, let me say that I loved your previous article as well as this follow-up; your observations in both have been spot on, and you’ve given me a lot to think about in terms of what ought to go in to designing a crime fighting costume.
I think Ms. McClaren’s designs would be ideally suited for television, with enough elements making the transition into the re-workings to serve as a tip of the hat to the originals, while still reflecting the practicality of worlds that have no experience with costumed heroes. Her takes on Phantom Lady and Power Girl would’ve fit in perfectly on ‘Smallville’, and I could definitely see her version of Cheshire showing up in future episodes of ‘Arrow’ (producers, take note). I was particularly fond of her Angela redesign. If one were going for an old-school military feel, the obvious avenue would’ve been to stick her in armour and evoke the Crusades with her look. Ms. McClaren deftly subverts expectations with a British navy flavour, though, and manages to give us a significant improvement–if also a significant departure–from the original.
Mr. Anka’s designs give us more of the flair one would expect from comics. While I enjoyed her in Batman: The Animated Series, I’ve never cared much for Harley Quinn in print. Mr. Anka’s take on her would’ve definitely had me singing a different tune, though. It reflects the darker, more adult tone of the DC Universe while still staying true to the original, all the while oozing attitude. Now *that’s* a Harley I can get behind. His take on Raven is similarly brilliant, in that the core of the character’s look remains intact while simultaneously reflecting a more modern sensibility. Sleek, elegant, otherworldly, aloof…it all comes across in the visual, making Raven compelling in a way that she’s never been to me before.
Bravo to all involved; there’s some serious brilliance on display here, and both artists deserve a great deal more exposure… :)

“…from the first arc of Secret Sex – which I loved”

Freudian slip?

While I agree that redesigns are necessary… I’m really not sure most of these are the way to go.
1) Harley’s is one of the best, but the new headpiece looks like it would obscure vision and possibly be a detriment to her athletic, acrobatic manner of fighting. The original is still the best.

2) Power Girl, Angela, Cheshire and Phantom Lady all suffer from the same problem: they’re too much of a departure from the idea of a superhero costume, and the source material. Street clothes are nice, but these don’t have the right sort of feel or zest. There’s no instant identification, no marketability, no uniqueness. Nothing that really says who they are, save for a nod to their specific colors. I’m not saying you have to include boob windows and exposed skin, but they don’t work in terms of being superhero/villain outfits.

3) Raven’s is good, but the original is still vastly superior. Why improve on a classic when it works?

4) Emma Frost’s costume actually does embrace a certain X-Men dynamic, but it’s not really good for her. Change the hair to red, and it would be an acceptable, if somewhat dull, outfit for Jean or Rachel as Phoenix. For Emma, I’d love to see something elegant and classy, yet functional… Perhaps a well-tailored, all-white suit that played up her femininity without being T&A, boardroom chic without being over-the-top. Especially if she has her telepathy, she shouldn’t even need something that’s front-line ready, she can stand back and look good from a distance, remaining aloof and in control.

5) Starfire. I like it, except for those green ribbony bits, which seem impractical and out of place.

Totally agree about the costumes that deperately need a redo, but I don’t like any of the McClaren sketches except Angela, which I agree looks pretty cool, but I don’t know anything about Angela.

Phantom Lady just looks waifish and… well, not so powerful. I could see it for a 14-year-old X-Men student, but that’s about it. And her Cheshire just looks like a female Gambit, which is not quite as terrible as actual Gambit, but pretty close.

Kris Anka’s Emma Frost looks ready to join the clergy. I actually like the design for some sort of warrior-priestess, like a female Solomon Kane, but I can’t really see Emma in it.

The McClaren redesigns are basically street clothes, not superhero outfits. The Phantom Lady one reminds of Jubilee. I would not recognize these characters in comics. Streamlining their outfits to be more practical can be done without drastic changes which is why Anka’s designs work far better. Most these outfits could be fixed with just adding pants, maybe sleeves if they need them.

Other than Raven and Starfire, all the suggested redesigns are all kind of boring. You need to come up with something more visually interesting. Remember, the root for the superhero costume originally was and forever shall be the circus uniform. So, think “spectacle”.

To accentuate the positive, I do like Anka’s Harley and Raven sketches, and his Starfire’s not bad. And as I said, McClaren’s Angela has a lot of style–something it’s pretty clear that Angela’s never had before, whoever she is.

(Even if it is essentially a standard-issue Hellfire Club outfit. I’m guessing McClaren’s a X-Men fan.)

Pixie_Solanas

May 20, 2013 at 11:08 am

No superhero character should ever be caught wearing trainers. Ever.

Centipede Damascus

May 20, 2013 at 11:28 am

I love Kris Anka’s designs, but I kinda feel like McClaren kinda missed the point of superheroes wearing costumes and not just clothes that kinda look like a costume.

Surely there must be some kind of happy medium between bikinis and track suits.

My goodness, is Meredith trying to make the most boring superhero outfits possible? Track suits and trainers, are you kidding me here? These look like people you see on the street, not people who fly above your head.

So nu52 Raven is basically Stratos (with boobs) from He-Man?

It must have taken them ten whole minutes to come up with that.

Bob from Accounting

May 20, 2013 at 11:55 am

“Another reason I don’t mind Emma in impractical/revealing costumes? She’s one of the few female characters I can imagine taking the time to tape herself into her uniform. Which would absolutely be necessary – and then some!”

I always thought that she kept her costume on in New X-men with her psychic powers, making it a statement to the rest of the world that they could never dress like her even if they wanted to and also to Jean Grey that she, one of the only people who could, would never have the guts. I’m pretty sure she stopped wearing that costume soon after Jean died, too.

Dear Commenters

I am shocked by the lack of imagination some of you have when it comes to superhero costumes. Not EVERY costume has to look the same – standard issue spandex and garish colors. There’s a lot of innovation to be found in more fluid designs that embrace current fashion and modern trends rather than pumping out the same old thing. Specific to Meredith’s designs, some of her more sport/athletic looks make far more sense than anything else we regularly see. Professional athletes are the closest things we have to superheroes, and none of them run around in spandex, but any of them might be seen in Meredith’s Powergirl or Phantom Lady designs.

I am sadly NOT SHOCKED by the lack of respect. It’s no wonder the basement dwelling socially inept comic book fan stereotype persists. You guys make it really easy for everyone to believe that’s exactly what we are.

Signed, disappointed, but not surprised (aka Kelly Thompson)

And there we have our first ad hominem insults to be found in this thread, from an unexpected source!

An interesting article and a nice effort by all. That said…

What’s with the noses, Meredith? Phantom Lady looks like a dopey alcoholic (and neither phantomlike nor ladylike), and Cheshire looks like a Rogue cosplayer who goes around getting punched in the face for a living.

And this is about redesigning the COSTUMES, not the characters — Power Girl is unrecognizable with your surgical alterations.

My favorite redesigns are Raven and Harley, who also have the worst new 52 costumes on the list. They should fix those immediately.

“Dear Commenters

I am shocked by the lack of imagination some of you have when it comes to superhero costumes. Not EVERY costume has to look the same – standard issue spandex and garish colors. There’s a lot of innovation to be found in more fluid designs that embrace current fashion and modern trends rather than pumping out the same old thing. Specific to Meredith’s designs, some of her more sport/athletic looks make far more sense than anything else we regularly see. Professional athletes are the closest things we have to superheroes, and none of them run around in spandex, but any of them might be seen in Meredith’s Powergirl or Phantom Lady designs.”

Lack of imagination? Is putting everyone in jackets and pants more imaginative? Also, I question how this method embraces “current fashion and modern trends”. I have plenty of friends who are or have been fashion industry professionals. I doubt many of them would agree that jackets over jumpsuits is particularly fashionable.

Out of curiosity, what are your design credentials?

“I am sadly NOT SHOCKED by the lack of respect. It’s no wonder the basement dwelling socially inept comic book fan stereotype persists. You guys make it really easy for everyone to believe that’s exactly what you are.”

Which posts lacked respect? Did anyone call into question your personal life? Anything along the lines of “basement dwelling socially inept comic book fan”? Did anyone else here imply that those who disagree with them must have failed personal lives? For the record, I have a wife and kids. What’s your family like?

I always kinda liked the redesign that Starfire sported during Devin Grayson’s “Titans” run. It evoked her original costume, and was sexy while still not looking like a swimsuit. Her TV costume was sort of a simplification of this outfit too:

http://images1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20101128194125/marvel_dc/images/c/c8/Titans_Secret_Files_and_Origins_1.jpg

I like Meredith’s Harley, Raven and Starfire redesigns well enough. Most of the others don’t work for me though (none are as hideous as the current versions at least) A non-cheesecakey Phantom Lady really misses the point,.

@Jerzy:

Did you actually READ the post? I didn’t design these costumes. They’re done by professional designers working in comics books, animation, etc. So calling them “fanart” and being so disrespectful (as many commenters here are being) is just absurd.

Congratulations on your wife and kids, tho!

I’ve never been a fan of Meridith’s designs because I feel they ignore the character when actually making them, but Kris’ designs… Wow! #o# Can she redo Meredith’s? Please?

Kelly –
Given that many of these comments are just respectfully disagreeing with the direction the artist took, I’m not sure you need to lash out so harshly. “Basement dwelling socially inept comic book fan stereotype?” Just because we want our heroes and villains to be identifiable?

I popped over to your blog, and looked at more of Meredith’s offerings, just to see if maybe she wasn’t getting a fair shake. What I see is the sort of work that might do nicely in a real world medium – television or movies, even actual real life fashion – but which doesn’t translate well to the stylized, no budget restrictions, intense physicality and drama of the comic book. Honestly, those street clothes-inspired outfits have almost nothing to relate them back to their source material and inspirations. I had to stare long and hard, and use the mouseover, before I recognized them as outfits for Poison Ivy, Catwoman, Wonder Woman, and so on. Zatanna was nigh-unrecognizable!

Surely, it’s okay for fans to critique redesigns, and to suggest that artists hew a little closer towards what’s been the industry standard for the better part of a century. Especially since there are athletes who run around in spandex or tight-fitting outfits. Swimmers, gymnasts, runners, volleyball players… in fact, almost every sport I can think of involving lots of movement and activity requires outfits that allow for such things. Sure, some of them require padding and body armor (football, rugby, baseball) but many others demand full freedom of motion and comfort. I have a lot of trouble seeing the Cheshire depicted above as an assassin who specializes in up-close-and-personal killing. That jacket looks like it would get in the way. And that Power Girl outfit looks great… if she’s on her day off and doing laundry.

Are these pretty? Sure. Innovative? Yes. Practical? If you’re trying to reinvent things from the ground up, perhaps in a world that didn’t have an established superheroic tradition… but these, quite simply, have no sense of wonder. Jeremy above me had it right: these outfits just don’t capture the feeling of superhumans as “other” or of having powerful. They’re not awe-inspiring, eye-catching, or memorable. And I think we can find a healthy balance that conveys both power and innovation, respect and maturity.

Oops: I attibuted the redesigns I liked to Meredith rather than Kris.

I’m sorry if you guys feel I was too defensive and maybe I am jumping the gun.

But when people come on here and donate their time, it would be nice if they could be treated with a bit more respect and a bit less closed-minded knee jerk thinking (hence the basement dwelling stereotype – which I DO NOT BELIEVE – and which I want us ALL to work on changing)…so yes, I feel protective of people who come on here, donate their time and talent and then get disrespected, their work called “fan art” etc.

I would far rather you guys directed your ire at me, as I’d like to not have another fucking Hope Larson situation on my hands where I can’t feel comfortable asking a non-mainstream creator to come back here for three freaking years. http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2010/05/31/she-has-no-head-interview-with-hope-larson-about-girls-comics/

So yeah, I feel protective and I don’t like the tone/direction of these comments, especially so early in the day. Let’s all be grown ups who love comics (including me).

@GoldStarz

Kris is a man (fyi)

Vanos_Of_Manos

May 20, 2013 at 12:30 pm

“Specific to Meredith’s designs, some of her more sport/athletic looks make far more sense than anything else we regularly see.”
They may make sense in the real world but comics, especially DC and Marvel, are definitely not the real world. They would work great in a comic book universe where spandex clad super heroes are not the norm, but within their respective universes they just don’t really look right. It’s not so much that Meredith’s looks are wrong, because they’re designed well, but more that they don’t quite fit with the characters as they stand now. Street clothes make great sense for certain characters but one might argue that Power Girl and Cheshire aren’t those characters. Especially martial artist/assassin Cheshire.

“Professional athletes are the closest things we have to superheroes, and none of them run around in spandex, but any of them might be seen in Meredith’s Powergirl or Phantom Lady designs.”

Going to have to disagree with you there. WIth the exception of stuff like professional football (and other sports with alphabet soup league names), many athletes wear spandex or tight fitting blends, especially those in the Olympics and professional fighters. Garments like that benefit from being less restrictive for those activities, and many are actually designed to wick away sweat and help with over exhaustion. Pro fighters, gymnasts, swimmers and those who compete in track/field are probably much closer to super heroes than anyone else, and they all wear stuff much closer to the typical depiction of super heroes. Well, minus the capes and masks.

I’m not one who is pro-or-anti revealing or not superheroine costumes–where I draw the line at is when they start looking more and more like ordinary clothes! Yes, I think costumes should be functional, but I don’t think they should look like something that would come out of the closets of their secret ID’s! The only exceptions for that should be Dakota North, Renee Montoya as the Question, Jessica Jones, and Misty Knight.

I really didn’t see any ire in these comments at all until yours, which I found kind of shocking, actually. It seemed to me that most people were just critiquing the designs with a refreshing lack of venom until you started name-calling, which I was braced for coming from somewhere but didn’t expect it to be from you. And yeah, if you really want ire that’s a good way to go about it, but I was hoping that for once we wouldn’t go there.

LouReedRichards

May 20, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Yeah Kelly, what’s up with the trite, clichéd personal attack?

So far none of the comments have had ANY of the vitriol that permeated a couple of your last posts about gender inequality and fashion make overs.

I know some of the comments last time around were way out of bounds and reflected poorly on our hobby as a whole. This time around though I’m not seeing it.

You presented several redesigns that while very nicely illustrated, failed to meet with unanimous approval and then you sling insults to the commenters? Nobody said you should burn in hell, they just said the designs were boring.

I don’t get it – Sadly, I expect the unfortunates responses you got from people like Justin and their ilk (some people are just jerks after all) , just as I expect better more mature responses from the authors of regular columns here.

@Buttler:

There’s a lack of venom – but it has only been a few hours and with mostly only CSBG readers reading. But if this post were to go to the CBR front page – that’s usually where the shit blows up into a commenting nightmare. So yes, I find these comments very negative and bitchy compared to usual CSBG commenting. And it worries me for how dark we might go.

I think calling professional artists work “fan art” is pretty disrespectful.

That said, I’m happy to draw the fanboy ire, and if my comment does it then I’m happy with that. I’ve spent years being reasonable and even handed in my comments sections, but when people are disrespectful to creators I’ve brought on, yeah, it brings out my teeth.

Also “I was hoping we wouldn’t go there?”

Really? Did you think for even one second that was possible? C’mon now.

Kelly –
I think you really did jump the gun in leveling blanket accusations of disrespect, and all-encompassing insults at the commenters.

By yelling at us for providing our opinions and critiques of the redesigns, you’re opening up a hypocritical can of double standard worms. After all, this column is all about costumes you don’t like. You tear apart the outfits that appear in the books, calling them horribly ugly, an absolute nightmare, terrible, making no sense. I daresay that the vast majority of comments regarding Meredith’s offerings have been much kinder and more respectful than that!

You ask us to be grown-ups. Well, we -are-. You’re the one accusing us of being socially-inept basement dwellers.

@Michael

Agree to disagree then, because this?

“…but these, quite simply, have no sense of wonder. Jeremy above me had it right: these outfits just don’t capture the feeling of superhumans as “other” or of having powerful. They’re not awe-inspiring, eye-catching, or memorable. And I think we can find a healthy balance that conveys both power and innovation, respect and maturity.”

I disagree with almost every word, Your comment assumes that you are wholly right in your estimation of these designs. Instead of just one guy with an opinion (which is fine) it’s your opinion and that’s okay, but when you say “They’re not” instead of “I don’t find them…” etc., it implies that everyone agrees with you…which they clearly don’t (as I’m first in line).

So your last sentence “And I think we can find a healthy balance….” makes no sense to me, because you’re starting from a place of “My opinion is so right that it’s universal” rather than one of “We all have different tastes and these things don’t work for me”

Does that make sense?

I’m glad you followed up on your post about costume redesigns you liked, Kelly. I was surprised you hadn’t said anything about Harley’s costume, but I see what you were going for.

I can’t believe more people aren’t crying fowl about Raven’s nu52 redesign. Yeah, I said it.

Also “I was hoping we wouldn’t go there?”

Really? Did you think for even one second that was possible? C’mon now.

Hope springs eternal.

You might want to make their professional credentials more clear early in the text, maybe with a short bio on each artist. You describe them as “badass artists,” and say they’re “fantastic,” — and link to their own pages, which provide more context — but as someone unfamiliar with their art, who doesn’t follow every link in copy, I assumed they were really talented fans. No disrespect intended; I’m just not familiar with them.

@Michael:

I’ve already apologized and explained why I jumped the gun. There will only be one apology. But you can keep harping on it if you like.

As for my critique of existing designs that are horrible and that artists were PAID to design, and that are forced down our throats if we want to read about a certain character, I don’t think critiquing something at that level, and at the problems in an industry that keeps cranking those same offensive costumes out is the same as leveling criticism at artists that have donated their time to a simple design article.

But you know, we’re clearly not going to agree here.

Have a nice day.

Quick, time to redesign this iconic superhero costume. It shows a little skin? Ok well…. let’s just change that… add some baggy pants…. make em a little chubby for some reason…. and… DONE!

I love re-designed costumes, but I hate ones that are just normal clothes on normal looking people. These are superheroes, not art school students.

Wow I had no idea Power Girl went back to the boob window. Her two Nu52 costumes were probably only one of three I found to be an actual improvement. Considering all the terrible costumes they chose to keep, THAT’S the one they decide needs to revert back to the status quo?

Nathan Olmstead

May 20, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Harley Quinn is my favorite DC character and I have to say I approve of Kris Anka’s vision of her. It is a thousand times better than the Arkham Asylum version, if not even more than that.

And I doubt I would have ever noticed that about Emma Frost and Magik’s outfits, but now that it’s been pointed out to me you are absolutely right that Emma would not go for that. And again Kris Anka’s vision of her is awesome.

I don’t know anything about the other characters so I’m not really qualified to comment on if they fit the character personality or not, but the redesigns all look good to me.

Kelly–

Coincidentally, there’s a post over at the Newsarama blog about whether John Byrne can be taken seriously in the comics medium anymore given the amount of vitriol he spews. Your reaction, unfortunately, reminded me of many, many John Byrne reactions I’ve seen: you don’t like what I wrote/drew? Then you’re a dumb fanboy and you have no taste! I appreciate that you’ve walked your initial response back some, but I think you could go a little further.

You’re dealing with matters of aesthetics (which are, like it or not, going to be relative) and matters of tradition (which run deep). You can opine all you want that the designs are great (and many people here agreed with you), but not everyone is going to have that reaction, and it’s wrong to expect them to do so.

Finally, although I wasn’t one of the people who called the sketches “fan art,” I can see where they’re coming from. I get that your guest artists are professionals, but I don’t recognize their names and I’m guessing a lot of other commenters here don’t either. Add to that the fact that the designs look a little “sketchy,” particularly Kris’. (I’m not saying “bad,” just a little unfinished, as if the artist were, I don’t know, submitting a hypothetical design for a character for fun and free publicity as opposed to producing a final product for publication.) Finally, there’s some really good fan art out there (see any random page on DeviantArt) and some really bad pro art–the lines between who’s a pro and who isn’t are getting blurry on the internet.

So, now that we’re aware that these are “professional” writers, I guess everyone is on notice to regard them as such and appreciate that they used valuable time to contribute to your piece. Still, we reserve our right to make well-thought-out critiques of what we see. If you want to render them immune to critiquing, you could always close the comments.

Your comment assumes that you are wholly right in your estimation of these designs.

So do all of yours, e.g. “In fact, Harley’s one of the worst victims of the reboot period,” “There have been four different Phantom Ladies over the years and quite frankly, every single one has had a terrible costume,” etc.

This is fine, because we’re not children. It’s obvious that an unprovable statement is one’s personal opinion and to continually write “in my view,” “I feel that,” and so forth would be cumbersome.

Typed from Mom’s basement, which I decorated with posters of Jenna Jameson,

– Cass

“I’m sorry if you guys feel I was too defensive and maybe I am jumping the gun.”

That’s a pretty non-apology sort of apology, Kelly. You’re sorry that we took offense at being insulted. You’re not sorry that you came out of the gate swinging and throwing insults.

I guess we’ll definitely have to disagree. Since you’re okay with heaping harsh comments on established designs, while defending your friends with a rabid ferocity. I’m just not cool with the double standard, where it’s fine for you to say something is hideous, but we’re horrible people for offering our own dissenting opinions.

Look, I’m not saying the existing outfits are good, but we should be able to respectfully, tastefully, share our own viewpoints along the same lines.

And I’m not sure exactly how you looked at what I wrote, and assumed “that you are wholly right in your estimation of these designs”. Yeah, it’s my opinion. I said these things, and they are my opinion, and in my mind I’m right, otherwise why would I say it, and the same goes for everyone else here. I didn’t realize we needed a disclaimer. (Okay: everything I say is my opinion, no matter how I phrase it, and it’s no one else’s unless they say so as well…”

You came out spoiling for a fight, and you picked one. I was happy to offer up my thoughts as part of a reasonable discourse until you got nasty. In fact, I’d have to say that -I- expected better of -you-.

@Adam:

Good suggestion. Consider it done!

Thanks for playing everyone.

- Kelly

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