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Lets be honest. Spider-Woman’s costume ranks among the most sexualized ones out there. She’s naked with a mask and like… those underarm web wings. Are they wings? It doesn’t matter. It’s a lot of this:
Don’t get me wrong, I understand, Spider-Man can be as equally naked in his suit too. However, if you’re looking to attract female readers, pointing out Spidey’s package doesn’t do you nearly as much good as making the ladies not resemble nipple-less, painted super models. O-or so I’m told. To this end, Marvel has redesigned Spider-Woman’s costume. I think it’s a pretty rad improvement, but why don’t you decide:
The sunglasses thing is a little dumb, granted. It’s basically yoga pants, a jacket, and belt. Not too bad, though, right? A real improvement. It also highlights something that Marvel’s been slowly doing to a lot of their characters.
Redesigns get a lot of attention, especially when they change in the right direction, as above. The recent Batgirl redesign got a lot of attention, this Spider-Woman redesign got a lot of attention, as did Ms. Marvel’s transition to Captain Marvel. That’s why I was surprised when hardly anyone talked about the all female X-Men team.
Don’t get me wrong, it was news. For the first time, the main X-Men comic would be cast with all female characters. People called out “gimmick!” and shouted “pandering!” from the farthest corners of the Internet. People varied from mad to excited to indifferent, as they always are. However, I felt that the costume designs deserved much greater attention than the gender.
Those costumes are all pretty cool, without being embarrassingly teenaged fantasy-y. Rogue is pretty much just wearing a pants suit. For Thor’s sake, Psylocke went from this to this in this comic (the new X-Men of Marvel NOW). Marvel didn’t seem to make a big deal about it. And the companies love to make a big deal about almost everything.
DC, for example, got a huge boost out of the Batgirl redesign. It sparked a rush of fan art and attention, which is especially good for them because of their problems with ladies. It’s a huge advantage! More attention is on comics than ever before. It’s just a smart business decision.
This makes Marvel’s “quiet” redesigns that much more impressive. For example, they made Thor a woman (kind of) and everyone, including me, decried them for seemingly thrusting a female character us. However, what no one mentioned, was that this new Thor character wasn’t designed in the usual comic book lady style, but rather in a cool norse warrior way:
I could go on about Marvel’s quiet redesigns, citing everyone from Gamora (from this to this) to Namor (from this to this), but you get the idea. So what could be pushing such a drive to get more modern, acceptable redesigns? Well, I do have a thought on that.
My theory is that Marvel Comics are getting a ton of attention because of their super popular movies. So now they’re feeling a pressure to maintain readers like never before. That’s what’s driving this push to more modern looks for as many characters as they can, not a crushing sense of social duty. If they get a little positive press from it in the meantime? Even better.
Unfortunately, new looks are only half the problem of keeping new readers. You also have to make pretty good characters. Marvel’s done a decent job of this so far. The popular one everyone brings up is their new Ms. Marvel, an admittedly unique character for the Big Two. They’ve also done good things with the old Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, and a host of other lady characters.
However, DC’s past troubles with women creators have given them some kind of shot in the ass. There are about 30 women creators working on various DC comics while Marvel just inches past 10 this upcoming February. Obviously, sheer numbers aren’t indicative good or bad comics, but it would do them well to get more voices in there.
Which is, I think, the most important part of redesigns. You can stick any horrible, one-dimensional character into pants and a jacket and say they’re an improvement, but unless work goes into improving the character itself, it’s just a better dressed carboard cutout.
And it goes beyond just ladies. Diversity can do nothing but improve comics. Imagine the retention power of a bunch of different heroes from all different walks of life not written by a bunch of guys from a similar walk of life (whatever that walk may be). It could be pretty cool. Making Falcon Captain America was pretty cool, but as usual, I think that more original characters are always more appreciated.
In the end, I really appreciate everything Marvel (and even DC when they don’t go the opposite route) has done to make comics cooler and more appealing to new readers. I hope that with these new costumes we get better characters as well. More diverse creators can go a long way to do that. Lets get as many people reading comics as possible, you guys! The more, the merrier.