I need to get something off my chest. X-Men: Apocalypse is coming out. Have you seen the trailers? They’re out there. You’ve seen them. There’s lots of cool things in there, like new mutants, and purple Oscar Isaac, and bald James McAvoy. There’s also a boob window.
I can’t call the boob window a pet peeve at this point anymore. The boob window has become my nemesis. If it was just a trend that happened a few times decades ago, that would be one thing, but terrible, gravity- and physics-defying superhero outfits pop up even today. Keeping abreast of costume redesigns is practically a full-time job. And this isn’t just a female problem. I am convinced that the majority of comic artists have no idea how fabric works. Or maybe they do, and they just don’t care. Sorry, dudes, your T-shirts aren’t going to cling to your six pack like that no matter how many sizes too small you keep buying them.
Boob physics is important. So important, in fact, that video game developers used it as an excuse for YEARS not to create more playable female characters. Because. The boobs are complicated to animate. They gotta bounce just the right way, you know. We can have dragons and magic and aliens and laser guns in our games, but the boobs, they have to look real.
There are many more female characters in video games than there were twenty years ago, but that doesn’t mean all problems have been solved. Oh no. Take, for example, Metal Gear’s new character Quiet, who shoots things and punches other things and somehow manages to keep a top that’s more string than bikini covering the inappropriate bits. My favorite part of this is the reason behind it all that was offered by the Metal Gear spokespeople: she photosynthesizes. She has to have some skin exposed to the sun, or she’ll suffocate and die. She will DIE if she doesn’t wear that bikini top.
Let me say that again. She photosynthesizes.
If boob windows are my nemesis, then half-assed explanations for terrible outfits are their detestable, unholy children.
Talking about all the bad outfits in comics and video games would take multiple lifetimes, and this is simply a blog post, so I’m going to stick with a theme. If comic artists insist on making me look at sexist costumes, then I will call them out. Tit for tat, as they say. The cleavage window is endowed with a deep and detailed legacy. Let’s dive in.
Psylocke has telekinetic powers. She also has a boob window. At least, she does in the newest iteration of her character, who appears in the upcoming X-Men movie. Which is particularly egregious because her costume didn’t originally look like this. It looked like this:
There are plenty of other problems with this poorly conceived number, which you can probably form opinions about for yourselves, BUT AT LEAST IT DOESN’T HAVE A BOOB WINDOW.
CLOAK AND DAGGER
You may have heard Marvel is developing a Cloak and Dagger TV series. Maybe you haven’t heard. Whatever, you’ve heard now. You’re welcome.
Cloak and Dagger are physical opposites of each other in every way—Cloak is a tall black man and Dagger is a small, blonde, white girl—and obviously the costumes should reflect that, right? So let’s give Cloak a, well, a cloak, so that he’s all covered. And let’s give Dagger a costume that is not only skin-tight, but seems to be in constant danger of peeling off as she wears it. I get it, the cutout is a dagger shape. Cool. But we must ask ourselves a question I have been asking myself since I started writing this thing, and that question is:
Here’s how I imagine this going down:
THE INVISIBLE WOMAN
Not even the Invisible Woman is safe!!
She cuts up her old jumpsuit because she felt too frumpy in it. She’s freed herself from the stuffy confines of actually having clothes that make sense. The symbol for Marvel’s First Family now has some cleavage in it. Sexism is over, everyone.
Oh, you knew I’d get here. You knew I wouldn’t disappoint you.
The Earth-Two equivalent of Supergirl, Kara Zor-L aka Power Girl has one of the most unfortunate outfits ever. Ever. I’m counting Starfire’s redesign for the New 52 in this. (Look it up. Or don’t, actually.) Hell, I’m counting Sean Connery’s Zardoz getup in this. (That, you should DEFINITELY look up.) In my opinion, Power Girl’s gear is so egregious because the rest of the costume is pretty cut and dry. It’s a jumpsuit with boots and a cape. Aaaand a boob window.
The history of Power Girl’s costume is a SAGA. I’ll give you the short version. There’s this legend floating around the Power Girl Debate Blog Posts that explains how back in the day the comic artist Wally Wood decided to draw Power Girl’s chest bigger and bigger every time to test whether the editors noticed anything. And they did, but only after Power Girl had gone through about six or seven cup sizes.
But listen. It gets better.
In an early issue of JLA: Classified a perfectly reasonable explanation is attempted.
Well then. The hole in this logic is almost as big as the one in her costume. Power Girl’s symbol ends up being… her cleavage. Which is probably a metaphor for how female characters are treated in the comics industry, or something. The point is that, more often than not, explaining away all these fashion faux pas really only ends up making them even worse.
What do we learn from all this? Not much, except that a superheroine’s best friend is available at your nearest Walgreens.
I don’t know what the purpose of this post is supposed to be. Maybe it’ll inform some of you. Maybe I just need a space to type away my feelings. I love comics, but I do think they need to be less about titillation and more about keeping people sensibly covered up while they punch bad guys. Jackets exist. Body armor exists. There is no reason for artists to continue to cleave to the unfounded notion that their work needs sex appeal to be interesting. Let’s nip this boob window business in the bud, once and for all. But, hey, if MODOK’s levitating soda can needs some sexing up, give me a call.