The Wednesday Waffle - Issue Four: Costume Party (Part Two)

September 4, 2018

Superhero costumes are a constant source of amusement and bemusement. So let's continue our exploration of the oddest clothes in comics.

 

It's always difficult to know where to start, but I think Nightwing is as good a place as any. I mean, it's not as though poor old Dick Grayson got off to a good start in the costume stakes, given that as Robin he ran around dressed like this?

 

Truly Robin's original costume stands as one of the very, very few male costumes that can give the daftest of the female ones a run for their money - from the pixie boots and the massive gloves to the fact that he's running around in speedos, it's a look that only got sillier as Grayson grew into his teens.

So like most kids, eventually he rebelled and went his own way. And like most kids, when he started buying his own clothes Dick made a couple of questionable sartorial decisions. 

 

I mean seriously - what on Earth is going on with that collar? Grayson is an acrobat and a skilled martial artist, so ditching the cape makes a lot of sense in terms of freedom of movement. But having removed one massive hindrance why the heck would you choose to cosplay a dog wearing the dreaded "cone of shame"? Never mind the amount of starch you must need to keep the thing standing up like that, how does he see things either side of him? Unlike Dick I'm neither a gymnast or a martial artist, but from my position of ignorance I reckon peripheral vision is probably useful in both endeavours...

 

Of course he's pretty much fixed it now, with his current suit offering ease of movement, good vision, and perhaps most important of all, a symbol on his chest!

 

The current Nightwing costume, as seen here, is my favourite of the lot.The bird logo on the chest is subtle but harks back to his original identity as Robin. The hardened strike points on the gloves emphasise that he's a martial artist, but he's not powered, he needs to make every punch count.

 

I remain unconvinced that the domino mask would be particularly effective at concealing identity, but making it a stylised bat is also a nice touch, and it seems to work for everyone else in the DCU, so he gets a pass.

 

I mean, he gets a pass anyway, because he's Dick Freakin' Grayson...

 

Anyway.

 

Moving on, I don't think we can talk about ridiculous superhero costumes unless we talk about Carol Danvers. This is what she looks like now, as Captain Marvel, leader of Alpha Flight and one of the most powerful heroes in the Marvel Universe:

 

 

 But she wasn't always Captain Marvel. Once upon a time she was Ms Marvel and her costume looked like this:

 

 

Oh, by the Hory Hosts of Hoggarth, where do we even start with this?! I mean yes, I'm cherry picking a little - Danvers wore several costumes as Ms Marvel, and this is very much the most extreme, but just as with the new Supergirl costume discussed in the last edition, there were people who had a meeting, looked at several costume designs and decided that this was the best one.

 

It raises a lot of questions.

 

For a start, did she forget her kit? Because the only time I can ever remember anyone being expected do undertake physical activity in their underwear was in my nineteen seventies primary school, where, if you forgot your P.E. kit you were expected to take the class in your vest and pants.*

 

Also, note the shiny knee high boots and equally shiny gloves. I'm thinking latex? Really? Difficult to get on and off, and frankly a bit sweaty. And those boots have heels. Now, I grant you, Ms Marvel could fly, so didn't need to walk in those heels but still. Who would really choose to fight in heels?

 

Oh...

 

It seems that Batgirl used to...

 As did Catwoman. I can see no way that stilettos could ever be a problem for a cat burgler - although from a cat burgling perspective, nothing about this costume makes sense - who goes cat burgling in a dress?

 

Black Canary has often been seen high heels too - and while I grant you she could have somebody's eye out with those shoes I do worry about the literally hundreds of ways she could hurt herself trying to fight in those boots.

 

Then there's Felicia Hardy - the Black Cat, another feline based character who spends her time leaping around sky-scrapers and appears to think stilettos are appropriate footwear.

 

The rest of the costume seems fair enough - and is in fact very much like the outfit DC's Catwoman 

currently wears to her office. So what's the obsession with heels?

Even Wonder Woman isn't immune to this phenomenon! I mean, I'm not saying that you can't move at all in heels, you only have to watch Ginger Rogers with Fred Astaire or see an episode of Strictly Come Dancing to know that. But there's a reason you'll never see a female martial artist (or a male one, for that matter) with something like that on their feet. There's a reason nobody wears Jimmy Chus to go rock climbing. It's inappropriate to the point of not making sense and it always takes me out of the story.

 

The other costume feature that takes me out of the story is the tendency for designers to put random holes into the costumes of female characters. I get revealing costumes - in an industry that makes a lot of effort to appeal to teenage boys something like Carol Danvers' Ms Marvel costume makes sound commercial sense. I may not be terribly keen on the message that sends, but I understand it.

 

But the random holes sort of puzzle me. The most obvious example is Power Girl's infamous "boob window". I mean, seriously?

 

As I said, cleavage I get. Plunging necklines I get. We can discuss the ethics of the sexualisation of female characters at a later date, but somehow this seems to go beyond that.

 

Of course Power Girl is not unique here. Even the relentlessly wholesome Sue Storm went through a phase where she ditched the chaste sixties coverall for whatever it is she's wearing in the panel on the right.

 

It's almost as though somebody at Marvel looked at DC's Power Girl and thought, "Aw, we can go more over the top that that!" The boob window is a bad enough idea without shaping it like a "4". And what happened to the fabric covering her abs? 

 

Those are not the most inexplicable costume holes though. No, those are the "hip windows" in Kate Bishop's Hawkeye costume.

 

These I really don't get. They look a little odd, and unless their purpose is to make you vaguely wonder what kind of underwear she could be wearing that wouldn't show they aren't remotely sexy. They serve no practical purpose that I can fathom - and Kate isn't really given to  extravagant fashion statements.

 

We could go on about this at some length - but we have to stop somewhere, so we'll leave it her for now. Let us know if you have a particular costume you love to hate. Maybe some time in the future we'll have a look at some of the really cool costumes out there...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Yes, it was the dark ages. No, I suspect this is not a thing anymore.

 

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