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Published on January 14th, 2013 | by Joe Glass

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Tales from the Four Colour Closet – The Female Superhero Dress Code

So, I’m going to start off with a little house-keeping.

I’m going to open up the range of topics of what is discussed and ruminated on in my own rambling, meandering fashion within this (admittedly far from regular) blog that Sidekickcast kindly let me have. Sadly, there just isn’t enough LGBTQ news to discuss on a weekly basis (though there are ideas, so fear not). And it may in fact be the restrictive nature of a limited topic that has fettered my ramblings from being more prolific on here.

Instead, I’m going to open it up to a more general idea: these will be the ramblings of a gay reader and fan of comics. Not just LGBTQ news in comics, but also the general things that get stuck in my brain and make me want to pick at them…apparently publicly, for all to see.

And with that, the current curious scab in my mind: the changing fashion sense of Astonishing X-Men character Blindfold.

When Blindfold was first introduced in Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s fantastic Astonishing X-Men run, she maybe couldn’t be called a superhero. Rather, she was a ‘creepy kid’: she spouted random, nonsensical gibberish that sounded scarily prescient (and of course, was). She would keep on interjecting in her own train of thought as if she was being surrounded and hounded by imaginary chatterboxes.

And despite not kicking ass in any way, she did to her bit in saving the day a number of times.
And this is how she looked:

blindfoldShe appeared shabbily dressed, usually with a blanket on her, her hair seemingly unkempt…still though, fairly well put-together for a girl with no eyes.

Then we had Young X-Men. Here, the character was reintroduced, still very much in a similar place mentally, but with a slightly more proactive attitude and she got involved in the actual fighting a bit more. Around about this point, she could be more easily classified as a superhero. And she looked
like this:

blindfoldnew

Her clothes were more form-fitting. And she definitely grew out. Her hair was clean and brushed. She was sleeveless, confidant looking…even her blindfold seemed in better shape.

This all came back to mind as this week she appears in the current issue of the relaunched Marvel NOW! title, X-Men Legacy by Si Spurrier and Tan Eng Haut and Jorge Molina (a great book that a heartily recommend by the way). In it, we see her even more confidant and even flirty, and due to
circumstances, sane.

Now, this had me thinking. She was arguably a hero before, when she wore throw rugs as fashion, trying to help her friends with her abilities that were so difficult on her mind that doing so was a genuine struggle and alienating herself from those that could be her friends. But when she started taking more traditional superhero roles, she had to have an aesthetic overhaul.

It feels to me that this is because it is felt, whether it is true or not, that to understand a character as a superhero they must look a certain way. And for a female superhero, that seems to mean looking attractive, sexual (to at least some extent) and nearly always with some kind of bare skin available to their costume. To be a female superhero, you must be sexy.

It’s as if the belief is that for the reader to understand the visual language codified on the page of what a female superhero is, they must be presented in a singular way.

Look at the range of female superheroes: few have clumpy, form-masking costumes as Blindfold once had. And if they do, it doesn’t last long.

To some extent, it’s true. When you think of a female superhero or to describe one, particularly costume-wise, you’d probably naturally lean towards these attributes. They’ve become naturally ingrained into the cultural knowledge of superheroes and comics.

It’s something that we can see some efforts to move away from though. Of late, there’ve been several costume redesigns of various superheroes that are more skin covering, practical and make sense…however, they are still pretty form-hugging. It’s why I’ve been enjoying the new Glory from Image by Joe Keating and Ross Campbell, where we’re presented with a massively build, heavily scarred, powerful looking woman who is still feminine, who’s costume is more like armour (and certainly more practical than previous iterations) though still quite revealing in nature.

I’m not necessarily deploring it, nor am I going to say it’s the way it should be. It’s just an interesting element that stuck in my head this week, as I felt this character is a fine example of it.

For Blindfold to be a supporting character, shabby is fine. But to be a superhero, the costume gets tighter, and the attractiveness goes up. Though that may change, it’s still possible to keep the character interesting though, and thus far things have looked good for her there.

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About the Author

Joe Glass is a freelance writer who has worked with popular LGBT publication GT, blogs and even two comics; the creator-owned The Pride, and co-writing on Stiffs. He's just getting started!



One Response to Tales from the Four Colour Closet – The Female Superhero Dress Code

  1. Sara Jones Dockery says:

    This was an interesting read. I just wanted to add that from the perspective of an artist there is a practical side to dressing superheroes in form-fitting attire. For one, drapery or folds in clothing take more time to illustrate properly when the character is doing a lot of moving around. Not a problem for the support character but for a main superhero character it could become an issue. To be fair, there aren’t many male hero characters wearing lots of bulky clothing either and most of them are sexy too. :)

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