An adorable collection of illustrations have had the cosplay and comic community in a tizzy this week! They are by Michael Lee Lunsford and show female comic characters with redesigned outfits that are much more modest. The skimpy clothes that female characters wear in comics have long been a controversial topic, especially among female fans. Some fans feel that the skimpy clothes are a way to pander to the young male demographic. Others feel that a woman should be free to wear whatever she likes and that there is nothing wrong with skimpy clothes. These pictures have rekindled the debate on how females are depicted in comics, and in turn, how cosplayers represent those characters in the real world. As an avid comic reader and cosplayer, I also had a very strong reaction to them.
I agree that women have the right to wear whatever they want, but most comic book characters are being designed and drawn by men. There is no women’s choice involved. The lithe female character poses and convenient camera angles of many panels only serve to further objectify the female characters in a way that simply doesn’t happen with male characters. The impracticality of the designs is what annoys me the most. Yes, it’s easier to do gymnastics in a leotard, but is it the most practical thing to wear when you are being shot at? It’s really the last straw when you see a design as ridiculously exaggerated as Catwoman’s unzipped suit. Is it really that important that her breasts are exposed as she’s trying to sneak through Gotham unseen? WHY THE HELL WOULDN’T SHE JUST ZIP IT UP? In an era where many male characters are moving from spandex to body armor, it’s hard to continue to excuse the amounts of skin showing on many female characters.
Cosplayers are a completely different situation because they are REAL PEOPLE and who can make their own choices. If someone makes a woman wear a skimpy outfit without any choice, she becomes objectified and loses power. If a woman chooses to wear that same outfit because it makes her feel good, she has the power. The freedom of choice makes all the difference! The element of choice is why I have a problem with male artists designing skimpy female outfits, but do not have an issue with cosplayers creating and wearing those outfits. I often see cosplayers of both genders tweak character designs to be more flattering or comfortable for them to wear in public. Sometimes their self-expression means adding fabric to make it more modest, sometimes it involves showing more skin. Neither choice is “better” because it all depends on the individual cosplayer. Original designs are just as valid a form of cosplay as exact replicas of character outfits.