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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Saturday, May 25, 2013


I have to wind up this essay mini-series by tackling in greater depth this Kelly Thompson quote:

I am shocked by the lack of imagination some of you have when it comes to superhero costumes. Not EVERY costume has to look the same – standard issue spandex and garish colors. There’s a lot of innovation to be found in more fluid designs that embrace current fashion and modern trends rather than pumping out the same old thing. Specific to Meredith’s designs, some of her more sport/athletic looks make far more sense than anything else we regularly see. Professional athletes are the closest things we have to superheroes, and none of them run around in spandex, but any of them might be seen in Meredith’s Powergirl or Phantom Lady designs.

Thompson does not in this column enlarge on what she means by "imagination."  Since all of the outfits she endorses picture superheroes wearing ordinary, generally body-concealing street clothes, one interpretation might be, "You people don't have the imagination to see that these are appealing heroines even if you can't see their figures or their bare flesh."  I imagine Thompson would deny that this is her meaning, but even if she were to do so, her argument doesn't stand up to logical scrutiny.

What, precisely, is "imaginative" about having superheroines:

(1) "Embrace current fashion and modern trends,"


(2) Wear the same things that "professional athletes" wear?

Just as Thompson hopelessly confused the terms "hyper-sexualization" and "objectification" as I noted here,
here she's invoking "imagination" when what she has truly endorsed is "mimetic fidelity." 

Now, it's certainly not impossible to design a superheroine costume that is based on "current fashions" but which is imaginative enough to have its own identity.  It may be that Thompson thinks that all of the costumes she endorses possess that quality, though she did not state her opinion in those terms.  Mimetic fidelity is all that she uses as her baseline.

I return once more to one of the comments from the column that I found instructive:

'the Power Girl, Phantom Lady, and Cheshire costumes leave me scratching my head — they’re good drawings, but there’s nothing superheroic (or supervillanous) about them.'

This fan, one Rob S (who incidentally did like the "Raven" redesign) hits upon one of the main characteristics of superhero costumes, be they male or female, revealing or non-revealing.  They are meant to invoke the imagination, to make it seem possible that human beings could assume godlike status by their donning of vivid and often impractical outfits.

We hear much from Thompson about the impracticality of Phantom Lady wearing a costume that threatens to "bust out all over."

But not so much about Batman sporting a mile-long cape that ought to trip him up on a regular basis:

Or the Hulk managing to wade throughout innumerable battles without ever having his pants ripped off by death-rays.

Just to clarify the matter of taste this implies, however, let it be known that I'm not critiquing Thompson for liking realistic costumes.

But, except in the sense I mentioned above, there's nothing "imaginative" about it.

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