Apr 29, 2018
Supergirl’s costume... looks like Supergirl. Weird.
Apparently, I’ve developed a bit of a rep as the “anti-DC” guy here on the Agony Booth, which is fair, but kind of weird, because I don’t hate DC. In fact, I love DC, or at least I love the DC Universe and its cast of characters. I wouldn’t devote so much time and energy to something I didn’t care about.
I’ve been a DC guy since I was a kid. Maybe it’s just that DC had better cartoons when I was growing up, but for whatever reason, I’ve always had far more interest in DC than in its competitor Marvel. The DC universe just seems more grandiose, and I prefer their larger-than-life heroes to Marvel’s more down-to-earth style of storytelling (well, as down-to-earth as a comic in which a Norse god clubs a radioactive giant with his lightning hammer can be). Sure, I’ll always love Marvel. I can never turn my back on the universe that gave me She-Hulk, Nightcrawler, and Susan Storm, but there’s nothing quite like the trinity of Wonder Woman, Superman, and Batman. You just can’t top that.
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Of course, the downside of being invested in something is it makes it easier for that something to turn on you and piss you off, hence my constant rants about DC’s frequently boneheaded editorial decisions. It’s intensely frustrating when the people with creative control over the things you love insist on ruining them in the worst possible ways all the time. Sure, I should probably stop getting so upset over the way they treat characters who aren’t real, but it’s hard not to be depressed knowing that my favorite superhero (Wonder Woman, natch) is stuck with a company that has repeatedly demonstrated they do not have her best interests at heart.
But justified or not, apparently I’ve talked about this stuff enough that every time DC announces anything, people tend to want my reaction. Not that I’m complaining—it’s the greatest feeling in the world to know people actually want your opinion. And given that one of my all-time most popular articles was an angry screed against Wonder Woman’s new outfit for her movie appearance, naturally it makes sense for me to offer some kind of comment now that a costume for DC’s next most iconic heroine, Supergirl, has surfaced. Having seen the outfit, designed for the Maid of Might’s upcoming CBS TV show, it allows me to say something I don’t get to say about DC announcements lately:
I like it.
Seriously, I actually really like it. Sure, the colors are a bit muted for my tastes, and I miss the yellow background for her S-shield, but otherwise, this is much better than I expected. I was afraid that, like most recent DC comics adaptations, it would toe the company line and give us something resembling her New 52 costume. Instead, they’ve gone with a classic old school look.
The actress, Melissa Benoist, is doing the traditional George Reeves-esque hands-on-hips pose, and even (gasp) smiling! It’s far from the latest DC movie marketing campaign, with all the heroes grimly bowing their heads over desolate, dimly-lit backgrounds. Even more surprising, the costume is actually a more modest throwback to the character’s pre-Crisis look, as opposed to the more revealing, naughty schoolgirl look the character has been sporting in the comics since the ‘90s.
This costume was reportedly designed by Colleen Atwood, who worked on outifts for the CW shows Arrow and The Flash. This is definitely her best work yet in the field of superhero design. The outfits in Arrow were less than impressive, most barely even qualifying as costumes, befitting the overall underwhelming aesthetic of an underwhelming show*. The Flash was a step in the right direction, but was still a bit cheap-looking and lacking in interesting details.
[*Sorry guys, I will just never be an Arrow fan.]
It’ll be interesting to see to what degree these promotional images reflect the actual show. Like Wonder Woman (or really, any female comic book character that’s been in publication for more than a few decades), Supergirl has a rocky history at best. Her personality varies wildly from writer to writer, and DC doesn’t seem to really have any idea what to do with her, mainly keeping her around because she makes for great marketing.
Silver Age comics portrayed her as a classic teen girl adventuress, and a more human, impetuous version of her male counterpart. The ‘90s saw a bizarre revamp of the character’s origin into a supernatural being who interacted with angels and demons, something like Supergirl crossed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. When the character was returned to her more classic origins, they began characterizing her as a sensitive, curious alien, playing up her inexperience with Earth culture; basically, E.T. with boobs. And the New 52 version is essentially Superman with no moral compass: an angry, destructive force, which isn’t that different from New 52 Superman himself, really.
Of all these approaches, you’re probably unsurprised to hear I’d prefer something closer to the Silver Age version. It’s the simplest and most endearing version of the character, and it’s the one that made her an icon. Making a Supergirl show essentially allows you to do Smallville but without suffering from prequel syndrome. You can have your likeable-but-relatably-flawed, sexy young superhero story without constantly having to beat around the bush. You don’t have to do younger or not-quite-there-yet versions of popular characters. You can just come right out and say “This is Lex Luthor” or “This is Toyman”. Hopefully, CBS’s Supergirl will be another step in The Flash’s direction: Colorful, fun, and unashamed to call itself a superhero show.