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DC Women Kicking Ass

Thoughts, pictures, reviews and other stuff about the women in comics who kick ass. This is a feminist site. Deal with it.
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Apr 28 '13

Why Do Female Villains Channel “Naughty” Rather Than Just Nasty?

I’ve been thinking a lot about costumes for female comic characters recently. First because of those redesigns of some costumes that covered everything up. And then because of a long discussion Kelly and I had with designed Kris Anka about his redesigns of costumes for X-Men including Psylocke and Storm. And of course there were the designs for Power Girl, Huntress and Green Lantern based on kids’ costumes. 

And before I go any further let’s be clear. I don’t mind female costumes that show skin. I’ve posted before about how so much of a costume is dependent on the artist. And you also have to have some leeway on the character. Emma Frost owns her costume. When Amanda Conner was drawing Power Girl, she did too. So let’s just all agree the whole “prude” label is bullshit, okay? 

But earlier today I saw that DC had posted a page from the Phantom Stranger #8 showcasing a new character - Nightmare Nurse, Mystic M.D. Let’s ignore for second that name which manage to conflate a nurse and doctor - hey, it’s comics! But as soon as I saw that name and as soon as so the teaser I sighed. I knew what I was going to see when I clicked. This character wasn’t going to channel a medical nurse or doctor it was going to channel the “naughty nurse” that fill the ladies’ aisle during Halloween.

And one click later, well heh, I was right:


Cleavage? Check! Thigh high boots? Check! Short, short skirt? Check? It’s nice that to ensure you get the “nurse” part they stuck the little hat on her head. And there you have it - Naughty Nightmare Nurse.

Okay, so what’s the problem with a new female character being designed for “teh sexy”? We still have Huntress belly-windowless and Batwoman and Batgirl covered head to toe. But the you have to remember this reveal from last week. Meet the Joker’s Daughter!


Because nothing says “the Joker is my daddy” then an exposed belly with knee high boots. It’s not that we assume she’s bad because she’s, well, the Joker’s Daughter! But we also have to have the knee high boots and exposed belly. Once again “naughty” and “nasty” combined.

Let me repeat, I’m not opposed to female characters flashing some skin. But I’m tired of sighing and rolling my eyes when a new female character is unveiled and its - oh look she’s SEXY and SAUCY. Why do I never do this with male characters? Why? Because beyond Vartox I’ve never seen a male villain who seems designed as a sex symbol rather than a villain. But with female characters? Hmmm. Alice in Batwoman? Granny Goodness? (Although I fear after what happened to Amanda Waller in the new 52 that when Granny shows up she won’t be channeling Phyllis Diller as Kirby designed her.)

Why must evil and female almost always also include “teh sexy”? Why is this seen as a default? Of course, we are also talking about a medium where blonde is the default hair color and 40D in 36C bra is the default bust line and you can guess many of the female characters by their ass because you see it as often as her face. (Hello Selina!)

I’d like to get the feeling that when a new female villain is cooked up that the first thought isn’t - she’s hot. Right now, I don’t.

But in writing this, I realized something. If you combine naughty “Nightmare Nurse” and Joker’s Daughter you get something interesting:


Ah Harlequin costume - I miss you so much.

What do you think? 

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    This is just the worn out paradigm of women wither being sweet and innocent, or a deceiving, Jezebel seductress. If...
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