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The Female Perspective: Erick Larsen and Too Many Clothes…A Story That Makes Me Go…Huh?

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There is some debate going on in the comic book world today about comments made by renowned artist Erik Larsen. Larsen went to Twitter recently to declare that he thinks that female superhero’s today are wearing “unflattering” or “bulky” costumes. Basically saying that he thinks they are wearing too many clothes.

Yes, you read that correctly. They wear TOO MANY clothes. Read on for Larsen’s comments.

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Mr. Larsen may be a great artist and comic creator, I won’t deny his legacy in that regard, but to go around spouting this type of contradictory nonsense is not only asinine but it is counter-productive to all that women in the comics industry (and beyond) are trying to achieve. Women in comics can wear clothes and still be powerful, attractive and strong. He complains that Spider-Woman and Batgirl are already covered so they don’t need more clothing. He also goes on to state that their costumes are cumbersome and unflattering. Let’s take a look, shall we?

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Hmmmm…I don’t know about you but I don’t see anything wrong with either costume. They are bad-ass and don’t seem to be interfering with the action. I refuse to discuss whether their costumes are “flattering” or not – that’s sexist insanity since we don’t discuss that when it comes to male superhero’s.

Also, Larsen manages to contradict himself pretty well. He complains that these aren’t real characters and shouldn’t be drawn that way and yet then goes on to list all the reasons their outfits would get in the way of their abilities. Huh? It’s a comic book and is therefore granted a certain amount of leeway but at the same time, we want the kids who read these books to realize that women (and men) should not be created in stereotypical ways. I don’t want my superhero’s to look like me but I also don’t hover under the delusion that real people without abilities can look this way. The fact is, I’m an adult and so many young kids don’t have the same life experience and knowledge that I do, they often grow up thinking that men and women can and should look this way and that if they don’t, they’re failures. There has to be a healthy dose of reality mixed in with the fantasy.

Finally, Larsen spends some time criticizing Ms. Marvel’s costume, now, while I haven’t read the Ms. Marvel comics, I am to understand that she is a teenager. To me, her costume seems appropriate for that age but what Mr. Larsen seems to want is for her to be half-naked. Seriously? I don’t care how amazing you are in your field but to complain that a teenage character is too covered up, even in a comic, is pushing things too far.

She's a TEENAGER Larsen. Get a grip.
She’s a TEENAGER Larsen. Get a grip.

It’s been said many times before and will most likely keep being said but the fact is, women in comics are drawn overly sexy. Plain and simple. It needs to change to encompass more diversity in body types, styles and personality. While the “big two” take small steps in that direction, there always seem to be people who speak out against creating women in more realistic (but still heroic) ways. There is nothing wrong with our super ladies being a bit more covered up, it doesn’t make them any less bad-ass.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I honor that for Larsen. I do not respect his thoughts and I do not agree with them. I think his thinking is the “old thinking” in the comics world and it needs to be eradicated. We need more thinkers who realize that both men and women in comics can be drawn with clothes on and as powerful, brave and heroic.

What do YOU think!?!? Does Larsen have a point or is he way off base? Tell me in the comments!

11 thoughts on “The Female Perspective: Erick Larsen and Too Many Clothes…A Story That Makes Me Go…Huh?

  1. I’m not sure about the Spider-woman complaint since I’m not aware of a redesign of her look but the example of Batgirl you give is the old design not the one Larson is complaining about. The new one is different and I think both practical and attractive. http://oyster.ignimgs.com/wordpress/stg.ign.com/2014/07/BATGIRLMODEL2-720×1018.jpg

    Ms Marvel isn’t just 16 but also Muslim American, her costume is totally appropriate for her character. What Larson is saying is that when it comes to female characters titillating the male audience should come before character development or plot. That’s both sexist and insulting the audience.

  2. I am fixing the Batgirl picture as we type! Thanks for the heads up!

  3. I also totally agree with you, the fact that he needs his female costumes to be “flattering” annoys the holy-heck out of me. We don’t ask for Superman or Batman to look good, why the double standard? Larsen is insulting and alienating the female audience.

  4. It’s also insulting to male readers. That they can’t possibly be interested in a female character that doesn’t also turn them on.

  5. I’d personally much prefer that a heroine is a solid character and am not overly bothered by what they wear. Function over style. Having said that, I don’t mind a bit of sauce either. I’m so conflicted. hehe.

  6. Quoted from Erik Larsen’s Facebook where he was better able to articulate his point rather than try to express a complex subject in twitter’s 140 characters…which led to statements taken wrongly.

    “In regard to the Twitter flap. My point was simply that creators should not be taking marching orders from the audience and that they should essentially create their work in a vacuum. The number of real fans actively tweeting or responding on the internet is a tiny fraction of the actual paying audience, most of which never communicate their wishes and desires.
    There’s a tendency to treat any feedback as though it represents a portion of the audience. If a book gets one letter for every thousand readers editorial sometimes assumes that each letter talks for the other 999 but that’s nonsense. If one guy says he’d totally buy a Deadly Duo collection it may very well be just that one reader who would plunk down his pennies to purchase a copy. That single voice really doesn’t speak for the others.
    And my argument ISN’T that I prefer “sexy” costumes over non-sexy ones. I’m not championing sleaze by any means. My point is that I prefer stronger designs over weaker ones.
    Invisible Woman’s cutaway uniform from the ’90s showed more skin than her standard Kirby uniform but the standard version is a stronger, better designed costume which is why I prefer it. Jim Balent’s Catwoman was an embarrassment, honestly, but that was due to the way he drew her–not the costume necessarily. But truth be told, I prefer the Darwynn Cooke version. Yes, it shows less skin–but again it’s a stronger design. It’s a better costume.
    Readers also seem to have a hell of a time differentiating style and design. Mark Beachum can draw Powergirl in the same costume as Bruce Timm but Mark’s looks slutty as all hell and Bruce’s looks powerful. Is the costume to blame or the artist? And should the costume be altered just because some artists push things too far in one direction? Can’t an artist do that regardless of the design?
    In many cases the new and improved outfits are fundamentally inferior on a design level. You may feel there are no objective, quantifiable standards but that’s a misnomer. Poorly placed lines can make costumes look formless or make character look fat or oddly proportioned. All of us pick out clothes we prefer over others in our closets because they fit better or look better. Opinion enters into the equation to some degree, of course, but then there are those more or less qualified to make such evaluations.
    Often readers cite new costumes as more realistic. Batman wear armor to protect him–not tights. But again–I cry bullshit. Athletes typically wear next to nothing. Bruce Lee takes his shirt off to fight–he doesn’t put a football uniform on. Many actors wearing Batman outfits admit–they can hardly move and anybody could kick the shit out of them. Some can’t even turn their heads. A guy in Adam West’s Batman suit could mop the floor with the guy in the Nolan Batman movies yet the Nolan version is deemed more realistic. What happened to Batman thinking five steps ahead of his competition and out-thinking his opponent? Gone. Instead of fighting offense he’s fighting defense. He’s ready to take a blow but not to deliver one. Realistic is relative. Real fighters don’t overdress. real women athletes–aren’t piling on the layers.
    The danger is thinking that the vocal few represent the entirety of your audience. They don’t. And so what we’re getting is situations like Jim Lee giving Wonder Woman pants in the Justice League (because readers demanded it) and then getting rid of them (because other readers demanded it) all before the pants version saw print! These publishers are running around like chickens with their heads cut off–trying to please everybody and not knowing who to listen to.
    We’re getting creators changing the outcome of stories because a couple people guessed “who did it” online, when their response should have been to ignore those posts and tell the story they set out to tell. If the original ending makes more sense and was the story they set out to tell–to hell with those few who figured it out. They can be shamed for spoiling stories or congratulated for figuring things out. Why have a limp story see print and be on a bookshelf until the end of time? The online spoilers vanish over time–the books endure.
    I do not deny the existence of any reader. There are all kinds. Men, women, girls, boys, straight and gay and everything else. I have yet to meet a reader who doesn’t like to read superhero comics because the MEN are all impossible buff and good looking. I have yet to be told to make MEN less good looking because they make readers feel inadequate and set an impossible standard that men can’t possibly live up to. Is that a loaded statement? Maybe but it is a true one.
    There is a portion of the audience that would dearly love frumpy, plain looking female characters whose love interests are all impossibly handsome men. Kind of a wish fulfillment thing, I suppose. But then superhero comics have always been that and maybe the door should swing both ways. If somebody wants to do that book–have at it. (Come to think of it–I’m kind of doing that now. Malcolm Dragon’s love interest is a relatively average-looking, flat chested Asian girl. But I’m not caving to pressure–that’s just how that worked out).
    Aa an aside–I do find it interesting that, generally speaking, no males are “good enough” for female lead characters and yet nearly any women character is a perfectly suitable mate for a male character. In the 75 years of Wonder Woman’s existence there has never been a male that readers feel is “worthy” to be her boyfriend. Ditto Spider-Woman and She-Hulk and yet Captain America, Spider-Man, Daredevil and many others have had various girlfriends, most of which were deemed perfectly acceptable.
    In retrospect I probably shouldn’t have cited specific examples because I upset a few working creators. That wasn’t part of the plan. I do still think the original costumes are stronger and that artists could use those and simply draw the characters the way they draw the characters–after all it seems fine for Batman and Captain America to get different body types depending on the artist–why not them?
    And I kind of blew it initially with Ms. Marvel. I forgot about the name change. I was thinking that Carol Danvers’ new uniform was not as visually striking as her old one–but she’s called Captain Marvel now–not Ms. Marvel. Oops. Ms. Marvel still has a crappy costume but she’s a new character so it’s a somewhat different situation.”

  7. After researching and reading the full comments made by Larsen i’m not seeing to much to it.. The main point i really agreed with is to make new characters and stop trying to reinvent old ones..

  8. I think Erik really put his foot in his Twitter mouth on this one but I agree, let’s all just create some new stuff for a change!

  9. Nothing wrong with being conflicted, as long as you admit it! And I agree, what they wear is not nearly as important as what they do and say.

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