Sunday, July 27, 2014

Why Artists Went Fan Squee Over Batgirl's New Outfit

Just as I'm getting ready to attend next Saturday's Tampa Bay Comic-con, there's been a bit of interest in the comics industry about a revamped look for one of the big names in the DC Universe.  Batgirl (technically the second one, Barbara "Babs" Gordon) is getting a new look:

Edit: the artist is Babs Tarr (Babs is drawing Babs!).  She's a big deal.  Check her out.

The response has been epic.  Within a day (I am not kidding), fan art from professional and independent graphic artists flooded the Intertubes.

Part of it is due to the outfit being so damn sensible: instead of it being a glorified swimsuit, or spandex form-fitting distraction, the new outfit is practical.  Leather jacket and armor.  Regular boots (although the laces may be a weak spot!).  The utility belt (no Bat goes without one) uses an additional leg strap to keep it and the main pouch secure.  The cowl doesn't get trapped over the ears.  Above all: THE CAPE.

Fans are divided over the idea of a cape.  Some supers can't be one without it (Superman in particular).  But in terms of practicality...  The movie Incredibles spells it out:
NO CAPES!

Batgirl is going to employ a simple, sensible alternative: snap-on, snap-off cape (via Sam Logan).


Fans are ga-ga for the snap-on.  My favorite response so far has been from Mike Maihack.  He's done a handful of Batgirl-Supergirl (in canon and fanon Babs and Kara are BFFs) one-sheets before, and with the new uniform he couldn't resist:

in Maihack's tellings, Kara's a bit of a fashionista, much to Babs' dismay...
See Kara popping that snap-on?  Yup.  Fans dig the snap-on.

As for the other reason fans are going ga-ga...

Part of the response is due to the background of Barbara Gordon herself.  Ever since her inception in the mid-1960s (the Silver Age), Barbara's place among the fandom has been usually well-received.  When the Killing Joke happened - the infamous issue where the Joker paralyzed her by shooting through her spine - the horrified response was universal (even the writer Alan Moore - himself a master Deconstructor, he dissed the capes too - regretted the move).  Bat-fans within the industry quickly worked to make Barbara a new heroine - Oracle - while the fans working via fanart and fanfic came up with stories of her regaining the use of her legs.  It took yet another multiverse Crisis (DC unfortunately has gotten into the sad habit of rebooting itself every 3-4 years now /headdesk) to return to an earlier reboot making her college-age again and back to mobility.

The fan-love for Barbara comes from her origin.  The reason she became Batgirl was because she was a fangirl in costume (from the Hero Sandwich blog):
Artist Carmine Infantino















One things the comics creators try to do is develop a character/hero the potential audience can relate to.  When it became clear that kids were superhero books' biggest readers, the publishers created "sidekick" pre-teens (Speedy, Robin, the Newsboy Legion) to act as in-story surrogates.  Sometimes it worked, sometimes you'd get a Scrappy.

In Barbara's case, she was relatively unique.  Most sidekicks - and heroes that mentored them - came from damaged backgrounds, suffering some terrible injustice or fleeing a deadly fate that would become a motivating factor in their decision to dress up and fight crime.

Barbara was on her way to a costume ball, dressed up as her favorite superhero, when she has to stop Killer Moth - yes, villains from the 1950s and 1960s were a bit lame - from kidnapping Bruce Wayne.

She's pretty much an ascended cosplayer.

Hence the fan-love.

I wonder how many costumers at the Tampa comic-con are gonna have snap-on capes... (don't look at me. I'm gonna try to fit into the Jedi outfit mom sewed for me).

1 comment:

Angie B said...

Loved it!!! I'm going to have my husband read it when he gets home from work!