Sexism, Impracticality and a Hopeful Future of Costuming

“Captain Marvel”, by Arkenstellar
“Captain Marvel”, by Arkenstellar

Fundamentally superhero costumes are vital for the industry because they establish iconography and create the brand. They are used not only to create a recognisable identity for a character, but also often function as a disguise to shield an everyday persona. Costumes also serve the purpose of showcasing character development. For example, the costume is revealed to signal when a character has finally reached the point of either accepting their role as a superhero, or are able to use their powers fully. Finally, the costume is also often considered the defining trait of the superhero; that personality, appearance and even powers may alter with iterations, but the costume tends to remain a stable aspect. The costume, that becomes almost a uniform, cannot be separated from that particular superhero as it has become their identity beyond any other factor. Some have even argued that the costume is so encoded as part of the persona of the hero that not only is his/her identity no longer complete without it, but if another dons the outfit that superhero persona can be usurped. While I may not fully agree with this sentiment with the series of reboots and adaptions the comic book industry is undergoing, I do understand why the very discussion, let alone implementation, of changing a superhero’s costume can become difficult for many people. However, I believe, and argue here, that tradition is not enough to justify the continuation of sexist and impractical choices when change could only lead to better art, better story, and a greater engagement by a wider audience.

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