Supergirl’s Identity Crisis
This month’s issue of Supergirl is the second installment from writer Tony Bedard and artist Renato Guedes. Although a filler team (they’re only on the title for this three issue arc), their stint on the book has created a lot of discussion among fans.
After months of negative feedback from readers, Supergirl, 16, typically drawn as half-naked jailbait, was given by Guedes a longer skirt, biker shorts instead of peek-a-boo panties, and a couple pounds of flesh to soften her exaggerated, unrealistic physique. To accompany the new visual look, Bedard made the hero less angry and plucky, more reserved and full of self-doubt.
I talked to blogger Rachel Eddin of girl-wonder.org about the changes made. She felt the debut of Supergirl’s new image in last month’s issue 20 was an important moment for female fans.
“It was a big deal,” she said over the phone from Portland, Oregon. “I think a lot of women had avoided Supergirl…her reputation had gotten so bad because of the art. She was a character who was over-sexualized, who represented what is frustrating about a lot of adolescent female characters in comics.”
But not all reactions were positive. A contingent of fans right away called the new Supergirl “fat.”
“You open the book up, and it’s a Supergirl head on a fat boy’s body… not to mention the biker shorts and the pajama-esque quality of the uniform redesign are ridiculous,” reads a typical response posted on the DC Comics message board.
“She’s a fat Supergirl to the extent that Kate Winslet was fat in Titanic,” said Eddin in response. “She’s not emaciated. She looks like a real 16-year-old. She looks like she has internal organs.”
While agreeing that Supergirl’s new look is “definitely more realistic,” life-long comics fan Lauren Penney of Mississauga said she ultimately longs for something more.
“I would be more impressed if maybe Supergirl decided to enrol herself in university and kick ass on campus,” said the 23 year-old Seneca College student. “Or if Supergirl decided to wear pants. I don’t necessarily think that making Supergirl look like the all-American girl-next-door is in any way going to help girls who have body image issues.”
I contacted DC Comics several times about the story I was trying to put together when issue 21 first dropped in stores. They declined my interview request and eventually said they were “not commenting on the story in any capacity.”
These last two issues from Guedes and Bedard are tie-ins to the latest big DC cross-over event, “Countdown,” rather than a standalone storyline. Because of that, their unique version of Supergirl probably won’t get much in the way of character development before the next creative team takes over.
A shame, really.