Tuesday, September 08, 2009

New Batgirl costume to include utility garter

When DC released their solicitations for their November releases a few week's back, the cover of Batgirl #4, had the title character blotted out, so all one could see was her silhouette. At that point, the identity of the new Batgirl hadn't yet been revealed, and if they showed her hair color, it would have spoiled the surprise.

At the time, I feared I saw a bulge around her left thigh, which worried me, as utility belts-worn-around-the-thigh are hardly a sign of quality costume design:
It looks like they’re going with one of those blacked-out covers, showing Batgirl in what must be a new, secret identity-spoiling costume fighting some Dark Knight Returns extras. Take special note of her thighs, particularly the left one. Is she wearing utility belts around her legs…? (?!) Oh man, I hope that new costume isn’t as bad as the presence of thigh-bandoliers would indicate…

Well, today DC revealed that I had good reason to worry. DC's Source Blog revealed the un-blotted out cover by Phil Noto (looks an awful lot like Christopher Kent's Nightwing Costume, as Noto draws it), and Lee Garbett revealed his redesign on his blog:
Yes, her costume does have a utility garter on it. I hate those things. Not simply because they seem kinda dumb and impractical (Can she sit down wearing it? Can she run? And does she have so many Bat-gadgets they don't fit in her over-sized belt that looks like it's going to slide off her hip if she moves at all that she needs a utility garter?). No, I dislike them mostly because they seem like such a Jim Lee/Rob Liefeld circa 1992 design element. (In fact, it was right about that time that the last Bat-person who decided the best place to wear a utility belt would be his thigh tried that look out).

It's the superhero fashion equivalent of unlaced white high top sneakers.

As for the rest of the costume, I suppose it looks more realistic and more functional than a lot of superhero costumes, which I don't necessarily consider a virtue—do people read about teenage superheroines for the realism?—but I can understand why some would value that. Personally, I'm in the less-is-more camp of costume design, and the ribbing on the sides of this thing just reminds me of the old Ultimates designs, which even the Ultimates themselves have since abandoned.

Of course, I really liked Cassandra "Batgirl II" Cain's costume, which I understand was pretty unpopular, mostly on account of the creepy mask. Granted, different artists drew it quite differently, but I dug the way Batgirl pencil artist Damion Scott made it look after he hit his groove on the title. I liked the way it blended attributes of Batman's and Spider-Man's costumes: The pointy ears, scalloped cape and the spiky design on the gauntlets from the former, the bulbous, bug-like head, one-piece spandex suit and detail-free mask of the former. You could remove the more fetish-y aspects of the mask—the stitching around the mouth, switch in pupil-less white eye lenses for the black ones—and it'd still be a pretty nice look.

Additionally, it was probably the least sexualized superhero costume you could get. It was still skintight, wrapped in a cape, you wouldn't even know that Batgirl was a girl. Most of the time, she just looked like a petite Batman.

The new Batgirl costume keeps the new Batgirl covered-up, so she's not all Huntress-ed out or anything, but it does make the long, flowing hair and lips an integral part of the costume design again.

I'm not arguing that they should have kept the Cain costume, mind you. I think a new Batgirl deserves a new costume, and what worked about the Cain costume worked because of the character who wore it, but wouldn't have been transferable.

I'm just saying I don't much care for this costume...especially the utility garter.

But that's just me. If I've learned anything from the Internet, it's that there are a lot of different ways to draw a Batgirl.


Jeremy H said...

I've never understood costumes that cover the top of the head, but leave a hole in the back for long hair to flow out of. I know it's strictly for aesthetic purposes, but it always struck me as stupid to go out of your way to make your costume less practical in a fight. "Hey, can't have my long flowing hair tucked away inside my cowl where enemies can't grab it!"

Plus it just seems like it would take a long time to put such a cowl on, then pull your hair through the hole. Do it wrong and your hair is sticking up every which way and you look like bag lady Batgirl.

Maddy said...

Hahaha, I thought of the Az-Bats costume when I saw it too.

The leg-belt, though, is apparently an on-purpose homage to Spoiler's costume. (Which was, I believe, designed and created in the 90s, so...)

I had a feeling they would go for a design more like Barbara Gordon's Batgirl costume, but in some ways it's odd that Stephanie would opt for a more open mask, when she had an all-over mask with big white eyelets as Spoiler.

And considering that villains like her father, and the (now reformed) Riddler knew she was Spoiler, you'd think a new costume would give her a new opportunity to better protect her identity.

Esteban138 said...

Yeah... I thought it was hideous when it was just a silhouette, but now...

I would have at least picked up the occasional trade for a Spoiler or Cassandra monthly, but I could not look at that costume for 20 pages a month.

Bill WIlliams said...

Those utility garters would make it hard to run without chafing. And the writer never factors in the sheer volume of crap you would have to carry to make that practical.

You might as well give her everything from Gold Kryptonite to Bat-Shark repellent if she is going to wear that.

Kid Kyoto said...

In defense of the thigh pouch it's a lot easier to get things out of a thigh bag than a belt. Consider cargo pants vs a fanny pack or just look where your hands are when standing up straight.

But the inner thigh shouldn't have a pouch, I mean how does that even work?