Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Monday, October 02, 2006

Ramblings about a Bird in Fishnets

I am a feminist and a comic book reader. Naturally this occasionally results in quite a few rants combining these two factors.

Today I want to try something different.

I always say "It's not about the costumes" but even I have to admit that many times that is what I rant about.

So I thought I'd focus now on a costume that I like. One that is both sexualized and decidedly impractical, but I like it anyway.

I'm talking about Black Canary's costume, specifically the one with the fishnets.

My practicality winces occasionally at the thought of actually fighting crime in those shoes, but honestly, I think it's perfect for Dinah for quite a few reasons:

1. It's honoring her mother. Dinah is one of the few female-to-female legacy characters.

2. It's got an old-time movie appeal to me. Dinah is one of those characters that I tend to think should always be depicted as an old-movie star, like Veronica Lake. (Hal Jordan is another for me. In his case, Cary Grant) One of those classically beautiful women who can make fishnets look classy. Sure her costume is more cabaret than Sunset Boulevard, but I think it fits the overall atmosphere.

3. She's an adult woman. This isn't a sixteen year old engenue wearing a sash with delusions of grandeur around her waist. Dinah is in her thirties, possibly forties (Lazarus youthing not-withstanding), she's experienced and confident. She knows her body and how to dress to impress.

I guess the big difference is that for me, it seems that Dinah is old enough to understand the wardrobe choices she's making instead of performing some adolescent cry for attention.

4. Dinah is a woman that knows her limits. She may sacrifice some practicality for style, but she also knows her skills and capabilities well enough to be able to do this. She is a character that is sometimes flighty, but never stupid, she knows what she can get away with.

5. And this is oddly important to me: She doesn't wear it when it's socially inappropriate.

When Dinah was in the JSA, she wore a plainer no-fishnet ensemble. While it lacked in 40s-ish style, I really liked what the choice seemed to say about her character. The JSA is classy, and even if they probably wouldn't mind what she wears, it seems like a nice show of respect to dress a bit more conservatively. Also she's on a team with men she considers like uncles. It would make sense not to feel the need to show off so much in this case.

While I realize the costume design really didn't have anything to do with the teams she's placed on in the meta, out-of-comic-book sense, I like that I can attribute such a motive to the character herself.

Now that she's not on the JSA anymore, I much prefer her in the fishnets.

6. It's iconic. That's what I think of when I think "Black Canary" and that's not a bad thing.

7. It's genuinely sexy. I have nothing against sexy heroines. As long as the sexiness suits the character. Dinah Lance should be sexy. Supergirl and Stargirl should be cute. Hence I bitch more about Kara. (To be fair, I agree with many: the comic itself IS improving, I'm not completely won over yet...the high school experience portrayed rings a bit oddly to me...an adult trying to evoke a time/mental state he'd left a long time ago. But the comic is definitely on an upward swing.)

Anyway. I like Dinah's costume, just like I like Storm's. I like sexy, showy costumes...when they are pretty and suit the character.

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28 Comments:

  • At October 02, 2006 1:09 PM, Blogger SallyP said…

    I rather like the fishnets. I like Zatanna's too. Remember the gawdawful outfit that Dinah wore in the early Justice League issues, the one that was blue and had those...thingies on the neck and shoulders? Blech. The only thing that does bother me, is the blonde wig. Just dye it for cryin' out loud.

     
  • At October 02, 2006 2:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm reading your description of dinah and all I can't think is "OMG SHE'S JUST LIKE MADONNA!".

    shame on me.

     
  • At October 02, 2006 2:47 PM, Blogger Chris Laffoon said…

    All women should dress like whores. That way there's no misgivings about their intentions towards men.

     
  • At October 02, 2006 2:58 PM, Anonymous Mark Engblom said…

    Well...that was sure daring (from Mr. Middle Finger above me).

    Anyway, fishnets.

    I don't mind 'em on either Black Canary or Zatanna...which reminds me, I'd love to see a throwaway panel at some point where they commiserate on the pitfalls of fishnet crimefighting.

    What I can't deal with was Canary's "Let's Get Physical" 80's costume from the Giffen-era Justice League. With that headband and fluffy sleeve get-up, all she needed were some leg-warmers! Yecchhh!

     
  • At October 02, 2006 3:14 PM, Blogger Amy Reads said…

    Hi Kali,
    I am with you on Black Canary's outfit, which is joined in my adoration by Zatanna's. It's really hard to make a black leotard and fishnets look classy, but boy, do they do it!
    Ciao,
    Amy

     
  • At October 02, 2006 3:22 PM, Anonymous Tenzil said…

    Let's recap what you think makes a good in-character costume:

    1. It's honoring her predecessor. This is a legacy character.

    2. It's got an old-time appeal, it looks like or is homage to something from the 40's.

    3. She's an adult woman.

    4. Some practicality sacrificed for style, but that is OK.

    5. She doesn't wear it when it's socially inappropriate. She's on a team with men she considers like uncles. It would make sense not to feel the need to show off so much in this case.

    6. It's iconic. That's what I think of when I think "[That hero]" and that's not a bad thing.

    7. It's genuinely sexy.

    So, every single reason you list, except for #5, applies equally to Phantom Lady, which is Male Porno Fantasy Costume #1. Can't you just say "fishnets look cool in comics" and leave it at that?

    And #5 is basically "Black Canary changes her costume to make male co-workers more comfortable". This I have a problem with.

    The 1940's Black Canary is the same age as her peers in the JSA. How are they her "uncles"? She's a grown woman. They are adult men. She is OLDER than the Atom and Johnny Thunder, who are both teenagers.

    The current Black Canary is the same age as Batman and Superman. The Golden Age heroes could be her "uncles", and, if they are, why not dress that way? She is in her 30's, they are in their 70's or 80's. These are men with children who are now grown women themselves- some of whom wear less than Black Canary, even with fishnets.

     
  • At October 02, 2006 3:49 PM, Blogger Dr. Flem said…

    Back up a second here. In your mind, Hal is played by Cary Grant?

    Cary Grant's a little too smart, too smooth, too self-aware to be Hal. I think he's more of the All-American lunkhead type - more a Rock Hudson or Tab Hunter kind of guy.

     
  • At October 02, 2006 4:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It always seems "off" when they try to come up with a new look for Black Canary. It's the same with Zatana and Powergirl; the fishnets and the boob-window are, for better or for worse, iconic aspects of their costumes.

    But I think there is a way to make Dinah's outfit a little more reasonable. You know how they used to colour the leggings blue? They could have her wearing blue tights with fishnet patterning on it (slightly raised, like the webs on the movie version of Spider-Man).

    Anyway, just throwing that out there.

     
  • At October 02, 2006 5:39 PM, Anonymous Dan Coyle said…

    I don't mind the fishnets myself. However, I do wish she'd put the jacket back on. It's co' out there!

     
  • At October 02, 2006 6:18 PM, Blogger Flidget Jerome said…

    Tenzil, the current Phantom Lady isn't one of the DCU's best fighters, has an even more impractical costume than the original and has really very little connection to Sandra Knight at all when you get down to it.

    She really only has the name because her Freedom Fighters are a government-sponsored team and since Phantom Lady's a big part of the team's history some government paperpusher probably decided that they needed a new one. She's not wearing that costume to honor anyone, she's wearing it because that's what people expect a heroine carrying the name Phantom Lady to wear.

    Sandra Knight's actual legacy, Kate Spencer, Manhunter, dresses much more sensibly.

     
  • At October 02, 2006 7:58 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    sallyp: I think she dyes it now. :-)

    hugo: Dinah's a little classier. :-)

    chris: Heh.

    mark: That would be great actually! And I prefer to laugh at the 80s costume.

    amy: They're classy and awesome.

    tenzil: Actually my complaint about Stormy Knight, if you read my post, isn't about her costume.

    I actually like her costume.

    It's the blow up doll look the artist/colorist gives her that bothers me. If she were drawn with more natural shaped big breasts (a.la Power Girl) I'd be able to read her more.

    And the 40s ish element is only a plus on certain characters...actually most of those reasons are specific to Dinah's costume. Other costumes I like/dislike for other reasons.

    Also, I don't think she changed her costume for the comfort of the male characters so much as the reasons that the fishnets were so useful in BoP and previously were not as present.

    She was a lot more visible on a very respectable team here. And also, what's wrong with respecting your teammates, if that was her motivation?

    There isn't anything unfeminist about choosing appropriate attire for any situation, and I wouldn't want to be daily in the presence of my uncles in very showy clothing. It just seems like it'd make us both uncomfortable, when a bit more conservative clothing would do better.

    dr. flem: He's got the charm though. Okay admittedly, in my head he's played by Cary Grant having been hit on the head a few more times. :-)

    anon: I don't mind them trying to
    update the costume actually. Canary's a woman who I can see changing it up a lot of times. I just also really like her classic look.

    dan: I agree. Besides, the jacket=hot.

    flidget: Phantom Lady's new costume I actually like for different reasons.

    It's not terribly practical or aesthetically pleasing though. But some of that is the writer.

    I don't mind her lack of connection to Sandra, really, but I do also like Kate infinitely more. :-)

     
  • At October 02, 2006 7:59 PM, Blogger RAB said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

     
  • At October 02, 2006 8:10 PM, Blogger RAB said…

    (previous comment deleted because I got grumpy when it wasn't called for)

    There's nothing wrong with the Phantom Lady's costume. The problem is that the artist who draws her seems never to have seen a human female body in real life and is making up an anatomy consisting entirely of balloons.

     
  • At October 02, 2006 8:18 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    rab: Yep! I agree 100%

     
  • At October 02, 2006 9:03 PM, Blogger Zaratustra said…

    You didn't know? Phantom Lady is a blow-up doll magically granted life by Uncle Sam.

     
  • At October 02, 2006 9:09 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    ...how wrong is it that THAT would make me read the series?

    That would be awesome!

     
  • At October 02, 2006 10:54 PM, Anonymous Friscovi said…

    Just to back up for a sec, the thing that caught me in your post was Diana age. I'm sorry but with out a doubt Diana's got to be in her mid 40's at least, and more likely pushing 50 I think (and hope).
    1 - I meant lets face it her mom was in her 20's in the midst of WW2, and she got married soon after it, so Diana is a baby boomer and at the youngest end of the scale she couldn't have been born much later then 1960.
    2 - She was (is?) romantically involved with Green Arrow, who everyone admits is in his mid forties and I've always gotten the impression she was the more mature one of the two them. So she's got to be older then him.
    3 - Lets face it this is the only important reason - I think that there are a heap of interesting stories to tell if the writers where able to get away from the "All Female Heroes are 22" stereotype and Diana is a great lead for those stories. (I mean how cool would a story of 50 year old Diana and late 20's early 30's Dr. Mid-night and how everyone reacts to that, be?)
    And yeah, the fishnets just make the costum rock! (And if you take the Power Girl line, they are practical too, I mean who's looking at her face when they're getting kicked by a hot woman in fishnets.)
    Cheers

     
  • At October 02, 2006 11:03 PM, Anonymous CrimsonThunder said…

    Howdy, just chiming in on the Hal/old time actor idea. Hal's appearance was originally based on Paul Newman...really.

    And there was an issue (man I wish I was awake enough to remember reference locations) where Zatanna and Dinah had a conversation about men getting dumb around them "must be the fishnets" was the line.

    Jeff

     
  • At October 02, 2006 11:17 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    friscovi: *nod* I certainly don't mind the thought of Dinah in her late forties, though fifty might be pushing it. (I personally place Ollie at about 45-46 and Hal at about 42-43).

    Between the Ian Karkull slow aging shadowy crap that hit most of the JSA, one could fanwank some of that getting to her through her mom...or allowing her mother to have her a little later in life, while the lazarus pit would also explain her current youngish appearance.

    And you're right, that does add a nifty dynamic to her relationship with Mid-Nite!

    crimson: Newman? Hmm. I can see it. I suppose I just imprinted on North by Northwest or something. :-P

     
  • At October 03, 2006 2:44 AM, Blogger Evan Waters said…

    They made for a good gag when she made Jade Canary wear them.

    Also, in my mind, Black Canary is Karen Black, but that may only be due to her appearance in the "Hard Travelling Heroes" arc, which I naturally associate with EASY RIDER. (I'm not sure if Dennis Hopper or Jack Nicholson is Ollie, though. Not sure where it leaves Toni Basil either.)

     
  • At October 03, 2006 6:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I thought grell addressed the fishnets in his GA run. Dinah wore them because it made Ollie and her amorous.

     
  • At October 03, 2006 8:48 AM, Blogger Matthew E said…

    One of the things I like about the classic Canary costume is the jacket. (At least I think it's a jacket.) Until Animal-Man made his comeback, she was the only superhero to wear such a thing. Didn't any of these people ever feel the need to keep something in a pocket?

     
  • At October 03, 2006 10:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The thing about Black Canary's outfit that bugs me is not the fishnets, it's the way some artists (like the current BoP artist) draw her leotard-thing so that it's crawling up her ass. Crime-fighting in fishnet stockings is one thing; crime-fighting with a wedgie? No way.

     
  • At October 03, 2006 10:47 AM, Anonymous Tenzil said…

    kalinara:

    There isn't anything unfeminist about choosing appropriate attire for any situation, and I wouldn't want to be daily in the presence of my uncles in very showy clothing. It just seems like it'd make us both uncomfortable, when a bit more conservative clothing would do better.

    That's fair, but I still think it doesn't make a lot of sense in the comics world. The old-school JSAers wear some pretty outrageous stuff- the Atom dresses like he is in the running for "Mr. Muscle" at Folsom Fair in San Francisco and Starman walks around with a vibrator that shoots people. Green Lantern deliberately chose the most awful color combo he could. Fishnets seem positively tame.

    In the JLA, Hawkman seems really underdressed for a cop. The name "Elongated Man" seems kinda suggestive. Again, Fishnets are relatively tame AND Zatanna wore them too.

    It's the blow up doll look the artist/colorist gives her that bothers me. If she were drawn with more natural shaped big breasts (a.la Power Girl) I'd be able to read her more.

    Yeah, that makes sense.

    rab:

    There's nothing wrong with the Phantom Lady's costume. The problem is that the artist who draws her seems never to have seen a human female body in real life and is making up an anatomy consisting entirely of balloons.

    There are humans that look like that in real life, but it costs a lot of money and many painful surgeries.

    matthew:

    I agree! Jackets on a costume are cool looking. Mr. Terrific wears one as well, doesn't he?

     
  • At October 03, 2006 1:25 PM, Anonymous papervolcano said…

    I'm not entirely a fan of the old bolero-ish jacket. The long coat Benes had her in when he did BoP though? I *adore* it, and wish it would make a resurgence. It gave her some of the theatricals of a cape and hood without putting the Black Canary in a cape. Which would look silly. It updated the look without, for me, taking away any of the iconic look of the character.

     
  • At October 04, 2006 4:49 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    evan: They did! And hmm...I think I need to see that again...

    Nicholson as Ollie or Hal is a funny thought.

    sleestak: Eww. I see Dinah/Ollie kinda like I see my parents. I know theoretically that they do it...but I don't need confirmation. :-P

    matthew: I want that jacket back!

    anon: True. It depends on a good artist. :-)

    tenzil: It doesn't matter what they wear though...it's her sense of propriety/comfort that would be important.

    Besides at that time, the JSA was markedly clothed. Even Hawkman hadn't been resurrected yet.

    papervolcano: Hmm, that's a good one too! :-)

     
  • At October 04, 2006 3:15 PM, Anonymous Timothy Liebe said…

    >She was (is?) romantically involved with Green Arrow, who everyone admits is in his mid forties and I've always gotten the impression she was the more mature one of the two them. So she's got to be older then him.<

    In the GREEN ARROW/BLACK CANARY comic when they were living together in Seattle (late Eighties-early Nineties - who wrote that?), it's pointed out several times she's significantly younger than Ollie; she didn't remember anti-Vietnam War marches, and when she did up a birthday cake for him and he insisted on a candle for each year, she put on a welder's mask and gloves to carry it! :D OTOH, she is clearly more mature than he is....

    I wish I could remember who the writer was - b/c he was the guy who had GA grab George HW Bush after a bit of Presidential chicanery Ollie had to fix, and shove him sprawling into an American flag with the closing snarl, "Better tell your guy outside not to miss." My hero - even if he is an immature jerk who broke Dinah's heart.

    Paranthetical to this, Tammy and I were really distressed they broke GA and BC up, b/c we both felt they were pretty much the only superhero couple who were realisticially making it work (this was before Clark married Lois - and, well, Tammy's NEVER liked Reed & Sue Richards!)

    Best,
    Tim Liebe
    Dreaded Spouse-Creature of Tamora Pierce - and co-author of Marvel's upcoming WHITE TIGER comic!

     
  • At October 06, 2006 4:05 PM, Blogger Denyer said…

    She is a character that is sometimes flighty, but never stupid

    Quite large chunks of the BoP storylines seem to involve her being just that, and only surviving due to interventions.

     

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