When most little girls wanted to be Disney princesses, I wanted to be a different kind of princess. I wanted to be Wonder Woman. As a child, I marveled at her strength and fighting skills. She was the only woman in the Justice League. She could beat the crap out of Batman and gave Superman a run for his money. In short, she was a badass.
But even back then I had to wonder, why the hell is Wonder Woman running around in just her underwear?
It wasn't just Wonder Woman, either. From old school Vampirella to Power Girl, there are tons of female comic heroes and villains running around in tiny bikinis, catsuits with deep V-cuts, or wearing boob cutouts while flying around, fighting crime — and it's absurd. Hypersexualization of female characters in comics is real and has been for a long time.
But whenever it's brought up for debate, there's often a wave of pushback from fans — particularly fan boys.
"There's a sense of entitlement in these kinds of fans, who act as though the characters belong to them," says Casey Gilly, staff writer at Comic Book Resources and a comic writer and editor. "They aren't open to character designs being changed and they aren't willing to critique their media, or admit that their favorite things are problematic and potentially isolating to marginalized people."
Gilly says it's an "unrecognized, unchecked privilege" that fails to make room for people of color, queer people, and different types of women. But the good news — according to Gilly — is that both men and women are pushing for better representation in the comic world. And more inclusivity for writers, artists, and people in decision-making roles.
"Women, people of color, queer people, people with different kinds of abilities, all need to assume those decision-making roles to really drive home that the world of comics needs to be cracked wide open for all kinds of stories," says Gilly. And she's right. When people in power, the heads of massive corporations like Marvel and DC, give artists and writers the space to redesign and rethink their favorite characters, the end results are powerful. Just look at Marvel's America Chavez series, which will feature a queer, ass-kicking Latina.
Ahead, we talked to Gilly about 11 female comic characters that have seen improvements over the years thanks to changes in the industry. But we also take a moment to highlight a few characters who could still use a makeover.