Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Clothes And The Heroine.

Once again it's time for another visit to the wacky and often puzzling world of comic books. The shot above(sorry the quality isn't better) comes from issue 33 of Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, the final issue of that Marvel publication, cover date February of 1977. It represents a couple of trends found in the '70s. First of all there's the fact that Deadly Hands was a black and white comic magazine. The '70s was the heyday of the format, with a wide range of titles published by a number of publishers, including Marvel, Warren with such titles as Eerie, and Charlton's adaptations of Space: 1999 and The Six Million Dollar Man. Since they weren't covered by the Comics Code Authority they allowed for less restrictions on story content and art, such as partial nudity.
Deadly Hands is of course a representative of the early '70s martial arts boom launched by the popularity of Bruce Lee and Enter the Dragon along with the Kung Fu TV series starring David Carridine. As with other media the comics business tried to cash in on the interest in martial arts by producing martial arts themed stories and characters. Deadly Hands debuted at the beginning of 1974, although Marvel's first martial arts oriented character Shang Chi debuted several months earlier. Interestingly DC Comics beat the rest of the industry by more than half a decade when it introduced the Legion of Superheroes member Karate Kid way back in 1966.(And of course beat the film of the same name by almost 20 years.)
The characters in the shot above are Colleen Wing and Misty Knight. Partners in the private detective firm Knightwing Restorations they are also sometimes known as the Daughters of the Dragon. They originally appeared as part of the supporting cast to Marvel's martial arts superhero Iron Fist, but were given their own solo storyline in the last 2 issues of Deadly Hands. Although the kung fu fad would eventually trickle out Misty and Colleen continued to make appearances in various Marvel titles over the years, and were given their own miniseries in 2005.
Although it's not evident in the above post Misty has an artificial arm, which gets refered to as a bionic arm in '70s stories, another '70s fad. Today it gets refered to as a cybernetic arm. As for Colleen she could be considered one of the first multiracial continuing characters in comics, being Japanese on her mother's side and mixed Chinese and Caucasian on her father's.
It was their costumes in this Deadly Hands storyline that amused me and prompted this post. Misty's is a black bodysuit with some funky zipup boots not visible in the panel above. Quite practical. But Colleen's costume? A low cut leotard topped off by a tiny top with a large "boob window." Although I don't have personal experience, being a guy, I would think you'd want a wee bit more support if you run around fighting villains with karate and swinging a katana.
You'd think that superheroine costumes would be a lot more practical these days given that there are more women in the industry and attitudes towards women have changed, and that you'd be less likely to see someone wearing something like that these days. But in fact they really haven't. Some might argue they've gotten worse. It seems that for every Ravager, whose outfit may be skin tight but is armoured and covers most of her body, you get the example of someone like Supergirl, who has worn some rather ridiculously revealing costumes in recent years. And Supergirl's outfits aren't even the worst offenders. The big US comic companies often state they want more women readers, but the way female characters are costumed is seen by some as another example of the questionable attitudes that still seem to aflict the biz.

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