I fully understand and agree that the porn-starization of female comic book heroes is problematic, and aesthetically and ethically distasteful. And sexist. And my Lord, this Rob Liefeld stuff is to weep. But one thing I think Michael Chabon nailed about the Golden Age of comics in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, in thr origin story for Luna Moth, literally the transformation of sexy librarian Judy Dark into a superheroine, was that female superheroes could be sexy as hell without being sluts. In Luna Moth’s origin story, her transformation is a kind of sexual liberation, the thing that lets her plant a smooch on a cutie cop. As Chabon writes:
She flies, hair streaming, upwar through a spiral column of smoke and light. The first thing we notice about her may not be, surprisingly, that she appears to be flying in the nude, the zones of her modesty artfully veiled by the coils of the astral helix. No, what we notice first is that she appears to have grown an immense pair of swallowtailed moth’s wings. They are a pale greenish-white and have a transparent quality; they might even, like Wonder Woman’s airplane, be visibly invisible, at once ghostly and solid. All around her, outside the column spiraling infinitely upward, reality dissolves into dream-landscapes and wild geometric prodigies. Chessboards dissolve, parabolas bend themselves into asterisks, whorls, and pinwheels. Mysterious hieroglphys stream past like sparks from a roman candle. Miss Dark, her great phantom wings steadily flapping, takes it all strangely in stride–for, dead or alive, there is no question that Judy Dark, that human umbrella, has, at long last, opened to the sky.
That human umbrella, has, at long last, opened to the sky. That line slays me. So gorgeous, and so attuned to the fact that intimacy and potential are so much about being open and attuned to the world instead of being hidden away from it. Read the whole chapter (13 for those of you fools cheating and skipping the rest of a great, great book). But it’s part of why the absurdity of superheroines’ costumes today is so sad. Giving a woman super-powers gave her an out, to a certain extent, from being judged a slut, no matter how she dressed. I’ve always kind of liked that.