Hero stuff requires sensible shoes

Listening to: Fred Hersch Trio.

Batgirl has gotten a redesign that’s causing a stir among us brainy girls who’d follow Josh Whedon like Deadheads, if only he’d go on tour. In fact, as Rob Bricken writes, “Batgirl’s new uniform may be the best damn superheroine outfit ever.”

What’s the brouhaha all about? Friend Susan, mother of a young Libby, who can often be found rocking a cape, says it best: “The new Batgirl re-design involves combat boots instead of stilettos, a real leather jacket that’s not an excuse for a ridiculous bosom, a sensible snap-off cape, and the herione’s move to the artsy part of Gotham so she can pursue grad school. This comic is mom-approved.”

Based on the MTV.com interview with new Batgirl team Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher and Babs Tarr, it sounds as though Batgirl is going a bit “That Girl.” (“Flirt!” “Fun!” “Fashion!”) Which takes me out of her teen demographic. But it’s great to see a female superhero wearing something other than spandex and a bustier. Because, seriously, who can fight crime in a bustier?

I’ve been thinking a lot about superhero kits lately, because the costume matters. It both establishes and hides identity. And it helps set the tone for the story. One thing I love about the more recent incarnations of Batman is that the costume veers into the grotesque (especially the mask), helping to make him downright scary. Like V. Another favorite.

But the costume is also important for protection. Especially for a superhero without superpowers. If my Diana is going to wander the streets, looking for a fight, she needs to do it in clothes that allow her to move but are tight-fitting enough that they don’t allow a pursuer to grab hold of her. They also need to keep her relatively safe — ideally, stop a bullet. That veers a little too far into Ironman’s bought-and-built superpowers, but the clothes certainly need to protect against scrapes, cuts, slaps, and other one-step-above-basic possible injuries.

My first idea, when I started assembling Diana’s outfit, was a Kevlar motorcycle jacket. But Kevlar clothing is bulky, heavy and not suited to a character who slips in and out of the shadows. So I’ve settled on black fitted leather, with stretch fabric at the seams. It can’t stop a bullet, nor would it prevent a deliberate stabbing, but leather would allow Diana to use her arms to block a knife in a fight. And because she kicks, she needs a lot of flexibility at the hips, knees, underarms, shoulders and waist.

Shoes remains puzzle. Stilettos are out, certainly. And combat boots are heavy, not really agile. Diana runs, climbs, leaps and kicks. So she needs a structured, reinforced shoe that enables her to move. I’m still looking for the right thing — suggestions?

Finally, the mask. There are a lot of good reasons for the full-head Batman style. In the comics, the women superheroes always have flowing manes, but for a “real life” superhero, like Diana, this is dangerous. Again, she can’t have anything loose that someone could grab and hold, use to trap her. But I want Diana’s eyes to show clearly. And she needs to be able to talk. It is her eyes and her voice (as well as her ability to appear, seemingly, out of nowhere) that make her frightening to the men she confronts.

But what about the cape? Ah, the cape. The accessory that, when I was a child, made me feel powerful. For a crime fighter on the mean streets of Seattle, though, a cape can be grabbed, get caught on a fire escape, tear and leave traces behind. So (*sad sigh*) no cape for Diana.


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