Thursday, March 5, 2015

What Women Women Characters

What Women Want in Women Characters
Women Characters Redesigned by Women SFF Artists

-By Lauren Panepinto

As the most frequently-posting woman on the Muddy Colors roster, let me officially welcome you to Women’s History Month. Now while I don’t always agree with the concept of a Women’s History Month (right with you there, Morgan Freeman), the fact of the matter is, sexism in art is a topic that keeps flaring up and isn’t going to quiet down anytime soon. As a woman, and an art director, I have been thinking of a way to address women’s issues in a art-specific way that is useful to the Muddy Colors audience. So my columns this month are going to be dedicated to what women want in art and from artists. So, prepare yourselves, ladies and gentlemen.

Before we begin, I would like to lay some foundation.

First: I am a woman, and I do not speak for all women. I am taking my experience and the collective experiences of the hundreds-strong Women in Fantasy Illustration group* and trying to make this post as general as possible. But including everyone’s specific experience is impossible. However, I feel very confident in saying many if not most women have experienced the issues we will be discussing.

Princess Peach (Super Mario Brothers) redesigned by Kirbi Fagan “Who needs saving now Mario?”

Second: Speaking of comments, let’s just say right now: I love healthy debate in the comments, and will always welcome other’s stories or questions, but will not tolerate trolling, cruelty, or just general jerky behavior. There are plenty of places to go troll on the internet. Muddy Colors is not one of them, and I feel very protective of that. If you’re not sure whether you should post a particular comment, maybe read this first.

Third: Make sure you understand the definition of feminism before you start debating it. Feminists want Gender Equality. That’s it. That’s what it means. Often I think we should ditch the feminist term because it’s so loaded and start over with something like “equalist” but there’s a lot of reasons not to do that, and until something better sticks, I am going to stick to the stance that I am proudly a feminist, and if you want to hear more about feminism = equality (and especially what guys can do to help equality along) check out the United Nations He for She campaign, which Emma Watson launched with a great speech you can watch here.

Polaris (X-Men) redesigned by Alicia Vogel "Replaced generic monochromatic swimsuit & cape with a sassier silhouette, metal accessories for her powers to manipulate, and some nods to former costumes."

Ok, back to the issue at hand. It’s a given that in science fiction and fantasy movies, books, comics, and games, the dominant viewpoint has historically been that of a white heterosexual male. This means that characters of alternate race or sexual orientation have been the exception to the rule, and female characters are created through the lens of what male creators and consumers want. For the entirety of my own history as a geek, I have known that I was never the target audience. Although I could find places to fit myself (Princess Leia, Teela, Cheetara, Jean Grey) the media I loved was not created for me. And the writing or physical representations that were just too over the top for me to stomach I just ignored. However, the last 10 years of geek culture has been amazing to watch. With popular culture becoming, in effect, completely merged with geek culture, the fanbase has been blown open, and has grown and changed in many ways. Some changes scare people. Some changes excite people. Sometimes the original core fanbase is actively hostile to the newcomers. I’m not here to go into all those debates. The fact of the matter is, the paddock fence of geek culture has been blown open, and we can no longer pretend women are the exception, or even the minority gender of geekdom.

This means creators need to take women into account when they portray women. Not only because I am exhausted of internet flame wars (I am), and not only because I would love to see the geek culture move towards inclusion instead of building up the fortress walls, but because embracing the huge female market is only going to translate into profit. Look at Ms. Marvel. Look at Agent Carter. This is a giant underserved market dying to throw money at you. And the truth is, you’re not losing anything by opening the door to inclusion. Look at the recent success of woman-friendly redesigns and relaunches of Ms. Marvel, Batgirl, and Spiderwoman. I also love Marguerite Sauvage's recent version of Wonder Woman.

Samus (Metroid) redesigned by Anna Fehr "Zero suit is right...she was pretty much wearing nothing at all."

Update: Yes, we KNOW the Zero suit is supposed to go under her battle armor, we're professionals. We're talking about the high-heeled version in Super Smash Bros, which was clearly marketed just to make Samus more sexy. Which was unfortunate because she was such an amazing character without needing to be sexified. (Yes, I'm old enough to remember when it was actually a shock that she was a girl at the end of the original Metroid.) So enough with the mansplaining, please.

To the alarmists I say this. Women are not trying to “ruin your fun” — if you look at the fiercest debates, they happen at times when something is specifically being created for women or about women and then handled in a way that seems to not take enough women’s points of view into account. The Newsweek cover was about sexism. Of course you should be asking women how they feel about it. The Spiderwoman variant cover was a relaunch of a woman-fronted superhero book where women were the target audience. Listen to the outrage. The message is this: “We’re fighting so hard for inclusion, and then even in seeming victory, we are not being consulted, and our point of view is not being taken into account.” THAT’S why we’re so upset. We don’t want to take over geek culture and exclude anyone. We just want a place within in we don’t have to keep re-earning over and over.

This is the most important take-away: Including a woman’s point of view does not replace or invalidate the male point of view.  

I think about this for every book cover I design. How will this be received by men? How will his be received by women? When there is a woman portrayed on the cover I am hyperaware of this. I will talk about this more in my next column, but the shorthand is, there are ways to please both genders in every depiction of a woman. A woman can be sexy, without being sexualized. A woman can be in an extremely sexy pose, but still have agency. A woman can embrace a diversity of body types. You’ll even find thinking of a sexy woman as a subject instead of an object will make your art better. It will give narrative to the piece. (Forget about gender differences, you should be making sure all your characters have agency and are acting as fleshed-out, emotional subjects.)

Scarlet Witch redesign by Belinda Morris "Since the Scarlet Witch’s origin story includes growing up in a Romani family I wanted her costume to reconnect with that - but with a modern twist."

As I said, I’m going to be discussing this at length in my next post. For now, I’m going to give you a flood of examples of women characters in fantasy art — many infamous for being depictions unwelcoming to women — that have been redesigned by the professional artists in the Women in Fantasy Illustration group. Each woman’s point of view is different, and the redesigns reveal what is most important to that woman, whether it’s realistic body armor, or it’s making sure the woman has a narrative and agency of her own. There is no one right way to depict a woman character, and it is not as simple as "cover her up more" because, as you'll see, some of these redesigns are sexier than the original. And I have found through my own work that you CAN absolutely have a single depiction of a character that is sexy and empowering to all genders. As I said, more on that next post.

Enjoy these amazing redesigns for now, and we’ll talk about the issues more in my next column!

Storm (X-Men) redesign by Alice Meichi Li "(Nature Goddess + Weather Witch) X Punk Badass — Random Bikini"

Alice was so into this project she even made an animated version!

Betty Boop (created by Max Fleischer) redesigned by Christina Hess "Betty Boop was created in the 20’s. I modernized her to fit into today’s business world."

Morrigan (Dragon Age) redesign by Sam Guay "Morrigan seems the sort to look sexy for her enjoyment, not yours, so I put her in something a little more comfortable, but kept her signature neckline. 'Men are always willing to believe two things about a woman: one, that she is weak, and two, that she finds him attractive.' —Morrigan"

Chun Li (Street Fighter) redesign by Iole Marie Rabor "Chun Li with her amazing legs and high kicks looks uncomfortable fighting with a thong, so I mixed Boxing shorts together with her Chinese Cheongsam. Thank you, Bruce Lee, for the belt!"

Great Fairy (Zelda: Ocarina of Time) redesign by Carly Janine Mazur "The Great Fairy in Ocarina of Time of pointy-boobed fame. As a fairy I believe her minimal ivy-covered “outfit” is very appropriate--except the boots, she’s a fairy, get rid of the boots--however, I have always felt the need to give her face a makeover to rid her of the “lady of the night” vibe."

Emma Frost (X-Men) redesign by Vlada Monakhova "As hung in the GREY & FROST SCHOOL FOR MUTANT NERDS foyer."

Phoenix (X-Men) redesign by Marisa Erven "I was excited to modify her outfit to something other than typical spandex ultra-tight clothing.  I opted for refined, dignified and powerful...with a hint of a medieval flair." 

Red Sonja redesign by Melissa Gay "There is no reason a stone cold badass has to be stone cold. I went back to her roots in the 1930’s fiction of Robert E. Howard and her native Hyrcania, pulling in Persian and Iranian elements for her clothing, armor, and weapons. Still had to give a nod to her iconic silver scale mail bikini, though!"

Fran (Final Fantasy 12) redesign by Ashley Hankins "I think the thing that always bothered me about Fran wasn’t her metal negligee but her stilettos. The argument for them is based on her foot structure but I figure if that is so, then a lady as hardcore as Fran might at least want some high-heeled boots that would actually serve to protect her toes, since getting a stubbed toe in battle is something easily avoidable!"

Dizzy (Guilty Gear) redesign by Priscilla Kim "I wasn’t particularly concerned with practicality or realism (it is, after all, Guilty Gear), but I wanted to do something that better suited her character, as a sweet, naive weapon of war, than a bondage bikini with nipple beads."

Drow Ranger (DotA2) redesign by Katy Grierson "Because there is no point in armour if it doesn't protect your vital organs." 

Gamora (Guardians of the Galaxy) redesign by Rebecca Flaum "Gamora is supposed to be a supreme martial artist so I put her in some more appropriate clothing for such endeavors."

Lady Death (Chaos Comics) redesign by Heather Hudson "Medieval Sweden is a cold place to wear a latex bikini." 

Nariko (Heavenly Sword) redesign by Angela R. Sasser "Nariko’s determination and attitude was undermined by her sexualized and impractical design in Heavenly Sword.  I’ve updated her look to reflect the warrior within. You can read more about the design and painting process of this image here."

Pirotess (Record of Lodoss War) redesign by Elif Siebenpfeiffer  "Pirotess is a drow, a fighter and a powerful sorceress - let’s not put her in a fancy sexy nurse dress."

Power Girl redesign by Tora Stark "As a woman of formidable proportions myself, I gotta give Power Girl some proper support. I imagine there’s nothing more embarrassing than hitting yourself in the face with your own chest while fighting crime." 

Seven of Nine redesign by Samantha Haney Press "I thought I’d pay homage to the long tradition of Trek jumpsuits while incorporating the functionality that Borg value, and added a touch of emerging individuality."

Star Sapphire (Green Lantern) redesign by Anne Garavaglia “I can pilot an F-18 Hornet. I’m wearing the damn miniskirt.”

Taarna the Tarakkian (Heavy Metal) redesign by Melissa Gay "This character means so much to me-- the Tarakkians are ultimate warriors, the final force for good in a corrupt universe, the heroes every little girl might aspire to be. We deserve better from our childhood aspirations than wearing a thong into battle."

Tayil N'Velex (Everquest2) redesign by Sarah Finnigan "Although represented well (albeit not dressed remotely like a necromancer) in the actual game, she was skimped-down to an illogical armor-bikini in the official trailer, presumedly for marketing purposes." 

*Yes, there's a Women in Fantasy Illustration group on Facebook. If you've heard ladies talking about the "WiFi" meet up at an art con, or see someone refer to it online, there is a ladies-only private group, started by Zoë Robinson. If you are a woman (however you define it) and you make fantasy art (however you define it) send me or Zoë a Facebook message and we'll add you. Sometimes guys say this isn't fair, but the truth of the matter is, women need a safe space to talk to just women. Guys are welcome to do the same. We are as inclusive as we can be, balanced with as safe as we need to be. Comics art, gaming art, illustration, concept, gallery, dimensional, fashion—all artists are welcome.

All "before" images copyright by their IP owners.


  1. Thanks, Lauren, for the excellent post! Some of these redesigns are truly great, even showing an awareness of each character much better than the originals.

    I'm the first to cringe at chainmail bikini, and I'd very much like to buy a pair of high heels to every artist designing any kind of combat attire that includes them (and make him run wearing them). ;)

    On the other hand, I strongly feel that de-objectification doesn't have to resort to prudery.

    For example, I could very well picture Morrigan in Dragon Age flaunt her breasts (without even the stringy bra). It's just like her character to manipulate the attention to her own ends. I'll admit that in an adventuring setting, it doesn't make much sense to show much skin. But robes are extremely bothersome to stride in, too.

    In the end I think that objectification has less to do with nudity and more with a perceived lack of agency. A completely nude figure can look entirely desexualised and intimidating (cf. Lauren K. Cannon's Skiirihn of the Dhuriiehm) when nothing about her is inviting in the least.

    These things said, I'm glad about this discourse because it brings more choice, more diversity, and ultimately makes our visual environment richer and deeper.

    1. I am 100% behind you on the no prudery issue. Women often want to be sexy, and this can and should absolutely be portrayed in their characters. It's all about thinking from the character's point of view. Does she want to be sexy? In what ways? To distract her male opponents? To feel strong and powerful?....It's ALL about agency.

    2. I love most of these! Morrigan is the one here that drew my immediate attention, too. The redesign seems to infantize her, which just doesn't seem right from either the character or the empowerment goal. The original feels much more badass and powerful and in keeping with the character.

    3. Honestly. I disagree -- the other design of Morrigan still looks bad ass and beautiful and totally awesome.

  2. Nice article Lauren! I really liked seeing those redesigns. I try to be more mindful these days when I'm drawing female characters and I think that it does lead to more interesting designs... Although I do resort to the sexy card quite a bit (I got to learn to fight those primal man urges XD)

    Other than that, I pretty much agree with what eilidh has written. And I'll leave you with this short comic that you maybe have already saw before (but it always makes me laugh when I read it!)

    1. Oh, I didn't know that website! I think it shows a lot of good examples more realistic outfits leading to more interesting design (and by extension more interesting characters). I mean, there's not much you can do with a simple bikini armor, right?

      I think that clothings are a powerful, but underrated tool for visual storytelling. So even if an artist don't believe that woman are misrepresented in the art world, they should at least consider not to do the bikini-armor by default. By actually thinking about the character, you can incorporate visual clues of the character's backstory (scars, a damaged armor, etc.) or the place where they come from (Persian and Iranian influenced like in the Red Sonja example in the article it). I think that art just gains more depth that way. Also, that way everyone wins!

      With that said, I think sexy characters can still exist... but being sexy should not be their only character trait or goal in life.

  3. Great post, Lauren! I wrote a super long reply to this post before, because it's a topic I think about a lot. Sadly it got lost in the internetz when I hit the publish button.

    It was along the same lines as Elidh's. I even went as far as to suggest that making an image for pure sexual arousal is something we must be allowed to do. And that that image may indeed be both objectifying and sexualized. There is nothing inherently wrong with sexual expression, and we have to be super careful when we judge this kind of stuff. It is all a matter of context.

    I think, for instance, that a slightly bigger problem than skirt length is the ratio of male vs female characters throughout the whole entertainment industry (The Bechdel test kinda stuff).

    As artists, the best solution to this problem is to put as much thought as we possibly can into our works of art. To ask ourselves questions and really get to know our character. The first and most important decision we make is wether or not to make the character male or female in the first place (I always go female if I can in order to even out the statistics). Then really think about the design and why you do this or that. If in the end if you come to the conclusion that a bikini is the best choice of clothing then go ahead. But most likely you will come up with a better idea.

    1. I absolutely agree. The challenge that I DIDN'T share on muddy colors was the "put a man character in a sexually objectifying pose that women are usually put in" one — very NSFW. There's a time and a place to play with those themes, in porn, in media, etc...but not when it's being aimed at a women audience or is actually talking about sexism...which if you notice, are the cases where the women of the internet get furious. (Spiderwoman, Newsweek cover). We're not trying to remake everything to our tastes. But the things that are supposedly being created FOR us need to take our needs into account.

    2. As to the Spiderwomen cover, this is the 1st sentence on Manara's wikipedia bio "Maurilio Manara, known professionally as Milo Manara, is an Italian comic book writer and artist, best known for his EROTIC approach to the medium." Yet Marvel claims it was surprised when they got the art and later with the backlash it caused? Milo Manara is a typical dirty old man, virtually his entire portfolio is objectification ( and frankly he isn't all that great, don't know why he is so popular? Tom Fleming is a far better watercolorist, I wish I saw his stuff around more).

    3. As to the Spiderwomen cover, this is the 1st sentence on Manara's wikipedia bio "Maurilio Manara, known professionally as Milo Manara, is an Italian comic book writer and artist, best known for his EROTIC approach to the medium." Yet Marvel claims it was surprised when they got the art and later with the backlash it caused? Milo Manara is a typical dirty old man, virtually his entire portfolio is objectification (went to his website, and frankly he isn't all that great-not bad mind you, but I don't know why he is so popular? Tom Fleming is a far better watercolorist, I wish I saw his stuff around more).

    4. I'm actually a huge fan of Manara's work. I even loved the X-Women book he did - it was meant (and promoted) as an adult, erotic thing, and that's fine. The problem with using him for the Spiderwoman relaunch lay not in his art, but in the choice of commissioning him. The Spiderwoman relaunch is a woman-fronted book aimed to be inclusive of a woman audience. Not the time to do an erotically objectifying cover variant. Bad move on Marvel's part. Manara was just doing what he does.

    5. Agreed. I put the majority of the blame on Marvel for this one and cast a cold eye on them if they truly want to claim shock and horror at the fact that he's actually an erotic artist, when he has already done the X-Women book. I don't mind erotic art to an extent, but Spider Woman was absolutely not the place for it, especially when seeking to be more inclusive of women. It's about context. Spider-Woman's context is not erotica.

  4. Very interesting article and a useful reference for designing and illustrating female characters. An argument that I have often seen used when this issue is brought up (over at for example) is that male bodies are also often half-naked exaggerated . But what they forget is that this is in line with the heterosexual male point of view that you brought up. The muscly male character serves as a power fantasy for men to project themselves onto rather than an object to "consume". As you said, and other commenters have agreed, agency makes a big difference. I look forward to reading more columns like this one!

    1. Absolutely, and this is something I'm going to be tackling in my next column, because it's something I take into account every time I show a character on a book cover. You have to walk the line where the character is the kind of sexy that is wish-fulfillment to the same gender, and attractive to the opposite gender. I can it the "Sexy I Want to BE vs. the Sexy I Want to (ahem) &*%$" Rule. It can be done. Stay tuned.

    2. I'm looking forward to that next column as well. This is something I talk about with my daughter a lot. She's been into scifi literature since she was a kid and is always looking for strong women characters. As an artist, I've relied on her viewpoints a lot when creating artwork. As I get older, I find myself having less of the "Wow! That is a sexy woman" reactions and a lot more of the "How the hell does she fight in that?" reactions.

      Whenever we're looking at art, my daughter and I compete to find the most gravity defying boobs. There's a lot to choose from...

    3. I applaud you trying to see things through her eyes. Have you seen this post? What Bringing My Daughter to a Comic Book Store Taught Me

      I think it's super critical for young girls to see examples of women who are sexy, but sexy on their own terms, not just as princesses to be saved, or prizes to be won. I don't know how old she is, but I highly recommend Robin McKinley's THE HERO AND THE CROWN and THE BLUE SWORD as young as 5th-6th grade for any geeky girls.

  5. As someone into comics as well as fantasy art, I kind of think some of the redesigns touched the right spot (emma frost, powergirl, star sapphire) and some were kind of lost on me (IE I wasn't sure how the original was all that objectifying, such as Samus- she's in the tight one-piece because she then slips on formfitted mech-armor- and Chun-Li -whos spandex pants/leggings look more comfortable for her highly acrobatic fighting style than boxing gear.) but over all I am right with you, I have become a huge fan recently of Joe Benetiz's Lady Mechanika (some alt-cover artists have her in some odd getups, but to appreciate her design it's best to look at Joe's cover's and interiors, an enlightened heroine for an enlightened age, as I like to put it).

    1. I think you bring up a good point, Aaron, in that there's many different viewpoints, even among women. It's not just about how sexy a design is. In the case of Chun Li she's showing about the same amount of skin, but the artist is actually thinking about being a woman and trying to fight with this crazy flapping fabric between her legs — kind of seems like it might get in the way.

      As for Samus - I agree with you on the skintight, but no underlayer should come with high heels, that's refuting the argument right there.

    2. You're absolutely right, however, Zero Suit Samus isn't even supposed to have high heels according to her original design document. One of the many examples of Other M disregarding the series' own canon. It's unfortunate her new Smash designs are based off of it.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. How would Marvel be doing a Power Girl movie?

      Captain Marvel is happening, and it's a tragedy that Black Widow isn't, but Power Girl is a DC property.....

    5. Oh jeez, sorry, that was pre-coffee. I should know better than to comment pre-caffeination. That was a mess of two separate conversations I was having. REDACTED!

  6. Great post Lauren.

    This topic reminds me of this comic strip i've read some time ago

    I personnaly believe that feminism is more than welcome in the manly kingdom of geek culture.
    As you pointed with all the example above, better representations would not only bring fantasy into safest places but also add depth and agency to characters that are usually here as sexual objects or plot devices (like the women in the fridge for example:

    1. Absolutely, agency is something artists should be thinking of regardless of gender! It will only bring more narrative to your work.

  7. I'm glad to know that you'll be exploring the topic of sexuality and sexual agency further in a potential topic, Lauren. It's an interesting one and so relevant to how people will respond to these redesigns.

    As you've said in your comment replies, a balance *can* be struck between the two and that's a real challenge artists are more brave to meet these days! Does this mean we'll see a Redesign Challenge Round 2, perhaps? I'd love to see some pre-existing examples you might have seen in your AD travels as well.

    1. This post grew out of the monthly art challenges we have in the Women in Fantasy Group - I thought it would make a great post. The next is going to be more of a personal walk-through of my thought process when I am commissioning and designing covers. There will definitely be examples.

    2. Looking forward to it, Lauren! I think we could learn a lot from your particular perspective.

  8. Excellent write up!

    It is a very complex topic to write about. It is even more difficult to articulate my conflicting thoughts about it. Maybe that is why I am an artist and not a writer... I do not dislike the designs of many of the sexy female costumes, although many of the redesigns are great, and I do not really want to see that all go away. I think there is a place for it. That being said, I want to see more prominent female characters get the spotlight, like Agent Carter. But I feel like just saying that oversimplifies the issue.

    This is an exciting time in a lot of ways. There are more female creators than ever before in art, writing, directing, comedy... (Some of the best directors of Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad are women...)

    Yes, there are are some old school holdouts some big industries, but I think the best way to get change is to support these female creators whose work we love, buy their products and tell all our friends about them loudly and often.

    I hope some of this makes sense. As I said, it is a complex topic to discuss...

    I look forward to your next installment.

  9. Then go into the industry and make characters that look like that.

    1. You big ol' problem solver, you.

    2. To me, the issue with Samus's Zero suit is that it's essentially underwear for her armor, and she's constantly depicted in said underwear for no good reason. The redesign doesn't really work in the context of the original Zero Suit, but I absolutely adore the image. It has a Moebius feel to it that I really love.

    3. Wow, that reply totally went under the wrong thread :P

    4. Agreed about Samus but she was specifically redoing the Super Smash Bros version of the suit, which is not really used as dont give your underwear high heels.

    5. Ah, I should have looked it up; my gaming selections are pretty retro and outdated. My familiarity with the suit was from Zero Mission. I wish her underwear wasn't the basis for her current look, but that could be said about so many characters... I hate that one of the most armored, badass characters in gaming is now more recognizable in boring superhero spandex.

    6. It should be as easy as pitching a game with a female protagonist (ie. Life is Strange or Remember Me). Sadly, nobody in the industry wanted to touch those games with a ten foot pole for the sole fact that the protagonists were female.

      Unfortunately, it's not as easy as it should be for everyone to get past the bias entrenched in a lot of our favorite industries. Things are slowly, but surely improving, but it's not as easy as 'just do it' quite yet and the only way that's going to change is if people will stop ignoring that problems exist and start discussing them.

    7. Seriously dude 'Matt' you are a total freaking disgrace-- for one you are squashing freedom of speech, two the whole point of presenting this is hoping others will see it and think about their designs. Also no reason in the slightest to get so defensive. Like if you say one thing about a movie you disagree with you should go and make your own movie then? That is so infantile and dumb.

    8. Um, Hendawg, altho I truly appreciate the sentiment, perhaps you want to rise above a bit and stay respectful....think of how hard I must be biting my tongue over here, for the sake of keeping muddy colors civil.

  10. Firstly, I think this supposed "sexism" in art is incredibly stupid because sexism itself is incredibly subjective. When you have feminists arguing over a character such as Bayonetta, who is designed by a woman and appears in a game also produced by a woman, than you know you know something is wrong. Which is why I find this whole debacle so silly. You are never going to please any of the critics unless a female character is all covered up and behaves prim and proper like a woman should but wait, isn't that sexist itself. You get my point? When you have women in muslim countries forced to cover up, women in the West are free to dress however they want but yet we now have people trying to find ways to ban articles of clothing that should be freely worn by women.

    Secondly. I agree with eilidh and Tom that artists should have the right to create and design whatever they like whether it be exaggerated proportions or the costumes they are wearing. It's not always about function, but overall aesthetics as well.

    Now onto my main point. Many of the redesigns do not make sense in the context they are in or take into consideration the sort of world these characters fit into. The one great example that was brought up by somebody else is Samus. The reason why she's in her Zero suit is because that's what she's wearing underneath the Power suit. The redesign clearly does not consider this aspect and bulks her up for the sake of it. Not only that, she is bulked up with things that wouldn't even protect her from the aliens and enemies she's fighting in space. That's what Samus' Power suit is for. And no if you look clearly, she isn't wearing high heels.

    The other example would be Chun Li. The very clear reason why she's not wearing boxer shorts is because they wanted to keep her costume as close as possible to the original thing, in this case the qipao or cheongsam. It's why almost every other character in the series maintains his/her costume in one way or another. The closest examples would be the characters Gen, Yun and Yang. Where their attires are slightly modified versions of the traditional chinese costumes that men would wear. Either way, every character in the Street Fighter series is a caricature of some sort and their designs don't make sense in the context of real world fighting. I mean why are half the male characters barefoot fighting in different locales. Wouldn't it be painful or too hot.

    The most puzzling redesign to me is Nariko's. For one, I find nothing about her original outfit sexy at all but of course that's just my opinion. But, if we're talking about impracticality then she shouldn't even be wielding a sword of that size. Not even the strongest person on earth right now can wield that efficiently and that's where the problem lies with many of these redesigns. People seem to forget that these fantasy/sci fic characters are fictional and are living in fictional worlds. Who's to say and judge that the attires these characters are wearing aren't normal to their worlds. People seem to have forgotten the very notion of what Fantasy actually is.

    In short, you pretty much summed it up yourself in that "There is no one right way to depict a woman character(or a male character)". There's room for all sorts of designs to exist. Neither has to make way for the other.

    While I may be a man and many critics will probably find my opinion invalid, I have many female friends who are more attracted to the sexy designs than the prude ones. It's also not a surprise that many of them choose to cosplay as these characters not because they are forced(as many would have you to believe) but because they find them appealing. So yes, these so called "unwelcoming designs" do appeal to many women as well, just not all of them.

    1. Although you bring up many good points and it's important that we debate them, I find your overall tone a bit overly hostile, especially the sarcastic "critics will probably find my opinion invalid" - that sounds a bit petulant, when no one in this feed has said anything of the sort. Feminism = Equality, not pro-women, anti-men.

      That said, you're right, different women find different levels of sexiness acceptable. Attraction is absolutely subjective. But that doesn't discount the fact that sexism exists in the world. We're not here to prove that it exists or not. It does. There is plenty of proof in the world, and I don't feel the need to backtrack this discourse to have to re-prove it.

    2. I apologize if I sounded too aggressive because it was definitely not my intention. I'm not denying that sexism exists because it does and to both sexes. But the problem is that in most cases, people can't seem to agree on what is sexist or not. The one clear situational example that I can think of is if somebody is hired for a job that does not require a person to of a specific gender(eg. casting roles) but is hired over somebody else because of his/her gender. Otherwise, most other situations are highly debatable. For eg. Sports. Should there be separate competitions for women? I mean, it's the only one competitive thing we do where genders are split. They certainly are't split in competitions of the mind. There are so many arguments for and against. Is the whole "Lady's first" attitude that men are pressured into adopting, sexist? All highly debatable.

      With regards to Samus' heels. She doesn't wear them in her original designs. I can see why she has them in her latest iteration because they now double as jet propulsion shoes. But even if they were purely just for aesthetics and are totally impractical, does it mean that female characters can never wear heels or have them integrated into the design of their footwear? It's like saying female characters shouldn't have makeup or skirts because they are "stereotypes". Also. nobody was saying anything about Raiden in Metal Gear Solid Rising running around in high heels without flinching or tripping.

      I find it silly that female characters are not judged based on their actions but rather their appearances. Kind of mimics the real world doesn't it? Women who are scantily dress and love to show skin can't be taken seriously and are often labelled as sluts and incredibly buff men(or muscleheads) who like to show their biceps are labelled as dumb.

    3. I totally agree with you it is really hard to have these debates because everyone's experiences are so different. I think it's important that we keep talking about the issues, are respectful of each other's POVs, and try to move forward with the best intentions. There is absolutely room for sexy characters and silly and/or useless character designs (this IS fantasy, after all), and we're going to keep figuring it out.

      My next column is going to be more of a personal essay on these issues from my POV as a woman working in this industry, so I hope to touch on all these points.

    4. Fantasy and sci-fi are children of our culture. We can give superfluous weapons to unassuming fighters, we can give magical powers to humans and animals, we can chronicle bounty hunters through space as they fight hordes of alien armies. However, the reason we relate to and like these engaging stories so much is because of the human element. Even Redwall, where all the characters are animals, we connect to them because they act human. They have emotions, they have relationships, they have personalities. The problem is with a perpetuation of treating women in a way where their emotions, relationships, and personalities are secondary to visual appeal. What characters wear and what they carry with them and what they can do must be justified by all those other elements. That includes full sets of armor or a decidedly revealing outfit.

      The definition of appropriate is suitable or proper in the circumstances. It does not mean to be prudish.

    5. Definitely read the dev diary on Nariko's outfit as well. You'll see why it goes so much deeper than 'her outfit is too skimpy'. It's a case where suspension of disbelief because it's fantasy just isn't a good defense, especially as sexing her outfit up felt at odds with her characterization and that's an aspect that should be considered when telling a story, no matter the genre.

    6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    7. Leo T. I'm actually the artist that redesigned Samus's Zero suit, so allow me to explain where my head was at when I was drawing this.

      I'm actually fully aware of the context in which the zero suit is used- I work in the game industry and Samus is a fairly iconic character.

      That being said, I personally find a latex cat suit with futuristic seams not very intimidating or believable for a space warrior such as herself.
      I ran out of time but, I also wanted to do a different take on her power suit. My power suit redesign was to be much more like a mecha than close fitting armor (thus her suit resembles more of an anti-g aviator suit than fetish wear)-- so yeah, I took creative liberties.
      (This'll give you an idea of where my thoughts were- powersuit similar to this would be so awesome)

    8. PS. I definitely questioned Raiden's choice in footwear when I played MGS...still surprised he didn't break an ankle. Was probably taping them up like wonder woman's stunt double.

    9. @Lauren
      Exactly. We should all be open minded and embrace designs of all sorts from the sexy, overt the top and outrageous to the simple, conservative and traditional. What we shouldn't be doing is forcing our ideals on others and totally disregarding the one we disagree with like some of the more extreme people are doing. It is alright to have opinions but we down't go around telling others how they should dress or what they should wear in public do we?(and apparently now we're telling people how they should sound when they are hurt…)
      I mean Miley Cyrus and Rihanna can dress however they want. I'm not going to shout at their faces and tell them they should be more "decent", whatever that means, and cover up. It's their bodies and if they are confident they can pull these dresses off then good for them. They represent nobody but themselves. Who am I to judge them. Same goes for everybody else. But I would get absolutely slaughtered by people if I were to base some of my designs on them.

      As impractical as it may seem, if Conan and Kratos feel confident going into the battlefield against the dozens of swords, axes and arrows they will be facing without any armor then they should be able to. Same applies to the Red Sonja and Nariko. Of course, some will choose to wear some protection like Xena and Lagertha and there's also nothing wrong with that. Not everything has to appeal to you.

      And yes it ultimately is fiction and we shouldn't be taking everything so seriously. It's the one medium where we can have characters do incredibly acrobatic stuff, effortless wield humongous weapons with skill and dexterity and yet not suffer from backaches or cramps. Any mentally sound person knows how to distinguish the difference between fantasy and reality.

      I agree and disagree. I agree that there needs to be some degree of realism which is why characters don't float around as if they are on a gravity-less world. But hear me out. If character A dresses in an appropriate way but acts in ways that are totally unrelatable to you, do you relate to that character more than you would a character B that dresses in a more provocative way but whose actions matches what you would do in that characters situation? Yes, it is possible to have the best of both but my main point is characters should be relatable based on their actions and behavior. Why is it that characters have to dressed according to how they act? Does a character who's into gothic fashion always have to be an overly emotional person? While I can see how some may see clothing as an extension of one's character, it doesn't always have to be that way. An extremely rich and wealthy person can dress like a beggar or a person lower social standing and a . Why must we be defined by our looks or what we wear and can I really only relate to a character solely by the way he/she looks? To add to that, do the original Superman costumes Batman compliment what those characters are? Are they the sorts that would wear undergarments on the outside? But yet they are iconic and people disregard them. Just something to think about.

      I'm a male and yet I can relate to many female characters whether they be in films, comics or games because of their actions and behavior even though I'm not one. It's also why I and many men have no problems playing as female leads in games and why many women have no problems playing male leads either.

      Thanks for the link. I've read and found it insightful but as I've mentioned in my previous comment, I personally do not find her original design sexy at all. Personally, it looks more elegant than crass but that's just my opinion. I do appreciate the alternate take on the character though.

    10. @Fehr
      Firstly I apologize if I sounded too harsh with my critique because your design is definitely nice in it's own right. I can see the Moebius influence. I have to disagree with you about it being a fetish suit though. In order for Samus to be quick, numbly and agile, she would need a suit that is as light and flexible as possible which explains the body hugging suit. Also. if she were in a larger more exterior piece of armor, she would not be able to go into her signature morph ball, a pretty key part of what her character is capable of. Not to mention, current progress on powered exo skeleton suits are all body hugging because they need to be so in order to enhance one's capabilities whether it be strength or agility.

      It's also why the Master Chief from Halo, Sam Gideon from Vanquish and Iron Man have similar suits. But I understand that you took creative liberties and your design would most definitely work in an alternate universe.

      And yes, Raiden having heels is kind of silly but what character isn't silly in Metal Gear Rising. A talking cyborg dog with a chainsaw on it's back? Come on! They all have their quirks. It's honestly something that I like about the Metal Gear series. But hey, if Samurai back in the day could fight in geta wooden sandals, why can't he.

      At the end of the day, as what Lauren has said, there is no right way to designing characters. Different characters are going to appeal to different people just as not everybody in real life is going to rub you the right way. Being open-minded and embracing variety is what's most important in my opinion because ultimately, what's artistic freedom and expression if you have to follow a set of hard rules and guidelines to designing characters.

    11. You realize you're contradicting yourself in your own comments, right?

    12. You clearly love your own opinion, certainly like your own 'voice' Taranovsky. What you are raising is not sexism but definitions of what is sexy.

      Sexism is different and Sexist design is a lot of dumb decisions that are using body features and appearance of a character in a way that doesnt look logical.

      However you are right a tad in that people do have different views on what is too sexy and what is just right. The issue is designs that emphasize the women's beauty just for the sake of it without any real practicality to such design and that is what people like this post talk about.
      Also I thought a lot of the re-designs looked great.

    13. I think it needs to be said that while you may not personally find something sexually appealing, there should be an ability to recognize that sexualization is a phenomenon that can and does happen. Especially when you have a discrepancy between characterization and a character's visualization which has been augmented for other purposes (ie. advertising) rather than to be suiting to the character's back story and personality. This act restricts the intended target audience and, most importantly, devalues the character altogether.

      For example, Quiet from MGS. While as a fan I know Kojima writes well rounded female characters, I'm going to have to work extra hard to take her seriously due to her design, which panders to straight males:

      She could be an *amazing* character, but who is taking her seriously right now until we can play the game? Not a majority of folks, sadly.

    14. I loved the redesigns much, much more than the originals.


      One other way to discuss updates like these is: Art has a language.

      Art IS a language.

      The images on the left are reminiscent of pin-up art.

      Pin-up art has a specific audience and intent. The head thrown back slightly. The throat exposed. The hips lifted, with the hint of sex displayed.

      These are supposed to be empowered, strong superheroes.

      Why are they depicted using the language of pin-up art?

      Depicting them using the pin-up artistic language brings with it those connotations.

      What the images on the left do would be the equivalent of writing a broadcast news story in street slang. Perhaps the words are there, but its language means it is all the audience may hear. How something is delivered, visually, artistically, frames it and conveys its meaning.

      The images on the right move the figures away from the pin-up language, and allow the characters to speak outside of that genre.

  11. Side note: I appreciated how the female characters were designed in the game Destiny. It was refreshing to see them in full body amour, no heels that would break their ankles, and no open boob cleavage to invite an easy kill shot to the heart. I enjoyed reading your article and I look forward to the next one. :)

    1. pooh I'll check it out, thank you! Here's the link for everyone: Destiny

    2. *ooooh* not "pooh" - silly autocorrect.

    3. Not a problem. Also I meant armor and not "amour" . Sadly I can't blame it on autocorrect. That was all me :P

  12. I don't really understand the re-designs of both Princess Peach and Samus Aran in the context of the larger narrative of the article's re-designs; Which to me seems to be "design the character as it fits into the larger universe or story".

    That's a great reason to write an article and definitely deserves more discussion but both of the designs I mentioned seem to undermine it. A princess doesn't use a rocket launcher. If she'd even use a weapon, it would be some goofy Mario stuff. Samus Aran's 'undersuit' is a design I loathe and wish didn't exist but as a practical thing to wear under a heavy suit of armor it at least makes more sense than more heavy iron belts and whatnot. It makes it feel like she was just included because of her prominence as a well-known female character in gaming as opposed to fitting well in the article. It feels like pandering.

    Anyway, those are just my thoughts. I'm not a character designer. Just a fan. I enjoyed *some* of the re-designs. Cheers.

    1. I think these are valid points about Peach and Samus. I support this project and I think they did a good job here, but in my opinion this redesign changed Peach's personality. Peach can be a strong character without losing her pink feminine princess qualities. Although I have issues with Samus's zero suit design (THE HEELS) Samus having two layers of armor doesn't seem ideal.

      Ideally, women characters should be able to enjoy the same wide range of personality traits as men characters do. The "strong tough looking woman with a gun" trope can be just as much of a cliche as the "damsel in distress" and "sexy bombshell" tropes are.

      I don't want to pick on the artists here, again I support the idea of challenging female character stereotypes.

  13. I understand the concepts and the majority makes a lot of sense, but some like drow ranger from dota 2, need agility and the clothes should be comfortable and no one can be agile with that much armor... but in general the redesigns look cool

    I liked emma frost that can still look sexy without showing that much

    1. "the clothes should be comfortable and no one can be agile with that much armor"

      One can't help but wonder why there are so few male characters with skimpy outfits for "comfort" or "agility" or other "practical" reasons, then. You may have been talking about the armor design specifically, in which case I agree, but if it's simply the amount of coverage you're talking about I'm afraid that feels very much like an excuse rather than an argument.

    2. I...imagine a lot of squeaky balloon sounds when Samus is being "agile". It makes me giggle.
      I also think fetish suits can be sexy...but space undies don't quite look like that- definitely don't have platforms.

  14. Well there's a certain amount of ugliness here in the comments, and a lot of senseless nitpicking, but less of each than I expected. So, progress! Maybe!

    I especially liked that Emma Frost design. Great example, I think, of costume for a character who has always used sexuality to her advantage, but who maybe doesn't want to look like an idiot.

  15. "Feminists want Gender Equality. That’s it. That’s what it means"

    Thank you so much for calling this point out. I'm embarrassed to say it wasn't until this year i bother to look up the word to find how simple and nonpolarizing the definition is.

    Do you think men and women should have equal rights? Congratulations, you're a feminist.

    Great post, I always enjoy seeing redesigns. I hope you make this an annual event.

  16. So basically turn them all into midgets?

  17. So basically turn them all into midgets?

  18. Wow, thank you so much for this! As a collector, I truly appreciate being able to add a painting to my collection that is NOT overtly sexual. It makes my heart sing to see artists, male or female do more in this direction. Full disclosure, I do have a strong bias towards women of the whisky-neat/coffee-black phenotype so interpretations like Anna Fehr’s Samus are always going to make me interested in a painting.

    Logical and realistic interpretations of women in art really allow you to immerse yourself more fully in the narrative. When you see Red Sonja wading into battle in her scale mail bikini, your brain has to unhitch slightly. That niggling suspension of disbelief that you go through dilutes the story.

    And finally, as a dad with two small daughters, *please* give me more art to hang in the house that shows tough, competent women with real bodies!

    1. As a whiskey drinking lady i support this comment! Ha. But seriously its awesome to hear a collector's POV.

      A post on what art & geek things good for young girls would actually be a great post...hmm

  19. I must say that point is pretty right - Female suits shouldn't be overly sexual, unless it has explanation in personality and behaviour. Feminism trouble are Feminazis. If not those then feminism wouldn't have seen as it is by many (for things feminazis do - like #killallmen). Through I understand that some -just for looks even through unpractical- visual details can be added it shouldn't be pushed overly (look just at Lady Death - Seriously?)
    And about redesigns - some are good, some worse. Samus zero suit wasn't in idea designed for combat as it should be noted, it's more like just for wearing under that armor she's wearing usually. Redesign is more like normal soldier equipment which could be worth something if not armor she has.
    Red Sonja is also quite not so fitting since she's barbarian which tend to not use armors - full body armor is in such manner doesn't fit into world. Through idea design idea looks nice, just doesn't fit into character and world.
    And Powergirl redesign is pretty great! Especially since original design really made say "Seriously? For what purpose that hole? Oh, right." I would really like to see what reactions would implementing that redesign or some alike to that one would do.

    1. Feminism trouble are [straw men]. If not those then feminism wouldn't be seen as it is by many (for things [imaginary feminists and a virtually nonexistent minority of extremists] do – like #aLargelySatiricalHashtag).

  20. I pictured that peasant dress Phoenix standing next to the other X-Men of that era and laughed and laughed and laughed.

    1. Ever read Gaiman's 1602 take on XMen? It would totally fit there

  21. Thanks for an interesting and thought provoking article. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

    Came for the art work and stayed for the whole article...

  22. Could you, um, give these women some actual DEVELOPED MUSCLE... especially the warrior-type women who actually lift heavy objects and weapons, and are physically active? I'm amazed that even female artists are still brainwashed by the males' ideal of women as wasp-waisted, toothpick-limbed waifs. Come on! Look at a video of MMA champ Ronda Rousey, for cryin' out loud.

    1. Agreed. Gina Carrano is my Wonder Woman.

    2. Excellent point. Skinny girl warriors have quickly become my pet peeve. And female MMA fighters are the perfect models to look at because they have powerful bodies made for strength (fighters/strength trainers) and not aesthetics (bodybuilders).

      For anyone wanting to design female warriors, look for Invicta FC (an all-women's mixed martial arts fighting championship) and study its fighters. These women make a living by beating the crap out of each other. This is what a fighter's body looks like.

      I'll also point to women weightlifters and women wrestlers (Olympic or otherwise, not the skinny college girls that wrestle in mud) because they also have bodies built for strength.

    3. I am ALL for this, and the link above about the diverse body types of athletes is a great artist reference. It's interesting to see that not only are men taught to look at women in certain ways by our culture, women are absolutely conditioned to look at THEMSELVES in certain ways, often harmful ways......and that's a whole OTHER blog post : )

  23. A great article and a good read. Thank you Lauren.
    I have had many discussions over the years with potential purchasers of my art about agency and personification rather than and in contrast to, objectification, and while some of the conversations were more productive than others, I still believe these discussions are worth having.

    Even a simple conversation has the potential to change someone's view point for the better, to broaden their horizons and help them gain empathy for other points of view.

  24. This may be a bit out-of-left-field, but I'm curious as to why the Zero Suit Samus 'normal' picture consists of what appears to be mixed-quality figurine model, as opposed to the rest of the selections, which consist of either in-game/comic/tv stills or concept artwork.

    It doesn't change the intent, (nor should it, as Zero Suit's evolution since the original portrayal in Zero Mission as an emergency back-up suit/unitard has taken on some decidedly questionable design choices past the original's design issues), but it did strike me as slightly odd.

    1. You know, good question, I just used the "before" pics the artists supplied, but I updated the caption to have a link to the official graphic from the game. it's actually worse.

    2. The Zero suit has been pretty sexed up since its original iteration. No idea why the heels, extreme wedgie, etc were added to it. I also have no clue (well i do....) why it has become her default look.

    3. After my comment, I kind of realized that it could be taken just for its similar pose structure.

      Still, not using the specific model for the Smash Bros WiiU appearance is probably causing a lot of the 'mansplaining' that is going on, as it definitely wasn't clear that the issue was more specifically with that rendition as a combat suit, as opposed to the conceptual 'idea' of the zero suit itself as under-armor or whatnot (even though as I said before, that had problems of its own as soon as it left its 2d pixel state in Zero Mission).

    4. To answer your question: Yes, I used that figurine more for pose comparison than anything else. I thought samus was iconic enough for people to know her latest design (or at the very least, click on the link I supplied) buuuut I didn't take into account TL;DR and mansplaining.
      I did do my research though. I know what the zero suit is. Why else would I supply that link with the picture? It's just that I had different plans for the power suit, is all- and those suits work together :)

    5. I may be recalling incorrectly (or possibly missed it), but I don't remember the pre-update article having said link to the Smash Bros WiiU 'current' design of the Zero Suit (I've also avoided Other M, for various reasons).

      Personally, as I haven't played the new Smash Bros., I didn't have an immediate recollection to that version of Samus beyond the rocket boot heels, which are, admittedly, quite silly. (And problematic, as are the other aspects I mentioned earlier)

      Never meant to imply that you didn't know what the zero suit was for, I'm sorry if it came off that way. If anything, my confusion came from the idea (pre-'sexing up') of the zero suit as an undersuit vs the combat application it appears to have in the original opposed to necessarily being the uniform for wearing in a larger mechsuit, which made more sense after I saw your explanation above.

      On that note, I'm sad we didn't get said mech suit to complement your design. :(

    6. ehrm that was my fault i left out the link and then updated it. sorry!

  25. The Princess Peach redesign reminds me of one of my own efforts ...

  26. This comment has been removed by the author.

  27. Polaris manipulating metal bits of her costume off her body as she walks? Wow. WOW. W. O. W. What a great touch. The rest of the redesigns are thoughtful and great, but I remain floored by the Polaris one.

    1. I know! I was super psyched to see that too....why did no one think of that before?!

    2. Always got a Metalbender vibe (Legend of Korra) where their metal and weapons were actually part of their outfits.

  28. If I can, and please someone correct me when (not if) I say something stupid. But I'd like to ramble and since your all artists and equalists (I actually don't hate that term) and get some feedback.

    So first, I have no problems with women joining the nerd culture. I think it can do a lot to help remove some of the awful stigmas that men suffer (obese, smelly, creepy, lecherous, etc) by showing they aren't all internet-trolling neckbeards, but rather people who like nerdy things. I also have no issue with female targeted redesigns of various characters so long as they make sense. I think the lady death one in the article is a wonderful example. It's often less than 20 degrees outside in the north-lands so unless her power is not freezing to death, the custom was terrible over the top fanfare. So something more period and fitting is great. What I don't get is the remake of characters or designs that don't make sense. Lady Thor? The comic is loosely based on Norse Mythology in which Thor was never a woman. You want a strong female lead in that world, write about someone else. How about a comic starring Freya, goddess of beauty and War Magik? Or, maybe even Skadi. Run a series about "the Hunt". Gender Bending to create inclusion seems more like pandering than it does including to me and were I a woman, I'd be both annoyed and offended more by that than women dressed poorly.

    Secondly, I agree there is an ability to do sexy with agency and not just utilize it for pubescent eye candy. I also think, that the average comic or fantasy consumer (of which I'd like to believe I am) tend to not pay a lot of attention to such things (slutty outfits, big boobs, etc). If I dislike a female character it isn't because of her looks, or lack thereof, it's likely because she was poorly written and cliche or worse, completely vacuous. I feel the same about male characters as well.

    Lastly, I think in the case of some of the examples a complete overhaul of them as a story and person is needed. Take Chun-Li for example. In the earlier period (around the time SF first came out) the "sexy" look was vital to her strategy it was designed intentionally as she was going to use her looks to distract weaker fighters. Soul Caliber has a character much like it in Sophitia. One of her more powerful throws is called "Heaven and Hell" in which from the ground she wraps her thighs around your head ... then breaks your neck. I'll admit 99% is just the whole "sex sells" ideology, but basically trying to change their outfit in order to improve their image is incorrect. Instead you ought to change the back story so they aren't just a sex object but rather a person.

    Just my two cents.

  29. What a great post, Lauren. I think you've been thoughtful and concise, and managed to get to the heart of what's become a surprisingly muddy issue.

    All too often the 'feminist' argument turns into finger pointing, and that's not good for anyone. To demand someone else make changes to satisfy your own personal sensibilities is arrogant, and ultimately just leads to resistance. It's a silly way to try to illicit change.

    What you can do is offer an alternative, like these ladies did here. And if that alternative is better, people will WANT to change.

    In that regard, I think it's worth mentioning two current comics that I think do a REALLY great job of doing just that: First, 'Gotham Academy', which is drawn and written by a female team. Second, the new 'Unbeatable Squirrel Girl' comic drawn by Erica Henderson, which is seriously one of my favorite comics right now.

    Squirrel Girl

    Both are fantastic comics that manage to portray female leads that are smart, strong, realistic and STILL sexy. The resulting characters are so just darn charming that the comics have garnered a really large audience very quickly. In fact, given the comic buying demographic in general, I think it's probably safe to say that most of their audience is actually male. I think that's a noteworthy step in the right direction.

    Ultimately, the goal isn't about getting guys to draw things that women like. It's about getting them to truly relate to a female point of view. Once that happens, the rest is inevitable.

    1. Great suggestions Dan, thanks! and can I double-like the "the goal isn't about getting guys to draw things that women like. It's about getting them to truly relate to a female point of view. Once that happens, the rest is inevitable." because that is the point of the WHOLE exercise.

  30. You are wrong about the zero suit and obviously do not understand the story or mythos (or technology) of the metroid series at all.

    1 the suit is made of a special materials made to help Integrate the power suit over her body to respond to her movements it is filled with sensors that help the power suit. the zero suit is there for only one reason it is there to help the power suit merge with her body it has to be tight.

    2 who in the hell is going to wear all that garbage under the power suit? the zero suit is more like high tech underwear than clothing. it is not practical it would be bunched up inside the power suit makes no sense. she is always going to wear the zero suit because she needs it to use the power armor plain and simple. when she is safe with no need for the power suit she does not wear the zero suit as seen in games like metroid other M.

    3 she is 100% covered up even in the power suit I dont see a problem. she almost never loses the power suit in the game anyway it happens very rare and it is not a good thing when it happens it only happens after she gets her ass kicked or the suit malfunctions.

    1. Responding to the Zero Suit comment. You made a lot of great points about an imaginary skintight speedo, but artist(s) ultimately created that image to give Samus more sex appeal. Then all the story and mythos (or nonsense) was created to explain it. Is there something in the Metroid mythos that explains Samus's Zero Suit Wedges?

      This comment probably seems nastier than I meant. I just want you to understand that the points you're trying to argue are moot because first they tried to make Samus sexy. Then later, they created all the backstory to give the nonsensical some kind of sense.

      Those Zero Suit games may be great, the Metroid universe and technology may be rich and diverse, and Samus may be an awesome strong female role model, but judging by the design alone, Zero Suit Samus is unimaginative and bland. It's bad character design.

    2. see update in that pic's captions. also see "mansplaining"

    3. "she is 100% covered up even in the power suit"

      I find this comment so funny–I have to assume you're being disingenuous. Yes, she's 100% covered up. So is a body-painted naked person.

    4. I'm really glad you've raised this subject here, Lauren. While I still check in on Muddy Colors every day, I actually used to be a contributor. And I left because of some nasty examples of sexism in the comments of other people's posts.

      I wasn't honest about that. I just told Dan I didn't have enough time. But it got bad enough on one or two posts that I decided that maybe the readership of MC wasn't my kind of crowd. I probably overreacted, though something interesting happened a few months after I left: A prominent fantasy artist asked me why I didn't post here anymore, and after I gave him the same bland "no time" excuse, he confessed that he'd assumed I'd left because of of the misogyny.

    5. Yeah, you can't give dumb comments much weight. The people with the least to say always say it the loudest. Shitty comments have made me want to shut this whole thing down on MORE than one occasion. Eventually, you learn to ignore it. Because the only alternative hurts all the wrong people.

    6. I have to say, although this thread has a lot of infuriating comments (I mean, if that guy thinks me linking Supernatural gifs is bitchy, he don't know bitchy, also, not apologizing), it's still a MUCH safer and more respectful place that the greater internet. I mean even the comments on io9 have been way nastier, and those are moderated! If you really want to lose faith in humanity there's some gamer boards who reposted this I can send you to...

      That said, even if I do feel MC is more respectful than the general internet, the whole universe of internet comments has to get better. Im glad more and more blogs are moderating comments, and if there's anything good that has come out of GamerGate it's that people are actually starting to be tracked down and held accountable for what they are saying online. Although I think there should be criminal offenses for some of the things that these guys have gotten away with, it's heartening that they are getting fired from their jobs, and in a lot of cases scolded by their moms. Ha.

      The gaming journalist who tells on her internet trolls – to their mothers

      Curt Schilling Takes Down His Daughter's Cyber Bullies

  31. AS you can see it is a tight fit in the power suit and only the zero suit would work.

    1. you too: see update in that pic's captions. also see "mansplaining"

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  33. I'm a HUGE Lady Death fan, and I really dislike the redo. She *Chose* her attire when she left her young, naive Hope life behind. It was an old outfit of Purgatori's actually, a demoness (THE demoness some would argue). She took the "All Hope Abandon" thing literally. She rules Hell, which hey, why not leather lingerie? It's sexy, and less clothes makes more sense in a hot climate. She used her sexy prowess, and her intellect combined, to get Evil Ernie to her her wage war on Earth and bring on Armageddon. And for a while when she was Lady Demon, her outfit, as thin as it was, became that much thinner.

    Lady Death, the comic series, featured the Lady Death Lingerie and the Swimsuit editions, which I have first runs on encased in frame. I love them! My belief is don't fix what isn't broken. It's not for everyone - I get that - and yes, she is hyper-sexualized and has an unbelievable body image, but so what? I don't want to see her all covered up and prudy.

    1. I absolutely see your point, and not every woman is going to have the same view of every character. This is just one interpretation from one woman, and that makes it valid as a conversation-starter to me.

  34. It's a little sad when "here's some women dressed appropriately" is news, but I really liked this and thanks for doing it.

    1. I know, right? Well ONE day this won't be news. I look forward to it.

  35. Hmm. To be honest, I'm not a fan of most of these original designs, but neither am I a fan of the "redesigns". Both suffer from the same problem: removing/adding clothes being the primary purpose of the design. Simply adding more clothes or removing a character's clothes with no design acumen will never have good results. Red Sonja is a shitty design to begin with, so anything beyond that is an improvement. But then you have Chun Li who is tastefully designed in terms of silhouette, characterization and movement (that flowy cloth helps convey movement for her flashy, acrobatic moves in-game, similar to Strider's long scarf). And the redesign reduces her to a poorly characterized mish-mash of garb.

    In this case, many of these redesigns may be hurting your argument in the sense that, if presented to the "nerd" population, they will feel that you are trying to taint their culture with poor understanding of the material and/or poor taste. I know that sounds extremely harsh, but artists are often super critical about this kind of stuff. That's how we learn.

    May I recommend looking at Ling Xiaoyu from Tekken as an alternative to Chun Li? She's fully clothed and also well-designed in terms of style and characterization. She's clothed AND cool. Not just one or the other. I think men and women can meet halfway at the point where cool factor outweighs undertones of sexuality (female armor in Destiny, templars of Dragon Age 2, Batgirl redesign etc.) Where something is so stylish or cool that it doesn't matter if it's sexy.

    1. or this redesign of Chun Li which I think is both awesomely stylish and more clothed:

  36. Hi Lauren,

    Great write up, and great re imaginings of the characters. They are all
    well done, and serve to highlight some of the problematic designs that
    plague female characters. I really like the style on the Emma Frost
    redesign, reminds me of Ayami Kojima's artwork. Red Sonja is also
    notable for me, keeping the iconic looks, but updating for practicality.

    I only have one criticism of the redesigns. A lot of the examples given
    for the problematic designs are based on (sometimes very) old renditions
    of those characters. Not to single anyone out, but to use an example,
    Gamorra has not looked like that for years, and her current look is
    leagues better than the example given. By showcasing older designs of
    these characters, it runs the risk of being slightly misleading to
    readers who may not know better. There have been some progress made with
    regards to female character design; and while we still have a ways to
    go, I think it is worth noting the improvements, especially for the
    characters highlighted. Perhaps a future article could tackle something
    like that?

    1. I agree, but this is far from a comprehensive treatise on the subject. And there's PLENTY of current women in costumes that are modern AND still ridiculous. Starfire, anyone? This was meant to be an exercise for fun, hence the women chose what they wanted to work on.

  37. You mention feminism being abput equality. Male heroes are equally portrayed as sexed up objects in inadequate clothing. Robin, Aquaman, even Batmans chest plate with its man ripples. As a cosplayer I love the concept of changing costume because I am not comfortable in some of the options, but guys aren't either. Not everyone can rock a deadpiol body suit. As to the Spiderman variant. ..Parker wears a skin tight suit and crawls on all fours, just because he doesn't have a bodacious butt doesn't make the female version sexist. I also doubt artists are thing guy will like this girls will like that. I feel like the presence of females in the general media will be down played, but in the pages of Marvel I felt more than represented, I felt like I could easily be as kick ass as any of the ladies, and the guys who were sexist were put in their place by feminists males and females. While the movie industry may be slow to catch on, I feel like the Geek community has always been more inclusive, and comics the most inclusive. Can we do better, sure, but I feel like there are bigger battles women should be fighting. The sexist contingent in the community is mostly newbs and casuals, and no one listens to them anyway.

    1. This is a common argument, one that on its face can seem persuasive. But as others have said (even in these comments), male characters tend to be idealized in ways that denote power, and female characters tend to be idealized in ways that amplify sexuality. Just tally up all the chest windows and bare legs and midriffs you find on men's costumes.

      Of course we all want our favorite characters to be attractive. I seem to find women attractive even when they're not dressed for a ZZ Top video.

      I do also think, by the way, that we've put too much emphasis on women being kick-ass. It lets creators off the hook–she's still hyper-sexualized and kind of flat (not physically, of course), but look! She just beat up a guy!

      I don't want "strong female characters," I want well-written, well-considered female characters. Some of them will be strong, some won't; almost like they're real people.

    2. I'll talk more about this in my next column, like I said, but a) Tabitha I'm very happy you didn't encounter the kind of sexism others have in the geek world. That gives me hope. but it also doesn't negate that the sexism exists (that's usually a guy's excuse - i don't see it so it doesn't happen). I would suggest you talk to some other women in geekdom - I guarantee everyone's experience is not the same. And thus, since you haven't experienced the issue, I don't think you have the right to say that theres more important battles to be fought, thats incredibly dismissive of other women's experience, and personally offensive to me. I'm guessing you didn't mean it that way, but realize that's how it's coming across.

      b) there's a difference between wish-fulfillment sexy as a character ("sexy I want to be") vs. ownership sexy ("sexy I want to &*$%" or "sexy I want to win as prize") - thats the difference between most male portrayals in geek media vs. most female portrayals. again, I'm going into this at length from my own POV as a cover designer in my next post, so stay tuned.

    3. Is there anything wrong with having both kinds of sexy?
      Some of these characters, I'm thinking of Lady Death in particular, were designed to do little more than appeal sexually to 14-year-old boys. I don't find anything wrong with that. They weren't and aren't meant to appeal to a female audience any more than playboy magazine is meant to appeal to female readers.

      Super heroes, comics, and video games are largely escapist power fantasies, sexually desirable men and women are a part of that. As much as I enjoy well rounded believeable characters, I don't for a second think that's what a sexually frustrated 14-year-old boy is looking for in his escapist power fantasy. Nor what a 30, 40, 50-year-old life-long super hero comic book fan is wanting his favourite titles changed into, in an attempt to appeal to a different demographic. That's why I don't read many comics or play many video games. I am not the target audience. I'm okay with that.

      Ultimately I think changing existing titles, characters, franchises, in an attempt to appeal to women or be more inclusive - whatever you interpret that to mean - is little more than pandering, and potentially insultint to both creators and consumers. If someone changed an existing successful character or title in an attempt to make it more appealing to me, I'd find that pathetic.
      If you don't like what's on offer, if you think there is an audience for comics and video games aimed at women, then why not make something original?
      I don't know what sort of reception it will get when/if it's released, but I made a character, setting and story specifically in response to how bad I found the Red Sonja character and comics to be.

      I don't see anything wrong with having different characters and titles for different audiences. You can have "I'd like to be him/her" sexy characters, "I'd like to **** him/her" sexy characters and "I'd like to have a long conversation with him/her over dinner" sexy or non-sexy characters, all servicing different demographics.

    4. So, if I understand your position, Cole:

      You're okay with that.

      Also, if a character is changed to appeal to a larger audience–but that larger audience is female–then it's pandering, and an insult to everyone.

      You think the status quo is fine (different titles for different audiences), even though male characters are still predominantly aspirational and females still predominantly motivational. And despite the fact that more and more people are asking for female characters that aren't sex trophies and bikini badasses.

      And, if a woman doesn't like something you would prefer she stop talking about it and just make her own multi-billion dollar entertainment industry.

      Of course I understand that what you really meant was that this person should publish her own webcomic or whatever. We should all be creating things if we can. Some people, of course, might not be creative but still feel they're entitled to an opinion anyway.

      Regardless, we're all allowed to talk about what we like and don't like, even if some would rather we stop having these conversations.

    5. Adam,
      I don't know if you are bad at reading and comprehension, or a troll, or for some reason hostile and vindictive, but you are arguing against things I have not said and positions I do not hold. Like, not just slightly off, not even close. Do you know what a straw-man logical fallacy is?

      Different products to serve different markets is good. Making products for under-served markets is good. Pluralism is good.
      Trying to make one product to appeal to every one is not my idea of clever. It's how you get lowest-common-denominator bland garbage. If your audience is everyone then your audience is no one.

    6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    7. Then I sincerely apologize, Cole. I was really just trying to address what I honestly thought were your points. With distance I can see that some of my language was more hostile than I intended.

      I've reread your post, and my reply, and I guess I do still need help seeing what I got so wrong. The only place I feel I put words in your mouth was where I claim you suggest that 1) women stop talking about all this, and 2) just make their own thing.
      You never said the former, and I only wrote it to make explicit what I really did think was implied.
      You did say the latter–though I have to assume that you realized, even as you wrote it, that this option is unrealistic for the vast majority of people who are asking for better representation of women in pop culture.

      I do know what a straw man fallacy is. A good example of it would be your assertion that everyone here wants what you claim we want in your last paragraph. All sides need to be better about debating what's actually being said, rather than whatever we'd prefer to be debating.

      So again, I'm sorry.

    8. I get what you're saying, Cole, and I totally agree.

      We don't send emails to rap artists and tell them they should learn the guitar because we don't like rap and find it offensive. If they like what they're doing, and someone else likes it too, they should keep doing it. Instead, we go find or make some music we DO like.

      The only exception to this is if that 'thing' they are doing is harmful to someone else, and I think this is where the issue gets complicated. A lot of people feel that creating these images IS harmful, and that if you're not actively trying to solve the problem, then you're just helping to perpetuate it. Maybe they're right, I honestly don't know.

      But like you, my gut tells me there is probably room for both. Why revise when you can create anew?

      Personally, I'm all for granting freedoms, not taking them away. So if some kid wants to buy comics that only have girls with big boobies and dull personalities, let him do it. So long as no one is telling ME I can't make a better alternative. You shouldn't limit someone else's actions just because you don't agree with them morally… That's a REAL slippery slope.

      I will also admit that this is coming from someone isn't on the receiving end of this prejudice, so it's easy for me to say that.

    9. Hi Dan,

      I think we are very much in agreement.

      I have looked at the arguments of "X/Y/Z media does harm to society" that have come and gone over the years and they have always been long on claims and short on evidence. Whether it's Dungeons and Dragons being a gateway to satanism, Marilyn Manson causing school shootings, pornography causing sexual violence, Jack Thompson's claims of video games causing violence or Anita Sarkeesian's claims of video games causing sexism - none of them are supported by evidence.
      Limiting discussion to the USA, violent crime is down, sexual assault is down (as long as you exclude prison populations), intimate partner violence is down - they've all dropped significantly over the last four decades, while access to media has dramatically increased. There is even a strong correlation between internet access - and therefore easy access to pornography - and reduced incidence of sexual assault. Professor Milton Diamond's 2010 study found an overall drop in sex crimes accompanying legalisation and access to pornography in several countries, even in unstable societies where other types of crime increased.

      I am in favour of taking sensible steps to limit harm to society when harm is proven, but reluctant to do so at the expense of freedom, and I refuse to do so at the expense of freedom of expression.

      I consider having a variety of markets to be a really optimal solution that ensures everyone's interests are accommodated. I think the idea that you can change an existing product to make unrelated demographics happy is silly. If there is an existing audience for a title that is happy with the title, then you change it to appeal to a different audience, congratulations, you are just alienating the original loyal, invested audience. You can't expect that to not upset people. That's essentially how I felt when the Bond franchise was given a "gritty realistic" pseudo-reboot and the character was changed from a charismatic gentleman to a un-charismatic brute. This isn't what I liked and it's not what I want. I'm not supporting the franchise any more.

    10. Hi Adam,

      Thank you for the apologies but I'd rather that instead of making them you just stopped arguing against things I haven't said. You've continued to do it in your last post after professing a sincere apology and I really don't know what to make of it. Is this is some kind of joke to you? I can't tell if you're serious or not.

      In philosophy there's a thing called the principle of charity, I recommend understanding it and practicing it - it's a good way to avoid coming across as an ideologue and wasting time debating points that haven't been made. The fact that someone disagrees with you doesn't mean they hold the most extreme and uncharitable version of an opinion expressed by a group you think you can associate them with.
      I accept and enjoy diversity of opinion. I often enjoy reading comments sections as much as reading the preceding articles.

      I didn't say or intend to imply that women should just make their own thing, or to not have a discussion about it. The point I was making is that if there is a market for a thing, make the thing for the market. If there is a demand, supply it. There is no implication or requirement for it to be women that do this.
      I'm not sure what could have given you the idea that I didn't think discussions like this should take place or that women should stop talking about something. I am participating in this discussion. If I didn't think it should be taking place I would have said something to that effect, or not participated in the discussion, or maybe written a snide blog post about how illegitimate this discussion is.


    11. I understand that the majority of people expressing an opinion on what they would like to see made, have no power to actually make it themselves, and are ultimately relying on creative professionals to make video games, comics, movies, etc. But you seem to be implying that the creative professionals that are capable of supplying the demand are the ones already making the media that doesn't fulfil the interests of the un-serviced demographics. So do you think it is only these currently-engaged creative professionals that are capable of supplying the demand and so it is up to consumers to petition them to change their product?
      If that's not what you're saying please clarify.
      Personally, I think this is a great way to please no one. You'll get box-checking quota fulfilling art by committee corporate garbage. I gave up on comics to a large degree because publishers were putting out comics to have something to sell, not because artists had a story to tell. Secondary character/s I liked get spin-off series, writing is terrible, series gets canned after ~10 issues.
      I'm much more optimistic about currently un-engaged creative professionals with pictures to create and stories to tell fulfilling the market demand. If you pay me to revise a popular super hero comic to be inclusive of the growing septuagenarian demographic, well I can have a stab at it but it will probably suck and upset both the previous readership and the septuagenarians I'm trying to appeal to. Better those septuagenarian stories are told by someone with a real interest and some relevant experience, someone that's actually got a story in them to tell.
      If someone is currently creating something that doesn't appeal to a given demographic, why expect that same someone to be able to appeal to that demographic by petitioning them? As Dan said, you don't tell rappers to learn to play guitar because you don't like rap.

      In short, I would like to think that there are some skilled creative people out there, whether male or female or other, interested in and capable of creating media that appeals to demographics that aren't currently being accommodated. Surely some of the women that have contributed images to this article are up to the task.

      You said that a good example of a straw-man fallacy is my "assertion that everyone here wants what you claim we want in your last paragraph."
      I have absolutely no idea what you are referring to. I'm not sure if you mean the last paragraph of my first post or the last paragraph of my second post, but I re-read both multiple times and I don't know what you are talking about or how you managed to come to that conclusion. Both are clearly summaries of my positions. I use 'I' and 'my' throughout my posts and I thought I had made it very clear that what I was expressing was my opinion, where did I assert anywhere in either of my posts that I know what everyone here wants? Again, I can't tell if you're being serious or not. If this is meant as a joke, well played, very funny.

    12. Cole I think the text of my actual post shows that I completely agree - I said we do not speak for all women. Also, this was a fun exercise in a private artist group that I shared because it was an interesting exercise. No one is campaigning for the characters to be changed to this. In my post I specifically state that the battles we are trying to win here are when characters are created to be inclusive of women (like Spiderwoman) and then enough women's POVs aren't actually taken into account. Like I said above, I am actually a big fan of Manara's work. I have a print of this extremely nsfw Manara piece and I love it. It's all about context. Like I bolded in the post. Including a woman's POV does not have to replace a man's POV. there's room for both.

      (also, just would like to read some of the articles you're referring to, some of that seems a little off to me, can you link me?)

    13. Okay. I agree with much of what you say here, Cole. I thought I was being reasonable in my last post but I just ended up upsetting you again, so I think the only sane option is for me to stop trying to engage. I'm apparently not as good as I thought I was at it.

      I will address your latest points and questions, because you obviously put a lot of time into your recent posts.

      I am serious, I am not joking around.

      I agree–I should not be arguing points you aren't making. Again, we seem to share this problem (see below). I was only ever arguing points I sincerely thought you were making, as I said before. You've advised me otherwise, and I'm glad.

      "But you seem to be implying that the creative professionals that are capable of supplying the demand are the ones already making the media that doesn't fulfil the interests of the un-serviced demographics. So do you think it is only these currently-engaged creative professionals that are capable of supplying the demand and so it is up to consumers to petition them to change their product?"

      No. All I said was that the vast majority of people who would like to see change are not creative types, because of course they aren't. The vast majority of any group of consumers of content are just that–consumers–and not people with the skills to make the content. You suggested that people who want to see change might consider making the change, and I was pointing out that most cannot.

      The alleged straw man in question was the implication that people who would like to change our culture are de facto "Trying to make one product to appeal to every one." I didn't see anyone here trying to do that, so I considered it a straw man. I probably just misunderstood you.

      I hope I got everything–I've had to write this in a rush before leaving the house. I'd love to believe that we agree on everything, Cole, and that we've just had some difficulties expressing ourselves here. Take care.

    14. Hi Lauren,

      I'm not really arguing against anything you have said or advocated, I think you addressed this topic very well, I've enjoyed the images, and you've been quite diplomatic and fair in the discussion.
      I am more so addressing the idea, not expressed by you, that existing media that appeals to one demographic should be changed appeal to or not offend the sensibilities of a different demographic. There's a discussion to be had there, but I've already said enough about it in previous posts.

      Some links for you:

      Homicide, 1992-2011, down by 49%.

      Intimate Partner Violence, 1994-2010, down by 64%.

      Female Victims of Sexual Assault, 1994-2010, down by 58%.

      Violent victimisations in 1993 - 52 per 1000 persons.
      Violent victimisations in 2013 - 23.2 per 1000 persons.

      Summary of Milton Diamond's study:
      "Results from the Czech Republic showed, as seen everywhere else studied (Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Finland, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Sweden, USA), that rape and other sex crimes have not increased following the legalization and wide availability of pornography. In addition, the study found that the incidence of child sex abuse has fallen since 1989, when child pornography became readily accessible -- a phenomenon also seen in Denmark and Japan."

      Correlation between internet access and reduction in rape:

    15. Hi Adam,

      I agree that obviously, people wanting change or something different in given media generally can't affect it. I don't walk out of a movie severely disappointed, thinking I have the skills to make a better $150 million feature film, but I do have strong opinions on what was wrong with it.

      I was being very hyperbolic when I said 'make one product to appeal to every one', sorry about that. Strictly speaking no one actually does that, and that's not what any one here was advocating. Changing a product to give it some appeal to an extra demographic or take an additional point of view into account can be a good thing.

      But, to use fairly extreme examples, I hope we can agree that it would be silly to petition Charles Schulz to sex up Peanuts to bring in the 18-49 year old males, or ask Frank Frazetta to put some clothes on his barbarians to make things more family friendly, or tell Dan dos Santos to take the cigarette out of the White Trash Zombie's mouth because it's setting a poor example for children.

    16. that Dan Dos Santos, such a bad example. : )

  38. I really enjoyed being a part of this re-design challenge which has helped to prompt this discussion. I'd just like to say that what we as the artists did here for the re-designs is not the final word on what women want, it will always be changing and developing as we have seen over time. And what we contributed here is only a sample of what some women want to see in some re-designs, it's good to finally have some say in something that is usually dominated by male artists.

    I love what all the girls contributed here and I especially liked Tora Stark's re-design of Power Girl, I really hope DC gets the hint and employs Tora for the Power Girl suit, pleeeaaaaase DC!

  39. These are great :) I am always disappointed when it seems like someone developed an interesting, well-rounded character and brought it to a pitch where the feedback was "Back-story, character traits, Those are all good... But I'm getting the sense that people will see those thing before they're reminded that they could have sex with her. Can we do something about that?"

  40. I completely agree with everything, but one thing: What is that lot of reasons feminism shouldn't change its name to reflect a less polarized stand? I can't think of a single one, but the ego. As a man, I feel the name (and some attitudes that come with it) tries to exclude from a cause I also fight for.
    Don't you think there's a huge gap between what feminism stands for in theory and the way it's applied and understood by the majority of people? Don't you think it's soley because of the misunderstandings the name generates among most people?

    1. You're not wrong, though I think a better kind of rebranding is going on right now with very high-profile and mainstream people having the courage to say that they're feminists and explain what that means.

      That anti-feminists have been lying about what feminism is for decades so, therefore, feminists should change their identity is an unsettling idea.

    2. Yes one reason is to not disinherit the long history of brave women who fought behind the flag of feminism. Another reason is to not give in just because many men refuse to read an article or look up a definition of a word. It's a sticky situation. Also all the other terms have been used before in different ways and you'd have to erase the history of that "humanist"

  41. After several years of debate about this topic, now I start to understand that women have often a strange idea about "sexy characters". Many female characters or pics considered "sexy" are just canonical, classically beautiful or muscular.
    At least some of those outfits or poses are not intendend to arouse somebody, they're just more interesting from an aestethic point of view... alternative ones are regularly trivial or boring, and audience does not like to be bored.

    1. I think that's a lazy answer. If you have to resort to skimpy outfits to make a character interesting you're a lazy artist. And if you had actually read the post you'd see we plainly stated this isn't about redesigning every female character nor do we speak for all women.

    2. I read the article and I found it pitched very sensibly. I'm not saying you're speaking for all women, I'm saying that *to me* perception of sexyness by women in this cyclic debate is a bit distorted... and I often find new examples.
      Chun Li is portrayed in several ways. Street Fighter games galleries over the years have had many different moods. Anyway, usually she's is not "sexy". The pic in this page does not show a sexy Chun Li. Only because she's wearing a short skirt and I can see her leg and gluteus... this is not "sexy" or "sexualized", it's the body of a fighter with a very peculiar anatomy that needs to be shown.

      And, no offense, I found many of the featured original artworks mediocre and unprofessional-looking. This weakens all the points, because it seems that we don't discern proficient artists no more the moment "politics" steps in.


      I don't think that there is a "giant underserved market dying to throw money". All of my female colleagues who are studying animation with me read books and comics, go to see blockbusters at the movie theater (by the way, these movies are now more fine-tuned to attract female audience... and when they were not, female audience was used to search for a surrogate among the present characters) and play videogames with these chars that they find extremely cool.
      This means that in some countries other than US this problem is less important. We are those who nicknamed Daniele da Volterra "Braghettone".

    3. You're welcome to your opinion, but the huge response of women to the new Ms. Marvel and the public outcry for heroine-fronted movies tells me differently. Women who have never read comics before are coming to things like Ms. Marvel, and Saga, in droves, because other women are saying look at this! this is awesome AND welcoming to a woman's POV.

  42. A lot of them didn't respected the character :(
    They could've changed the clothes design without changing the face+hair but they did, so some of them lost their personality, imo.

    1. This is not just about clothes design. And the characters may not be appealing, or as interesting, to you anymore, because they're being made from and for a woman's POV. Sometimes that will no longer fit as well in man's POV…but now you know what it feels like to have to settle for characters that were not designed for you - this has been the woman's perspective for a long time, and exactly what I was talking about above when I mention trying to fit myself into the geek world via the few and far-between female characters like Teela and Princess Leia.

      Women have always felt like the exception int he geek world. I would love for NO ONE to feel like the exception anymore, for there to be so many interesting POVs in comics, movies, and gaming that everyone can find plenty of characters to relate to.

    2. " I would love for NO ONE to feel like the exception anymore, for there to be so many interesting POVs in comics, movies, and gaming that everyone can find plenty of characters to relate to..."

      Amen to that.

      Growing up I found much more in common with Harvey Pekar of "American Splendor" than I did Superman, much more to relate to in the characters and worlds of "Blankets" or "Goodbye Chunky Rice" by Craig Thompson than I did in the world of Iron Man.

      I read the other comics and popular media, and did enjoy them and appreciated the skill and artistry that went into both the writing and the art, but it was the works of those that more closely mirrored my personality and experiences that truly hooked me on the comic book genre.

      I am grateful that these unique perspectives were put in print and given a chance.

      Had these perspectives that spoke to me so personally never been given a voice, the comic book industry may not have gained me as a long term customer, and had I not been drawn in by the comics that spoke to me so personally, I may never have discovered the works of Kate Beaton and others that broadened my personal perspectives.

      There is room in the popular media realm for many and various viewpoints and perspectives, and the inclusion and promotion of new perspectives can only strengthen the industry, both in revenues and fan base.

      The further inclusion of these new perspectives would also providing an avenue for the establishment of empathy between the mainstream and the historically marginalized.

      As for me personally, I truly WANT to be presented with media that gives me incites into other ways of thinking and being. Windows into a broader world of possibilities and diversity.

      Different perspectives are what make the world a diverse and interesting place, they broaden our horizons and open our minds to new points of view, hopefully reducing biases and making us more tolerant and cosmopolitan human beings.

      Reimagining's? Fresh takes? New perspectives of established characters from a unique point of view?

      I contend they don't just broaden the appeal and demographic reach of popular media, they also stand a good chance of making the world in general a better place.

  43. This comment has been removed by the author.

  44. I liked the article until the added comment and the term "mansplaining" was introduced.

    Suddenly it turned from being an article about positivity and interesting new perspectives into one about generalizing, shaming and judging based on gender.

    Really disappointing Lauren.

    1. If you read the hostile comment that that was reacting to from my POV you'd find I was actually being quite tame in response. it's INCREDIBLY frustrating to have anyone tell you that they understand what you feel better than you yourself do. When you add a layer of sexism on top of that, yes, I call it mansplaining. I think it is sad that many guys cannot listen to a statement of how a woman feels without telling her she is wrong, that she could not possibly feel that way. I'm sorry you're disappointed, but nowhere near as disappointed as I am that it's happening so much in these comments.

    2. There are certain comments you will always find on this topic. From: You have no right to infringe on my right to look at T&A, to: You women are just too sensitive and you'll ruin the industry, to: Women don't buy/participate in x, to: It's the market, duh!, to: Sex sells, you , to: That's just what men do.

      It's difficult to even promote ideas without being slammed by paraphrased tropes above...or have them explained, without expletives, but in a condescending way that says, "I know better."

      What you're reading is frustration. The term "mansplaining" actually comes from direct the same tropes being brought forward again and again.

      As a benchmark, try writing down each of the trope arguments I mentioned, and see how often they come up in this comment section under different guises. Hold onto them, and see how often they come up elsewhere, all saying the same thing. Then see if any of the speakers actually listen to what the women are saying.

  45. There are some very interesting and creative redesigns, but that Princess Peach one is an atrocity! I mean, why would she need a bazooka? What's have to do with the character?! Even if she's supposed to save Mario, there's already a game where Peach saves Mario for a change ('Super Princess Peach') and they didn't had to turn her into a Call of Duty dudebro.

    1. I don't think it's respectful to call any artist's work "an atrocity" so I'd check yourself there. You may not like it, you may not agree with it, but I do demand that people are respectful in the comments on Muddy Colors. There are plenty of other places reposting this article where you can be mean.

  46. Social Justice Warriors everywhere...Like "Yeah, us women are really better at imagining designs than masters of the genre whose works have been enjoyed through the years, because they were obviously all sexist pigs and not artists trying to express their imagination and make tribute to female beauty". If games and comics ever start to offer only such designs, then I'll stick to the old ones and won't buy any anymore.

    From woman more and more disappointed in her own gender.

    1. I don't know what article you read, but it wasn't this one.

  47. This comment has been removed by the author.

  48. Noa and Melandrhild -- Thank You! I'm 100 percent behind gender equality in comics (and everywhere) -- we definitely create some of the VERY best comics have to offer. But I'm really put off by Lauren's incessant negative comments and "updates" -- the snark about "mansplaining" and her increasingly hostile responses to anyone who doesn't agree with her -- dismissive gifs, calling artists lazy, and even telling one woman that she doesn't "have the right" to her opinion because she hasn't lived the exact same life that Lauren has had -- as though Lauren knows the first thing about that other woman's life!

    Being pro-woman doesn't have to equal being anti-man. If this site wants to host sexism lectures, they might want to notice that they have only one regular female contributor and she's not even an illustrator! Are there really NO female illustrators that could be part of this site? How about fixing your own house, before you start telling other artists that their designs are sexist.

    1. I think you are clearly missing the humor. People who read my columns often (I've been writing here for 2 years) get my voice, and the get the running gag of Supernatural gifs. I invite you to read up on my other columns and reread this one in a non-defensive attitude and you'll see i am anything BUT man-hating.

    2. Please explain the "humor" in telling Tabitha that she doesn't have the right to her own opinion?

      Again and again in these comments, you dismiss people who disagree with you by telling them they aren't "getting it" or didn't read your article closely enough, or don't have the right life experience. But perhaps you should set aside your defensiveness and pause a moment to consider that maybe, just maybe, they simply have a different point-of-view, and maybe their point-of-view is just as valid as yours, and maybe you're the one that isn't "getting" it and should listen a little more closely instead of posting eye-rolls and stuff.

      Aloof dismissiveness of anyone that disagrees with you might be a "voice", but it isn't a very constructive approach to a positive dialogue.

    3. I am surprised that you read my very level-headed response to Tabitha in that light, and you are calling me "defensive". There's a difference between defending your POV in a debate and "being defensive".

      In Tabitha's case specifically I said I was happy she hasn't encountered the sexism others of us have. How is that dismissing her opinion? That's actually validating her opinion. I just said, many other women have experienced sexism in the geek world, and maybe she should talk to others and get their POVs. The stance of "I don't see it thus it must not exist" that she implies by her statement that most of the offenders are "newbs and casuals" is troubling to me, because I know in my own experience that that is sadly not the case, I wish it were, and saying something like that dismisses a lot of other women's POVs. I even explained to her that I didn't think she meant it to be offensive, but it felt that way to me.

      So, I don't think validating her opinion, stating mine, and then telling her without hostility how her comments made me feel is defensive.

  49. As someone who designs characters for a living as a concept artist, I'd just like to say I'd have no problems with seeing my design from someone else's viewpoint - especially in the context of an article like this one.

    I'd be the first to say I love my ladies sexy, even as a woman, and given the chance, I'll run around in games with the biggest boobs and all my flesh on show. But having said that, if I'm playing as a warrior, or as a character with particular traits (like Nariko, whose outfit doesn't really make sense when you consider she lives in a fairly cold climate) then I like to have options beyond just showing my figure off. It's not about getting rid of sexy females for me, it's more about having a choice. And currently I can't think of many female characters who break the traditional sexy stereotype (be it in looks or personality). Anyone who think Lauren isn't qualified to talk about this just because she 'isn't an illustrator' (sorry Jasm) doesn't see how much understanding she has to have being an AD. If anything, she has a more encompassing view than a single illustrator as she has to deal with so many different artists and how their work affects an audience. Having said that I'd love to see MC bring more ladies on board!

    1. Sam, I'd like to be clear that I never said or even implied that Lauren wasn't qualified to talk about anything. You're reading something into my comment that isn't there.

    2. I think there's room for MANY different viewpoints and purposes as a character. I would have no problem if there is a stereotypically sexualized woman character in a game if there was also another woman character who wasn't. I think a lot of people are missing the part which I bolded - this isn't about replacing the current (historically male, white) POV, it's just widening it up to give everyone room to have work made for their own POVs - whiter that's women, or minorities, or disabled people…this is so much bigger than just sexism.

  50. Well done Lauren, don't let snark comments discourage your views, pursue it to its extreme end I say. In a pool of opinions, all sides have to exist to eventually reach a common ground, while I don't entirely agree with the article, I'm very happy it exists. It's educative and it's made me have a look at a female character I'm creating too

    1. thank you! like I said, this isn't about replacing anyone's point of view or right to have characters designed for them…it's about WIDENING the possibilities.

  51. By the way i love your post and i love all the character design
    But i have to disagree on some stuff but not all of it
    It might be true that woman sexyness have been used to sell comics to men
    But woman dont see it in the male point of view
    Woman were biologically created differently than males
    Woman dont usually get aroused by body parts
    Males in the otherhand are a diffrent story
    Males were biologically created to get aroused by body parts
    Boobs sexylegs and what evs
    Men were designed to be like this

    Im ok with men being horney and aroused because they were build that way

    Im not ok with rape and violence against woman
    Like when men get too aroused and rape woman in the
    I do love feminism and i think their should be alot of feminism in countrys with lots of rape
    And violence towards woman like
    Japan and india
    What im saying is i think its normal for males to be aroused but not to the point it becomes rape and Violence

    1. I think it's a really complicated issue, and no one viewpoint works for all women (I'm actually very visually turned-on) just like no viewpoint works for all men. When you're generalizing it's impossible to not use stereotypes to make the argument, but it's important to remember every individual is different and gets turned on by different things (thank goodness!)

    2. This is a fair point about what arouses (most straight) men and I think if you try to unpack this topic, it comes back to the intention of the material. If games and comics were meant to be more catered to males, that's all well and good. There is a similar market in books called 'Harlequin' aimed at women that caters to their turn-ons as well. There are books for any kind of fetish out there, if you look hard enough.

      That being said, comics and games are no longer just restrictive mediums with a narrow audience and a narrow intent, they're art forms that have become modes of telling stories that allow for a wider range of stories than previously intended or expected.

      Will there always be a place for sexy comics and games? Yes of course. Just like a book store will always have various sections for various target audiences. No one's saying take the sex out.

      It's just about time comics and games caught up with this notion of variety if either art form wants to level up from being seen as 'low brow' and to be seen as mediums capable of telling an amazing breadth of stories. Both mediums deserve to be respected for this ability and they never will be if they remain restrictive to new points of views, representation, and *all* kinds of stories.

  52. Though I may be mistaken, and can't check as the comments made (and the responses that were made in turn) seem to have been removed, at least some of the responses in regards to the zero suit didn't mention the artist not being allowed to have her opinion, or explain to her how her view was inaccurate beyond the misconception of the zero suit insofar as it extended to the main Metroid games, rather than the Super Smash Bros. rendition.

    Deleting those comments about not understanding the Zero Suit, as well as the responses that were made labeling them as mansplaining, and then using that as the basis to label anyone who took issue with it as 'mansplaining', when there appears there originally was not a link to the game in question (that the author said she provided), seems like it's not necessarily a fair portrayal.

    I remember that some of the explaining continued even after the explanation was given and devolved into mansplaining, which is unfortunate.

    But that doesn't automatically make everyone who tried to share their opinion being automatically dismissive towards the re-envision in trying to tell the author her artwork wasn't 'valid' as a re-envisioning, when it could have been opposition based on a misunderstanding of the game in which Samus was being re-envisioned, and the thematic differences (i.e. Samus actually fighting in said suit a la Smash Bros WiiU instead of a sneaking sequence in Zero Mission) which would give it more context.

    1. I know I find it odd so many comments got deleted - it was all by the authors themselves, MC has not been moderating comments...

  53. This is going to completely destroy your entire argument, but I have to say it.
    ZANGIEF in a kid's movie, made by Disney, wearing less cloths than ANY female character you mentioned.

    1. If Zangief were wearing shorts with bumcheek windows, then I think that might be a more equivalent comparison.

    2. I think you're missing the point, it's not about the amount of clothing or skin, it's about the context. A kids movie, thank god, is not sexualized content. Maybe if Milo Manara drew the character, it would be.

    3. I don't know. I was pretty turned on by Zangief talking about crushing men's skulls between his thighs. They even used his underwear as a joke in the movie. Still, no outcry from anyone about Zangief's appearance.

      "It's not about the amount of clothing or skin." What context? These women are hardly sexualized to begin with! I've SEEN oversexualized animated women! This is very important. You need watch a Hentai (18+ Japanese Cartoon). Helter Skelter (Hakudaku no Mura) is a very good example for sexualized clothing. I want you to watch at LEAST the first couple of minutes. The women WILL have clothes on, but you'll see nipples as well as very detailed vaginas through their clothing. THAT is oversexualizing women in animation.

      Okay, Now I'm going to dismantle your list from the beginning.

      Peach cannot have a rocket launcher. The games are called "Super Mario (Insert w/e)"
      She is also a princess. Yes, She doesn't have much personality, but neither does Mario. With Mario games, you're playing them for Game Play. Most Nintendo-made games are like this. Why? Because Shigeru Miyamoto isn't focused on telling stories. He's out to make fun games.

      Polaris - even if she were designed like this from the beginning. I promise you, feminists would STILL be complaining that her costume as too revealing.

      Samus - The Zero Suit is no different than Spider-Man's suit minus the mask. Again, You need to watch a Hentai. If you can't see her nipples or the outline of her vagina, she's not sexualized at all. She just has a woman's body. The same can be said for the rest of the Super Heroes on the list. Having female body shapes is NOT sexualizing them!

      Making Phoenix look like a generic RPG mage? Nope.

      Betty Boop hasn't been relevant since the 1970's at best. Nice pic though.

      Power Girl, again from the Samus example, feminists would STILL complain about her outfit.

      In closing, watch the first few minutes of Helter Skelter (Hakudaku no Mura). You need to understand what REAL oversexualization of 2D women looks like.

    4. I wanted to share this here because I found it pretty helpful and interesting RE: the Samus Zero suit debate.

      Here's a pretty good visual breakdown of how she's changed from game to game:

      From a regular sized chest to D-cups, regular butt to big booty, normal heels to high heels, regular tight suit to molded breast cups and wedgie. It's pretty blatant fan service alteration just taking it as a visual representation.

      You can be of two minds about this. One, it's fan service that makes your male demographic happy so you can sell more units OR two, it completely alienates the female crowd who liked Samus just the way she was before they altered her to be more pleasing for a male demographic.

      Good for you if you're in the target audience, but you have to at least be aware how the changes to her design may alienate *some* people. Sure it's fantasy, but it's naive to think these changes weren't done very much on purpose to pander to a certain crowd. She was still pretty cool before and appealed to both men and women while still being naturally feminine (once she was revealed to be a female after the original game).

      As it stands, yes, old skool fans can still love the character as she is and no one's telling you not to, but just remember, it's been made more difficult for new fans coming to the franchise who are outside of that target demographic to be able to enjoy the character with the fan servicy redesign, and that's a damned shame! It's an odd case where it feels like we've moved backwards and that's no doubt why the topic is so contentious.

      RE. Raiden of MGS, who is also in a skintight suit with heels.

      An interesting fact about Raiden's design, according to Kojima, he purposefully made Raiden to appeal to a female demographic. But what makes his molded cyborg body, effeminate features, heels, and prominent bumcheeks, in my opinion, feel more natural instead of fan service is that the visuals, world, and characterization consistently mesh. There are plenty of other cyborgs who are just as 'revealing' in their molded bodies. Raiden as a character really doesn't care what he looks like, nor does the camera of the game intentionally try to focus on him in a sexual way. He's shown as cool and confident.

      Though honestly the heels *still* look pretty ridiculous on Raiden too, imo!

    5. Not sure how this got threaded as a reply to the wrong comment, but it was meant for the general debate rather than a response to this specific person, if I'm looking at the threads right. Weird!

    6. "but just remember, it's been made more difficult for new fans coming to the franchise who are outside of that target demographic to be able to enjoy the character with the fan servicy redesign, and that's a damned shame!"

      Yeah, there will be no pandering to a "wider demographic". In that mindset, World of Warcraft tried making their raids easier and adding Raid Finder, alienating their devoted fans. They lost nearly 1/2 their subs. If people want to play a game, they will play it.

      But heck, let's shoot your argument completely to shreds. Do you remember the Spider-Woman outrage? Even Time Magazine flipped their lid! Saying, "They would never draw a male character that way!" Then comic book fans reminded them of The Amazing Spider-Man Issue #30! Jaws hit the floor! And feminist bloggers all around the world had to eat crow! It was beautiful!
      Comic Book Artists continued to point out that most Super Heroes/Villains are essentially naked with body paint. You think you'd be about to see intricate muscle detail through regular spandex? Have you watched the 60's Batman show? That's what it looks like. But go ahead keep spouting your nonsense. I'll be one of the ones posting The Amazing Spider-Man Issue #30's cover, and saying "Please shut the front door on your way out."

    7. Pretty sure it's not an equivalent comparison. Also, this:

    8. Let's just say the arch of the back is decidedly more sexual than Spider-man curled around a web ball. Though let's be fair to the Manara cover. It was never meant to be the official cover, but a variant. While I do agree it's definitely geared for a specific audience, the main cover is the one that should be considered as representing the character. Manara's cover just got all the attention. Bad marketing decision on Marvel's part.

    9. "Bad marketing decision on Marvel's part." I have to disagree. There's no such thing has bad publicity. Millions of more people saw that cover as a result of the "scandal".

      Again, I say, never pander to a fictitious "wider demographic". Demographics are BS anyway. People watch and read what they want and like what they like. For example, My Little Pony has a mostly male 20+ audience, even though it's intended for obviously little girls. Why? Because the writing is amazing, the voice acting is top notch, and it has great animation. Lauren Faust REALLY knows what she's doing, as the previous generations of MLP came and went fairly unnoticed.
      You might not have a female power fantasy, but some women do!
      Let's look at Charmed. Charmed was a Witch-Themed TV show written by a woman. Yet, the female characters still wore sexy costumes all the way to the Finale. Even when the stars of the show became executive producers! Alyssa Milano was practically writing her own lines at that point, yet she had no problem wearing the sexist clothing of the three main characters!

    10. Demographics may not exist to you, but they do to marketing departments and what marketing departments will think bring in the money (and therefore what companies choose to invest in and bring to consumers like you and me). Money is what makes the world go round, even in our beloved geek industry.

      It's not about discussing what we all personally like or don't like, it's about having the ability to present wider critical eye to industries that have defined a geek culture for so many of us (male AND female). It's about bringing more diversity to it and elevating it beyond the kind of pervading low brow view that a lot of people look down on geek culture thanks to past patterns. Sure, we can still enjoy what we enjoy, but neither should we ignore inherent problems. The best way to address the disparity between the two issues is to present more diverse stories in addition to what's already there, in my opinion.

      I also disagree about bad publicity. When the moral character of your company comes under fire, there are some readers who will jump ship. People are very passionate about their fandoms, especially when they're portrayed in a way that does a disservice to the characters.

    11. My point about demographics is they're arbitrary. As I said, you'll have adult men obsessed with ponies and little boys obsessed with Call of Duty. The marketing team can aim for any demographic they want, but what people are interested in is too diverse.
      Also, It's rather easy to present more diverse stories with mediums like social media and Steam.
      I should have been more specific about there being no bad publicity. It mostly applies to tangible products. Like an infamously bad video game or novel. Millions of people will play Hatred and read 50 Shades of Grey simply for their notorious reputations.
      On the other hand, this doesn't apply to businesses or things that are boring. Sites like Kotaku and Polygon are serious trouble due to the bad publicity of alienating their audience and lying about the quality of video games due to being friendly with the creators. Note the difference between an infamously bad game and an infamously boring games. Hatred will sell millions of copies because it looks edgy and fun to play. Tainted by falsely positive reviews, Gone Home will sell little to no more copies at all due to there being dozens of videos/reviews telling or out right showing everyone how boring the game was. No one likes a boring video game! Your game can be rude, offensive, violent, but NEVER boring! Actually, many people would scarcely call Gone Home a game due to there being no skill involved and no way to get a game over. That all comes back to what a video game is. It's entertainment. If the consumers aren't entertained even a little, then the game is a failure.

    12. Firstly:
      Samus' model in Sm4sh is not "Sexualized" since people are using asset from two different artist and as such the depth of the detail on the character has been improved. Such as Specular and normal maps which gives the impression that she seems "Sexier".
      Here's proof of the "Her breast became bigger." They are from same Game of Sm4sh but if you look closely you see that the model is rigged heavily as such there's no "boob jiggle" or anything which makes it a static model. The rigging of this may "contort" the character into unreasonable degrees of variations depending on the weight of the skeleton and model's polygon. It's a technical thing that causes this and as such is not coupled with "Bigger breast and butt."

      Demographics are "Targets", however Target can miss and create a subset of another change of your audience from any marketing or even non-marketed things. Demographics helps but they are not the "cure" of Who wants what due to the diversity of people consuming the mediums. If anything it's a faulty tool.

      About Samus' alienating players.
      I'm sorry but that's a straight out lie in the reality of what Metroid currently is experiencing. The Other M Fiasco, as you should know, was due to her story being totally destroyed by Sakamoto (The other father of Samus) due to the narrative of the game and shredding the "Impression" that gamers had of Samus for years as a calm, collected no-nonsense character.
      Also as a sidenote: If clothes alienate a possible fan, that fan is sexist and have prejudice, we don't want those people anyway in a fanbase due to them being superficial.

      Fourthly: Reputation, either good or bad, is something that people seek. The more it's seen the more it's spread, the more it spread the higher chance of a larger income due to people actually ever even heard of it. That's why it's considered "Any reputation is good." You can't buy stuff you never even heard of.

      Spider-woman's Cover is a debate worth talking about but not for what her pose is, but for what her context is. Crawling about at the edge of a building is hardly not really a "Atmospheric" piece. But as for the pose, skintight clothes or not, is decent and hardly erotic to any point.

      Suggestion: Instead of changing what you WANT women character in other media to look like, try and do what men have done to women character. Sexualise men instead so people who wish to create things for women to create men that gets alot of women interested in them through sexual attractiveness. This way you learn (or should learn) what the difference is. If men want to create beautiful women, let's do the other way around as well and let women create beautiful men. Suddenly both gain something instead of both being conflictional and a communication can finally stem into something else.

      Anyway, getting too tired from all this. Good luck.

    13. 1. This seems like a very thin explanation, especially as you contradicted your point by mentioning Other M.

      2. This is where I agree completely. The way companies try to target a (usually male) demographic is part of the problem. It's a tool that's hindering creative freedom and diversity. If we could focus on making better stories and characters (both male and female), I think the geek community and its associated art forms would be better for it.

      3. I'm not sure how my point is a lie when you've just proved it by mentioning the debacle that was Other M. A lot of Metroid fans really hate it because it did not feel in character. Her visual evolution has really only followed the path of Other M's design decisions from what I can tell.

      Also, as for alienating a fanbase and a fan being sexist, see Quiet's design and tell me that's not pandering of the worse design in a game series that's generally respected as being pretty engaging (Kojima's done sexy before, but this is going off the rails):

      True, she may actually be an amazing character, but the story is going to have to work extra hard to really get past the knee jerk pandering of this design. In fact, I am prepared to redact all judgement if it ends up being consistent between character and world for Quiet to look like this. You can hardly fault any male OR female fan for feeling that design is blatant sexualized pandering (and it wouldn't be sexist to feel that way least not until we get her full story and see how the design matches the characterization).

      4. It's a fair point that publicity will get you seen, but a company does have some standards to keep and if they betray those standards on a consistent basis, they will lose more customers than they can keep.

      5. I don't agree that it's not an erotic pose. It was drawn by a professional erotic artist and the pose mimics many you might see in porn and that the artist has actually used in his other erotic pieces. NSFW example at the link:

      Lastly: I don't think objectification of men is really the solution either, personally. All it does is pave the way for equally lazy and uninteresting characters across the board where I feel we are trying to tell memorable stories and elevate geek culture to newer, better heights.

      There'll always be room for sexy characters, but that shouldn't be the only thing to exist. It's changing, slowly but surely, but we can't ignore that things aren't still in need of a push.

      Thanks for actually putting forth your opinions in a much more civil way than some folks here. It's helpful to get more opinions on this, even if we don't all agree!

  54. Feminism isn't about "equality", it's about dismantling a system of male supremacy. Under patriarchy, women's agency is extremely limited and being objectified and sexualized is not some kind of free, fearless choice that women make. If women in this society want to Be Sexy, it's because they've had it drummed into them all their lives that they need male approval and they won't get it unless they dress/act in a way designed to titillate men.

    "Prudery" is used as a slur to shut down any critique of female objectification.

  55. Hi Lauren first off I want to really commend you for tackling a topic in a level headed and balanced manner that will undoubtedly get people riled as heck no matter how magnanimous they think they are.

    I mean for this comment to be just a comment. I don't see there is any particular point in getting involved in an "internet discussion" where one person spouts their view off against another, neither really wanting to listen to the other or have a real dialogue especially if it is dressed up in a "genuine debate" which is so often purported to be the case by everyone.

    I am a man, and as such I can only base my views on my own observation and learning about the experiences of all the various women who have been in my life.

    What I have come to realise, speaking from the common experience of a man today, is that it seems that most men have a complete disconnect between the values and morality that promote gender inequality towards women, and our own personal accountability. We just do not want to believe that because we do not agree or like the fact of inequality towards women in society, that we have ourselves perpetrated or harbour any of these undesirable traits in ourselves.

    Newsflash guys (and girls if you share men's view that nothing is wrong here) you are complicit no matter how much you want to believe you are not. "No man is an island" (ironic quote), we are taught and bombarded with all sorts of programming throughout our lives from your parents, so called education, peers, mentors the media, literature, and you are living out that programming now. A simple belief or thought will not change a single thing unless we all have a deliberate and honest inquiry into ourselves about what this means without just bandying about research, stats, free market trends as if the issue is unrelated to us personally in any way.

    It is obviously not many do take this personal accountability. One example above in a comment mentioned something about "research" that showed that porn kept rapists off the street. Really? First of correlation does not always imply causation, but this type of attitude to seek for things that justify your own view is so perfect an example of an unwillingess to look at oneself. If you are a man, and you watch porn, do you believe that your attitudes and entire viewpoint on sex is not being affected? Perhaps time for a reality check. Let's look and see porn for what it is, a male dominated perspective on sex that promotes aggression towards and objectification of women, total self interest, the lack of any form of compassion or selflessness and the ultimate sexual gratification of the man regardless of what the women want.
    Now look at yourself. "No I watch it, but because I don't think I am like that at all, so it's all good." Wake up.

    To anyone reading this comment, I highly recommend a book called "Making Love" by Barry Long. It is a book on tantric love, but I believe it really has some keen insight into the fundamentals of why so much of this issue is an issue today. Men have forgotten what it is to love women in a healthy way, and in doing so have trained women to pander to this dysfunction, even willingly which is more despicable! Not something most men would want to hear no matter how self righteous they are in their own impeccable values (mine included!).
    Nobody said self development for the better is easy.

    There is a much baser fundamental issue at stake here besides what character in what game gets to show more or less butt and cleavage, and what this entails for "freedom of speech and expression" and the free market. Obviously Lauren as an artist and art director has to write within her context, but this is larger and deeper issue and not one that is easy to tackle given the amount of self deception that all men including myself are under. (believe me I have looked and it is not pretty to see)

    Great job Lauren, keep up the good work!

    1. Thank you for writing this.

    2. Always the best posts, MB :)
      Made me curious about that book, I'll look it up!

  56. These all look like balls, especially the Samus one. These redesigns look like they exist for nothing more than the sake of fulfilling some stupid ass feminist criteria for what makes a female character design acceptable to them. By the way, generalizing much? "What women want". It's just fantasy for fucks sake, just play the games.

    1. I agree! By using the Samus one as an example, several of the redesigns, Polaris for example, would have STILL made feminists angry!

    2. As female concept artist who works in the game industry (and has been playing video games for well over two decades)-- I'm going to say I'm flat out bored with sexually objectified characters. That isn't to say that a character can't be sexy either. There IS a difference between a sexy character and a sexually objectified one.
      For me this article is about diverse representation of women and design with practicality given a character's role, personality or environment-
      These designs aren't the BE ALL, END ALL. They aren't official. They are concepts and each one of these women are entitled to their personal views as well. What you're stating isn't constructive criticism but flat out shaming.

      At the beginning of the article Lauren even states:
      "I am a woman, and I do not speak for all women. I am taking my experience and the collective experiences of the hundreds-strong Women in Fantasy Illustration group* and trying to make this post as general as possible. But including everyone’s specific experience is impossible. However, I feel very confident in saying many if not most women have experienced the issues we will be discussing. "


    3. I'm also the artist who sketched Samus. I'm not apologizing to you for the design and I think you have every right to dislike it. We all have different tastes and I'm not interested in bending backwards to please everyone. I just love drawing,
      To be fair, you don't know what intent I had when designing her or what sort of research I put into her design. I didn't dress her like that to just cover her up.

      Also Sarah, I'm a feminist and not all feminists are exactly the same. Its a broad spectrum and we have varied opinions.

  57. Never understood why people think showing skin means that a woman is being objectified. No, there's a huge difference between showing skin and being a sex object. I have no idea why feminists in America confuse Puritanical morality with equality. Skin is just skin. There's nothing wrong with enjoying the beauty of the female body. Women at the beach wear far less than the majority of females in sci-fi, fantasy, and comic books. It's okay to wear sexy clothing. It doesn't make you a "whore". It doesn't make you any less of a person. It doesn't have to be about advertising yourself to the opposite sex. We have such a hang up about nudity in America. It's absolutely ridiculous. I don't care for your morality, and I don't care for the guilt trip that comes from your inability to distinguish beauty from objectification. When a woman around me is wearing less clothing I don't think any worse of her, and I feel guilty for enjoying the beauty. There's no logical reason why I should. That being said, you can objectify a woman visually and verbally. There's a difference between appreciating beauty and being a hormone driven, inconsiderate jerk.

    Anyway, I have no idea why people care what a woman is or is not wearing. I also have no idea why anyone would be upset about it. There's obviously extremes that should generally be avoided, but for the most part people are guilty of the same morals they fight against. It's silly.

    1. "...and I don't feel guilty for enjoying the beauty."

    2. Agreed 100%! The feminists here need to watch some Hentai! They need to know what REAL sexual objectification of animated women looks like! When you see nipples and outlines of genitals THROUGH their clothing, THAT'S when a character is sexualized! Maddox covered this really well in his video called, "Spider-Woman's Big Butt is a Big Deal!" Spider-Man was drawn in the SAME pose decades ago, and no one cared!

    3. Sarah you seem unhealthily focused on "winning" the comments or "dismantling" people's arguments. There is no such thing, this is, at it's best, a conversation, and everyone is entitled to their own opinions over where the line of "sexualization" is crossed. I think it's fine that you don't think these character redesigns are good. Why is it not ok that we DO think they are? I certainly don't think I am the final word on what is good or not, and I am a professional paid to judge art. Why do you think you're capable for speaking for everyone?