The Supergirl Shorts Story: Talking to Jamal Igle

Jamal Igle Talks Supergirl
Jamal Igle Talks Supergirl
It’s rather subtle, but a DC icon has had a costume change.

If you look carefully at how regular Supergirl artist Jamal Igle draws Superman’s cousin Kara, she’s now officially wearing red shorts under her skirt.

The change comes as Igle and Supergirl writer Sterling Gates have been winning praise form readers for their take on the Maid of Might, and how they’ve brought her back from the edge of…well, wearing clothes and behaving in a way that was not very Supergirlish.

According to Igle, the move to put Kara in shorts started with editor Matt Idleson.

“At the first meeting I had with him after I got the book, he said, ‘I never want to see Supergirl’s panties again.’ It was part of a larger conversation about altering the costume and making it a little more presentable. I think a lot of our readers know that, when you look at the back issues, the shirt would get tinier, the skirt’s hem would get higher, and lower on her hips. It was really uncomfortable for me to have to follow in that manner.”

Idleson’s suggestions about making Supergirl’s costume a little more presentable was reinforced by a critic that Igle could not ignore. “I showed one of those older issues to my mom, and she said, ‘She looks like a hooker.’ That’s the exact opposite of what you should be doing. In my head, because Kara is Clark’s cousin, she’s a member of the Superman Family. She wears the ‘S’. That’s supposed to stand for something.”

Igle first put the shorts in with issue #35, but they really weren’t seen by fans until #36, and then by the rooftop fight with Reactron in issue #40, they were undeniable.

“One of the reason why I went with the shorts rather than just draw the skirt in a way where it was either longer, or I never showed it flying up was that I wanted freedom of movement,” Igle said. “With the fight between her and Reactron on the rooftop in issue #40, she’s doing martial arts and moving around. It makes sense that if you’re doing martial arts, you’re going to have something that’s going to cover you a little, especially if you’re wearing a skirt.”

But – as is unsurprising in comics – change something, and you’re likely to find a fan complaining about it. While Igle says he’s heard some complaints, fans opposed to the change have a…unique viewpoint.

“There is one guy out there on the message boards who calls them ‘the diapers of shame,’ and comes at it from the idea that I’m patriarchical and draw her like an overprotective father, and that this is part of DC’s double standard when it comes to male and female characters, because female characters should be sexy, and we’re afraid to show Supergirl in that light.”

And yes, Igle is aware that there is another Kryptonian heroine out there with a somewhat skimpy costume. But – he stresses – there’s a difference.

“The thing is, Kara’s not Power Girl. Power Girl is an adult. Part of her character is the smaller costume with the boob window. That’s not part of Supergirl’s character. So I’m going to draw her visually different. If I have a character who’s supposed to be visually sexy, then I’m going to draw her sexy. It’s two completely different things. If anything, Supergirl is unintentionally sexy. If there’s a sexiness to Supergirl, it’s almost coy, kittenish, rather than overt.”

Igle said that the negative reaction, thankfully, is in the minority, and he’s approached by female Supergirl fans at panels who thank him for the changes that he and Gates have brought to the book, noting how one woman at a recent panel at Heroes Con in North Carolina said that prior to his and Gates’ start on the book, she had tried to read the series, but with the costume, and her “bad girl” attitude, realized that the book wasn’t being written for the character’s female fans.

While the shorts have become an official addition to Supergirl’s costume, Igle said that there is a more changed version of Supergirl’s costume “floating around the DC offices” that he and Gates keep going back and forth on in terms of adopting.

“The entire costume – if you look at what we’ve done, the costume has evolved in little bits and pieces,” Igle said. “It’s not radically different from what Michael Turner originally designed, but there is a different. It covers a little bit more, and is a little more demure in some respects, but it’s not changed so much that you wouldn’t recognize it. It’s just draw in a way that parents can give the comic to young girls and not feel embarrassed by doing so, because she looks like a hoochie.

“In the end, it makes her look a little more respectable and honestly, it just makes sense.”

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