America Chavez from "Young Avengers #6" Panel.
Photo: Courtesy of Marvel Comics
San Diego Comic Con starts in a week which means now’s about the time the internet gets stoked on cosplay, superheroes and crucial plot/casting reveals in whatever franchises will dominate megaplexes in the months to come. Now, comics might not be your bag and that’s cool but I love 'em and follow some artists and writers on Twitter. Earlier this week, my pal Jamie McKelvie, a brilliant artist who lives in London (no seriously, [cronyism notwithstanding please check THIS out]), noticed that the fine folks who run the blog over at Urban Outfitters did a lazy-girl cosplay market post on his version of America Chavez, a.k.a. Miss America, from the Young Avengers.
I won’t burden you with source material and continuity or where in the Marvel Universe all this is going down, but the thing that this post brought into sharp relief is how America wears some regular-ass clothes. I’m all for lazy-girl anything but what I love most is that these are actual garments that a girl with a face and eyes and a brain and a mirror would forreal select were she in the real-life business of kicking ass. “[America] comes from a history of doing super-heroing out of the limelight,” says Jamie. “She’s street level so I thought she shouldn’t have a regular costume.”
America Chavez of the Young Avengers and her themed clothing.
Artwork: Courtesy of Jamie McKelvie
I mean, check it out, she’s always dipped in a distressed crewneck sweatshirt, TrippNYC zipper jeans, jorts, with a varsity or denim jacket slung on top. It all follows the Old Glory motif but in silhouettes that are modern, entirely functional, and hot in the way that grateful people being rescued won’t wonder why the very strong lady who seems nice is dressed like a skank. America basically wears all the cute stuff you’d find on the landing page at ASOS or Boo Hoo or TopShop or UO during the 4th of July and it’s all thanks to Jamie. He ushered the former America—a chick in a hilariously tragic get-up of a midriff-baring situation with hip-hugger pants slung so low that you could see her (I kid you not) thong—to the contemporary, relatable woman who you see now. “Well, I just presented my case to the editors and they went for it,” says Jamie. “The look should always come from the character.”
America Chavez from "Young Avengers #7".
Artwork: Courtesy of Jamie McKelvie's Tumblr
You’d think it wouldn’t be so hard for artists to treat their characters the way a costume designer for a TV show or movie would, but evidence proves otherwise. Comics have been around for FOREVER and creators take enormous and inventive liberties when it comes to pushing the envelope in terms of keeping the storytelling new and fresh. The buzzkill of having so many rad female characters dress like garbage latex monsters in binding, chafing togs that conveniently accentuate their anatomically improbable waist to enormoboobs ratio is hardly new. But my beef lies in the fact that even when artists are conscious of what types of clothes these women wear off-duty, a lot of the results end up being super ’90s in this bafflingly specific way. There’s just a weird number of cap-sleeved ring tees, lace bustiers, A-line minis and maxis, barrettes, flared coats with belled sleeves, boot-cut low-waisted jeans in LOL washes and a ton of bad shoes. I’m not going to name names (IS IT YOU???) but it’s nice to have a character whose clothes on and off duty look real and ring true.
“It can be depressing,” says Jamie. “But I tend to pull together stuff from music, fashion blogs, and people I know. America is a combination of all three.” While I couldn’t get him to admit that he pilfers at least 100.00% of his ideas from this blog (“A magician never reveals his secrets!”), we did talk about how much we both loved the vibe and pluck of Azealia Banks’s 212 video. I’ve always thought that just as comics companies hire continuity overlords there should be a fashion/visual aesthetic director. Kinda like what Anna Wintour does for Condé Nast. I’ve always had a hit list of the costumes I’d change first and I think clothes that follow a theme would be a huge move. “I’d agree about themed clothes,” says Jamie. “I always thought a team like the X-Men should be themed, rather than in costumes, but I guess it’s just the accepted way of doing things.” Dear comics: CHANGE IT. Here's a bajillion-dollar idea: "From Runway to Longbox!" Boom. How cool would that be? Like, I really think Tony Stark would wear a crap-ton of Arc’yeryx Veilance and Kim Jones for Louis Vuitton. And Storm, a.k.a. Ororo Munroe, would wear all the Erdem and Prabal Gurung. Oh, and Bandit, a.k.a. #1 from We3, I’d obvi put in vintage Boomer 129.