Let’s get this out of the way up top: were the characters created on this list, or at least their costumes, mainly designed for cheesecake value? Yes. Does that sell comics, and to a certain extent ancillary products? Surely. Is the depiction of women in comics a serious, ongoing issue, as well as the lesser discussed portrayal, physically of males in comics? Yup. And there’s a lot of arguments that we could retread here, from the, “But superheroes are in great shape!” to, “Artists don’t know how to draw clothes!” But that’s not what this article is about.
No, this is about ten characters who do have those cheesecake costumes, but whose creators, over time, have gone to great lengths to explain, ignore, or outright alter their character’s costumes to make it more forgivable for a modern audience to read the adventures of half-naked ‘roid freaks. Does this, in itself raise another whole host of problems? And are these two paragraphs a way for your faithful reporter to feel better for pitching a list which is only one small step removed from “10 Hottest Comic Book Babes, Dewds!” I’m not going to answer that. But here are ten comic book characters who are more than their costumes might make you think:
10. Agent Cheesecake
Agent Cheesecake was created by Dan Slott and Rick Burchett in She-Hulk, and as you can tell from the name, she works for Marvel’s top secret agency, S.H.I.E.L.D. wholly in order to look hot and seduce people. A robotic Life Model Decoy, Agent Cheesecake is part of the Hulkbuster unit of S.H.I.E.L.D., mostly spending her time seducing looters and quelling riots with her hotness, while the rest of the team battles big, giant threats. Okay, I guess there are some characters that are just cheesecake.
9. Cassie Hack
Hack Slash Inc.’s better looking half parades around in ripped fishnets, torn t-shirts, and barely any pants. But only the goth teens she interacts with who cop her style, she wears all this because she doesn’t have any money for clothes. Cassie spends her time driving from town to town in a broken down van finding slashers and killing them, mostly out of the a desire for revenge, and kind of out of the goodness of her own heart. So the gig doesn’t pay very well, and Cassie finds she is often just scraping enough money together for gas, a hotel room to shower in, and maybe some food. Who has the time – or the funds – for a shopping trip after that?
DC Comics resident magic expert Zatanna may look like she’s dressing in fetish wear, but there’s a very good reason for her outfit: it’s a mix of a magician’s assistant, with the fishnet stockings, and a magician, with the top hat and buttoned up tuxedo shirt. She grew up on stage helping out her father Zatara, assisting in his act, before becoming a famous magician in her own right. So it makes sense, given her profession that she would dress in costume for a show. And hey, once you’re already in the costume, and the Justice League calls for your help, why change into another costume?
7. Poison Ivy
One of Batman’s many rogues, Pamela Isley wasn’t wearing much clothing when she was first introduced, just a bathing suit covered in leaves. This made a little bit of sense, as Poison Ivy was a naturist, fighting for the cause of plant life over humans. Over time, though, Ivy has become more and more plant like herself, until the most recent versions have her with a well-placed leaf or two on her meat and veg, if you will. Granted, this still makes a lot of sense for the character: plants don’t wear clothes, so why would Ivy bother? She feels more comfortable in a garden or forest anyway, so no need for human vanities. It’s just a little harder to defend the “feminist icon” side of her this way. You guys.
6. Emma Frost
There’s actually a very good reason why the X-Men’s White Queen started out wearing revealing clothing: she was a stripper at the Hellfire Club, a gathering of rich, privileged mutants. After rising through the ranks, she kept the attire, and added a fuzzy cape, which I guess is still excusable. You know what’s pretty weird, though? How she kept wearing lingerie since then. She’s depicted as a confident woman, aware of her sexuality, as well her power as the girlfriend of Scott Summers, the leader of the X-Men. But there’s no reason she couldn’t do that in a sensible turtleneck, am I right? Ladies? Seriously, though, Emma’s wardrobe is often referenced by other characters, but ignored by her. She knows who she is and what she wants, and is one of the more formable mutants in the Marvel Universe. Even if she is mostly depicted wearing body paint.
Here’s an interesting case where the choice of attire for the character is actually motivated by the story, rather than excused, or pushed into the background. Koriand’r, Princess of the planet of Tamaran has incredible power, and is a skilled warrior. She’s also very straightforward about everything, including sex, using it as a distraction, or for fun, rather than getting caught up in the emotional aspects of a physical relationship. This has led to her clashing with whiny, needy male Earth superheroes, who just want to be held or something. Oh, and also her growth as a character. And as an extra fun fact, she was actually designed by artist George Perez to look like Red Sonja in space. Mission accomplished, George.
The Witchblade is a mystic gauntlet that grants its bearer, NYC cop Sara Pezzini, amazing powers, including protective armor, energy blasts, and even flight. Oh yeah, it also rips her clothes clean off when she activates it, and seems to only cover her naughty bits. That’s because the Witchblade is actually male, so essentially, it’s a big ol’ pervy glove. Gross. However, the Witchblade books have not only created an entire expanded universe of titles for Top Cow, they’ve also fostered a deep, developing character for Pezzini, who solves mysteries, raises a baby, and yes, still sometimes gets her clothes ripped off.
Barely wearing two strips of red clothing, Vampirella clearly was started in 1969 as a cheesecake character, pure and simple. She was a hostess of a horror anthology, and hey, that’s just how they dressed, right? You’ve seen the Cryptkeeper before… That slut. And that hasn’t totally changed: even the recent Dynamite series still has the vampire-who-kills-vampire wearing nothing but ribbons on the cover. On the inside, though, the refugee from the planet Draculon (okay, fine, that’s not her origin anymore, but whatever) wears a trenchcoat, and just wants to kill Dracula for his unending evil. She’s a bad-ass in the mode of Blade before her – facing the threats of the undead, rather than an ever-possible nip slip.
1. Power Girl
A member of the JSA, Power Girl is probably better known for the window in her outfit and bust size, than origin and personality. But writers have been aware of that for years, explaining the hole in her uniform with every reason from, “It’s distracting for criminals,” to, “I didn’t know what symbol I wanted on my uniform.” That aside, Superman’s cousin from an alternate universe has one of the strongest personalities of any hero, making her a natural leader. And her power level is through the roof. She’s a strong woman who speaks her mind, and just happens to be missing most of her uniform.