So, Mike Choi’s redesign of Laura Kinney’s costume for new X-23 series is controversial. To put it mildly. I decided that the best way to express what the flying boar in a submarine is wrong with this outfit would be to borrow the amazing Female Armor Bingo from @bikiniarmorbattledamage . Thankfully he had enough decency to not add a thong or it would score a full row.
Now, people have been telling me to go read Choi’s thread on Twitter, where he goes through his previous designs. Supposedly, it will change my mind about the costume. We’ll see about that.
He put his points in several threads, let’s start with the very first.
They wanted the outfit be different from her Wolverine outfit AND based on the X-Force one. This is bizarre. Her final Wolverine suit carries clear X-Force inspirations. It’s inspired by Logan’s X-Force costume. It just feels like they’re trying to bring back nostalgia to that specific time in Laura’s history. Which is funny, when you remember that the most of online fandom hated X-Force when she was on it (Kyle and Yost’s run). Despite the critical acclaim. It was seen as the epitome of why making comics darker and edgier is the worst thing you can ever do. I know, I got into arguments with these guys. But now the same people go online wanting it back if that means Laura will be showing off her midriff again. Go figure.
So let me get this straight – he was told by everyone (and agreed!) how pantless leotard is out of character for Laura, and then gave her equally skimpy short shorts on another try? All while completely aware that her outfit will be drawn by other artists who will likely make the shorts smaller and sexualize her further? He needed two separate attempts and two different arguments to understand Laura needs long pants?
Now back to the chronological order of these tweets. Third part.
Where do I even begin? If he accepts the blame for her having an exposed midriff, why not use an opportunity to fix it and give her an outfit that does not have one? What not being Wolverine has to do with practical costume design? Why cannot she still wear non-revealing outfit under new or old codename? How can he talk about respecting her agency and personality considering what book he is making these designs for? A series that, for all that we know so far, will force her back into a codename that she outgrew? Laura had a whole arc about it, with her proclaiming she is not X-23. To speak of respecting her character when such a big regression is done to her is just a sad joke.
As a side note – the top picture? These words? They’re out of context. They directly quote a speech Laura makes in issue #19 of All-New Wolverine. A speech that starts with ‘I’m not X-23″ and ends with “I’m Wolverine”. They cherry-picked lines from that monologue and slammed them on a cover for a book that goes against the entire point. It takes away from her both Wolverine title and outfit and forces her back into codename and costume she left behind. In that context talking about respecting her character is just a piece of impudence.
And this argument about her taste of clothes comes as asinine for a number of reasons. One is that she is a fictional character, she doesn’t really make a choice to dress like this – the artist does. Giving her a midriff always undermines her as a competent fighter. You end up saying she decided to expose herself in the fight, putting herself at risk for fashion.
These outfits would be okay as everyday clothes, I could tolerate them if she wasn’t wearing a costume but was just one of those superheroes who fight in whatever they are wearing at the moment like Luke Cage or Jessica Jones. But she is not, she goes and dresses for a mission, why should fashion sense or taste of clothes have anything to do with it?
And finally…. if he cares about staying true to her character, why did he try to put her in shorts after being told bare legs are ooc for her?
Let’s go to the fourth part
I agree that talking about fictional character’s agency is an oxymoron. Which is why comparing Laura to real life women, who can choose their own wardrobe, makes no sense. While Choi acknowledges Laura as a fictional person, he still frames it as if he wasn’t the one in control of her looks. This is what trying to call the critics “narrow-minded orthodoxies” and claiming they accuse HER of being some sort of temptress boils down to. It is the artist we have a problem with, the artist who made a choice to dress her like that and now tries to say it’s liberating. He asked his students what they would wear as superheroes. They told him they wanted to express their independence. And somehow this shit is the only way to convey that he could think of?
And finally the fifth part. While he speaks about the boots, I need to bring attention to what he says about practicality and realism
Again with false equivalences. Superhero costumes can look cool while still being practical, many male outfits prove that. Hell, Snake-Eyes is a good example. And I’m pretty sure “that thing” on his face is eyes protection if a stylized, properly stylized, one. To say you cannot make a character look practical without losing the cool factor is an admission of a failure as an artist.
His points I spotted are in green. I also put in purple arguments I’ve seen from people trying to defend his designs and the fans. Arguments that were always thrown in defense of sexualized outfits for Laura, by the way. The “Great story makes up for these ridiculous designs” is one I especially need to highlight. People are coming to me saying that I should not judge Mariko Tamaki’s story before it appears. And I need to underline that I’m sure she can write a great story with Laura. In fact, I hope she does. But that will in no way change the fact this outfit is horrible.
Just like is the case with Mike Choi’s designs – they suck, all of them, be it unused ones or the final one. And while I can understand some parts of his thought process in working on them, they do not justify what he created and cannot serve as a good defense for the outfit he went with.
So not only all those new outfit ideas for Laura were the generic “must. show. female. skin!” shit and the one approved in the end is no better than the rest… The designer also walked us through his “creative” process and didn’t manage to give a single satisfactory explanation to why he landed on any of those!
It’s pretty amazing how so many completely valid points, like consulting actual women, considering how other artists will draw it and referencing the character’s history were supposedly taken into consideration… and nothing about those boring rags informs us of that.
Why does it feel like every time Mike Choi talks about the “research” and “introspection” he did with regards to women, he’s actually trying to blame them?
Also, I really love that this veteran of the comics industry apparently assumes that, if anything has even one impractical element, then it is 100% impractical. If that’s the case, Laura’s outfit is immediately impractical, due to the fact that I don’t see any bra straps under that see-through fabric! And wearing a strapless bra into the kind of acrobatic fights that Laura gets into is a bad idea. Too bad he didn’t ask any of his students about that, though he probably would have ignored them anyway.