I’ve always known that the depiction of characters in superhero comics is highly stylized and unrealistic, with some artists, for example Todd McFarlane, guiltier than others.  Proportions are just vaguely human, skin-tight costumes hug every perfectly-formed muscle, and shoulders are improbably broad while waists are impossibly narrow.

And then there are the breasts.

Power Girl breaks the fourth wall and acknowledges the enormity of the situation.

I recently came across an illustration of the DC Comics superheroine Power Girl that was eye-popping, even to my seen-it-all comics-reading eyes.  I was more of a Marvel fan during my rabid comics-reading days so, although I was vaguely aware of Power Girl, I can’t recall ever reading any stories that featured her.  I knew that she was an alternate universe version of Supergirl, and related to Superman.  And I remembered the costume, a white one-piece bathing suit with long sleeves and an inexplicable cleavage window.  I googled Power Girl images to see if this particular artist had taken liberties with his illustration of the character.  As it turns out, no.  In fact, I discovered that Power Girl, in an industry noted for its idealization of the female form, had gained a reputation for having the biggest breasts in the DC Universe. David Campbell, on his blog Dave’s Long Box, explores the phenomenon in depth, with tons of illustrations to support his theory that Power Girl “is a tabula rasa that comic book fans and creators alike can project their conscious and unconscious desires on to.”  Comic book fans and creators, in short, love breasts.

For all of the hyper-sexualized, pornstar-esque bodies that populate superhero comics, however, it’s a decidedly juvenile sexuality.  There aren’t a lot of mature romantic or sexual relationships in comics, and when sexuality is acknowledged, as Campbell notes, it’s more likely to be in a leering, double-entendre fashion.

And that’s probably why comics never address the in-your-face issue of genitals. Strange, because these are characters who routinely traipse around in their underwear.  Look lower in the picture of Power Girl, and you’ll see that her costume is noticeably French-cut, and quite revealing.  All I’m saying is that Power Girl must have taken time off from fighting crime to fly down to Rio for a Brazilian wax. Superheroines are hyper-sexualized depictions of women, with perfect measurements and curves.  Superheroes have different challenges, the opposite of the famous Seinfeld “shrinkage” issue.  When you’re wearing skin-tight underwear and little else, there’s nowhere to hide, but comics have solved this potentially embarrassing situation by under-sexualizing the men.  Like Ken dolls, male superheroes don’t seem to possess genitalia (or, at least, not functioning genitalia).

And so while debates can rage about which superheroine has the best figure or the largest breasts, we will never be able to discuss which superhero has the biggest muscle in the DC Universe.

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