This Week in WWAC History: Character Design in Games and Comics

Crack Comics 01, digital comics museum

Who are your favorite characters in comics and video games? Would you change something about their design if you could? When you invest your time, money, and emotions into a character, sometimes it’s difficult to understand creators’ choices to change (or not change) a character’s look. In the WWAC archives, there are no shortage of opinions, essays, and lists which discuss character designs and re-designs. Below is sample of a those articles beginning with the much-loved Princess Zelda.

Not Just Your Princess: Zelda’s Character Design, August 21, 2015,

7. Princess_Zelda_(Oracle_of_Ages_and_Oracle_of_Seasons)Since I was a little girl, I’ve always thought Princess Zelda was the coolest thing. But when everyone around me started to play The Legend of Zelda, I thought I was too uncool to play it myself. I learned a little history about her, discovered the badassery of this beautiful Hyrulian lady, and wanted to learn more about her immediately. Fast forward to earlier this year, when I picked up my very first Zelda game thanks to my best friend. She drowned me in so much Legend of Zelda knowledge that I couldn’t breathe, but I didn’t mind. I’ve dived down deep into Hyrule history and I didn’t think about turning back.

Through playing the games and learning more about them, I discovered that the wardrobe for Princess Zelda changes from game to game. Zelda’s timeline in the game might contribute to her choices and a wardrobe that keeps updating and changing. The timelines are slightly complicated, but fairly simple to master once you understand which one is which (it’s still taking me awhile to get them down too).

The Unified Timeline is the first timeline in the The Legend of Zelda. This timeline starts with Skyward Sword,which is the creation of everything and includes The Minish Cap, Four Swords, and Ocarina of Time. The Unified Timeline is when everything is still together before Zelda’s splitting of the timeline in Ocarina of Time, sending Link back in time. The split leads to the Fallen Hero (Downfall) Timeline, which is when Link is defeated by Ganondorf, who becomes the Demon King (Eek…). These games include: A Link to the Past, Oracle of Seasons and Age, Links Awakening, A Link Between Worlds, A Legend of Zelda, and The Adventure of Link. The last two are the Child and Adult Timelines, which take place after the Fallen Hero timeline. The Child Timeline happens directly after Zelda sends Link back to his childhood in Ocarina of Time and then defeats Ganondorf. These games also include: Majoras Mask (my favorite), Twilight Princess, and Four Swords Adventures. The Adult Timeline takes place in the present, and Link is sent back to his original time after Ganondorf is defeated. These games (for now) include: Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass, and Spirit Tracks.

Her choices in these games contribute to the changes in her wardrobe because those choices create these different timelines. Most of the changes are very subtle and you don’t even notice them, but some of them are pretty badass, especially when she starts changing forms and allows herself to have weapons. Zelda is the Princess of Hyrule, but also the baddest chick to ever rule a kingdom. She’s self-sacrificing and kind, with compassion for everyone in her kingdom and court. She wants to make the worlds that she lives in a stable place and keep the Triforce away from Ganondorf cause…he’s a total dick. She is the most important person in the Legend of Zelda series, so here is a look back at Zelda’s character design and how it’s changed over the games’ history. READ MORE

“An Example of Great Side Boob”: The Cover Art of Jenny Frison, July 23, 2015,

Red Sonja 1_cover by Jenny Frison_Dynamite 2013Jenny Frison’s covers first came to my attention when she was selected as the main cover artist for Gail Simone’s run on Red Sonja. Considering the amazing artists handpicked by Simone for the first issue included Fiona Staples, Nicola Scott, and Stephanie Buscema, I wasn’t too keen on Frison for the main covers. Not because I didn’t admire Frison’s art, but because I found it “too pretty.” Frison’s art nouveau-influenced covers did not represent my version of the She-Devil with a Sword. But fortunately, over the course of Simone’s run on Red Sonja, my version has changed. This is due in part to Simone’s cheeky writing and thoughtful take on problematic tropes, but also has a lot to do with Frison’s covers—the very first thing I encounter before opening up yet another stellar issue from Simone and Walter Geovani (main illustrator).

If you take a look at Frison’s Red Sonja covers, the color palette is muted, sometimes water colored in appearance with water stains that possibly indicate blood stains. Outlines are thin. The chainmail bikini is a literal string bikini, one of the flimsiest version of the costume that Red Sonja has worn. Yet, Frison’s covers don’t induce the sort of ickiness that other covers of the famous She-Devil often do. And I kept wondering why.

The Eyes Have It

As women writing about comics, we talk a lot about the male gaze in comic art and storytelling: how female characters are drawn in ridiculous poses and/or costumes to simultaneously emphasize their most physically sexualized features: breasts, ass, gaping mouths. Justifications are as about as flimsy as these character’s spines: she uses her sex appeal to distract her male opponents, she’s an alien from a culture with lax sexual mores, she’s invulnerable so she doesn’t need clothing, and so on. These reasons might be justifiable if they didn’t apply to the majority of female characters, including those whose characterization veers in the opposite direction of super sexy. Not every female character is an Emma Frost.

Red Sonja’s depiction, particularly as a barbarian character, gives off a lot of mixed signals. On covers in particular, she is often in the middle of battle, hacking and slashing her way through her enemies. Her eyes often make direct contact with the viewer. All of these features indicate a directness, a defiance of potential objectification, but this potential is often negated by any and or all of the following aspects: READ MORE

Starfire’s New Costume: A Reflection of Her History and Personality, March 6, 2015,

If you haven’t heard the news about Starfire getting a much needed costume updatenot to mention her own on-going series by powerhouse team Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, of Harley Quinnfame, along with Emanuela Lupacchinothen buckle up because I’m going to break it down for you.

Costume updates are becoming the norm for the Big Two in the past few years, what with the recent influx of reboots and relaunches. Carol Danvers was one of the first to get a notable costume update, shedding her black lightning bolt bathing suit and hip scarf for a colorful and powerful full body suit, as she officially donned the name of Captain Marvel. Other recent costume reboots have included Barbara Gordon’s new Batgirl look under Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher and Jessica Drew’s updated Spider-Woman wear thanks to Kris Anka.

Starfire also received a costume update when she was rebooted with the rest of the DC characters in the New 52 line two years ago.

Starfire, Nu52, DC Comics, Scott Lobdel & Kenneth Rocafort

Starfire, Nu52, DC Comics, Scott Lobdel & Kenneth Rocafort

It was met with less than enthusiasm from fans, especially women. The controversy over her costume inspired a fantasy author Michele Lee to ask her seven-year-old daughterwho was a huge fan of Starfire’s cartoon counterpartwhat she thought of her hero’s new look. Needless to say, Lee’s daughter was baffled and bothered by Starfire’s comic book look. Seems DC is consistently getting told by little ladies.

I wanted to take a look at Starfire’s overall costume history and what it says about her character, including her most recent updated look. Starfire’s original, and longest-running, look appeared in George Perez’s New Teen Titan series in the late 80s. Under the pencils of Perez, this look wasn’t especially provocative and emphasizes Starfire’s free and vibrant personality. With a bright color palette of a purple split bathing suit, pupiless green eyes, and literally fiery red hair; everything about Starfire spoke of passion and brightness. READ  MORE

For more great articles on Character Design, browse our archives. Enjoy!

Melinda Pierce

Melinda Pierce

Contributor for WWAC, mother of 2 mini-geeks, writer, and girl geek. Dreams of having enough time to write Veronica Mars fanfiction. @melindabpierce