So, I designed the look of Uptown Girl a long time ago, and like 99% of comic book and cartoon characters, she rarely wears something different. Each morning she puts on her star shirt, her plaid skirt and boots.
A lot of people over the years have asked about her clothes. The..ah, creepy guys who really want to talk about her clothes I ignore, but there are reasons I designed her look the way I did.
First off, the shirt. When I first settled on her look, it was a very spontaneous thing. I do a little more design work for a character these days and tend to put a little more thought into a look now. But back then I finished off her look with a simple star on her shirt. The characters are simple in design, and I couldn’t really make a complex design work on her. The fewer lines the better. I felt she needed something, so I scribbled a star on her. She needed an emblem, I thought, like Superman. Looking back, I think it was the best part of her design. In fact, even the color of the star meant something. I mentioned last week I was working on a children’s book about a couch at the time. The color of the couch is the same color as the star. It was an inside reference to my other project.
Her skirt and boots are also nods to a comic that was a huge influence on me, ‘Optic Nerve’ by Adrian Tomine. When I created Uptown Girl I was working at a comic book store and we had a poster for Tomine’s comic that I liked a lot. I liked the look of the skirt and boots, so Uptown Girl borrowed the look of the girl on the poster. Her skirt is not the Catholic schoolgirl uniform skirt that some people (like those creepy guys) think it is. Nope, it’s a punk rock skirt. In my mind, Uptown Girl was working a music critic covering the underground punk scene in Minneapolis. A scene that I know nothing about. As for the boots, Uptown Girl’s heels are a lot higher than the character on the poster. As I drew the comic, I was putting Uptown Girl in a lot more dangerous adventures that covering the punk rock scene, and I knew that her heels were not very practical, but I was used to her look and still haven’t changed it.
But for the new project I am putting more thought into the characters look and design. Meet Alie.
Alie is a character for an upcoming project between Brian Bastian and myself. Without giving too much away, Alie’s design is inspired by Samus Aran from the Metroid video game. Samus has an outfit called the Zero Suit. I like the simple design and wanted to do something like that.
When I think of the stories Alie will be a part of, I realized that heels just won’t work. I’ve never run across rooftops in stilletos and can’t imagine how painful and difficult that would. So, her look has been changed. I am about 50 pages into the book that Brian and I are working on, and I don’t think there’s any pictures of her footwear, so I can avoid some inconsistencies there. Trust me, I get emails when I do make a mistake like that. At least someone is reading my books, I guess.
To be honest, I am kind of surprised that I decided to change it. Sure, I know someone wearing heels on an adventure isn’t safe or practical, but I always viewed my comics as fiction and fantasy. But recently I started to realize that I am a part of the problem. Almost every single female comic character wears heels. Almost every single female comic character was created by a male. As a father of a six year old girl who loves comics and loves drawing with me, I started to notice a lot of things that I wasn’t paying attention to or hadn’t noticed before. I realize changing footwear isn’t changing the world, but for me, a character changing shoes also means that I am changing as well. Maybe it’s not too late for Uptown Girl to change her shoes, either.