By RazzaTazz 10 Comments
I think I can say conclusively that I am outnumbered on this website in terms of the male to female ratio (especially in relation to my first blog post), but it is not something new to me. Even walking into comic book stores these days, I still get looks like I must be lost and wandered into the wrong place, or that I must be there looking for a present for a boyfriend. When the clerks wrap their head around the fact that I am there to pick up my subscriptions or just to browse, they seem unsure of how to deal with me (this is a bit of an exaggeration, the guys who run the stores I go to regularly know me by name now.) Regardless I think I can say conclusively that I am in the minority on this website of those who have worn fishnets in their lives. Fishnets themselves have had a strange history, from the sign of scandalous women, to a period in the 1960s when they were more fashionable, to punk, to grunge, and finally to high fashion. They are probably at present the most popular they have ever been and the most accepted. When we think about fishnets in terms of comics, we think of two characters, Black Canary and Zatanna.
Black Canary was definitely the standard bearer for fishnets, as she was around about 10 years before Z was, but fishnets were barely more acceptable in the 1960s than they were in the 1950s. Certainly at the time comics were still dominated by male readers, despite attempts to turn Wonder Woman into a character girls might be interested in. So the fishnets probably represented something of a male fantasy, just like Wonder Woman's bikini armour did. And that's all right because it's the way it was and we wouldn't be where we are today in comics if not for those days. I also don't need to try to convince you that publishers in the past treated women as either femme fatales, bombshells or helpless maidens, because most of us know that was the case. In the late 70s and more so in the 80s, I think the publishers realized they could hit bigger markets, and started looking at both an older and more female audience, but still this period can be seen as one which focused more an adult males than it did on females as a whole, and maybe the best female comic book style role models weren't from this time, with their disco or lingerie inspired costumes. It was in this period ironically that neither Dinah nor Z wore fishnets. Zatanna wore (for me) a much more practical costume, which while it still revealed her legs completely, was at least a bit more functional. Black Canary went the other way, her costume became a sort of Flashdance/Footloose inspired thing, which I am pretty was some sort of inside joke at DC.
In the 90s and 00s the characters went back to their roots. Black Canary's costume was redesigned to actually be something like a costume other than just a corset, hot pants and fishnets (I also challenge anyone who say that Wonder Woman has to eventually change her costume back to think about whether Canary will.) The redesign eventually brought the fishnets back as well. Zatanna's costume returned to basically just being her stage costume. I was never sold on Zatanna's hat, its not stated as such, but it is not magical in nature, just a prop. The run on Justice League of (starting in 2006) maybe never had as high of concentration of fishnets to comic book page, especially when Z joined the team after about two years. Here they were finally reunited since about Justice League of #210 on the original run, and the first time both wore fishnets together.
So who between the modern incarnation of Zatanna and Black Canary wear them better? From a purely fashion perspective I would argue that it is harder for blondes to pull of black fishnets than it is for brunettes, but this is too superficial of an argument. You also might be tempted to immediately say Black Canary, after all its like saying who looks better in the Batsuit - Bruce or Dick? Most would say Bruce as he originated it and made it his, same thing as with Dinah. She was wearing them (though decidedly not as well drawn as in modern day) long before Zatanna ever did. I don't fully agree with this argument though, these are after all accessories, and not the main costume itself. It would be like saying that Wonder Girl's costume is better than Wonder Woman's because she has cooler bracelets. I also could point out as I did in a previous post, that wearing fishnets while fighting crime would mean they get destroyed almost immediately. Regular pantyhose or tights can tear if brushed against, and fishnets have larger notches for things to grab onto and tear. The point here though is not to criticize the heroines' choice of clothes, rather to say who wears them better, but with that in mind you would have to give a bit more respect to Canary, because she is more of an in-your-face type of hero while Zatanna has the option to stick to the back and cast spells (she could also theoretically cast a spell to fix her fishnets after every fight - Dnem stenhsif! ). Zatanna also sometimes wears thigh high boots (which I have never worn so cant really comment on) which provide more protection for the tights below. In terms of pure looks I can't say that either hero actually looks better than the other, the characters are drawn to be extremely attractive, and their costumes only complement this (except for that hat.)
So with this in mind, I would have to say Canary wears them better and is thus a better ambassador for the fishnets. Zatanna has a habit of staying at the back of the DCU, whereas Canary is one of the major secondary characters. Both have been chairman (I can't remember if they called this chairperson or chairwoman when they were in) of the JLA (Canary recently, Zatanna way back when) but Dinah generally has more interactions with other characters and in my opinion was a better leader of the JLA during her tenure. She also interacts with other characters a lot more regularly, in various titles. I think though that it all comes down to my previous point. Dinah wears these in the heat of battle, and unlike Zatanna can't cast a spell to mend a tear. Black Canary takes it - she is a female Jason Bourne in fishnets and hot pants.