In discussions on this topic, one counter point that is often made is that female superheroes don't need big muscles because their strength is supernatural. That may be the case, but then why does Superman have big muscles?
The scars, of course, wouldn't be there if she had Superman-like invulnerability, but whenever Batman is seen with his shirt off in the comics, he's shown as being completely covered in scars, but I've never seen Catwoman (for example) depicted that way, even though she has a similar history of injuries.
Line art is ink. Color and text is digital (vector).
PS I'm happy to debate the issues raised by this piece, but childish name-calling will get you blocked.
PPS It's been pointed out that my "Chest like a stripper" vs. "Chest like an athlete" comments are a false dichotomy, i.e. some athletes have large breasts and some strippers have small breasts, as well as being disrespectful to strippers. If I were to redo it, I'd replace those comments with something like "Magical anti-gravity breasts" vs. "Breasts that obey the laws of physics."
Many of whom can regenerate, such X-23 and She-Hulk, the latter of which, like The Hulk, can survive the vacuum of space.
"That may be the case, but then why does Superman have big muscles?"
While I appreciate the question, it's frustrating because, to me, it's basic evolutionary biology and gender psychology. If you really want an answer, it's two paragraphs long but worth it. Or don't. It's all the same to me.
Why the big muscles? Because male power fantasies and female power fantasies are not the same. Women, who read super hero comics, want to see a face that can launch a thousand ships, because, more with women than men, sexual power is power period. A man, no matter how handsome, will never convince women to build and launch a thousand ships to save him, because male beauty is fundamentally different, because male beauty is predicated classically on a man's ability to serve women and children. In general terms, men use power to get sex, women use sex to get power, just as men use love to get sex, and women use sex to get love. Men use knowledge to get money (i.e. resources); money is power; power attracts women, because power means security for a woman and, classically,, her offspring. Women use sex appeal to garner male attention, using K-selection to weed out the men who can't be both sexual and intimate as well as resourceful; men use intimacy to ensure a monogamous relationship and, thus, sex. That's what those two truisms I mentioned, generally speaking, mean.
What does this have to do with anything? Superman is emblematic of the classically ideal Western man: tall, square-jawed, powerfully built, gallant, courageous, disciplined, resourceful and responsible (arguably to a fault). Male beauty classically signifies a man's capacity to protect, provide and comfort a woman-- hence the muscularity and hair implying high levels of testosterone and experience, married with neotonous features, like big eyes which can emote better ---whereas female beauty more often signifies a woman's youth, fertility, and athleticism her good genes), which also results in a mixture of adult and neotonous features, such as bigger eyes, rounder faces, smaller chins, a significantly less pronounced brow, bigger lips (your lips shrink with age) coupled with long athletic legs, large breasts and baby-bearing hips. That naturally powerful image of femininity is why female superheroes tend to look athletic than bulky, that and it's actually much harder for women to build and define muscle because their bodies store fat more than men. We have higher testosterone, which burns fat and builds muscle. Our bones are also denser and our skeletons are broader, so we can stack muscle better; and, when you can develop muscle better, as a crime fighter, why wouldn't you?
Much of what you're saying goes to traditional western beauty standards and gender roles, which is a big part of what I'm talking about. It certainly makes sense from a marketing standpoint for characters to conform to beauty standards and fulfill the fantasies of their presumed readership, but my point is that sometimes that doesn't make sense if you're going for a more realistic approach. Plus I have issues with traditional gender roles and beauty standards in general.
I'm not saying that female superheroes should have muscles just as big as their male counterparts. I know male and female bodies are different. My point is that male heroes tend to look like peak-performing male athletes and/or male body builders, but female heroes rarely look like peak-performing female athletes and/or female body builders.
I'm going to just say "super heroes", and leave it at that.
"Plus I have issues with traditional gender roles and beauty standards in general."
I can't speak for what you like, but I know what I, and the vast majority of comic book readers like: we like our fantasies to be fantastical. Steve Rogers does drugs and becomes a greek statue; Peter Parker gets bit by a spider; they're different sizes and builds but they're both athletic: and we like them that way, so, are you trying to convince us we're wrong or just enunciating your personal tastes?
"but female heroes rarely look like peak-performing female athletes and/or female body builders."
I respectfully question your bonafides on what constitutes a female athlete or body builder's physique; while also pointing out that a body builder is just a model. Their muscles aren't for practical application, and many of them actually have to do things, like water fast before competition, to have that extreme level of definition: so nobody actually "looks" like that. It requires absurd measures to achieve that look, and only for the sake of occasional display www.youtube.com/watch?v=Es2Ro1…. Lastly, again, it depends on the heroine-- Shanna, Red Sonja, Wonder Woman, Big Burda, She-Hulk, and Red She-Hulk are all pretty jacked, they're just lean ---again, female physiques just don't look the same as male ones, we don't stack the same --- and it also depends on the person drawing them. Frank Cho, for instance, draws women quite athletically www.pinterest.com/pin/36218799…www.pinterest.com/pin/14932254… www.pinterest.com/pin/42270511…, whereas Joe Campbell is more exaggerated www.pinterest.com/pin/38062460… I would say MOST artists are pretty good about making female heroes look athletic, they just tend to go the "fitness" model route, because it's a power fantasy: women want to look classically feminine while also being able to punch through a wall.
Certainly there are differences between artists, and some draw female heroes more athletic than others. My piece is meant to address trends, not be a blanket statement about every single instance. (This piece is also 8 years old and may not reflect current trends, which were already shifting somewhat when it was drawn)
I’m aware that body builders aren’t well built for athletic performance, that they’re just for show. That’s the case for both genders, and yet male super heroes are often (though not always) drawn (and actors who play them trained to look) more like body builders than athletes, which is why I included that example.
Regarding super heroes and realism, just because one element of a story is fantastical, doesn’t mean realism has no place. There’s a place for all levels of realism and fantasy, as well as room for different kinds of fantasy, everything from The Dark Knight to Thor Ragnarok and beyond. I’m not saying every story needs to be realistic in this way, just pointing out that they can be, and hopefully sparking some thought as to why we tend to choose to eschew realism in this specific way.
Chun-Li has always had legs that looked like they could kick you into next week, that's for sure!
I does depend a lot on the sport. Some years ago, there was a great photo set of female athletes from different sports lined up together. The diversity of body types was incredible. One of the other conversations sparked by this cartoon sparked an idea that I never followed up on, of a superhero team who's body types matched their powers, a super strong character built like a power lifter, a super agile character built like a gymnast, etc.