Not much difference

I think out of all the characters, the easiest to redesign without changing the presentation much should be Black Canary. In the animations, it becomes evident that character designers would swap fishnets for opaque tights that it’s not a big loss anyways. What if she has several pairs of tights to wear in her closet that aren’t always fishnets that it makes sense this way?

It seems some people figured this out with Wonder Woman that if she can’t wear shorts, it would be a short skirt instead. (Strange as it sounds, they came to that conclusion.) It’s always possible to do alter the appearance much without significant changes. In the case with animation, it’s done for simplicity but it’s always doable.

Though that would be realising it’s not that big of a change.

She’s the nerd

I always seemed to get the impression that Cassandra Sandsmark could’ve and should’ve been the better choice over Donna Troy when it comes to being relatable. But in the sense that she’s a fellow Wonder Woman fan, one of them. I’m not saying she should get sexualised. But that if she’s intended to be the audience surrogate, they should be okay with her being this nerdy.

Maybe they did at some point. Valiant’s own Faith can give an idea of how it can and should be done. Not that Cassie should get fat but that she can be blonde and nerdy just like Faith. There are other blonde nerdy girls out there in the world that Cassie will not feel out of place at all. The character who ended up being Felicity Smoak should’ve been Cassie Sandsmark all along.

(Whatever constitutes as blond can be subjective but what matters is that if Faith’s any indication, you can be both blond and nerdy.)

It wouldn’t matter if she’s blond or not for as long as Cassie’s a nerd, that should matter more.

More effort in differentiation

Like I said about differentiating otherwise similar looking characters is that there needs more effort put into telling them apart. It would like giving Barry Allen a hooked nose and Oliver Queen a straight nose. At least they won’t be mistaken for each other but to the point where one might inevitably invest a lot more in differentiating them especially when off-duty.

Same thing would happen if Stephanie Brown turns out to be a Goth whilst Cassie Sandsmark’s a geeky girly girl. This can arguably be supported by canonical evidence to some extent really. If Stephanie’s shown to prefer dressing in outfits that obscure herself and when combined with her distrusting her father and disobeying Batman should indicate that she’s low on agreeableness.

Not that Supergirl’s any better but if she’s seldom seen with a mask and sometimes shown trying to live up to Superman as well as complying with her own family in looking after Superman as well as others like Lex Luthor that even when misguided (as well as her learning from her mistakes and doing tasks easily) should indicate greater conscientiousness.

Maybe not always the case but that’s at least what I recall. But the fact that she often wears a Superman costume and is shown to sometimes assist/accompany him as well as standing in for him at one point and learning from her shortcomings should indicate conscientious tendencies. Even when she’s at her worst, she still has to comply.

Much like Superman, she’s also shown to make herself inconspicuous (often wearing a dark wig or turning herself into a brunette) does indicate guarded tendencies even if they tend to be team players in one way or another. I even half expect both of them to be at least moderate in extroversion. But that’s still telling of their tendencies as it’s supported by canon to some extent.

Putting much more thought

I suspect in actually giving characters individual faces (and personalities), that would be putting much more effort and thought than previously done. But one with implications that suggest what the character would end up like, even if you put your personal preferences into it and the like (some authors might also realise this). It’s like when it comes to putting a lot more effort into differentiating Cassie Sandsmark from Stephanie Brown.

Differences between them do exist but if/when most cartoonists don’t bother differentiating either their faces or their fashion sense when off-duty it’s going to be a challenge especially if/when comic books and the like are visual media, you need to put more effort into characterisation (I think others might realise it too). It’s like what would happen if Cassie likes florals and the colour red but Steph likes goth-punk styles and the colours black and purple.

If viewed from a fashion psychology standpoint, their character designs (especially when off-duty and also on-duty) are telling. Steph’s objectively that character who wears a mask and is also shown to be really angry at her own father as well as apparently disobeying Batman. Cassie’s arguably not any better but the fact that she never wore a mask and was initially shown to be an enthusiastic Wonder Woman fan’s telling.

This should have profound implications for character design and the like because it says more about the characters than what’s initially intended or shown early on. If Cassie never bothers putting on a mask when as Wonder Girl, openly emulating Wonder Woman and tends to wear floral prints and bright red when off-duty should indicate an extroverted personality.

Likewise if Steph tends to be masked when in combat and seen in Gothic-punk clothing when off-duty, in addition to wanting to seek others for approval but loses her temper easily and is even sharp-tongued should indicate that she wouldn’t just score high on neuroticism (again not always the case but useful for understanding Goth sensibilities) but also low on agreeableness and conscientiousness especially if she’s shown to be stubborn and impulsive.

Again not always the case but telling in that there needs more effort in differentiating the two, especially when off-duty that necessitates having to delve more into their personalities and trying to extrapolate their preferences and sensibilities from those in addition to some amount of personal preference.

How to differentiate the two DC girls

I suspect if there’s ever a practical way to differentiate otherwise similar looking characters when out of costume, it’s going to be a challenge if one’s used to a template though others do bother to change and deviate. (I swear they may bother to learn more.) Let’s take Cassandra Sandsmark and Stephanie Brown. They are two different characters with the former being quite obviously a nerdy fangirl especially early on.

(Which I find it ironic as Cassie should have an advantage over Donna Troy, being much more accessible by being a Wonder Woman fanatic.)

They might be some attempts to differentiate the two but that would be putting a lot more thought on their personalities, far more than what canonical/official media provide. It’s like what would happen if Cassie likes dressing in florals, pastels and bright reds (that’s even there in canon) but Stephanie tends to err closer to goth-punk clothing and purple (also canon).

Especially when out of costume, this is enough to give an idea of what their actual fashion sensibilities are like. Cassie Sandsmark’s never a masked character and needn’t one at all. Stephanie’s no stranger to wearing masks, one might wonder if she prefers to be guarded from people she doesn’t trust (if she’s stated to have a temper and be mean to criminals, one wonders if she wants to intimidate people).

There’s even something like fashion psychology which analyses and understands how and why people dress the way they do. Especially with regards to the big five personality traits of extraversion/introversion, calmness/neuroticism, agreeableness/disagreeableness and conscientiousness/stubbornness. Keep in mind that this may not always be the case for others.

Whilst tendency to correlate dark clothing with neuroticism only makes sense among Goth circles, among some sports teams and religious communities this should indicate conscientiousness and agreeableness. Ad infinitum, ad nauseum. If applied to Cassie and Steph or even other women, this should enable character designers to delve more into their personalities even if they want to put in their ideas of them.

Like I said, Cassie Sandsmark’s never a masked character to begin with. So she should be easily seen wearing florals, pastels and bright reds whenever out of costume. Steph on the other hand is no stranger to wearing a mask and in her earliest outing as Spoiler, her hair’s invisible. If she’s also shown to be sarcastic and grouchy, even to her own dad, she should also score lower on agreeableness.

The fact that if she’s said to do things against what others like Batman expects her to, then it shouldn’t be a stretch for her to score lower on conscientiousness and agreeableness, albeit somewhat more than Cassie does. This does turn character design on its head, if because it necessitates people to get into the characters themselves.

Especially in what they want to and will to wear.

The wonderful anomaly

I actually come to consider Wonder Woman as much of an anomaly as Sazae-san is. Wonder Woman is anomalous for being both one of the few female-headed comics franchises still in existence, one of the few female-headed comics franchises the public knows very well and one of the few famous and long-lasting female-headed adventure comics. Sazae-san is anomalous for being one of the few non-sexualised female-headed manga with any real public appeal, isn’t linked to a pre-existing famous male counterpart and one that’s also an adult woman at that.

Comes to think of it, that makes sense considering that even non-American comics also suffer from the same problems. Jolyne Kujo, Dorami and Urania are directly tied to their better known/predecing male counterparts (Astro Boy, Jolyne’s father Jotaro Kujo and grandfather Joseph Joestar, and Doraemon). Nearly all anime female characters are often teen-aged and therefore almost always underaged (Jolyne could count but she’s also legal age by the time she appears). Also, many (if not most) female characters are pretty sexualised.

Even one mangaka might admit those problems. This makes Sazae one of the truly exceptional anime female characters in existence. And almost always why comics of whatever locality (American, Asian, African, European) often run into any one or three of the problems I pointed out.

Respectable versus admirable

I actually made a comparison between Supergirl and Spoiler before but I think it makes much more sense to think of it in terms of competence versus warmth. Supergirl may not always be a likable character but because she still has value and is intended to be above-average from the start (same with Saturn Girl and Wonder Woman). This may also explain why it’s so heartbreaking/annoying whenever Supergirl and Wonder Woman screw up at all if because they’re supposed to be better than most females.

And why some fans find Saturn Girl to be too aloof at times. Whilst not always the case either, it makes sense that these women are intended to be powerful or at least above average but to the point of being either intimidating or at least held up to a higher standard. Hence why some people feel upset about Supergirl losing her temper often or Wonder Woman killing people as they’re supposed to do better than that.

As for Spoiler, she’s intended to be warm-incompetent. The practical opposite of Supergirl in that Spoiler screws up almost every time and is treated as a punching bag but also a massive fan favourite to boot. Carol Danvers has been both camps at alternating times. For a long time, Carol was warm-incompetent. She wasn’t just cranky but also constantly abused and drunk in spite of her immense potential.

(I have a feeling like with Spoiler, it seems most writers didn’t take Carol Danvers seriously until recently.)

By the time she got a makever and grew sober, she’s still cranky but became cold-competent in the sense of being not only having greater self-control (at least in terms of abstinence) but also surpassing her predecessors and intimidating certain fans. I also think some of them are content with her being a skimpily-dressed drunkard but thinking she really can’t handle herself and seems less intimidating this way.

Modest, sober Carol’s another matter even if she wasn’t necessarily/exactly admirable before. As in if she’s capable of both abstaining a lot from substance abuse, dressing properly and actually improving big time it’s intimidating to some people. Same thing would happen should Stephanie not only become a dedicated working mother but also create her own gym equipment from scratch and be physically stronger than Tim is.

It’s not that women (or any other marginalised demographic) can’t be both warm and competent but they’re rarely if ever regarded as such (I actually think men in general and cishet white men are much likelier to be regarded as warm-competent). Sort of makes sense how fans regard these characters as, in addition to the writers coming to depict them as too.