Excuse the cheesy title, but this is just a quick (maybe short!) post to celebrate something very exciting: Valiant Comic’s Faith (also known by her superhero alias Zephyr of the Harbingers) has broken a record in her 4-part miniseries for being the fastest comic to go to a third printing in comic history.
For those, who don’t know, this is Faith:
[Faith #1, Valiant Comics, Writing: Jody Houser, Lineart: Francis Portela, Colors: Andrew Dalhouse, Letters: Dave Sharpe]
As you can see, she is a big girl. Plus-sized, fluffy, more to love, whatever. The point is, Faith is fat, and I do not in the least mean that as an insult.
Faith Herbert is the San Franciso’s best superhero, Zephyr, as well as a lover of cats, a reporter, a sweetheart, and a dedicated pursuer of justice. She’s brimming with optimism and ready to help the world. She does all these things in addition to being fat, with no apology, no rude jokes, no reason to be any less of a hero than anyone else.
In fact, Faith’s story is not at all about being a big girl, not about her journey to acceptance or–even more damaging to the image of readers–her journey to weight loss and then acceptance.
To quote Comicosity, Faith’s story is actually about:
- Being young and dealing with the unexpected
- Dealing with loss
- Finding a guy who seems like the perfect dream, but then isn’t willing to compromise for fame
- Loving comics and science fiction
- Wanting to help others and save the people who can be saved, as the hero Zephyr
Her faith in herself is not “can I do this if I’m not pretty enough/skinny enough/conventional” but, you know, normal superhero worries.
The way Faith #1 has been flying off the shelves quick enough to get a third reprinting is proof enough that people are loving this diversity, this true body positivity in a character. The reviews are positive and readers are connecting to Faith in a way that perhaps hasn’t been seen in comics before.
As Panels’ Amy Diegelman puts it:
“Fat characters are fairly rare, but when they do appear (and aren’t evil or a punchline) they’ve usually had the edges smoothed out – no fat rolls, no double chin, no form-fitting clothes. Faith doesn’t follow those rules.
When I turned a page to find Faith on the couch, in shorts, eating, I was blown away. This was a picture of me. A real fat girl living a real, normal life. But “Good” fat women don’t wear shorts where people can see them, and they are very careful about what they eat in front of others. The rules make these activities a secret. Clothing made for fat women (all of it, until relatively recently) is big, loose, billowy – curtains meant to help everyone forget there is a body underneath. Reminding people about fat bodies is against the rules.”
Even typically “body positive” characters are often smoothed out. In the real world, photos of models and actresses are frequently retouched–often with offensive results that the woman never consented to.
In 2010, model and anorexia survivor Crystal Renn was shocked to find that an ad campaign she had taken on–specifically listed as a plus-sized model–had retouched her photos to make her much skinnier.
There have even been reports of models wearing padding to look bigger for plus-sized shoots–without actually being that size and only being plus-sized where it was deemed “acceptable” (the breasts, thighs…basically, anywhere a curve is deemed feminine and attractive). These models are “plus-sized” without the cellulite, the double chin, the dimples and arm fat that so many real women struggle with–and deserve to not feel ashamed of.
Other issues for the representation of actual not-size-0 women include the fact that “plus-sized” clothes are often shown on much smaller, not-actually-plus-sized women. This is telling women that they will never look as good in those clothes. In short, they’re going to be too fat for even the clothes made for them, because who could look like a model pretending to be 8 sizes bigger than she really is?
So why do we care about one superhero? Because she’s the first one many girls have gotten as a realistic role model. She doesn’t hate herself, she doesn’t apologize. She has friends, boyfriends, a career and important alter-ego. She isn’t a joke or a walking weight loss commercial.
I hope that the mini-series’ success will inspire more change. I hope that Valiant will continue with this heroine, rather than use her as a one-time diversity schtick (which I do not think they will do but still worry about). I hope that other comic creators are inspired to be bold and take this initiative as well.
The industry needs more Faith.