Fabulous Fat Comic Book Hero

I was being interviewed for a podcast yesterday, talking about being a fat athlete, and the host asked me to define fat as it applies to me.  I said “I’m fat. I’m not ‘I ate big burrito for lunch’ fat, or ‘Hollywood’ fat. I’m 5’4 and 300 pounds, I’m everybody’s definition of fat.”

That was in my head when I read a piece by Amy Diegelman for panels.net about fat comic book hero Faith “Zephyr” Herbert.

Faith is fat. Not the average, or just slightly bigger than, size usually called “fat” in media. Not the curvy best friend or the athletically stout team member. This is a fat beyond that, a fat that means someone has to shop in special stores and can’t ride roller coasters and spends a lot of time trying to convince their doctors they really aren’t interested in weight loss surgery.

Fat like me.
Fat like Faith.

Positive representation of people who are fat by any definition is thin on the ground (see what I did there?) But positive representation of people who are fat like me, like Amy, like Faith is almost non-existent, what with the mythical threat of promoting obesity and the baseless hand-wringing about healthy role-models.

Of course there’s no shortage of that in the reactions, as the usual suspects lose their shit in comment sections all over the web, somehow wanting us to believe that a single example of a fat person as happy, successful and not miserable and self-loathing will start a rash of people desperately attempting to become fat so that maybe, just maybe, they can be the second. Because what would happen to our sizeist culture, and its diet-and-beauty-industry-fueled obsession with becoming thin, if our media was actually representative of the diversity of body sizes that exist? Everybody freak out!

Whatever, let them lose it in the comments section, we’ve got the whole comic book!

I love that Faith gives us a comic book hero who is fat, and I love how visual it is. As Amy talked about in her piece, because of the comic book format Faith’s size cannot be denied, or imagined away, as it might be in other written formats.  I love it because it gives fat people a hero who looks like us.  I love it because it gives other people a hero who looks like us. Certainly there will be conversations to have about everything from her wardrobe to her plot lines, but for now I’ll take a moment to bask in the awesomeness that is a fabulous fat comic book hero.

Speaking of podcasts, I recently had the opportunity to be a guest on the fabulous Summer Innanen’s Fearless Rebelle Radio and it was a total blast.  You can check it out here!

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12 thoughts on “Fabulous Fat Comic Book Hero

  1. When “Drop Dead Diva” was first announced as a new series, I was skeptical at best. I figured it was going to be one fat joke or stereotype after another. My wife started watching it on streaming a year or two ago, and we were both pleasantly surprised. Like this comic, it portrayed a fat character as successful, attractive, confident, happy, and a myriad other traits that the popular mindset excludes from fat people (gasp! even SEXY).

    It’s refreshing when we can be surprised like this.

    1. I was crushed when it got canceled after 5 seasons. You don’t even know who she ends up with or if Greyson finds out who she is.

      1. Huh. IIRC (I didn’t see every episode, as my wife was binge-watching it on streaming, often when I was at work) I thought it was resolved on both of those issues. I’ll have to ask my better half when I get home.

        1. Just checked IMDB. It went about half to two-thirds through the sixth season, and some of that was revealed in that season. They still left a few things hanging, as I recall, but the Jane-Greyson relationship does get addressed.

  2. I keep meaning to check this comic out!

    But on the subject of fat representation in comics, I’m pretty much obligated to ask if you’ve checked out IDW’s Jem and the Holograms reboot. It’s a modernized version of the old ’80s cartoon (like, actually, not just related in name only like the movie was). It really faithful to the feel and message of the cartoon, it’s had the original creator’s thumb’s up, and it’s just really overall fun.

    On top of that, there is SO MUCH body diversity among the main characters (both the Holograms AND the Misfits), it genuinely makes me cry. Stormer’s the one who really gets to me, but Aja, Shana, and Roxy all sport varying degrees of thicker thighs.

    And not only that, they’ve created more racial diversity; introduced a new trans character; and focus quite a lot on Kimber’s enormous crush on and romance with Stormer.

    There’s a moment in one issue I will never forget that brought literal tears to my eyes: Kimber’s meeting Stormer for a date. Kimber got there a little early and is standing around waiting and she turns and sees Stormer just as she walks in. She sees Stormer, this fat young woman with a double chin and flabby arms and rolls and the kind of calves that make it impossible to buy tall boots, and she gasps and there are literal stars in her eyes. And they get to kiss! A lot! On-panel!

    You know, the movie was an abject disaster, but the comics are the kind of representation a lot of people have been BEGGING for from comic publishers for decades.

  3. Oh!!!! I didn’t know about Faith! Thank you for everything you post but especially thank you for this! Yay!

  4. I like the description, too – a superhero used to classic superheroing a la thwarting bank robberies discovers and must stop a vast alien conspiriacy. That sounds like an intriguing balance to strike between “normal guy in costume” and “superpower lottery winner.”

  5. Thank you for sharing this! And thank you to Poppy for mentioning the Jem and the Holograms reboot. I’m always on the look-out for comics with more size diversity. Recently, I’ve been reading Gosu (you can read it online at http://kissmanga.com/Manga/Gosu-The-Master/ or at http://www.webtoons.com/en/action/gosu/list?title_no=1099), which is a Korean comic about a chubby martial-arts master, and also has strong female characters (although the lead character is male). It’s good to know about some American comics with larger heroes.

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