We here at Panels are taking some much needed time off; in the meantime, we’re revisiting some favorite old posts from the last 6 months! We’ll see you back on July 11 with all new posts for your enjoyment.
This post originally ran on May 3, 2016.
Every good superhero needs faith. Every good superhero publisher needs Faith—or, at least, someone like her.
Valiant Entertainment made waves several months back by announcing a miniseries starring longtime Valiant superhero Faith Herbert, a.k.a. Zephyr. Faith, for those unfamiliar, is a “psiot” whose powers include flight and psionic shield creation. She’s known for buoyant personality, geeky interests, and unique body type: she’s fat.
Valiant’s superhero stable has been around for a few decades, but their characters have yet to reach the notoriety heights DC or Marvel’s crop of heroes. If public reaction and early sales mean anything, Faith may be poised to break that barrier.
If you judge a book by its cover (a valid purchasing tactic), Faith stands out from all other heroes visually because she’s fat. She’s not thin like most heroes are (they don’t all need to be). She’s not coerced into a sexual gaze, not particularly the reigning and narrow standards of beauty female heroes are so often trapped in.
Faith is fat. And happy, based on almost all of her miniseries’ covers. And relatable, to those new to Valiant who went out and bought her four-issue miniseries. According to Comichron, Faith #1 sold over 22,000 in initial physical copies to the direct market, twice that of Valiant’s next highest-selling series. That same issue would go onto get four additional printings. In February, Faith #2 still reigned as the publisher’s highest-selling at 12,266. Into the next month, Faith only dropped to 12,114—a measly 1% drop. None of this takes into account digital sales or trade pre-orders, markets pre-disposed to favor lead characters like Faith even more than the direct market is.
As a result of the character’s incredible success, Faith is now getting an ongoing series starting in July. A little bit of body diversity has drawn in thousands of readers where there weren’t any before; now it’s about time that other superhero publishers consider a some body positivity to be, well, a positive. Here are seven superpowered characters who could do with a little extra.
Pamela Isley’s most famous (and offer better) designs often evoke a retro, pin-up inspiration. Those same glamorous styles of design are also ones that have historically been more accommodating to women of curvier body sizes.
I’d say it’s about time we model Ivy after model Tess Holliday.
According to my haphazard research, there is no known limit to Plastic Man’s body-stretching powers. First: what a Mary Sue. Second: even so, if Plastic Man were naturally fat, he would have even more raw body material to work with to help save the world.
Young children had it right the entire time: infinity + 1 is greater than just regular, skinny infinity.
Recent iterations of Mystique have portrayed the shapeshifter’s abilities as ones that fluctuate mass and shape on whim. There are no heights, weights, hair colors, and other physical characteristics that are off-limits to Ms. Darkhölme.
Now imagine the body positive message Mystique could convey if she simply just chose a default form that’s simply more round. And sure, she’s a villain, but that hasn’t stopped The Little Mermaid‘s Ursula from becoming a positive fat (and queer) icon for many.
Good ‘ole Piotr Rasputin is already a large, broad-shouldered human citadel, so why not just fortify him further? His mutation is what’s responsible for his super-strength, stamina, and durability; added girth would only bolster that more.
Let’s build a steel fortress out of a brick house, y’all.
If I’ve learned anything from reading comments about superhero comics, it’s that straight men love championing Starfire as a sexually liberated icon.
Since empowerment is so embedded in this alien princess’s being, I see no reason why she can’t also be an empowering symbol for body diversity too. And, just like many modern fat athletes, Starfire is strong, nimble, and resolute. She’d be a natural fit.
Follow me here: Amanda Waller should be one of the most intimidating forces in all of superhero comics. She’s not the type to care about conforming to patriarchal standards of beauty. Even better, we can give her an nickname the ties into her imposing size and her name: the Wall.
And Everyone Else
Honestly, almost every Big Two character could be a candidate for a more body-diverse character design. There are fat Olympian athletes. There are curvy award-winning dancers and choreographers (check out The Royal Family and Tricia Miranda’s dance videos for my faves). People with body types beyond those of Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Edition models have been doing heroic and/or physically demanding feats for centuries. It’s time for comics to recognize heroes of all shapes and sizes.