Taking a leap of Faith with a plus-size superhero

Blonde, beautiful, brave, and powerful.

And it’s not Superman’s cousin Kara Zor-El this time.

She soars in the sky and fights the bad guy: her name is Zephyr and her secret identity is Faith Herbert. She’s the star of Valiant Entertainment Inc.’s latest solo series.

Off the bat, Faith is not really someone you hear about in those comic book conversations, considering Marvel Comics and DC Comics tend to outshine those other companies.

Formerly working for Marvel Comics, Jim Shooter and Bob Layton left to create Valiant in 1989. The company sold over 81 million issues and introduced over two thousand characters since. This series will only be four issues.

Faith is a Psiot – (Valiant’s version of a mutant, like those seen in the X-Men) – who loves comic books as much as she loves protecting the innocent. She flies and creates companion fields, a power equivalent to levitation and force fields.

In the first comic of her solo series, the reader meets Faith as she’s getting ready for her day job. All superheroes maintain a secret identity, a second persona that allows them to blend in with their surroundings. When she’s not fighting criminals, she’s working a journalist (it’s the “classic secret identity” that most superheroes like Superman have).

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A screenshot from Faith #1. Art by Francis Portela. Written by Jody Houser.
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A screenshot from Faith #1. Art by Francis Portela. Written by Jody Houser.

When her coworkers start talking about Zephyr making Twitter headlines in Los Angeles, she goes through the motions of a regular, clueless citizen. It’s like how all of the Spider-Man films have a scene where Peter Parker’s talking about Spider-Man, and he gets really defensive if someone insults the resident web-slinger to the point of appearing overly aggressive.

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A screenshot from Faith #1. Art by Francis Portela. Written by Jody Houser.

Throughout the comic, you’ll see most of her side commentary is explanations of why she decided to be a hero (not a vigilante, which is different). She often mentions how she doesn’t want to fly into the spotlight; she just wants to help people.

Francis Portela’s and Marguerite Sauvage’s art is beautiful. Jody Houser’s writing allows those who’ve never even read a comic from Valiant to easily understand the story, by using the language of a typical 19 year old.

The main character is what initially drew me: Faith Herbert is the embodiment of optimism and benevolence.

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A screenshot from Faith #1. Art by Francis Portela. Written by Jody Houser.
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A screenshot from Faith #1. Art by Francis Portela. Written by Jody Houser.
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A screenshot from Faith #1. Art by Francis Portela. Written by Jody Houser.

Ms. Houser once said, “She’s a really good balance of being super-positive and optimistic, but not super-naive at the same time.”

But what makes her so special? And why was it such a big deal in the comic world when she got her own series?

Probably the fact that Faith isn’t a size two: she’s a plus-size superhero, and the first of her kind to star in a solo series.

Marvel and DC have heaps of heroines – Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, Supergirl, or Black Widow – that make great role models for young girls to have. They aren’t afraid to stand up against their enemies, and simultaneously keep their femininity in their pockets without shame.

However, they all have the unrealistic figure that society deems to be the perfect body: a big chest/butt with a flat stomach and long legs. One reason for this may be that a large majority of the artists are males (which is another issue on its own). Sometimes girls who strive to be just like their role models may question themselves because they don’t look exactly like their heroes.

My favorite line comes from Faith herself: “You’re spending too much time trying to find the flaws.”

The thing I loved the most about the comic was that Faith’s weight and appearance wasn’t the central topic. The focal point was Faith and her passion for protecting the innocent.

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A screenshot from Faith #1. Art by Marguerite Sauvage. Written by Jody Houser.

I do hope the writers consider a future issue discussing body image; it would be a distasteful decision for that conversation not to pop up in the future and an act of ignorance regarding the fact that it’s a big issue. But I have faith that the writers will know just how to handle it.

Author: Nhi Le

Nhi Le – aka Nikki – joins The Eye for her third and final year as a senior. She enjoys comic books, crime novels, and an excessive use of verbal irony.

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