Faith: Hollywood and Vine @ValiantComics #superhero #comicbook

Faith: Volume #1 Hollywood and Vine

Writer: Jody Houser

Artist: Francis Portela

Fantasy Sequence Artist: Marguerite Sauvage

Cover Artist: Jelena Kevic-Djurdjevic

Color Artist: Andrew Dalhouse (occasionally with assistance)

Letterer: Dave Sharpe

Published by Valiant, 2016

faith-cover

*procured at the local library


*This book is part of my 2017 search to find positive representations of fat women in fiction or nonfiction, and that positive representation will not hinge on weight loss and falling in love. Thus, books will either meet or not meet my criteria, which will factor overall into my recommendations. I purposely use the word “fat” because it is not a bad word. Using plump, curvy, plus-sized, fluffy, big-boned, shapely, voluptuous, or any other term suggests that fat is bad and thus needs a euphemism.


You may be wondering why I included all of the key players for the Faith comic book in the credits above. Typically, people don’t. However, there’s something magical about Faith — the work is done almost exclusively by women. Men add the color and the letters, but that’s it. And from what I’ve read, this makes a big difference to the world of Faith Herbert, a fat woman/superhero/writer at a pop culture blog. Faith isn’t new; she’s appeared in other comic books in which she’s ridiculed for her weight or only says ditzy quips. But Faith got a big makeover.

Faith, for the first time in the hands of a female writer and artist, is smart, funny, nerdy, and conscientious. And much like the movie Spy starring Melissa McCarthy, there isn’t one mention of fat in the entire volume. THIS is what I’m searching for in my quest for fat fiction: a woman who happens to be fat but isn’t reduced to her fatness. Her life is full, complicated, wonderful, messy, and awesome, and her size has nothing to do with it.

Thus, the Faith comic book meets all of my criteria for a positive representation of a fat women. But let’s talk about the story and images.

My biggest problem with superhero comic books is that they assume readers know something about the world and characters, which is why I don’t read them. I love other types of comic books and graphic novels — don’t get me wrong — but superhero stories that have taken place for decades are too big to just jump in. Think about it: the first Batman comic came out in 1939 . . . and his story is still going! He’s experienced things and changed and developed, and readers need to know how and why and have lots and lots of context.

faith-flying
Superhero capes get an updated look that I like!

Faith, however, is relatively new. I quickly caught on that later in life she discovered her “psiot powers” (comic book speak for super powers?) and that she used to be on a superhero team called the Renegades and dated one of the guys in the group . Her name is Faith Herbert, but when she works at the pop culture blog, she’s Summer Smith, and when she’s in superhero gear, she’s Zephyr. It’s a bit Superman, except Faith is really normal. She makes Back to the Future and Lord of the Rings references, watches and squees about a sci-fi TV show, and she has a few stuffed animals in her apartment. She face chats with friends and sends text messages. Such details made Faith highly relatable and a joy to read.

Faith still gets a bit of celebrity treatment. When she’s seen flying over the city, news reports it. Her ex, Torque, has a reality TV show. He was part of the Renegades, so people know he dated Zephyr. It’s funny when she’s required to write about his show for work because no one knows Faith’s true identity or her relationship to Torque. I liked the Torque story line because he is clearly a handsome, built guy — but she dumped him because she didn’t want to be on a reality TV show. There’s no weirdness about how a fat girl can’t get love or should be thankful someone so “above” her on a hotness scale gave her a second glance.

torque
Faith asks her ex, Torque, to help her save the world. He looks like a jerk here, but he’s defensive because the Renegades saved the world and one of their teammates died.

The plot was a bit wonky. Teenagers who are just discovering their “psiot powers” are being kidnapped and, we later learn, experimented on. Whenever Faith grabs someone involved and tries to question him, the guy spontaneously combusts. The reason the bad guys are kidnapping teens seemed simplistic and confusing at the same time. I wondered if there was a background story I didn’t know.

The images have the comic book quality that make me laugh, like how mouths never seem to be in a normal shape. But Faith is drawn respectfully, and her look changes depending on the context: nerdy at work, pajama-cutsie at home, prepared for action in her superhero costume. I especially like the cape update. It’s not around her neck, but down by her waist.

faiths-boss
An example of a weird mouth. Perhaps an homage to The Joker?

Then there are scenes that are meant to be Faith’s fantasy. It took me a few times to realize a pink hue indicated “not real,” but just as soon as I caught on, some of the fantasies dropped the pink overlay, and I was left guessing as whether I was in Faith’s head or watching her real life. Sometimes the fantasy scenes are more anime than faith comic book. A separate artist was responsible for the fantasy scenes, so perhaps so better communication was needed.

Faith: Volume 1 Hollywood and Vines is a big step toward making comic books more accessible to a wider audience. In an industry that largely shuts everyone who isn’t a straight white male, Faith tries to kick the door open.

*I want to thank Bina at WOCreads for recommending this book to help me in my question to find positive representations of fat women in fiction and nonfiction.

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16 thoughts on “Faith: Hollywood and Vine @ValiantComics #superhero #comicbook

  1. Yesss so happy you loved Faith and found it a great representation!🙌 😊 I hope this will be a long-running series.
    Oh yeah I was dropped into things and a bit confused too, I hadn’t read the comic about the team and Faith’s backstory. I think they did okay with basic info, I didn’t want to go back and read where she’s a side character. Will definitely be reading more of Faith, my egalley sadly stopped right when the action was taking off.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Based on the article I read, I think she was a side character some time around 1992, so I can see why the writer didn’t want to pretend Faith is totally new character, but there’s not so much back story that I was lost. Mostly, I was surprised because I didn’t know there would BE a previous narrative. Thanks for the rec, Bina!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds like you found a good one! I’m not really a comic book person – never was – but it’s good to see an attempt at least to break away from the conventions of the genre, where most women superheroes look like Barbie after enhancement surgery…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not really a superhero fan, and the plot of this comic book reminded me why. I do, however, love comic books that don’t focus on superheros, like Preacher or Transmetropolitan. Then there are some great novels in graphic form, like Over Easy, The Rabbi’s Cat, Fun Home, and Tangled, all of which tackle some tough topics. When I was Googling pictures for the Faith review, I actually ran into a website devoted to telling fat people how awful they are. He made the argument that Faith was too fat to fly…as if magically levitating has anything to do with weight.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It is a little overwhelming to think about trying to enter the traditional super hero universe on the page; when you hear committed fans talk about the characters in those books, they always seem to know about connections and relationships that I’ve never heard of because I’ve only seen/read a handful of things. This sounds like a really entertaining story. Do you think it would stand up to rereading? It seems like the question of “what’s real” might allow for some enjoyable rereads.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, when I asked “what is real?” what I really meant was “Is this happening in life, or is Faith engaged in a fantasy and we can see her thoughts?” Once I figured it out (the visual cues could have been clearer), I really liked her thoughts. She’s a typical woman with guilt and fear and the desire to get with a sexy person, and I think that’s great. In terms of re-reading, I’m not sure that I would simply because typical superhero plots don’t fully interest me. You have to get a long, long story arc to really see changes in some of these characters. The relationship between many of the X-Men is just ridiculously complicated. That’s part of my problem with so many superhero movies coming out: at first I liked them, but now you have to watch ALL of them. You can just watch Avengers, you have to watch all 3 Ironman movies, 2 Thor movies, 3 Captain America movies, etc.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. So glad you found something that fits your criteria of fat-positivity! I’d heard of this comic but haven’t read it. I’ve juuuust started to read comics/graphic novels at the end of 2015, so I’m still pretty new to the whole thing. My library doesn’t have it, unfortunately. But maybe I’ll try to get it through interlibrary loan. Also, I LOVED the movie Spy! I laughed so hard watching it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It suddenly dawns on you while watching Spy that McCarthy is never called fat, women fill all the roles of the film (intelligence, spy, villains) and that the men actually look pretty silly. It’s role reversal, but also uses masculine tropes, such as Jason Statham’s character thinks he’s the best because he’s done these ridiculously macho (and unbelievable) things, which pokes fun as movies he’s actually been in! I love it! So smart! If you’re getting in to comics and graphic novels, I recommend The Rabbi’s Cat, Lenore (the Cute Little Dead Girl), and Tangles: A Story About Alzheimer’s, My Mother, and Me to get you started. Graphic novels are a GREAT way to get some difficult topics out there. Lenore might not be at the library, but she’s so worth buying. Here’s a picture of her: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/ea/6f/61/ea6f616d176f6dcbf9a768ad94c63155.jpg

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m so intrigued by this one! I never pick up comics or graphic novels (in fact, I’m going to start my first graphic novel later this evening). I’m so glad you found a story that represents a fat woman without her being defined by this fact. I totally agree with you when it comes to superhero comics. I’m always intrigued, but where the heck do you start when there are so many stories that have been going on for decades? Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t read comics or superhero stories, but I’m so glad you found one to fit your criteria! I was thinking that one of the reasons I don’t read comics is because I get tired of looking at all the fake looking superheroes with their perfect bodies. I would even search this one out. I also love the new style of cape – I wonder where I could get one… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a booty cape! Yes, I typically hate superhero stuff for that very reason. The art style has changed dramatically from the 1930s to now. Google Batman comic books 1930s and then the same thing with 2010s. SO different. He looks ‘roided up. I probably won’t keep reading the Faith series because even the plots of superhero books aren’t my thing, but my quest right now is less limited to genres I like and more to fat women.

      Liked by 1 person

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