Anyone who's ever read a comic book or seen a movie inspired by one is all too familiar with the way super-women are usually portrayed: skin-tight outfits overflowing with heaving breasts (super practical for fighting crime and flying around, right?), coupled with impossibly narrow waists. It's a body type that exists in a fantasy world, or the male gaze.
Now, meet Faith -- the plus-size superheroine turning these restrictive ~body norms~ on their head.
Of course, Faith is so much more than her body: She's smart, gregarious and an unapologetic nerd — the essential components for true badassery. Faith was first featured in Valiant's "Harbinger" series, but is getting her own spotlight in an upcoming miniseries set to debut in January 2016. MTV News spoke to Jody Houser, who wrote the miniseries, about why this character is restoring our faith in female comic book heroes.
MTV News: How would you describe the character of Faith?
Jody Houser: Faith is basically the life-long geek. She's a comic book fan, sci-fi fan, fantasy fan who ends up getting superpowers and actually gets to be a superhero like the ones she's read about and watched her whole life. So she's just very, very happy. I mean, she's living her dream that so many fans of this medium have had since they were kids.
MTV: How do you think Faith defies the stereotypes of female comic book characters?
JH: The thing that obviously stands out to a lot of people is her body type. She's a plus-size character, which is very rare in comics ... Faith really stands out as a superhero who is plus-size and beyond that, she's not someone that's ashamed of her size. She's perfectly comfortable with her body. It's never even really been brought up as an issue in the comics so far, and I'm planning on sort of continuing that trend of her just being very confident in herself and happy with who she is.
MTV: In the comics, her body type is never presented as being an issue.
JH: She was a completely valuable member of the superhero team she was part of in Harbinger's Renegades and she was invited to join Unity, which is the preeminent superhero team in the Valiant Universe, so clearly, no one had an issue with her weight or her body shape.
MTV: What personally excites you about this character?
JH: Well, Faith is fun because she's a positive character, but she's not naive. She's someone that's chosen to have an optimistic view of the world and part of that is the fact that she believes she can really help people and make the world a better place.
These days, people are looking for more fun and positive comics, so it's fun to add to that trend, and beyond that, the things that Faith is a fan of are pretty much the same things that I'm a fan of. So getting to drop a lot of references to TV shows and comics and books I love is a lot of fun.
MTV: Which ones in particular?
JH: There's a reference in the first issue to "The Fifth Element" that goes on for a bit, and that's always been a movie that I loved. And there's some nods in the art, and I don't want to spoil anything, but you'll definitely see some familiar looking characters and symbols and stuff to the extent that no one's getting sued.
MTV: Avoiding getting sued is always a good goal to have in mind. In most things.
JH: Yes, homage without violating trademarks.
MTV: How is Faith a role model for sex-positive relationships?
JH: That's something that was interesting with her in "Harbinger," because her boyfriend that she met on that team, Torque -- for both of them it was their first time being in a sexual relationship. And it was sort of portrayed as being a natural progression of their friendship and relationship, and then the fact that they were both virgins before and then they were both friends who ended up having a relationship -- that was all played as being completely normal.
There was never anything judgmental about it. And the reasons they broke up was in part because they weren't having sex anymore. That came up in the storyline, and Faith was the one that brought that up -- it wasn't the boyfriend, it was the girlfriend who was having issues with the fact that they weren't being intimate. So I think it was sort of just portrayed as a very realistic relationship.
MTV: What do you think the effect of this miniseries could have on young readers, particularly female ones?
JH: It's not even just younger readers -- I've heard from older, female fans of comics who have never had a superhero who looks like them before, and just a number of people who've told me that it's moving. And I'm glad I can be part of that for them, but it's also sad that someone waits to be in their 20s, 30s or 40s [to] have a hero they can relate to on that level.
So I think that for younger readers who are getting into comics now, who'll be able to see someone who looks like them from the onset, will make them feel more welcome in the medium and they'll check out other Valiant books, they'll become regulars at their local comic shop, and hopefully, it will just make them feel like this is a medium they can be a part of -- and they don't have to feel excluded.
MTV: Do you think today's audience demands more from comic book characters?
JH: I think they do, and I think that there's just so many entertainment options these days that people are very selective about where they spend their time and their money ... TV shows are very much in a golden age now, because there are so many different opportunities now for shows to be watched, and I think comics are going through a very similar golden age right now where there are so many independent books and so many of the publishers with the shared universes are really stepping up their game of quality and diversity in their lines.
People want there to be books for everyone, so I think this is very much a part of that movement that readers are demanding.