Why I Hate Harbinger’s Faith (OP-ED)
I Hate Faith. I never understood why I hated the character of Faith until today. I had grown up reading mostly Marvel comics, and one of my favorites, Iron Man, was being illustrated at the time by the incomparable Bob Layton. When I saw that Mr. Layton was working for a new company called Valiant, I immediately jumped aboard. I quickly fell in love with X-O Manowar, who is basically a barbarian in a Iron Man suit, and the Eternal Warrior, whose name pretty much explains it all. Valiant’s flagship title at the time was a book called Harbinger, which featured a team of psychic powered teenagers. I read a few issues here and there (including the incredible 25th issue), but something about the book and the team never stuck with me.
One of the main characters of Harbinger and the Valiant Universe is a young woman named Faith. Faith possesses the ability to fly, is more optimistic than a self-help coach on ecstasy, and, unlike most superheroes, Faith is overweight.
Now, to say Faith is overweight is to also say that most superheroes are not only portrayed as unrealistically fit, but also depicted in positions that would strain even the most adept yoga master. Faith is illustrated as being a size that most human beings on the planet would encounter on a day to day basis, unlike the steroid-influenced bodybuilding archetype that most comic book heroes follow.
But I didn’t like Faith. It wasn’t her optimism, as most people who know me say that I waver between insane levels of hope and the belief that humanity is a cancer on the planet. It wasn’t her team, as I loved the character of Peter Stancheck, the leader of Harbinger and a rebel loner type who didn’t care about the rest of the world besides his friends. No, the truth of the matter is that I didn’t like Faith because I saw far more of myself in her then I cared to admit at the time.
As a young child, I was rail-thin, I smiled all the time and I loved anything that was geek related. During those days, being a geek wasn’t something that people thought of as cool and the general knowledge of superheroes was limited to the Superman and Batman films. So, as I grew into a teenager, I found myself spending more time alone or with friends who would give the kids from Stranger Things a run for their money.
Not only that, but afternoons of reading comics and playing video games while eating Blue Bell ice cream and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches had taken their toll. I would have resembled Faith more than Peter if I was to drawn into a comic book. And this was in addition to being a black kid with a terrible high top fade.
More recently, Valiant has re-emerged as a pre-eminent comic book company and my love for the characters led me to pick up a few of their books once again. For the most part, I avoided Harbinger, even though in the few issues I did read I liked Faith’s progression much more than Peter’s. I also started to see how much of a jackass Pete was to his friends and I started to appreciate Faith and Torque in particular.
When the recent Faith miniseries was met with acclaim and love from fans and critics alike, I still didn’t pick up a single issue. But last week I finally picked up Faith’s first ongoing comic, written by Jody Houser with art by Pere Perez & Marguerite Sauvage.
It was like a had a revelation from the Ghosts of Christmas past. While I like to think I’ve grown out of my awkward teens, I had a flashback to my pre-teenage self standing in front of a comics rack looking at a bunch of covers of comics filled with people who looked nothing like me physically. Growing up my favorite comic was X-Men and while I loved them all, the first character who I could even see an inkling of myself in physically was Bishop. Except I thought Bishop was super wack as a character and I didn’t relate to him or think he was interesting in any way. Nowadays you can find comics featuring all kinds of characters on the shelves, but I still was amazed to be looking at a cover that featured a larger woman who was not only flying, but smiling. In addition, after reading the issue, I was blown away at how confident Faith is portrayed as being. Not only as a superhero but also in her day to day life, especially in her relationship with Archer, another Valiant hero whom I have always loved. Faith is probably better at handling relationships than I was at that age or at any age, to be honest.
As Jamie Righetti said about the new Ghostbusters film and Melissa Mcarthy’s character in particular, Faith’s weight isn’t an issue and she isn’t portrayed as being unsure of herself or, even worse, as the butt of pointless fat jokes. Reading this book gave me hope for kids reading these issues and finding inspiration in the pages, but it also inspired and reminded me that we are living in a Golden Age of comic books once again. Both mainstream titles such as Vision and independents like East Of West are constantly pushing the envelope of what a comic book can and will be.
So while it wasn’t until today that I realized why I hated Faith, it also wasn’t until today that I realized why I love her. It’s not just because of her character but of what she represents: the continued push for more diversity and inclusion in the comics industry, both behind the scenes and in fandom itself. Supporting books like Faith as well as The Wicked & Divine, Ultimates, Snotgirl and other books from Valiant such as Divinity, Quantum & Woody, and, one of my favorites, Imperium, is the clearest way to let the industry know that we want more books like them on the stands. This will lead to more diverse projects being adapted into television and movies and the day we can all peep a Faith film will be good day for us all.