Tagged: Faith

Martha Thomases: Obesity and Honesty

Roxane Gay’s new book, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body is a knock-out of a book. It kept me glued to my couch for a long weekend. I finished reading it about ten days ago, and I cannot stop thinking about it.

Does it have anything to do with comics? Well, Gay wrote a mini-series for Marvel. Beyond that, if you want to know more, you’ll have to keep reading.

In addition to being an accomplished author and journalist, Roxane Gay is, in her own words, a morbidly obese woman of color. Hunger is about what happened to her, how she got this way, and what it’s like to live the way she lives. It’s incredibly honest, so much so that I couldn’t look away, even as I squirmed in recognition.

I am not morbidly obese. Sure, I could drop twenty or thirty pounds to look more like the mannequins in the department stores, but I can pass. I am not a woman of color. As a Jew, my people have a history of persecution, but I can pass. Unlike Gay, I was not gang-raped when I was twelve years old. Because I have these privileges, I could sneer at her with my societally-approved advantages, but I can’t. I feel my own version of what she feels, and I went through my own version of what she went through.

Gay started to overeat because she wanted to make herself unattractive to men so she wouldn’t get attacked again. She knew that a woman who is overweight is considered to be ugly – and an ugly woman is invisible. By building a wall around herself, she would be safe.

Her descriptions of her experiences are harrowing. Strangers in the supermarket take away food from her shopping cart. People complain to airlines about having to sit next to her, even if she pays for two seats. Instead of taking her ideas seriously, critics comment on her looks. Everything about her life, good or bad, is dismissed by those who only see her size.

And then there are the people who think they are helping her. The people who tell her that maybe she doesn’t really want dessert. The people who suggest exercise. I can assure you that every woman in Western society who is larger than a Size 0 knows about diet and exercise.

Still, reading about her pain, the Jewish mother in me did want to lean in and offer Gay some advice. She talks about regularly starting (and giving up on) a diet-and-exercise plan, and my first suggestion is to uncouple those two things. Various eating systems have made me feel variously better and worse, but if I didn’t exercise, I would go mad. I don’t do work because I expect it to make me a fashion model or an Olympic athlete but because it keeps me sane. Working up a sweat on a regular basis burns up a lot of my hostility. My resting pulse is 48. I can’t claim I’m never angry or never hating, but it doesn’t burn me up inside.

Except I know that she is a different person than I am, and what works for me as a coping system might not work for her. I’ll try to shut up about that now.

Women obsess about our appearances because society consistently tells us that it is our most important duty. My mother used to beg me to lose weight, starting when I was twelve (5’ 3” and 113 pounds), telling me that “boys don’t like fat girls.” Even now, at 64 years of age, when I know that my life is about more than boys liking me, those thoughts won’t go away.

My mom (and Roxane’s) were only trying to teach their daughters how to get ahead. To succeed, we were told, a woman must be thin and fit and beautiful. That was difficult enough. Today, when society pays at least lip service to the idea of diversity, we are supposed to be not only thin and fit and beautiful but also, if we are not, to pretend that it doesn’t matter (even though it does).

It gets even more difficult at menopause. Not only can we no longer bear children, the only true purpose for the female life, and the reason we must be attractive to men, but biology conspires to make us more fat.

We can’t win.

I would like to be like Faith, the Valiant superhero who is large. She wears a skin-tight white costume that does nothing to conceal her size. She is strong and she can fly and she has an interesting life and, in her current incarnation, spends no time at all thinking about her looks or what she eats or how many calories she burns off.

Sure, she also catches bad guys and saves the world, but that’s not why she’s my hero.

Joe Corallo: Gotta Have Faith

Before I get started, I wanted to say I hope you enjoyed or are continuing to enjoy every Holiday you may have or are celebrating. I had a merry Christmas myself despite some people simply wishing me a “happy holidays!” I don’t know how I got through it either. And since this is my last column of 2016, a preemptive happy new year to you all as well.

Now that we got that out of the way, these last few days or so have been rough for science fiction, comic book, and music fans. Carrie Fisher, who has been enjoying a career renaissance, had suffered a massive heart attack and as of the time I’m writing this is in stable condition, but is still in intensive care. We wish her a full and speedy recovery.

Peter David, one of my favorite comic book writers as well as a seasoned novelist and TV writer who co-created a favorite TV show of mine as a kid, had a fall in his home last week. While we weren’t sure exactly what was causing his health issues, he has since been released from the hospital and just in time to celebrate Christmas with his family. Again we all wish Peter David a full and speedy recovery.

As far as music goes, 2016 has been devastating. David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Paul Kantner, George Martin, Phife Dawg, Merle Haggard, Vanity, Prince, Maurice White, Joey Feek, Dale Griffin, Pete Huttlinger, Sharon Jones, John Berry, Leon Russell, Frank Sinatra Jr., Greg Lake, Alan Thicke, Rick Parfitt and more were joined by George Michael on Christmas day. His passing was not only that of an incredibly talented musician who sold over 100 million records in his lifetime between Wham! and his solo work, but of an unapologetically gay icon.

Both Carrie Fisher and Peter David have a lot of work in comics. Though Carrie Fisher isn’t in comics herself, her likeness as Princess Leia has appeared in hundreds of comic books for nearly four decades. George Michael doesn’t have much of a connection to the world of comics outside of some spoofs in Mad Magazine. That’s soon to change as Valiant Entertainment is planning a variant cover based on the album jacket for George Michael’s hit album Faith for the first issue of their new ongoing comic of the same name. The proceeds will go to benefit the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, an important protector of first amendment rights for comics and their creators. I’m encouraging everyone to pick up that cover. If that’s not your thing, but you still want to support the CBLDF click here to learn more.

While looking up instances of George Michael appearing in comics, I uncovered a comic series I was unfamiliar with called Wham!. The comic was created by Leo Baxendale and published by Odhams Press in Britain between 1963 and 1968. It ran for 187 weekly issues. Leo Baxendale created strips for Wham! that were seen as rip-offs of his work-for-hire strips back at The Beano which he wrote for year beforehand and is still being published to this day. In a way, Wham! was kind of the Image Comics of British children’s comic strips in the 60s.

It’s funny what you accidentally learn sometimes doing research. That said, I’ll be mourning the loss of George Michael this week while trying to hold out hope for a better 2017. It’s not looking too promising right now, but I’ve got to try to be positive to get through it. I gotta have faith.

Molly Jackson: Looking Past The Big Two


It’s fully summer now, with all the heat, sunburns and humidity that the earth can muster up.  As a summer tradition, I like to hide indoors by an air conditioner and read.  It’s much better than outside, where the big orange ball scorches me.

I signed up for the Comixology Unlimited app, mostly to check it out and see how it is.  Its biggest strength and weakness is the amount of older material on there.  A lot of volume ones but lacking in more recent materials.  However, it has given me an opportunity to catch up on some titles that I was always interested in but didn’t start; either due to lack of funds or lack of stock at the library.  Luckily, this has lead me back to Valiant.

Before this app, I had only read a few issues of Valiant titles, barely testing the waters in their universe.  When Faith came out, I did jump in wholeheartedly because her story really does speak to me and is beautifully created by Jody Houser, Francis Portela and Marguerite Sauvage.  I agree with my fellow columnist Martha Thomases that it is a must read. Despite this amazing, eye-catching title, I feel like Valiant series are usually underrated or ignored.  So with this app, I finally have the chance to go back to the beginning of the new Valiant universe and start from scratch.  (As a side note, the current Valiant universe is based on the original Valiant universe created in the 1990’s.  A group of investors/Valiant fans restarted the company and the universe came back in 2012. I’m strictly talking about the newest iteration of this universe.)

Well, I’m loving my journey through Valiant.  It’s been an interesting ride, reading what I can from the various series.  This entire Valiant universe is weaved so well, it’s almost perfect in its structure.  Characters can float from book to book, including overarching villain plans and origin stories.  I can finally read Faith’s origin in Harbingers, while also getting introduced to Gilad the Eternal Warrior, Ninjak, Toyo Harada and so many others who show up throughout the universe.  For humor I’ve got Archer and Armstrong, and for a taste of true honor I’ve got X-O Manowar.

What I like best is that this is better for me than the big two.  I don’t feel the weight of the overtold stories or muddled past.  This universe is laid out and still new enough that stories don’t feel repetitive or overdone.  When I feel like I’ve missed something, it’s just because I haven’t gotten to that series yet, not because it is a reference to an older story from 5 reboots ago.  It’s a fresh, different take on superheroes, mutants (aka psiots in Valiant), aliens, and mythology.  With all of our complaining about DC and Marvel constant resets, we had another worthwhile option this whole time.

If you need another opinion than mine, the fact that Valiant received 50 Harvey award nominations this year (as in more than every other publisher) should sell you on checking out this universe.  If you haven’t read anything from Valiant, I still think the Faith mini-series is a great place to start, followed by the upcoming Faith ongoing series that starts in a couple weeks.  Just remember, Faith is a gateway to a whole new universe of superheroes.  Once you get started, I think you’ll want to continue.

Martha Thomases: Young, Gifted and Fat


DC BombshellsThis column was assigned to me so that I might bring you, Constant Reader, some insight into popular culture and, if we’re both lucky, a few laughs. It’s not supposed to be a virtual therapist’s couch, wherein I share with you the tortured depths of my very soul.

Bear with me. This week, you might get both.

When I was young girl approaching puberty, my mother explained to me that no boys would like me if I was fat. In case I might forget this, she repeated it numerous times throughout my adolescence and beyond. She wasn’t being (deliberately) cruel; she was passing on the life lessons she learned from her own parents. Too bad her words had precisely the opposite effect.

In any case, I would probably obsess over my body and what it looks like no matter what my parents said. I’m a woman and I live in a modern Western society. My sense of self-worth has been trained to depend on how I fit into the standards of beauty presented to me on television, movies, and magazines. Including comics.

Now, I’m more or less an adult, and a feminist, and the rational part of my self-image does not depend on attention from men. It’s the less rational parts that continue to eat away at me, no matter how much I try to berate myself over this.

In the process, as a defense mechanism, I can get really judge-y.

This was brought home to me vividly in the new book, Shrill by Lindy West. I was not familiar with Ms. West, a writer for The Stranger and for Jezebel, but the excerpts of her work printed in the review I read were hilarious, so I bought it.

Ms. West is fat. She’s also loud and opinionated and has the unmitigated gall to expect to be able to live her life without a lot of anonymous advice from strangers. Which, apparently, fat women get all the time.

I confess that I have worried about fat friends for health reasons. West debunks this concern with rather specific evidence that fat people can be healthy, and she has her own blood-work to prove it. I think she may oversimplify that obesity isn’t a health issue as much as those who think it is. Some people need to lose weight for medical reasons because that’s the body they were randomly assigned by whatever cosmic entity stopped me from looking like Tilda Swinton.

Some people can’t spend time in the sun, but we don’t shame them for their fair skin.

It’s also really insulting to think that any woman in the world in which we live doesn’t know how much she weighs, what size clothing she wears, or which parts of her jiggle. We know. We also know that we have lives. We have shit to do. We are not here to be ornaments on your world-view. We don’t exist for your judgment.

Remember when I said this would relate to comic books? Here it comes!

My pal, boy-editor Mike Gold, sent me a DC Bombshells story about the super-heroines in the Warsaw Ghetto. I hadn’t seen this particular story, but I love the series in general. Marguerite Bennet makes some of my favorite characters feel right at home in World War II, and her stories are a fun mix of fantasy and horror and fight scenes.

FaithIn this case, however, I feel like the creative team missed a real opportunity. The artwork, by Sandy Jarrell, tells the story beautifully, but the range of physical types is extremely limited. All the women seem to have the same body type, whether they are American or Roma or Polish, whether they are young women or mothers or grandmothers. Even the faces are similar, with hair color the only trait that differs from one to the other. It’s wonderful to see Jews and gypsies and softball players share an adventure, but it would be even more wonderful if they seemed like individual women, not generics.

As a palate cleanser, let me recommend Faith. I think this is the first Valiant comic I’ve ever bought, and it’s so much fun. Faith Herbert is a super heroine. She has a job. She has a sex life. She has interests that extend beyond these three areas. She’s fat and she wears spandex because that’s what lets her do her super-heroing.

This book is as refreshing as iced mint tea on a summer day. Have some!

Ed Catto: More Valiant Than Ever

Faith Comics

A few weeks ago I wrote about the fantastic experiences I had years ago working with the first iteration of the company that we know today as Valiant. I was in brand management in Nabisco on OREO cookies and was introduced to the company (on a professional basis) through a wonderful guy named Seymour Miles. He was responsible for Ad Sales and Custom Comics. Of course, as a lifelong fan and comics enthusiast, I knew all about Valiant and was enjoying their innovative comic line.

I was also being pitched by Marvel, DC and Malibu comics, but those are stories for future columns.

Fast forward to today. Valiant jumpstarts with the 2.0 version of the company and continues to innovate and provide great storytelling for fans.
The new organization is a “perfect storm” creatively driven by a fan-turned- entertainment entrepreneur, Dinesh Shamdasani. He has boundless energy, and projects a vision that pulls and impressive team into his orbit.

Dr Mirage ValiantOver coffee, I talked with part of the team, including Publisher Fred Pierce, PR Expert Hunter Gorinson and Gavin Cuneo, Valiant’s Chief Operating Officer & CFO.

Fred is a long-time comics guy, having worked at a myriad of positions over the years, including the previous incarnation of Valiant. Hunter is the type of guy who embraces his professional mission and explains his tasks and goals with the mischievous glint of a dedicated comics fan. Gavin is newer to comics but has great respect and understanding of the industry and for fans.

My first meeting with Gavin was a crazy start to our relationship. It was on a train during my regular commute from New York City to Ridgewood, NJ. It was crowded, as it often is. We were all standing shoulder to shoulder. I couldn’t help looking over my shoulder to see who that the guy was reading a preliminary script for Bloodshot #1.

We struck up a conversation and I explained who I was and my background with Valiant. He introduced himself as Gavin Cuneo, part of the new Valiant team, and then we were surprised to find that we were both Ridgewood residents.

And today, he’s more engaged than ever. “As we approach the fifth anniversary of Valiant’s return to publishing in 2017, we’re accruing more new interest with each passing month,” said Gavin. “First-rate story content has always been at front of mind for Valiant, and that principle continues to resonate across the entire company – from sales to marketing to licensing to social media.”

“To my mind,” he added, “we’ve built the most knowledgeable, passionate, and effective management team in comics. Their dedication to keeping Valiant vital for fans and retailers worldwide continues to make us a formidable presence in the marketplace, even as Valiant expands into other media forms.”

It’s all about the comics

It’s easy to tell that this company is all about comics because the offices are packed with comics. There are boxes and shelves of comic everywhere. And despite the entrepreneurial frothiness of it all, everyone there knows just where each comic is.

Someone will shout out, “Can you get me that last issue of Bloodshot and the hardcover collection of The Valiant?”

And then there’s a rapid response: “Sure – here they are!”’

Valiant and BloodshotWearing Out Shoes at All Those Conventions

Valiant genuinely supports comic conventions. Not just the huge ones like San Diego Comic-Con and New York Comic Con, but a wide range of conventions.

Late last year, at the inaugural New Jersey Comic Expo, you could tell the Valiant booth team loved being there, meeting fans and spreading the word. And just recently at Awesome Con in Washington, DC, Valiant was one of three publishers beating the drum on the convention floor.

Their love for conventions seems so legitimate – it’s not just about packing and unpacking an exhibition booth. You get the sense that this company loves their fans and wants to be at the right places to meet both existing and potential fans.

Retailer Focused

Gavin and Fred take a lot of pride their retailer efforts. Led by Atom! Freeman, Valiant is an organization that takes their sales channel, the comic shops, seriously. They court the stores, sell hard and work to provide retailers with what they need to sell their books.

And these folks don’t just sit in their ivory tower. They put their money where their mouths are.

Atom! Freeman is part of this comics retail team. He’s a guy who knows his stuff and loves the industry. In his former life, he was an Eisner-Award winning retailer. Now he’s leading a team of folks who are all about interfacing with the retail community on behalf of Valiant.

While the bigger publishers cut back on their interaction with comic shops, Valiant seems to be going the extra mile. And I mean that literally as well as figuratively.

Atom! explained to me that they rotate the staff so someone’s always on the road visiting comic shops on Wednesdays (news comics day) and weekends. And more often than not, they’re driving their Valiant-wrapped Chevy.

Archer and ArmstrongThe Real Deal

Russ Brown leads their licensing and partnership efforts. He’s a long-time industry and licensing guy, with a contagious enthusiasm focused on business that makes it seem like he’s fresh out of Wharton.

Russ took me through several of the recent licensing deals that Valiant has struck, and in much the same way a coach of a winning team is proud of each student, he’s excited about each business relationship.

“Each and every month, Valiant is forging new opportunities with an impressive and wide-ranging slate of partners,” said Russ. “We currently have nearly 100 active licensees, which is practically unheard of for a company of our size and relative footprint. At the end of the day, you can credit that to one thing – the strength and diversity of the Valiant library and still-insatiable interest that these characters inspire in fans around the world.”

All the deals are put together with the ultimate goal of pleasing fans, but that doesn’t mean the Valiant folks aren’t very pleased too. And there are a lot of deals. The sheer quantity is very impressive. But they are aimed at building the Valiant brand.

“From longtime icons like X-O Manowar and Bloodshot to relative newcomers like Faith and Divinity, the library is richer and in higher demand than at nearly any other point in Valiant’s 25-year history,” added Russ.

Valiant Times Ahead

Valiant is on a tear with a busy summer of announcements, solid comics and a big hit with the recent comics series Faith.

I enjoy reading the comics. But as I get to know the entrepreneurial vision and stories behind the stories, I respect Valiant as an enterprise all the more.

“From the runaway success of Faith to the massive plans outlined for the 4001 A.D. event this summer, Valiant has never been stronger,” said Publisher Fred Pierce. “2016 has truly shaped into a banner year for our publishing line, as we continue to influence the industry with our innovative ideas and compelling stories. We’re excited for what the future holds as we continue to grow and introduce Valiant’s story-first approach to comics to an even larger audience.”


Molly Jackson: Create or Die

create or die

In the past, many writers on this site, myself included, have written columns shining a light on the abused state of minority characters at the Big Two. While I agree with everything said, I think that we have left out the very important point of creating new characters. For the past decade or so, it’s felt like more of a rehashing of characters than creating. C’mon, when was the last time you thought of Marvel as the “House of Ideas” without being sarcastic?

In the last couple of weeks we’ve seen aggravating comic announcement from the Big Two. DC Comics is doing what seems like another reboot called Rebirth. This is rumored to bring the comics in sync with the movies and TV shows. Marvel revealed that they are doing another repeat event with Civil War II. All I can do is sigh.

If we want to see more diverse characters in comics, they will need to be created. New heroes and new villains to fill the diversity void. Yes, I want diverse villains. I need someone like me to be evil.

In fairness, Marvel has done some of that with the creation of Kamila Khan, a.k.a. the new Ms. Marvel. She is a great addition to their universe and her creation proves the whole argument about diverse comic company staffs. That series was heralded as a great change for Marvel but it seems to start and end there. Even in Battleworld, their latest event, Ms. Marvel does not fare well.

I understand the desire to use a large stable of artists rather than create. It means that they can avoid the trap of paying royalties to the creators while still swapping in and out lesser used characters. However, the comics are suffering in a major way. Stories are being retold over and over, rather than creating new ones. Creators are saving their very best for their creator-owned titles, but those are not getting the notice like books from DC and Marvel. Rather than innovate, they have chosen to focus on their entertainment properties because they represent a bigger financial growth. However, this will just hurt them in the long-term.

At this point, I feel obligated to point out that today Faith #1 is coming out from Valiant. Faith is an overweight female superhero, which is a unique change in a few ways. While Valiant has driven us all mad with the almost 12 months of promoting the limited series event, it is about an overweight female superhero. While most of you might be shaking your heads that this isn’t needed, there are plenty of overweight women (myself included) that are excited about it. But even more, I’m hoping that this book is encouraging to that comic reading high school girl who has body image issues. Seeing anyone overweight taken seriously, especially at that age, can make a real and positive impact. I haven’t read it yet (because I am speaking to you from the past! Ooooh, Time Travel!), but I am excited and hopeful that Valiant made a great stride here.

There are some great characters at the Big Two. Characters that I love and respect with all my heart. But the world is a changing and growing place, and the heroes we have are not necessarily the heroes we need. We need new heroes to represent the new world we live in: where racial and religious divides still threaten our communities; where gender and sexual orientation are still judged too harshly; and where we, as a global community, have started standing up against the hate to make these changes happen.

When anything fails to create, innovate and change, it begins to die. Hopefully Marvel and DC realize this before it is too late.

Martha Thomases: Social Justice Warriors?

Schomburg CenterThis week, I want to write about something I didn’t do.

It’s a good thing. Rally. Trust me.

Last Friday I read this item in The New York Times about a black comic book festival to be held on Saturday at the Schomburg Center in Harlem. Since I aspire to experience new things (and because, especially in winter, I have a tendency towards lethargy), I decided I would go.

The next morning, after I did my errands, and ascertaining that the predicted rain was not going to happen, I went online to find out which subway to take, and what stop to get off. Alas, the website informed me that the event was sold out. Since this was a good excuse to take my pants off, I didn’t try to go anyway.

According to everything I read, it was a huge success. There were loads of people, including lots of kids and other new readers, and everyone had a fabulous time.

More important (at least to me), African American comic book writers and artists got to talk directly to fans about the kinds of comics they wanted to make and the kinds of comics they wanted to read. They talked about social justice and equal opportunities and creating community and all the other stuff that mattered to them as artists and as citizens and as readers.

These are the kinds of conventions I’ve always liked. They are small enough so that, as Miss Manners would say, “The roof is your introduction.” Because this gathering had a theme, it’s natural that all concerned would happily indulge in conversations about that topic.

Faith 1.inddI thought of this when I read this review of a new Valiant title, Faith. To quote from the lead, “Today’s comic book industry has problems. Not just editorial and creative problems but also problems from the pressures of Social Justice Warriors. These types of people make our lives miserable as comic fans. Always crying out for more diversity this and more diversity that. Most of the time you’ll discover these people don’t even read the comics they are clamoring for change to occur in. That’s always been the real pain in the ass for diversity in comics.”

I don’t know who these “Social Justice Warriors” are, nor does the reviewer cite anyone. Therefore, it is impossible to tell if they do not, in fact, buy the books for which they “clamor.” Are there not enough books aimed at the straight white cis male audience? Are there no media that will cater to his tastes? Perhaps he should go to the movies or watch television where the stories of his kind still predominate.

Back when Milestone Comics started, I was very excited to be peripherally involved, because it presented an opportunity for people outside the mainstream to tell their own stories, which I hadn’t read. Later, when I had the chance to sit in the audience for Michael Davis’ Black Panel at SDCC, I was impressed that the message wasn’t that DC or Marvel (or any publisher) owed aspiring African-American creators the right to work on their characters, but that they had their own stories to tell the way they wanted to tell them.

Maybe you don’t want to talk about African-American comic books with African-American comic book creators, or maybe you don’t want to read comics intended to tell those stories, That’s okay. Nobody is going to force you.

Hell, nobody needs you.

They sold out all the available space without you.