Fatphobia in the Never Changing Comic Book Landscape

wonderwoman, warner bros/ thinkThin, via allure.com

EDIT: an incorrect fact has been removed from this article.

Superhero comic books retain the ability to deeply wound their audiences. What do they propagate a desire for? Thinner women. “Superheroine” is still, despite occasional pushback from Marvel’s (Adrian Alphona’s) Gert Yorkes and Valiant’s Faith, synonymous with “titty, yet thin.” They define a “correct” template, and they use it and use it and use it. Why discuss this now? As mentioned in this week’s Previously, Wonder Woman’s cinematic summer is being heralded by the application of her name and image to diet bars. Called thinkThin. I’m so angry that I’m perfectly polite.

Glamour reports “Wonder Woman has paired with thinkThin snacks and protein bars. That would be fine, but why don’t we see male superheroes promoting diet [bars]?” I like Glamour magazine, but they are wrong. It would not be fine. It is absolutely not fine for Wonder Woman, Amazon princess and definitive–it’s in the name–idealised fantasy role model, to advertise or promote the pursuit of thinness. The pursuit of thinness kills. It creates misery and is deeply enmeshed with predatory misogyny. Fatphobia is anathema to the conceptual Wonder Woman and to her seventy-five-year friendship with carefree fat girl Etta Candy.

How dare they? How, honestly, dare they? But Warner Brothers’ DC Cinematics’ marketing department aren’t alone in their active disregard for dysmorphic femininity in May of 2017! Marvel Comics continues their long saga of being upsetting with Lorna Dane, with a cover that harks back to regressive norms and–bonus points–appears to fly joyfully in the face of canon. Senior Marvel Editor Mark Paniccia tweeted an Art Adams X-Men Blue cover which, aside from containing no blue (don’t put a colour in the title then?), also contained very little waist.

You know Lorna Dane, right? Polaris? An X-Men character with a legacy longer than Wolverine’s? The second woman of the X-Men, and one with a long, relatable history of mental health problems largely brought on by traumatic, enforced loss of control, often weight or body-shape related? Polaris from Peter David’s X-Factor, such as that fun little issue where Doc Samson gives each member a humorously revealing therapy session. The one where Lorna is repeatedly humiliated by her author, calling herself fat whilst remaining Comic Book Thin, calling herself repulsive whilst remaining Comic Book Hot, aggressively objectifying herself in order to “win” the confrontation with her doctor (he has to agree she is indeed a babe) whilst remaining the most senior female member of the superheroic team of mutants known as X-Factor.

I raise my hands to the heavens and pray. “Oh universal cosmic forces! Please save us all from men in entertainment. All they ever seem to want is for women to whittle ourselves away to a little pile of fat-free sex bits. Can’t they ever just shut up and stay at home?”

Claire Napier

Claire Napier

Critic, ex-Editor in Chief at WWAC, independent comics editor; the rock that drops on your head. Find me at clairenapierclairenapier@gmail.com and give me lots of money