THIS IS Jody Houser’s fourth New York Comic Con, but it has produced plenty of personal firsts.
Houser is the writer on Valiant Entertainment’s new Faith miniseries that debuts in January, and in that role, in recent days, she has found herself in a new swirl of appearing on multiple panels and speaking at the Con as a creator who now has a working title.
She also has inherited the responsibility of being the voice behind a much-beloved member of the Valiant universe: Faith “Zephyr” Herbert — a character who is as big a fan of superheroes and sci-fi as the real-life readers of her miniseries. She also happens to be a hero herself.
“The series is about Faith really setting out on her own as a hero for the first time,” Houser said of the character’s most recent appearances in the Harbinger and Unity series. “Since she got her powers, she’s almost always been working with a team or at least one other person. So this is her attempt to be a solo hero, like the comics and the superheroes she’s loved her entire life. She’s following the mold that’s been set by her fictional heroes that she grew up reading, and it’s a little bit of seeing how that actually plays out in the real world for her.”
“And it’s also about her being on her own for the first time as an adult,” Houser continued. “It’s her establishing herself in a city and living her life the way she wants to and seeing how that works out…or doesn’t.”
Houser said that Faith is always the heart of whatever team she is on, and that on this new solo adventure, she’ll be much more independent. No boyfriend. No teammates. She also tries to add to her power set — which right now involves only flying and being able to lift someone with her in flight via “companion fields.”
“In the series, she’s going to be expanding how she uses [her companion fields] a little bit,” Houser said, “and playing with it as an offensive ability, rather than simply defense — flying away from danger and shielding herself from people. She doesn’t have teammates to depend on anymore.”
As for Faith’s passionate fan base, Houser’s acknowledges not fully anticipating the level of engagement.
“I was sort of aware by how much she was loved by fans, but I think I was still surprised at the extent of the reaction,” Houser said. “It’s one thing to know that a character is very well-received and has a lot of fans, but to see the actual response and the emotional connection people have to her was really gratifying. It makes you want to do your best to preserve what people love about [Faith] and honor that relationship that they have to the character.”
One of the most important emotional connections between fans and Faith is her presentation. She’s a plus-size superhero who is comfortable in her skin. Houser said that helps provide female fans with a hero drawn to realistic proportions.
“That’s been one of the most emotional reactions I’ve seen from people,” Houser said. “There are women who have never seen a character that looked like them on the cover of a comic book. I had multiple people tell me that they got incredibly emotional when they saw the variant cover released and at least one person told me she cried.
“Knowing that so many people don’t get to see themselves in their heroes — that does make it incredibly meaningful,” she continued. “Because there just isn’t that representation in comics generally, especially for the female figures. There just does tend to be one body type, and that just leaves everyone else who would like to see a hero who looks like them out in the cold.”
Houser accepts that providing a narrative voice for such a beloved character requires extra care.
“You want to make sure that you’re not doing anything to damage” the emotional bond between fans and Faith,” Houser said. “When one character has to represent a whole huge group of people, [it’s special]. If you have one Green Lantern be a jerk, it’s not like you’re making all white male characters look bad because there are so many other representatives of that. But when there’s only one character like Faith, it really does require a lot of care.”