Chubby Champions of Justice!
With Thanksgiving Day now behind us, it’s inevitable that many of us will pack on even more pounds over the coming holidays (Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, Super Bowl, etc). However, perhaps a look at normally ultra-fit superheroes dealing with sudden morbid obesity will shock you into avoiding Grandma’s bacon-wrapped, chocolate covered cheese balls.
First up, on the cover of Flash #115 (1960), is the “The Fattest Man Alive” himself, weighing it at an even 1,000 pounds. After being zapped by Gorilla Grodd’s moisture absorbing ray, Barry Allen rapidly expands to the point of resembling a costumed fan at a comic book convention!
Wonder Woman is blissfully unaware she’s achieved “Plus Size” status on the cover of Justice League of America #7 (1961), as the effects of a “cosmic fun-house” mirror provide a minor color-commentary role for perpetual fifth-wheel Aquaman.
Another fun-house mirror gives a look of what Captain Marvel might look like as a “Big Red Cheese Ball” on the cover of Shazam! #4 (1973).
Batman goes triple-wide as the Bat-Hulk on the cover of Brave and the Bold #68 (1966). With the use of the term “Bat-Hulk”, not to mention giving the creature a very (Marvel) Hulk-like speech pattern, DC seemed to be begging for a lawsuit. Whether or not they actually triggered the wrath of Marvel’s lawyers is, sadly, lost to comics history.
The next fat superhero is none other than Robotman on the cover of Doom Patrol #94 (1965). As you can see he….waitaminute. Whoops! This image was supposed to part of the FLAT superheroes column I’ve been planning. My apologies.
As you can see from Plastic Man #11 (1948), the Stretchable Sleuth enjoyed the “flexibility” (groan) of becoming fat or thin at will….you know, kinda like Kirstie Alley.
Batman and Superman also became human parade balloons on the cover of World's Finest #131 (1963). According to Robin, the “strange weapon” of the Crimson Avenger (the same name as a Detective Comics superhero predating Batman) has transformed the two heroes into “runaway blimps”. Though technically “lighter than air”, Batman and Superman still look like they need to give Weight Watchers a shot.
As with any category of Weird Mutation featured on DC’s Silver Age covers, it was usually the Superman Family that got hit the hardest…and “fat covers” were certainly no exception.
It all started back on the cover of Superboy #24 (1953) when an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction of “The Super-Fat Boy of Steel” elicited giggles from a pair of Smallville hotties.
Adventure Comics #298 (1962) finds not only a “Fat Superboy” but a “stout” Lana Lang as well! Note the dignified solution Superboy has in mind for Lana: dumping her off to be pried loose by the police emergency squad! Nothing but the best for Superboy’s girl!
Superman’s adult girlfriend doesn’t fare much better on the cover of Lois Lane #5 (1958) as she has to simultaneously contend with being “The Fattest Girl in Metropolis” and getting stalked by a weirdly-amused Superman.
We go from “The Fattest Girl in Metropolis” to “The Fat Boy of Metropolis”, as the cover of Jimmy Olsen #49 (1954) demonstrates Superman’s “Ironic Humiliation” weight loss plan. Thanks, pal!
Of course, Superman was no slouch in the sudden weight gain department himself, as we witness the distorting power of “nutrino blasts” on the cover of Action Comics #477 (1977).
Years earlier in Superman #221 (1969), a drink of Scarlet Nectar (which was actually a deadly poison) transformed Superman into a phone booth obliterating “Super-Fatso”!
(Not to be confused with the Super-Fatso who annually revolts San Diego Comic Con crowds).
In addition to the temporarily overweight superheroes we’ve touched upon, it should be mentioned that there are a handful of good guys whose obesity is a permanent part of their shtick.
DC’s super team parody The Inferior Five make their debut in Showcase #62 (1966), featuring The Blimp as one of their members. The Blimp could fly like his father Captain Swift, but only at super-slow speeds…and only then with a good tailwind.
Another great super team parody was The Great Lakes Avengers, first appearing in West Coast Avengers #46 (1989). The yellow-garbed gal in the background is Big Bertha, who’s actually a model with the power to transform into an incredibly fat and super-strong version of herself.
Herbie the Fat Fury was the superhero identity created for Herbie Popnecker, the delightfully bizarre lollipop-powered character published by American Comics Group (ACG). Appearing in the even-numbered issues of the series, the Fat Fury’s origin was featured in Herbie #8 (1965).
Let’s not forget Thor’s old Asgardian pal, the voluminous Volstagg. Seen here on the cover of Marvel Spotlight #30 (1976), this beloved comic relief figure is legendary for spin-controlling his abject cowardice into mythic bravery and heroism (see panel scan below).
Arguably the most famous obese hero was Bouncing Boy of the Legion of Superheroes, whose superpower was to take on the shape and bouncing properties of a ball. As you can see from the cover of Adventure Comics #375 (1968), even when Chuck Taine (BB’s real name) wasn’t in full “bouncing mode” (see inset image), he was still shown to be quite overweight. As unusual (okay…as stupid) as his superpower was, Bouncing Boy still managed to marry fellow Legionnaire Duo Damsel, who could split into two separate women. Chalk one up (or is that two?) for the Chuckster!
Whether it's used as a temporary curse or recurring comedy relief, one can conclude that being fat in superhero comics is officially Not So Hot. Of course, superheroes have magic wands, slimming rays and cosmic treadmills to erase the extra pounds, while the "Svelte-Challenged” here in the real world have to continue dealing with it by repeating that familiar mantra: