Whereas Morgan Spurlock may have fudged the facts a bit to make his holier-than-thou tirade against food freedom Super Size Me a mega-hit with the organic food set, a group of cartoonists known as the Fat Squad are proving they’re more than simple tourists in the Land of Chub: They’re pioneers out on the lard frontier, embracing those extras pound every one else is half-heartedly attempting to lose.
“As far as celebrating being fat people, it’s more of pointing out reality and making fun of something that everybody is so scared to say anything about,” one of Fat Squad’s guiding lights, cartoonist Joshua Belanger, said. “Sixty percent of America is fat, so the majority of people can relate to the things we talk about, or make fun of, in our comic.”
“Before long celebrities will be fattening up just to fit in,” strip co-creator Rich Brunelle agreed confidently. “Jump on the bandwagon now.”
While the Fat Squad doesn’t concern themselves so much with the politics of American obesity and haven’t even seen Super Size Me, Belanger rejects the film’s premise.
“As far as politics are involved, what people do to their own bodies is their own fault,” he said. “Look at me, and I haven’t been to a McDonald’s in months. The food is gross and it just makes you sick.
“But I wish to God I could sue someone,” Belanger continued jokingly, “free cash is where it’s at.”
Today the Fat Squad is an online comic strip in the tradition of Garfield, Peanuts, and Calvin and Hobbs, but it began as something a bit less heroic: A bunch of chubby pals being mocked incessantly about their girth in the hallway of their high school. Eventually they remade the insult as a point of pride and things have been heading onward and upward ever since.
Having already broken a major taboo, and thereby putting themselves on the front lines of the Revolution for Horizontal Expansion, the Fat Squad has little problem delving into other politically incorrect areas. For example, in the wake of 9/11 the Squad did a series of comics depicting Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden attempting to hide out in Plymouth, New Hampshire, disguised as college students. The Fat Squad eventually dispatches these two of America’s most wanted with extreme prejudice.
“I think we should be able to tackle pretty much anything, or any subject, but do it with enough taste not to push away a lot of readers,” Belanger explained. “We don’t want to use controversy as a crutch. We want the actual characters to make our readers laugh. A good comic doesn’t need bad language or obscene situations to get a laugh. And as far as nudity goes, I don’t know how many people want to see a whole bunch of naked cartoon fat guys.”
“Not that the lady fans haven’t demanded it,” Brunelle added. “We make fun of people and stereotypes in the comic, first and foremost, fat people, but it’s all in good fun.”
So what’s it take to become a member of Fat Squad? Well, here are some profiles to primp you for your interview: Aside from Belanger and Brunelle, there’s Al, who loves comics, mustaches and hot dogs and Angry Dan, the man with two constants in his life: a scowl on his face and a sandwich in his hand. There’s also a comfy, very much alive Body Pillow.
“It’s our attempt at a weird non-human character,” Brunelle said. “He’s a living body pillow, origin unknown. The squad loves him. And come on, every fat guy has a body pillow.”
The Fat Squad contends that it’s just a matter of time before the rest of the country comes around to happily accepting a few extra pounds… or more. After all, no trend lasts forever, they say, and so it is simply a matter of time before the body mass pendulum swings the other wayâ€”something that seems especially necessary after the insane reign of the fried cheese and beef cult the recently departed dietary Rasputin, Dr. Atkins, foisted upon our society.
But what if it went the other way? What would happen if a member of the Fat Squad sold out, as it were, and slimmed down?
“That sounds like a possible storyline for an upcoming series of strips: Dan will chug Hollywood diet drink and Trimspa pills, and lose weight,” Brunelle pondered, before concluding, “No, that’s just too unbelievable.”
And so the Fat Squad marches on.