Comic Characters are all perfect right? They fly around, lift heavy things and look pretty. And in today’s culture, they’re on everything and they are everywhere. I’m sure that there are some African tribes men who do not recognize Superman’s S shield but caves don’t have Wi-Fi.
I think though that there is a tendency to think that everyone in the comic world has it easy. That no one gets hurt, and even if they do, they don’t have to live with it.
As is the case with most things in comics, this assumption is not the case. Comics continue to be a medium that pushes the boundaries of what is acceptable. It also true that many characters are more accurate portrayals of real world instances than they first appear.
10. Mr. Freeze
Victor Fries was a cryogenics expert who suffered a tragic lab accident while trying to save his terminally ill wife Nora. This forced him to remain in very cold at all times or risk becoming ill himself. Although you don’t see people roaming around in bio-suits, it is true that for many their conditions mean they can struggle with regulating body temperature such as hypothyroidism.
I know, I know, Ben Affleck ruined an awesome character but lets try and forget about that for a moment. Daredevil (Matt Murdock) was created in 1964 by Stan Lee, Bill Everett with input from the King Jack Kirby. Nicknamed ‘The Man Without Fear’, Matt lost his sight after he was exposed to radioactive waste. However, the accident heightened Matt’s other sensors superhuman levels, allowing him to overcome the loss of his sight.
Although in real life, people don’t start leaping off buildings after they lose their sight, it is true that many do sharp their remaining sensors and gain independence.
8. The Flash (Wally West)
Wally West is the third character to assume the name of The Flash since the 1930s. On first appearance, it would appear everything was good for Wally, faster than light and able to rapidly heal from almost any injury. But everything about Wally is fast, including metabolism. This means that he has to consume huge quantities of food often. This does not sound like much of a problem but as many with Crohn’s disease will tell you, regulating your diet is no easy thing.
7. Tony Stark
Tony Stark AKA Iron Man was first created in 1963, when Marvel Comics was enjoying its golden era under the direction of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The character is credited with kick-starting the Marvel Cinematic Universe with 2008’s Iron Man.
The modern interpretation of the character tells how the billionaire playboy is abducted and forced to create weapons of mass destruction for terrorist organizations. While imprisoned by them, Tony suffers an accident that leaves shrapnel dangerously close to his heart. This means that he has to wear an electromagnet 24/7 to starve off serious injury.
While it is not the case that average Joe has to wear an electromagnet to stop shrapnel seeping into his atrium, it is the case that many people do wear pacemakers. Some can be quite complex pieces of kit and require constant maintenance.
6. Black Bolt
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby first created Black Bolt 1963. He is the leader of the Inhumans and one of the most powerful heroes in the Marvel Comics. His main power, his voice, is capable of creating massive shockwaves. As result, Black Bolt is rendered mute most of the time.
Black Bolt represents many, who although they have perfectly good hearing are rendered mute. They have to rely on external forms of communications such as AAC and BSL. But poor old Black Bolt does not have such luxuries. You will see him in the upcoming Inhumans movie scheduled for release in November 2014.
Victor Stone was high school American football sensation, with many colleges after his signature. All those dreams are torn to bits after a tragic accident leaves Victor with the loss of his legs and one of his arms. His father Silas, a genius scientist, sets about using technology to help his son overcome his new amputee status, giving birth to Cyborg.
Similar with Mr Freeze, you don’t see amputees being loaded up ballistic missiles. That being said, many people have promising athletic careers cut short by tragic accidents and face the very daunting prospect of having to adapt to being part machine.
4. Curt Conners
Dr. Curtis Conners is better known by his alias The Lizard. However in his human form, Dr. Conners is an amputee. The portrayal of the character is a interesting one, Conners is often portrayed as a bright and capable individual, in spite of his obvious impairment. This outward persona is shown to somewhat of charade, and in fact, Dr. Conners wants nothing more than to rid himself of his ‘condition’. This deep desire is ultimately the catalyst that sets him on the path to becoming The Lizard.
Conner comes in at number 4 because his story is a reflection of the many, who never really learn how to deal with developing a condition.
3. Professor X
You were thinking, “oh I know Professor X is gonna be number 1.” Well no, number 3, I am afraid. The most powerful telepathy on Earth is also bound to a wheelchair. I particularly enjoyed James McAvoy portrayal in Days of Future’s Past. The inability of his Professor to accept his condition felt authentic and the journey toward acceptance was a reflection of what many go through.
3. Dr. Robert Bruce Banner
Bruce Banner is another who is better known for his alter ego, the Hulk. However I have always been more of a fan of Dr. Banner myself. A complex and tortured individual, Banner was abused as a child and has severe mental health problems ever since. The various incarnations of the Hulk are in fact, said to be the result of the abuse at the hands of his father.
Many actors have played him over the decades, but I have to say, I thought Mark Ruffalo’s take on the character was great. Many times, writers go down the self-loathing and rejection line – Ruffalo went down the acceptance route.
The line from Marvel’s The Avengers. “That’s my secret Captain, I’m always angry.” It was just a great line, delivered brilliantly by Ruffalo.
People with long-term mental health problems need to be able to do that. Accept and live with their condition day to day. That is why Dr. Banner comes in at 2.
Drum roll please…
1. Barbara Gordon (Oracle)
The Killing Joke (1988) by Alan Moore, saw then Batgirl Barbara Gordon shot and paralyzed by The Joker, in his attempt to prove to Batman that ‘anyone can go crazy after one just bad day.’
Following the release of The Killing Joke, there was widespread condemnation about the treatment of Gordon. This led Kim Yale and her husband Jim Ostrander, an editor and artist respectively, to step in. They took the step to recon the character as someone ‘living with an impairment’.
As Oracle, Gordon was turned into a genius computer hacker and vital to many heroes operations in the DC universe.
Paralyzing Barbara Gordon was one of the most controversial moves in comics’ history. Critics such as Ryan Tate assert that is ridiculous to suggest that in a world where people come back dead, someone’s paralysis can be irreversible. Other critics have also point to the unequal treatment of Gordon as opposed to Batman himself, Gordon’s condition being incurable but Batman being able to recover in a year.
However, what we have continued to see from Gordon as Oracle, is someone learning to live within the limitations of her condition and continue to be fully involved in her community. And unlike Professor X, all this was done without any special powers. Barbara Gordon for me is the best.
That is all I have for now – please remember to share, like and respond!