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Monday, 2 January 2012

Disabled characters in superhero comics - the rest

Now we coming to the last of our short series looking at disabled characters in superhero comics.  originally I intended to list every characters with some form of disability or mental health problem.  But due to life getting really full I'm going to have cut the entries short, so think of these posts as more of a selection of highlights which will give you a good place to start in comics!

A quick word about characters with mental health problems - all too often writers understand mental health issues as equalling evil.  So many villains motivations are explained away as the character simply being 'mad'.  As if mad automatically equals dangerous and violent.  The point of this series was to shout about characters that could be role models (even if they were sometimes arseholes) as well as being disabled.  So, I'm not including any characters with mental health problems, because I haven't yet found one that fulfils that criteria.

Right,  lets begin.

The Captain Marvel family has two heros who with mobility difficulties. Freddie Freeman is a teenager who was attacked by Captain Nazi (yes, really) and left lame, needing sticks to help him walk..  Amon Tomaz is an Egyptian lad who was severely beaten by the criminal group, Intergang, and became a wheelchair user.  Both were awarded the powers of Shazam by uttering the names of their mentors - for Freddie it was Captain Marvel, for Amon it was Black Adam.  They can fly, have super strength, stamina and so on.

The power fantasy here is they say one simple word and get new bodies, but they also get to go back to their usual selves when they say the magic words again.  Freddie and Amon's stories mirror each other, but the Captain Marvel family have always had their mirror images, it's one of the delights of the stories.   The difference is that of personality traits.  Captain Marvel has always been a hero, Black Adam veers between villain and hero.  At the time of Amon turning up, Black Adam was a mostly good guy.

Freddie Freeman is showcased in Trials of Shazam.  Amon is showcased in 52, volumes 1 to 4, see here for details about 52.

Ragdoll.  Delightful, crazy, weird, disturbing Ragdoll.  Real name Peter Merket Jr, Ragdoll is definitely a villain.  He's a thief, a killer, a very strange man and one of the oddest creations of the DC Universe.  He is the second person to bear the name Ragdoll, the first being his father.  When young he had surgery to replace his normal joints with lubricated, cybernetic joints.  The end result is he'd the bendiest man alive and can cram himself into ridiculous shapes, positions and spaces.  In real world terms, he's like a person with (very) extreme hypermobility (used to be known as double jointedness), but without any of the discomfort and problems hypermobility causes to real people.  He's an interesting character, a fan favourite, but he's not a hero.  He's cruel, funny, sadistic and dark.  You can start reading about him in the following books (listed in correct reading order):
Six degrees of devastation/ Unhinged / Depths / Danse Macabre / Cats in the Cradle / The Reptile Brain /The Darkest House

Information on each book listed here.

From the Marvel universe, I present to you Misty Knight.  She's African American who has a false, cybernetic arm.  Over the years she's been a supporting character in various Marvel series including the old but more recently in Immortal Iron Fist. She's now the main character in Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's Heroes For Hire, where she co-ordinates a large band of heroes working for her on a case-by-case basis.

Currently there are two named trades of this series - Control and Fear Itself.

An honourable mention also needs to go to Madison Jeffries, a mutant in the Marvel Universe.  He is dyslexic.  I'd like to write more about him, but I don't really know a lot, so will have to redirect you to his wikipedia page.  Apologies.  That isn't very professional but as I mentioned at the start of this post, life is very full at the moment.

Don't forget our other posts on characters with sensory disabilities and those who are wheelchair users.

If anyone wants to recommend any other characters that we've missed (I'm sure there's quite a few), please leave a comment!


  1. I'd argue that Savant of Birds of Prey, while a villain more often than a hero, is mentally disabled in a way that doesn't effect his villainy. His time disorder, while not directly analogous to any Real World condition as far as I know, is similar symptomatically to people on the Autistic Spectrum or with Traumatic Brain Injury. It certainly is written as separate from his villainy, and not a part of it.

  2. I was umming and ahhing about whether to put Savant in. I hadn't read enough of him to really know whether he had a disability or not.
    Folk on twitter had suggested him, but also said it's not a real world condition, so I erred on the side of caution and left him out (you may have seen the conversations).

    However, now I'm thinking who am I to say if he's relevant or not?

    If people want to read more about him, you can get the issues on Comixology:
    You want the 2010-2011 series (I believe that's correct - if I'm wrong hopefully someone will put me right).
    It's a good run.