One of the inherent qualities of Marvel comics is the way it showcases people overcoming challenging obstacles while dealing with inherent flaws. Whether it was a nerdy kid dealing with new found coolness or a doctor struggling with his own anger issues, Marvel Comics have always had a way of showing that heroes could be just like us, and, logically, we could be just like heroes, no matter our flaws. But, when the obstacle our hero must face is a bit more apparent and specific it adds an additional layer of importance that makes the real-world comparisons that much more significant to society as a whole. When a reader can walk away from a book with some perspective, knowledge, and a bit more understanding…well, it’s just one of the things that makes comics great. So, without further ado, we present another installment of Outright Geekery’s Top o’ the Lot: Disabled Marvel Characters.
Honorable Mention: Curt Connors
Curt Connors was a gifted battlefield surgeon until a blast injured his right arm and it had to be amputated. Driven by this loss, Doctor Connors worked on a serum that would regrow his lost limb, the same way reptiles are able to regrow lost appendages, and one experiment-gone-wrong later, The Lizard was born. The long-time Spidey villain is one of THE most popular of the wall-crawlers menagerie of badguys, but good ole Doc Connors only gets a mention because of his alter-ego’s popularity and the inherent nature of the villain’s origin within the context of this List. It could be said that Connors disability, or rather the desire to remove it, drove him mad, leading him to throw caution and commonsense out the window and take the path toward villainy. But it’s cooler to look at the Lizard as an even worse disability than the one Connors was trying to fix…makes you wonder.
5. Misty Knight
Mercedes “Misty” Knight was an officer with the NYPD who lost her right arm while saving uncountable lives preventing a bomb attack. Unwilling to take a desk job because of her stubborn perseverance and drive to make a difference, Misty retired from the police force only to be given a bionic arm by Tony Stark granting her great strength and allowing her to take up her super-heroic shenanigans once again. Personally, I love the hair, and her on again/off again romance with Danny Rand notwithstanding, Misty is a great character, and she’s a respectful representative of the hundreds of police officers injured every year protecting American streets.
Paige Guthrie, the mutant known as Husk, has had a unique and important story during her relatively short history. Created in 1984, Husk is the brother of X-Man Cannonball, and when his mutant power revealed itself, Paige did everything she could to find out if she herself was a mutant. Upon finding out her power was the ability to shed her skin, Husk went into a deep depression, an illness that had yet to be dealt with in quite this way prior to Paige. Since then Paige has continued to be used as a tool for writers to deal with this serious and often ignored state of mind that can very easily become debilitating. While this use of the character has been seen as recently as Wolverine & the X-Men, Husk’s ability to shed her skin and become anew is such a creative and appropriate way to deal with something as serious and misunderstood as depression I knew she had to be a part of this list. In this case, like many other Marvel characters, Husk’s true power is over us, the readers.
Blinded as a child by a radioactive substance that falls from the back of a truck (in Hell’s Kitchen, New York no less), Matt Murdock becomes the Man Without Fear, Daredevil, as his other senses become supercharged due to the same accident. A sonar-like hearing, heightened sense of touch, and even super-smelling make Daredevil one of the coolest characters in all of comics, but also one of the most compelling. As Matt Murdock, the character known as Daredevil is a lawyer by profession, and the way he used his disability to help hide that alter-ego was a fascinating take on the whole context. I’d be in for a beating if I didn’t put Daredevil on this list, and his stock is in no fear of sliding as a Daredevil TV series is due out on Netflix in the next year or so.
2. Professor X
Any Marvel Comics fan worth his weight in adamantium recognizes the statement Stan Lee was making with 1963’s The X-Men, and it’s heralded as one of the most timely pieces of fiction supporting the entire equality movement of the 1960’s. While race, gender, and overall social equality were relatively blatant, the Civil Rights movement also empowered disabled groups to take direct action against discrimination, poor access to help, and inequality, demanding a social solution instead of the failing medical model. With all issues regarding equality, it’s been an uphill battle, with the Americans with Disabilities Act coming in 1990, with room for improvement still apparent today. Despite being bound to a wheelchair, Charles Xavier was by far the most powerful mutant in the world (at least until the Phoenix came along), and while his depiction made for a great role-model, his example and the perspective he provided was landmark. Professor X is still at the height of his popularity, with the current blockbuster X-Men: Days of Future Past making about a billion bucks at the box office.
1. Flash Thompson
Although Eugene “Flash” Thompson may be best known for bullying Peter Parker in High School, the way Marvel has utilized the character relatively recently has been nothing short of Spectacular in its own right. Leaving his job as a P.E. teacher, Flash re-enlists in the Army out of pure selfless patriotism to fight in the Iraq War. While on patrol, his platoon is ambushed, with Flash taking several bullets to his legs. Despite his wounds, Flash still manages to save his commanding officer, but winds up needing both his legs amputated below the knees. Although this earns him the Medal of Honor, Flash quickly sinks into a depression, only to be called back to duty for an experimental military project called, Agent Venom. That’s right, through the magic of science and more than a bit of the willpower only a war veteran could have, Flash becomes an all-new, all-heroic version of the villain known as Venom. Now a super-soldier in his own right, Flash/Agent Venom has recently taken to the stars in the pages of Guardians of the Galaxy, and it’s been so fun. Flash Thompson’s story of bravery, injury, loss, and unwillingness to give up symbolizes the heart of our fighting men and women in uniform, and is an example of the mettle our armed forces show each and every day.
See a mistake? Disagree with the choices? Tell us what you think about this installment of Top o’ Lot, join in the discussion and share your opinion.