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Superheroes And Villains With PTSD

Discussion in 'Social' started by batgirl, Mar 31, 2007.

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  1. batgirl

    batgirl I'm a VIP

    It's kind of interesting that many comic book heroes and villains have experienced trauma and appear to have some symptoms of PTSD.

    Bruce Wayne (Batman) is the one I relate to the most, as he witnessed the murder of his family and then became a recluse, obsessed with caves and darkness. He's only able to be outgoing when he wears a mask and is disguised as Batman. He continues to suffer from nightmares, flashbacks and hallucinations, and has trouble getting close to anyone.

    The Punisher was a Marine in Vietnam, and witnessed the murders of his wife and children at the hands of the Mafia. He has frequent flashbacks and nightmares of his family's murders and has trouble controlling his rage.

    Magneto (X-Men) is a Jewish Holocaust survivor. His entire family was murdered by the Nazis, and he was tortured while in camp. He married a Gypsy woman who he met in the concentration camp and had a daughter with her. His infant daughter is later murdered by a mob, which causes Magneto to lose his sanity. He has many symptoms of trauma which effect how he acts as a supervillain.

    Wolverine (X-Men) witnesses the murder of family members and his mother's suicide. He loses all memory of his childhood, his family and his name, due to his trauma.

    V (V for Vendetta) is held captive in a concentration camp in a dystopian future. He spends years there, tortured and experimented on. He finally escapes and becomes a recluse, wipes out his former identity entirely and exacts revenge on those who harmed him.

    That's just a few characters I can think of off the top of my head but there are many more.
    Finding Shawna and Sqweak like this.
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  3. hodge

    hodge I'm a VIP Premium Member Donated

    This is a very interesting insight. It looks like one could write a really cool article on this subject. . . the choices one makes in the wake of trauma, as reflected in popular comic book characters . . . using the experience for good or ill, etc. And I just saw the thread about your new job -- congratulations!
  4. GR-ass

    GR-ass Well-Known Member

    It is an odd thing, but oh so very true.

    Even down to Rogue (x-men) who refuses to let anyone close to her because she might hurt them.

    Okay, so hers is an actual problem, but she pushes peoiple away emotionally as well as physically.
    Finding Shawna likes this.
  5. GR-ass

    GR-ass Well-Known Member

    meant to add in

    I associate a lot with Rogue
  6. Lisa

    Lisa Well-Known Member

    Wow! I never realised that these characters really do have PTSD type trauma.

    It is as if trauma gives them their drive, their passion - what a cool way to think about this!
  7. batgirl

    batgirl I'm a VIP

    Rogue had a bit of trauma too... her mum disappeared under suspcious circumstances, and that led to her being raised by her older sister who was unaccepting and harsh in a lot of ways. Not to mention, I think having a power that makes you able to genuinely hurt and kill people (without meaning to) must be traumatic all in itself.

    Hodge, I agree, I think it would make a good article. Many "traditional" comics are morality plays. The main characters go through horrible circumstances in their lives, and then at some point they are given a choice, to use their experiences for good or for evil.

    Magneto is one of my favourite characters in this regard because he is more complex than most comic book characters. There were times (in the comics, not the movies) where he was on the side of "good" and was a hero, but his traumatic experiences kept pulling him towards being a villain, he couldn't control his rage and his desire for revenge against "normal" people.

    Yeah it's kind of strange... how trauma basically makes them heroes or villains... I guess it makes for a much more interesting story. There are some superheroes who haven't had trauma however. Superman, for example. He was adopted, but he had a very normal childhood.
  8. GR-ass

    GR-ass Well-Known Member

    Aaah, but Superman grew up alienated from everyone, never able to let anyone in, never allowed to live to his true potential. Even though Mr and Mrs Kent loved him dearly, it could be construed that by being forced to contain his 'natural' behaviour, they were in fact using a form of child hood abuse.

    That is kinda harsh cass, behave.
  9. batgirl

    batgirl I'm a VIP

    LOL. Yeah that's all true about Clark Kent, definitely. But none of that would be considered bad enough trauma to have PTSD, at least not in my opinion. ;)
  10. Linda

    Linda Well-Known Member

    Lol, I had noticed the same thing, but, since do not know a lot of modern movies, could not give specific examples.
    However, I do remember some examples from literature, again, not too many specisic ones.
    In "East from Edem" by John Steinbeck, Adam Trask is having trouble talking about his time in the army, specifically about the war with Indians.
    In "Singing in the trees" by Colin McCallow (sorry for possible mistranslation and misspelling), James, Patrick, and Leon Hartgeim have clear PTSD symptoms, like avoiding close relationship with their families.
    In "Nobody writes to the Colonel" and "100 years of solitude"by Gabrial Garsia Marques the cherachters have noghmares and frequent memories about the war.
    And just it was a number of times whan the character of some book woul tell something like this, refering to their traumatic events:
    -I still see that in dreams, and wake up scared...
    -I still remember that and will remember to my last day...
    I also remember the examples from Russian literature, probably, that will not tell you much.
    For instance, that was a beautiful poem, written by the Russian lady who had been through the WWII as a combat medic:

    Just ones I had seen a real one-to-one fight.
    Just ones in the real life, and countless times in the dream.
    Whoever says that the war is not scary
    Does not know anything about the war.

    In all her poems, even those written in late 80s, you can see the memories about the war.

    Another poem, written in early 40s, about the civil war:
    Night after nignt, no sleep for me.
    The gun is in my hand,
    And I am ready to fight,
    As 20 years ago during the war.

    Finally, there is a movie, also the Russian one, which I would advise you never to watch. It is called "Come and see", and it is the most realistic war movie ever made. I had seen it twice, first as a kid (probably a mistake of my parents), and then in my teens. Second time I could not watch it to the end.
    You can see the young guy is simply loosing his mind from all the brutality he is witnessing.
    BelovedDreamwalker likes this.
  11. anthony

    anthony Silently Watching Founder

    Well, I must say this is an interesting topic actually... quite insightful Evie. So if you want a little mental torture, then here is a thought for you. As these characters are fictional, though the characters where derived from humans, and their words also derived by someone behind the character. What does that mean about the people creating these fictional characters? Are these characters a reflection of their lives maybe? The real PTSD behind the fictional mask?
  12. batgirl

    batgirl I'm a VIP

    Yes that's a good observation Anthony. I'm certain that were I to write a comic or graphic novel (which is my intent, sometime in the future hopefully), the fact that I have PTSD would definitely be an influence. Writers do tend to include personal experiences in their writing, consciously or unconsciously.

    Off the top of my head, I know that the creator of V for Vendetta had an odd childhood with fanatical religious parents and "escaped" from them in his teens. He's a very strange person himself, worships an obscure Roman snake god and practices magick, among other things..

    Stan Lee (Stanley Lieber), the creator of X-Men (and Spiderman, The Hulk, and many others), is the son of Jewish immigrant parents. He served in WW2 and helped to liberate fellow Jews from the Nazis. I read him saying once in an interview that his experiences in WW2 influenced the characters he created. Most of the creators of the original American comic book characters are now in their 80s and 90s and lived through the Great Depression, and many also served in WW2. So I imagine their experiences of the Depression and being in the war shaped the characters they created.

    Thanks for the book examples Linda. I haven't read any of those but I'll have to check them out at some point. There aren't many movies that show PTSD other than combat related. There is one though that's quite good, it's called "My Family", it's about a hispanic family in East L.A. The one character witnesses the murder of his older brother while he's still a child. The movie then shows him growing up, being an alcoholic, isolating himself from everyone and basically having all sorts of troubles. He meets and marries a woman from El Salvador who is also traumatized. Anyways it's very good. He definitely has PTSD although it's not mentioned.
  13. Marlene

    Marlene I'm a VIP Premium Member

    When I was a kid, comic books were 'boy' things. My husband is the expert in the family about comics. We'll see an ad for a movie and I hear from him 'Cool! I remember reading that comic when I was a kid. We've got to go see that movie.' He's still a kid at heart.

    From my limited experience and expose to comics to movies (and you listed all of the ones I knew off the top of my head) I wracked my brain and came up with these three:

    The Bride from Kill Bill (I & II)-Her attempted murder, rapes in the hopsital while she was in a coma, thinking her child was dead...yeah-I can see her wanting a little justice.

    Swamp Thing (my first movie based on comic)-Main character (can't remember his name) set up in a lab explosion to be killed and it mutates him and he has to live in the swamp. He fights to protect innocents and the environment. All the while he watches his wife live her life and won't let her see him. Pretty sad movie, if you ask me.

    The Shadow-I saw the movie with Alec Baldwin. WWI vet whose alienated from pretty much everything goes to Asia, becomes a drug lord and is kidnapped by monks who teach him to use his darkness and go home to fight evil. I love the old line 'Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men? The Shadow knows!'.

    Pretty nifty subject, Evie. Until you mentioned it, I never thought about it, but most comic book characters have some major catastrophy happen to them to make them the hero/villian of a story line. Also, the traumas that made them who they are they try to forget or hide from the world.
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