CLOSE

10 Disabled Comic Book Superheroes

One of the great things about comics is that characters can be physically disabled, yet still be superhuman. Here are some of the great disabled superheroes.

1. Dr. Mid-Nite

This DC Comics hero was introduced in 1941, teaming up with do-gooders like the Flash and the Green Lantern throughout World War II. Originally physician Dr. Charles McNider, he was blinded by a hand-grenade explosion (the work of organized crime). Though he had to renounce the surgery, he could see in pitch darkness for some reason, so he became a crime-fighter. As well as having an advantage during the night, he wears special pitch-black goggles so he can see during the day.

2. Captain Marvel, Jr.

Well, sort of. Elvis Presley’s favorite childhood hero was in reality Freddy Freeman, a newsboy who was crippled in an attack by the dastardly Captain Nazi.

The super-hero Captain Marvel (in reality a newsboy named Billy Batson – what’s with these double-initials?) took Freddy to Shazam, the wizard who had given him his powers, and he was granted the same powers (with a bolt of lightning) whenever he uttered the hero’s name: “Captain Marvel!” Sadly, when he uttered the same again, he would transform back into Freddy, de-powered and still crippled. As they often teamed up (and Junior presumably needed to introduce himself on occasion), this must have been an awkward arrangement. Nonetheless, Captain Marvel – published by Fawcett – became the top-selling superhero, the first one to outsell Superman. Junior, riding on his capetails, was published by from 1942 to 1953.

3. Thor

In 1962, nearly a decade after Fawcett stopped publishing the highly successful Captain Marvel titles, Marvel Comics (no relation) introduced another disabled man who can transform, with a bolt of lightning, into a hero with godlike power. In fact, it wasn’t so much god-like, as Dr. Donald Blake, GP (who can only walk with the aid of a cane) was transformed into Thor, the Norse god of thunder. As punishment for showing appalling pride, Thor had been sent to Earth by his father, Odin (king of the gods), in the fragile form of Dr. Blake – and to further humiliate him, didn’t even know he was a superhero until a visit to Norway first saw him transform into Thor. One of Marvel’s classic heroes (Kenneth Branagh, no less, is currently directly a movie), he is known to fans as one of the “big three” of their main super-hero team, the Avengers (along with Iron Man and Captain America).

4. Daredevil

Marvel Comics also created Daredevil, whose origin story must rate among the dumbest in comic-book history (no mean achievement). The story: athletic teenager Matt Murdock leaps in to save a blind man from being hit by a truck. However, the truck is carrying a canister of radioactive waste material that breaks open, bombarding Murdock with radiation. He is blinded, like the man he saved. However, thanks to radiation, his other senses are “mutagenically heightened” to superhuman levels. According to The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (published in 1983): “His sense of touch is so acute that his fingers can feel the faint impressions of ink on a printed page, allowing him to read by touch… and he can distinguish between identical twins at 20 feet by minute differences in smell.” Daredevil uses blindness to his advantage, happily swinging over the New York skyline. As he can’t see how high he is, he earns the label “the man without fear”. But instead of sight, he has radar sense, suggesting that he’s more of a bat-man than Batman.

5. The Chief

As followers of the X-Men movies (and for 40 years years before, the Marvel comics) would know, Professor Charles Xavier is the most unusual superhero: wheelchair-bound after an accident, his telepathic and psychic powers make him more than a match for most of the tough musclemen he confronted. Less famous is the Doom Patrol, another group of oddballs led by a wheelchair-bound genius (and first published by DC Comics in October 1963, only one month before the X-Men). Their leader was the Chief, alias Niles Caulder, who built several weapons, including flame-throwers, into his wheelchair. Sadly, the Doom Patrol didn’t catch on like the X-Men, and in 1968, they all died heroically. (As often happens in comics, most of them – including the Chief – were brought back to life several years later.)

6. Puck

Introduced by Marvel in 1983, Puck was a dwarf with no superhuman powers, but great acrobatic and fighting skills – a character suggested to writer-artist John Byrne by his wife. He soon became one of the most popular members of the Canadian superhero team Alpha Flight, whose fans included other sufferers of dwarfism. However, comics being what they are, he couldn’t stay just a “normal” guy. Writer Bill Mantlo, Byrne’s successor, gave him a new origin story: he was previously a (very tall) adventurer, who had been turned into a dwarf by a demon. Oh, and he was immortal. Byrne was not happy with this. “The whole ‘demon inside’ thing [was] based, apparently, on the single reference Puck had made to being in constant pain, something which Bill failed to grasp was an effect of the condition – achondroplasty… which caused Puck's dwarfism.” Immortal or not, Puck was killed (along with most of Alpha Flight), and at time of writing, is still dead.

7. Oracle

Barbara Gordon was formerly Batgirl, fighting crime with martial arts and a skintight costume. She even appeared in the 1960s Batman television series, played by Yvonne Craig. By day, she was Barbara Gordon, a mild-mannered librarian with Clark Kent spectacles. This changed, however, in the 1988 graphic novel The Killing Joke (written by Alan Moore), when she was shot in the spine by Batman’s insane foe, the Joker. After that, her appearances focused on the tragedy of her new, wheelchair-bound life. But this eventually gave way to her new identity, Oracle. As super-smart as she was previously super-athletic, she oversees crime-fighting missions from a computer console, guiding her able-bodied (and mostly female) operatives, the Birds of Prey.

In 1993, Batman himself had his back broken by a tough criminal, and conducted his detective work from a wheelchair, replaced in the cape by an able-bodied crime-fighter. Unlike Oracle, however, his disability was only temporary.

8. Iron Man

For a multi-millionaire genius and playboy, Tony Stark has had a rough time. Wounded in the Vietnam War (though that has since been updated to the Iraq War), he designed an iron chest-plate to sustain his weak heart. Though he was later fitted with a pacemaker, his armor remains. Nonetheless, his problems continued. He has been an alcoholic, clinically dead (twice), lost his mind, and been on the run from authorities. He was also shot – not by a super-villain, but by an unhinged girlfriend. As his doctor dramatically announced, “Tony Stark will never walk again!” At first, the concept of a paraplegic superhero (while not exactly new) was well portrayed. In his secret identity, he felt helpless. Nonetheless, this was still a comic book, so he continued to fly around as Iron Man, moving his legs with the aid of high-tech armor. “I’ve only solved one problem,” he said. “There’s still a whole world I’m going to have to face without the armor.”

Writing stories around this wasn’t so easy. Within a year he was walking again, thanks to a “biochip implant” in his spine developed by a brilliant team of scientists (or more accurately, a desperate writer).

9. Echo

A Native American heroine, created in 1999 as one of Daredevil’s foes (though later an ally), Echo was thought to be mentally disabled as a child and was sent to a special school. But when she was able to replicate an entire song on a piano, she was moved to a school for gifted children. This must have been confusing, but it soon turned out that she was deaf, but has “photographic reflexes” – the ability to perfectly copy other people's movements. After study, this turned her into an amazing fighter and athlete. She also became one of the few superhero cross-dressers, disguising herself as a masked swordsman called Ronin. Readers were kept guessing for some time at the identity of the mysterious Ronin, and when Echo finally revealed herself, some of them were surprised – mainly because she had somehow hidden her deafness all that time.

10. Komodo

The Lizard, a Spider-Man villain, was really Dr. Curt Connors, a one-armed scientist who was hoping that he could regenerate his arm (like reptiles do) by injecting himself with lizard serum. This gave him an arm, but also turned him into a human lizard, taking away his mind. Fortunately, he was cured (though he never replaced his arm), and continued life as a respectable scientist, despite occasional lapses into reptile form. One of his graduate students, an amputee named Melati Kusuma, stole the serum to replace the legs that she lost in a car accident. In her case, she didn’t lose her mind in the process. Kusuma — Komodo — was introduced by Marvel Comics in 2007, as a trainee member of the Avengers.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
science
What Pop Culture Gets Wrong About Dissociative Identity Disorder
iStock
iStock

From the characters in Fight Club to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, popular culture is filled with "split" personalities. These dramatic figures might be entertaining, but they're rarely (if ever) scientifically accurate, SciShow Psych's Hank Green explains in the channel's latest video. Most representations contribute to a collective misunderstanding of dissociative identity disorder, or DID, which was once known as multiple personality disorder.

Experts often disagree about DID's diagnostic criteria, what causes it, and in some cases, whether it exists at all. Many, however, agree that people with DID don't have multiple figures living inside their heads, all clamoring to take over their body at a moment's notice. Those with DID do have fragmented personalities, which can cause lapses of memory, psychological distress, and impaired daily function, among other side effects.

Learn more about DID (and what the media gets wrong about mental illness) by watching the video below.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Smart Shopping
25 Dapper Outfit Choices for Fashionable Pets
iStock
iStock

Lavishing your furry friends with adorable attire is a benefit of pet ownership that they don't mention on the adoption forms. Whether you prefer practical clothing like sweaters and jackets or statement pieces like bow ties and tutus, these dapper duds are perfect for a howl-iday or "gotcha day" gift, or simply for saying, "Who's the cutest little pupper in pajamas? You are!"

1. CASHMERE DOG SWEATER; FROM $165

dog in sweater
Canine Styles

This classic cable-knit cashmere sweater is a sophisticated look for Fido or Finn. Get it from Canine Styles, a luxury dog emporium in New York City that has plenty of posh and preppy outfits.

Find It: Canine Styles

2. TOGGLE DOG COAT; $85

dog in coat
Canine Styles

This toggle coat (available in orange, navy, and tan) is as fashionable as it is warm. Made of Melton wool, it has Velcro closures to make getting dressed easy. It's great for long walks in the country.

Find It: Canine Styles

3. DOG TUXEDO; FROM $90

Dog in tuxedo
Etsy

This satin tuxedo is perfect for the canine members of your wedding party, though it will brighten up any other occasion as well. The custom, handmade outfit comes complete with a snappy bow tie.

Find It: Etsy

4. DOG BELLE DRESS; FROM $45

Dog Belle Dress
Etsy

The queen of your castle can feel like a Disney princess in her very own version of Belle's iconic yellow dress from Beauty and the Beast. This ball gown is made from yellow crepe satin with chiffon overlay on the bodice and features hand-painted gold detailing on the skirt. Enchanted rose not included.

Find It: Etsy

5. POODLE SKIRT OUTFIT FOR DOGS; $26

Rubies Pink Fifties Girl Pet Costume
Amazon

What if you could buy a 1950s poodle skirt for your poodle? This retro dress is comprised of a pink poodle skirt, striped bodice, and sequined belt, and comes with a bow headband.

Find It: Amazon

6. RIBBED CROCHET BUNNY SWEATER; $25

bunny in a sweater
Etsy

Your snuggle-bunny will look like a little fancy-pants in this ribbed crochet sweater. Choose from seven colors, including this dashing deep red.

Find It: Etsy

7. BESPOKE MONOGRAM DOG SWEATER; FROM $155

Dog in sweater
Ruby Rufus

Bespoke clothing isn't just for humans: British luxury dog clothing brand Ruby Rufus will make your pooch a custom monogram sweater made with 100 percent Italian cashmere. You can even order it in your dog's favorite color.

Find It: Ruby Rufus

8. HOT PINK DOG TUTU; $17

Dog in hot pink tutu
Etsy

Tutus look absolutely adorable on tiny humans and animals alike. If your pooch wants to get in touch with its inner ballerina, then grab this hot pink number from Etsy. Rave reviews are a sure thing.

Find It: Etsy

9. PINK DOG POLO SHIRT; $35

Dog Pink Polo Shirt
Canine Styles

This pink polo shirt is perfect for your preppy fur baby. It features not one but a veritable multitude of crocodiles. They'll be the most dapper dog at the country club.

Find It: Canine Styles

10. DOG BARN COAT WITH BROWN CORDUROY COLLAR; $85

Dog in barn coat
Canine Styles

When it's time for a walk, your dog will look effortlessly chic in this fancy barn coat. It comes in navy, cranberry, orange, hot pink, and loden and features convenient pockets for anyone with opposable thumbs.

Find It: Canine Styles

11. WHITE PET NECK RUFF; $26

Pet Neck Ruff
Etsy

Your canine or kitty will look like their painting belongs in London's National Portrait Gallery with this Elizabethan neck ruff.

Find It: Etsy

12. CHICKEN SWEATER; $25

chicken wearing sweater
Etsy

Chickens can get cold when they're strutting around outside. A sweater (well, more like sweater vest) for your bird can also help prevent feather picking during molting season. Or, it can simply keep them warm while they stare pensively across a snowy landscape.

Find It: Etsy

13. PET CIRCLE SCARF; $15

dog in scarf
Etsy

An infinity scarf is a perfect burst of color on a dreary early morning walk. The proprietor of Mitten Made on Etsy originally designed this wool snood for her miniature Dachshund to help keep her warm during the long, cold winters in Michigan.

Find It: Etsy

14. FAB DOG TRAVEL RAINCOAT; FROM $18

Fab Dog Travel Raincoat
Chewy

This timeless yellow rain slicker will look great on any puppy when it's raining cats and dogs. It's made of 100 percent waterproof nylon shell that keeps fur dry. Bonus: It's perfect for an It Halloween costume.

Find It: Chewy

15. LACE CAT OR DOG COLLAR; FROM $10

cat in lace collar
Etsy

This handmade, white lace collar is a must-have for fancy felines. It's also embellished with a large rhinestone.

Find It: Etsy

16. FITWARM PENGUIN PAJAMAS FOR DOGS; FROM $10

Fitwarm Cute Penguin Xmas Dog Pajamas
Amazon

Keep your pupper warm on cold winter nights with these penguin PJs. They're great for doggie sleepovers or lazy weekends on the couch watching Netflix.

Find It: Amazon

17. PLAID CASHMERE DOG COAT; FROM $225

dog in plaid coat
Canine Styles

Your dog will look like a proper gentleman in this smart plaid peacoat. This fine garment is made of cashmere with a faux fur lining and leather buttons, and is a perfect shield against chill and fog.

Find It: Canine Styles

18. SATIN PET BOW TIE; FROM $8

Satin Bow Tie for Dog
Etsy

This satin doggie bow tie is perfect for any occasion. It comes in several colors and features a Velcro fastener that makes it easy to attach to a collar. Plus, 10 percent of every sale goes to charity: specifically to SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and Feeding Pets of the Homeless.

Find It: Etsy

19. RED DOG DRESS; FROM $34

dog in dress
Etsy

Your good boy or girl will look red carpet-ready in this elegant gown. The voluminous tulle skirt is to die for, and each bow is embellished with beads. Custom orders are also available.

Find It: Etsy

20. DOG TIE; FROM $13

Dog tie
Etsy

Your pooch will be ready to stun at any black tie event. This tie is designed like a collar, making it easy to dress your four-legged friend. This Etsy store gives back: 10 perfect of all sales are donated to an animal protection association.

Find It: Etsy

21. NAUTICAL DOG DRESS WITH MATCHING LEASH; $20

Dog sailor dress
BaxterBoo

Perfect for a day on the town or setting sail in a schooner, this is the sailor outfit you never knew your best furry friend needed. This vintage throwback also comes with a matching leash.

Find It: BaxterBoo

22. TARTAN FLANNEL PET BOW TIE; $5.50

tartan pet bow tie
Etsy

Your dog or cat will turn heads in this flannel tartan bow tie. It has a convenient elastic loop that slides over your pup's collar.

Find It: Etsy

23. PUCCI DOG SHIRT; $23

dog in Pucci dog shirt
Etsy

Only the fanciest dogs wear, err, Pucci. Grab this punny "designer" t-shirt for your pup. This high-quality cotton statement piece is perfect for small breeds.

Find It: Etsy

24. PINK POLKA DOT AND LACE DOG HARNESS DRESS; $20

Pink Polka Dot and Lace Designer Dog Harness Dress
BaxterBoo

This feminine pink polka dot dress is simply adorable. It features a convenient built-in harness and comes with a matching leash.

Find It: BaxterBoo

25. PET SWEATER VEST; $6

pet sweater vest
Amazon

Your dog or cat will look like an erudite Oxford professor in this sweater vest. Note that the button on the pocket is shaped like a bone.

Find It: Amazon

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios