Wednesday, July 13, 2011

16348--Through the Fire

Is it possible to be evil, but still PC?  Can the hero be the hero, but seen as weaker than everyone else around?  Heroes and villains can both be inspirational examples for an audience as they overcome the adversities brought onto them by their own bodies.  Finding the strength to do so brings with it the label of having strong character, which is a trait good main characters are supposed to have.

Despite a severed spine, crushed bones and heart damage topping their lists, Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark refused to accept being disabled.  Both Batman and Iron Man have been able to continue their harrowing careers, not just through judicious application of their wealth and advanced medical technology but through determination in the face of otherwise debilitating injuries.  Likewise, Captain Hook and Long John Silver never let their respective amputations get in the way of their respective ambitions.  Barbara Gordon had to stop being Batgirl when the Joker put her into a wheelchair, but she gained an even greater level of fan loyalty as she became the unique, behind-the-scenes hero support known as Oracle.  As Oracle, the dedicated researcher found new purpose for herself by providing information to other superheroes through the internet.

Anakin Skywalker grew to impress his fellow Jedi with his skills, but could only go so far as a whiny orphan.  It wasn't until he became Darth Vader--asthmatic, quadriplegic, killer cyborg--that he became truly daunting and made people run for cover.  When was the last time you saw a kid with an inhaler and prosthetic legs bully anybody?  Never, that's when.  Vader took it and ran...well, walked menacingly with it.  Was that a handicapped placard on that Super Star Destroyer?  No, but you go ahead and park where you like, your lordship sir.

Before he joined the X-Men, the mutant creative genius known as Forge lost a hand and half of a leg.  No, he wasn't thrilled about it, but he used his mutant gift to cobble together his own replacement parts and went on to build all sorts of nifty sci-fi toys for the government.

Professor Xavier may have been zipping about in his wheelchair for years before Oracle but he's not the only one.  Niles Caulder, "The Chief" to the Doom Patrol, has been so attached to his wheels that he only wanted to collect "oddballs" (aka "freaks") to work for him.  Not content to just find them, maybe he didn't want to have to grapple with accessibility issues, this mastermind engineered schemes that even Samuel Jackson's Mr. Glass didn't approach in order to create recruits for his team.  From the comfy seat of his own wheelchair, The Chief ultimately went so far as to even perform the harvesting of a living brain (landmark surgery from our POV) following the "accident" that destroyed the body of  Cliff Steel and installing it into a shiny new life support system: an advanced, humanoid robot body that has protected his brain through probably as many body replacements as Iron Man has suits of armor.  Still, his brain has been his greatest obstacle: understandably depressed over his total body amputation, Robotman has been known to sit inert for long periods of time.

Just as Robotman has had years of artifically extended life as one of comicdoms favorite brain-in-a-box characters, one of the Doom patrol's perennial foes has been The Brain, who really is just a genius brain-in-a-box.  His only custom features are life support and communications.  His main henchman, an intelligent gorilla, even has to lug his boss around, so I guess that just proves how rare a cool body like Robotman's really is.  Look at all the trouble OCP had duplicating the success of the original Robocop.

Other selectively modified cyborgs have sported as little as an artificial eye up to half their bodies.  Most commonly among them has seemed to be the need to deal with the attendant emotional issues of anger and loss.  Unique among them, Cyborg of the Teen Titans chose to spend some of his spare time mentoring amputee children.  Most others, like the lesser-known Secret Six (whose team name would explain their lack of fame) and the more famous Robocop, Steve Austin, Jamie Sommers and a few other bionic part recipients who joined their small-screen exploits (among them a young Sandra Bullock in their final movie) ignored their emotional issues rather than working through them and threw themselves headlong into the dangerous work that they were rebuilt to do for as long as they had audiences. 

Steve and Jamie continued television work, while the others went on to other endeavors.


  1. Phoenix, you are on fire! Couldn't resist. I love this article, love your sense of humor and, really, owe you a debt of thanks for the "Six Million Dollar Man/Woman" shout-out. Childhood memories.

    Seriously, great writing and very clever. I will be following you.


  2. Welcome aboard, Landon. I appreciate the input and I'm always happy to share memories with friends, old and new. If you got a kick out of those bionic reminiscences, be sure to check out "The Darnedest Things"

    I'll keep posting during novel writing breaks, so stick around.