As someone who was born with one arm, I do not view myself as disabled. Instead, I view myself as an X-Men who is in the Danger Room that is life with an unknown timer. Every hurdle is like a Sentinel forcing me to adapt to my surroundings and situations. After all, it was the X-Men who got me into comics when I was younger.
Reading stories about people who had unique abilities, and also caught the ire of the public because of their appearance resonated with me. Simply because each issue taught me a lesson about life. They taught me why being tolerant of others is important. The team also assured me that I wasn’t alone in the world when it came to my situation and that I was unique and not a freak.
Stories like Alan Moore‘s The Killing Joke and John Semper, Jr.‘s Cyborg: Rebirth showcased both the horrific causes of disabilities and the mental impact they have on people. Seeing Victor Stone (Cyborg) go on a date with a woman and feel like he has to conceal his true appearance, is how I used to feel in the same situation. Out of fear that the woman I was with would be uncomfortable as people stared at us. Barbara Gordon lying in bed realizing her paralysis and learning how to overcome it serves as a great teaching tool.
The dialogue that shows the most pain is writing that holds the most truth. Having disabled characters in comics is important, as they can give people someone to identify with and teach them how to overcome the hurdles that come with being disabled. But when it comes to most disabled characters nowadays, it seems as if creative teams do not expand their roles. Instead, they assign them to positions that have become very niche.
If a character is in a wheelchair, they are automatically assigned to a computer/desk job. Why not field work? It is a comic book, you can give them a way to modify a Hoveround. Same goes for prosthetic limbs.
Why is it every arm has to have a hand at the end of it? There are prosthetics in real life that have multiple attachments including knives. By giving someone a hand, the writer/editor is taking away something unique about the character. Plus I have owned mechanical hands.
They were heavy, got dirty really easily and if I accidentally hit a button, they would eject like the heads on a Voltron figure. They were terrible. But in all seriousness when it comes to disabilities in comics, my biggest hope is creative teams and publishers look more outside of the box when it comes to creating and marketing disabled characters. People remember the person with a hammer attached to their stub.
If you give a person a robotic hand, what is the point of taking the limb at all? Also by doing something unique with the prosthesis, you are making it its own character. More creative teams and publishers should reach out to people like myself and have more creative consultations about these characters. There are so many avenues and questions that can be asked and answered.
Questions pertaining to disabled people’s feelings towards others touching their stubs, their range of motion, etc. Not every missing a limb is the same shape and length. Some stubs (like mine) require(d) surgery in order to be fitted for a prosthesis.
To people like me, I say this. Just because you have lost your limb(s) does not mean you have lost your life. There will be trials, but the sooner you embrace what you still have, the quicker you will overcome them. How can we ask for more various types of representation if we are not willing to open up and discuss our lives and situations with those who are interested in giving us these characters?
Charles Xavier said in X-Men: Days Of Future Past, “Countless choices define our fate. Each choice, each moment, a moment in the ripple of time. Enough ripple and you change the tide. For the future is never truly set”.
Let us use today to cause a ripple and change the tide! Comment below on what kinds of disabled characters and stories about them you would like to see created below!