You have just read a Batman comic book, and you're into the fight pages between The Joker and Batman. The Joker runs around prancing, grinning, yelling love notes to the Dark Knight, all while trying to blow up a children's hospital. Batman, grim, determined and relentless eventually trounces the Joker and saves the hospital. And, during the fight we all focus on Joker being the lunatic, the problem, yet, somehow we know Batman not be right in the head either.
From Two-Face to Moon Knight, from The Punisher to Yellowjacket, mental illness and how it is depicted is a roll of the dice in comic books and their associated media. Animation, movies, video games, and the printed page, comics have connected in one way or another to a large and varied audience.Even those casually associated with comics via the cinema are being given some of the worst ideas of the mentally ill.
-In the Netflix series Daredevil, the lead character, played by Charlie Cox, is shown with a an obsessive, masochistic streak that at time pushes him beyond i love for his hometown and almost leads to his death. And the villain of the series, Wilson Fisk, played by Vincent D'Onofrio is shown as suffering from intense child hood trauma and possibly bipolar disorder. Both hero and villain are shown to be flawed and to have issues they work out by violence.
-In the Batman comics series, most of the villains are locked up in Arkham Asylum. Very few, if any, are shown to have successful treatment. The stereotype of incurable mental illness has become a cornerstone of that character's franchise, with the sanity of Batman called into question itself.
- The Punisher is a victim of PTSD, from his war experiences and the murder of his family. Almost suffering from a pathological need to kill all criminals, or those whom he deems to be criminals, this character reinforces the idea that veterans, especially those exposed to war, are especially violent and prone to destruction.
Fiction provides many people Ã¢ÂÂ kids and teens especially Ã¢ÂÂ with their first exposure to the stigmatized or marginalized realities of others, such as mental illness.--Meredith Nudo October 27, 2014/Thought Bubble: Iron Man, Mental Illness and the Importance of Representation
Although still lacking in the proper portrayal of mental health issues,amongst it's other pushes for diversity, Marvel comics is however is ahead of DC Comics in both it's cinematic and printed outputs.
To again quote Ms. Nudo from her article:
Iron Man 3 accomplishes this. Without subtlety, apology or insensitivity. Robert Downey, Jr.Ã¢ÂÂs Tony Stark visibly trembles. His breath strains. He twitches and stays up for 72 straight hours and snaps at well-meaning loved ones and strangers who want to understand. And all throughout, the helplessness and turmoil he desperately attempts to push back registers so obviously on his face, it may as well be a second nose. Visibility for an invisible fight, never crossing over into cheap melodrama.
In the film we actually see a realized problem and the toll on out hero, well portrayed by Robert Downey Junior, in his role as Tony Stark/Iron Man.
In the 2014, number seven issue of Daredevil, Matt Murdock's mother explains why she left and the effect postpartum depression had on her life. A subject seldom if ever respectfully broached in comics. Now a nun, she explains what happened to her in a very relatable way to honestly involve the reader. To further their push into being more help than hurt on this matter Marvel used the last page of the book to offer facts and help to those struggling with this illness.
However, not is all bad with the DC Universe, for example during the run of the TV series, Justice League Unlimited, The Flash takes it upon himself to help a villain in need. This is how he handles his nemesis The Trickster :
Perhaps with both companies pushing for better diversity and equality in comics, one day mental health issues and how they are looked at in comics will be something to cheer about, especially to those of us who deal with them.