Comics have had this stigma following them for years. That they are created solely for children and the illiterate. Comics are primarily known for their colourful characters and leaps in logic, and because of this, for years, it was hard for people to shake that mindset. By 2017, we have entire film and game franchises based on the world of comics. While the print media doesn’t get as much attention as it should, the franchises and culture spawned from their pages have spread worldwide, to every culture and corner of the world. Pop culture has taken on a life of its own, and intertwined itself with our own. With characters we can all connect with, or at least recognise, some have gone on to use these familiar grounds to tell their own personal stories. To help them overcome terrible situations, and to impart their message to those that shouldn’t have to suffer in silence.
Dark Night: A True Batman Story – Battling Depression and the Aftermath of Assault.
Paul Dini is responsible for one of the most beloved animated comic series of all time, Batman: The Animated Series. Having been a part of Warner Bros. Animation department, working on Animaniacs, and Tiny Toons, as well as creating the widely popular character of Harley Quinn. Paul Dini is practically a veteran of pop culture. In his 2016 book, Dark Night: A True Batman Story, with art by Eduardo Risso, Dini tells a very personal tale. Discussing not only his life long battle with depression, but an incident one night that shock him to his very core, and caused such physical harm, that he found himself in hospital, requiring major surgery. Dark Night tells Dini’s incredibly personal story about how pop culture, and specifically Batman, has helped shape his life, and got him through that painful point in time. Dark Night explores the importance of pop culture. How we use figures in our lives, the real and the fictional, to personify our demons. The idea of the Scarecrow telling us to give into fear. The Joker, mocking us for weakness. But how our heroes can knock some sense into us, and act as our guiding light out of darkness.
It’s A Bird – The fear of inevitable illness and worthlessness.
Steven T. Seagle is a comic writer who has just been given every comic writers dream, the chance to write Superman. However, Seagle is nowhere near excited, due to his inability to connect to Superman. The idea of Superman brings to his mind his fears of death, long term genetic illness, and loss, due to what happened during his first encounter with a Superman comic. Steven relays to the reader how he came to understand a disease he fears, his strained relationship with his father, and his feelings of worthlessness. It’s a Bird provides a touching semi-autobiographical story that explores mortality. The cultural significance of the Icon, the importance of Superman, and the power of an idea. The book follows Steven while he battles his own memories, and talks to those around him, asking what Superman means to them.
Something Terrible – Childhood Sexual Abuse and Breaking the Cycle
Sexual abuse is one of the worse things someone can experience, particularly at a young age. Your sense of self and safety are corrupted, and you feel like you can never trust those around you. Dean Trippe is one man who suffered such a terrible ordeal in childhood, and sought comfort in his love of Batman. However, he hears of the cycle of abuse, that ‘the abused becomes the abuser’, and as he grows up, marries, and has a son of his own, he lives with a metaphorical gun to his head, in fear that it may be true. Through this short book, Trippe explores what happened to him, the impact it had on his life, and decides to draw himself a new version of events. This stunning book acts as a reminder to all affected, that they are not alone. That even their fictional loves, in Trippe’s case Batman, can be used to help in the healing process. Trippe portrays the reality of the events in a slightly off black and white tone, only to explode in colour when the world of pop culture comes to young Dean’s aid, in a single page spread that brings a tear to the eye. While the comic is available online for anyone to see, the printed version contains a touching added epilogue of Dean ‘returning the favour’ for Batman.
We all deal with trauma in different ways. Sometimes it’s hard to find a comfort, and easy to feel like you are alone. But these stories exist to prove that it is possible to find a way out, and that no matter your coping method, what world you choose to live in. You are not alone.
Dark Night: A True Batman Story by Paul Dini and Eduardo Risso is available in both Hardcover and Paperback through DC’s Vertigo Imprint. Available on Amazon.
It’s a Bird by Steven Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen is available in Paperback with an out of print Hardcover. Published through DC’s Vertigo Imprint. Available on Amazon.
Something Terrible by Dean Trippe is available in Hardcover from Iron Circus Comics. Available on Amazon.