Some superheroes have a reputation for being flawless, such as Superman. While his popularity speaks for itself, I feel he lacks depth compared to other characters. When a character has flaws, when they mess up and struggle like everyone else, it makes them relatable. It could be argued that Marvel’s equivalent of Superman is The Sentry. There’s a lot of similarities between them. But in my opinion, Sentry is far more compelling. Here is my analysis on what makes Sentry interesting.
The Sentry was created by Paul Jenkins and Rick Veitch and they decided to create a fictionalised publication history for the character. This matched with their idea of creating a backstory where a cataclysmic event removed all knowledge of the Sentry from the Marvel Universe. The Sentry was introduced in Marvel Knights, which featured him teaming up with the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and Hulk.
In 2000, Bob Reynolds recalled his life as the Sentry and realised his arch-enemy, the Void was returning. He reached out to several heroes to warn them and their memories of him return. Mr Fantastic investigated why everyone forgot Reynolds and he discovered The Void and The Sentry were two parts of the same man. Reynolds decided to wipe the memories of everyone in the world so The Void would be destroyed.
Over the years, there have been many explanations for the Void. One story involved it being a cerebral virus implanted into Sentry by Mastermind. Other reasons include it being Reynolds’ real personality or it being a separate force that was around since Biblical times as the Angel of Death. The Void can create destructive storms, cause traumatic visions and possesses superhuman strength and endurance. During the ‘Siege’ story arc, the Void destroyed Asgard, ripped The God of War, Ares in half, killed an empowered Loki and came close to slaughtering Thor.
Sentry’s struggle to contain his dark side is what makes him so compelling. His mental instability makes him flawed and vulnerable. Like Superman, he was meant to represent hope, but his origins are much darker. Before becoming the Sentry, Reynolds was a drug addict who broke into a lab with a friend and stumbled across the serum that gave him his powers. After transforming, he accidently destroyed the lab and killed everyone inside. Reynolds buried his guilt, forgetting he was a thief and addict. He blamed everything on ‘a boogyman’ that turned into the Void.
The Void can be used as a metaphor for mental illness. It’s the idea that your darkest thoughts have come to life and there’s nowhere to run. Rather than confront his problems, Reynolds tried to separate himself from them, leading to the creation of the Void. The kind of mental illnesses that Reynolds suffers from are the kind that psychiatrists deal with on a regular basis.
When thinking about human nature, Sentry’s struggle is relatable. We’re all capable of being kind or cruel, compassionate or selfish. Reynolds’ super humanity eroded his humanity, making him one of the most tragic characters in the Marvel Universe.
8 thoughts on “Using The Sentry As A Metaphor For Mental Illness”
Great Article. I agree wholeheartedly about The Sentry’s struggles being relatable; more relatable than Superman’s problems. Hopefully his return to Marvel in June will be a happier one, or one where he can overcome his mental illness (for the most part, because mental illness fully really goes away). Great article and read.
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