In the modern age, mental health has become as important as physical health. People all over the world are discussing disorders like anxiety and how it can affect everyday life. And with the debate comes a duty to break down stigma so more people feel comfortable talking about their experiences.
Storytelling is an effective way of presenting mental health in a relatable way. Stories inspire us. They introduce us to characters who’ve been through similar situations and have managed to overcome adversity.
Comics are a wonderful medium for mental health positivity. They show readers that even the mightiest of superheroes like Thor and Captain Marvel can be vulnerable. It’s humbling to see such powerful characters be brought down to earth and made to deal with the same problems that humans face on a regular basis.
Seeing a superhero overcome their mental health struggles is inspiring. Readers witness their own journey reflected back at them and it might encourage them to make a positive change in their life.
Various comic book stories have covered issues as heartbreaking as depression and suicide. But by the end of the story, there’s always a ray of hope. After reading one of these stories, you’ll be reminded that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.
10. Daredevil: Born Again
A common mental health disorder, depression effects people all over the world. Daredevil is a superhero who’s suffered from depression his entire life and few stories capture his struggle as vividly as Born Again.
Written by Frank Miller, Born Again is widely considered to be one of the greatest Daredevil stories of all-time. It focuses on Matt Murdock’s descent into madness at the hands of the Kingpin. When the crime lord finds out Daredevil’s identity, he destroys Matt’s life by taking away his job, his home and his reason to live.
Sinking into depression, the Man Without Fear ends up homeless on the streets of New York. Miller doesn’t shy away from the debilitating effects of Matt’s condition. At one point, his depression becomes so severe that he lashes out at his best friend Foggy Nelson and threatens to attack innocent people.
Refusing to give up, Daredevil pulls himself out of the depths of despair. He fights back against Kingpin, eventually exposing him as criminal.
Born Again is must-read story for anyone who suffers from depression because of its realism and relatable themes.
9. Green Lanterns: Family Matters
The Green Lantern Corps feature characters with tremendous willpower and inner strength. But that doesn’t mean all of them are immune to self-doubt. Jessica Cruz is a Green Lantern who suffers from anxiety attacks. Sometimes, her anxiety is so bad that it stops her from getting out of bed, which shows how stressful the disorder can be.
Jessica fights to manage her condition every day, and it helps that she has a partner like Simon Baz to talk to. Green Lanterns: Family Matters does an excellent job of showing the importance of Baz and Jessica’s relationship in a mental health context.
In the story, Baz invites Jessica over for dinner to meet his family. At first, Jessica’s anxiety kicks in and she looks for ways to get out of the situation. Baz convinces her to join him in cooking a Lebanese dessert called Ma’Amoul.
Jessica’s appreciation for food compels her to ignore her anxiety long enough to meet Baz’s family and bond with them. It’s a small victory for Jessica in the war she has with her condition.
Green Lanterns: Family Matters is full of touching moments that can help anxiety sufferers realise that they aren’t alone.
8. Black Knight: The Fall Of Dane Whitman
Battling with addiction is at the heart of Black Knight: The Fall Of Dane Whitman. In the story, Black Knight is struggling to control his Ebony Blade, a cursed weapon that forces its wielder to murder indiscriminately.
After killing a villain called Carnivore, Black Knight went on the run from the Avengers and hid out in Weird World. He became the new ruler, leading his people against other factions who wanted to take over. When the Avengers tracked him down, Whitman fought against them, but was defeated and the Ebony Blade was taken off him.
The sword’s curse was so powerful that even Captain America couldn’t overcome it. He lost control, which caused Black Knight to step up and take the blade back. Captain America came to understand that Whitman is the only person who could wield the sword and they parted on good terms.
Ultimately, Black Knight was successful in managing his addiction.
7. Red Hood And The Outlaws: REDemption
Red Hood ranks among the most complex characters in the Batman family. Many of his stories involve clashing with The Dark Knight over his willingness to use lethal force against criminals. For a long time, Jason held a grudge against his mentor for refusing to kill the Joker.
During the New 52, Jason received an ongoing series called Red Hood and The Outlaws, which redefined the character and his journey. In the ‘Redemption’ story, Red Hood is joined by Arsenal and Starfire. The three of them go on a mission to investigate the destruction of the All-Caste, an assassin cult who trained Red Hood.
Within the story, Jason starts to overcome the post traumatic stress disorder he felt over his resurrection. He begins to look beyond his grudge against Batman and work towards finding inner peace. This is due to his interactions with Arsenal and Starfire, who support him every step of the way.
Redemption also does wonders for Roy Harper. Arsenal is a recovering heroin addict and his friendship with Jason and Starfire helps to restore his self-worth. It motivates him to be better.
The first arc of Red Hood and The Outlaws celebrates the importance of being around like-minded people. No one has to go through a mental health problem alone.
6. Scarlet Witch: World Of Witchcraft
Over the years, the Scarlet Witch has had her fair share of mental health issues. Suffering a psychotic breakdown during the events of House of M, Wanda Maximoff wiped out a large portion of the mutant population.
The incident caused a rift between Wanda and the rest of the superhero community, with the Avengers and X-Men both refusing to trust her.
Wanda looked to start her recovery in the pages of Scarlet Witch: World of Witchcraft. Upon discovering that witch magic was broken, Wanda vowed to fix it. She travelled across the world, solving various supernatural problems at the expense of decreasing her own life. Every time she used magic, Wanda lost another part of herself.
What makes the story so inspiring is that Scarlet Witch managed to regain her confidence. She stopped letting depression control her life and found a new purpose. Wanda made the decision to see a therapist, to discuss her issues and take charge of her recovery.
5. Iron Man: Demon In A Bottle
One of the earliest comic stories to shine a light on mental health was David Micheline and Bob Layton’s Demon In A Bottle arc. Published in 1979, the story dealt with Iron Man’s alcoholism, which also served as inspiration for Iron Man 2 in 2010.
In the story, Iron Man’s armour continually malfunctions, which leads to him accidentally killing a foreign ambassador. Shaken by the experience, Tony drinks heavily to forget his problems. Becoming increasingly isolated, Stark lashes out at his colleagues, friends and loved ones.
Eventually, Stark is confronted by his girlfriend, Bethany Cabe, who reveals that she was once married to a man who suffered from drug problems. She forced Tony to come to terms with the fact that he was an alcoholic. Wanting to get better, Stark let Bethany help him through withdrawal.
At the end of the story, Iron Man is feeling optimistic about his future and vows to stay away from alcohol.
4. Sentry: Man Of Two Worlds
Robert Reynolds has spent his life trying to balance being the heroic Sentry and the villainous Void. Both personalities developed after Reynolds ingested a more powerful version of the serum that gave Captain America his powers.
In Jeff Lemire’s Man Of Two Worlds, Reynolds is struggling to cope with a severe form of superhero addiction. Every day he spends time in a device called The Confluctor, which houses the Sentry and Void personalities. In the real world, Reynolds works a dead-end job and daydreams about his time as Sentry.
After The Confluctor is stolen, Bob becomes Sentry again and has to fight against his former sidekick Scout. To defeat Scout, Bob merges his two halves together into something completely new. Feeling whole for the first time, Sentry leaves the Avengers guessing as to what kind of person he’ll become in the future.
Man Of Two Worlds is worth reading because it shows the complexity of mental health. Sometimes, the only way to find peace is to accept the bad parts of ourselves and find a way to make it work.
3. Thor: God Of Thunder Reborn
Even gods are capable of suffering from mental health disorders like low self-esteem and depression. There was a time when Thor lost the ability to wield Mjolnir because he was deemed unworthy. Falling into despair, he changed his name to Odinson and passed the mantle of God of Thunder to Jane Foster.
Thor: God of Thunder Reborn is a relatable mental health story that features the Thunderer reclaiming his name and self-worth. With Mjolnir destroyed, Thor must rely on using an arsenal of hammers to stop a war brewing in Hel. In his effort to stop the realm from being taken over by Queen Sindr, the Odinson calls on the aid of Loki, Balder, Karnilla and several other Asgardians.
The story starts off with Thor feeling doubtful of being able to live up to the person he used to be. By the end, he comes to the realisation that he doesn’t need to define himself by Mjonir. His worthiness comes from never giving up.
2. The Life Of Captain Marvel
here’s no denying that Captain Marvel is one of the most powerful superheroes in the Marvel Universe. But her physical strength is often contrasted with her history of mental health struggles.
Margaret Stohl’s The Life of Captain Marvel explores Carol Danver’s psychology in detail. The graphic novel focuses on Carol’s unresolved childhood issues and family relationships. Manifesting as PTSD, the trauma causes Carol to suffer from horrific panic attacks.
At the beginning of the story, she pummels a villain so hard that Captain America is forced to restrain her. Recognising she has an anger problem, Carol returns to her childhood home to confront the memories of her abusive father.
Captain Marvel’s relationship with her mother is another key theme of the story. When a Kree executioner comes to Earth, Carol comes to understand that her family is more complicated than she believed. Her mother reveals herself as a Kree warrior and the two of them team up against the executioner.
The Life Of Captain Marvel is a poignant mental health story that brings Carol down to a human level. It reminds us that even the strongest people are prone to vulnerability.
1. Mister Miracle
It’s imperative that men feel comfortable talking about their mental health and stories like Mister Miracle can help to make that possible. Tom King tells a story that is emotional, moving, heartbreaking and hopeful all at once.
As the world’s greatest escape artist, Mister Miracle is used to finding a way out of any situation. Feeling low and dissatisfied with his life, Scott Free tries to kill himself. He’s rushed to hospital by his wife Big Barda and spends a long time recovering.
Soon, Mister Miracle and Barda are pulled into a war between the New Gods of Apokolips and New Genesis. But the war is used as a backdrop for Scott’s mental health, with him struggling to decide what’s real and what isn’t.
For all of Scott’s doubt, he finds moments of happiness with Barda, and that’s where the story truly shines. King charts the main character’s journey from rock bottom and shows how he evolves into a courageous fighter who’ll do anything to protect his family.
As a mental health story, Mister Miracle doesn’t pull any punches. It shows how messy depression can be, but it also offers proof that life does get better.
(This post first appeared on WhatCulture.com.)