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Comics by Topic

Physical Disability in Comics Cover Art Gallery

Physical Disabilities in Comics

Comic art is capable of both finely grained nuance and cartoonish

broad strokes, and the history of how disability has been represented

therein is as fraught with problematic tropes as it is rich

for recuperative subversion of those tropes.

~Disability in Comic Books and Graphic Narratives (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016)

 

Use the tabs above to learn about comics that explore physical disability. Included in this guide are graphic novels and comics. Comic strips and political cartoons are not covered. The guide is by no means exhaustive. There will likely be more comics that cover the topic than the titles we’ve chosen as representative examples, but we hope this will give you a good place to start. Happy researching!

Aquaman (DC) (1994 series)

Aquaman loses his hand and replaces it with a retractable harpoon, a prosthetic hand, and later with a mystical hand made of water.

 

Alpha Flight (Marvel) (1983-1994)

Once more than seven feet tall, Eugene Judd, a.k.a. Puck, is transformed into a little person. While his transformation comes with immortality and other superhuman abilities, his Dwarfism is also painful.

 

Barbara Gordon, a.k.a. Batgirl and Oracle (Character, DC)

In Batman: The Killing Joke (1988), Joker shoots and paralyzes Batgirl. Renaming herself, The Oracle, Barbara fights crime as the leader of the Birds of Prey team.

Birds of Prey (1999-)

Black Canary/Oracle: Birds of Prey (1996)

Nightwing: Hunt for Oracle (2003)

Suicide Squad Vol. 1, no. 23- (1989-)

 

Blue Ear (Marvel) (2014)

True story - Anthony Smith, a 4-year-old from New Hampshire, didn’t want to wear his hearing aid because superheroes didn’t wear them. His mother wrote to Marvel and they teamed up with the Children’s Hearing Institute in New York to create Blue Ear (that’s what Anthony called his hearing aid). Blue Ear, along with Sapheara who has cochlear hearing implants, inspire children with hearing disabilities.

 

Building Stories (Pantheon Books, 2012)

Chris Ware’s unconventional graphic novel is made up of fourteen different printed works that together build a story. One of the main characters is an amputee who lost her leg in a boating accident.

 

Captain America (Marvel) vol. 5, nos. 8-14 (2005)

James Buchanan "Bucky" Barnes, is a sidekick to Captain America. During a World War II battle, Captain America and Bucky are in a plane that explodes and Bucky loses his arm. He is found by the Russians who replace his arm with a prosthetic and he becomes a covert Soviet agent known as the Winter Soldier.

 

Captain Marvel Jr. (Fawcett; DC) (various years 1941-)

Teenager, Freddy Freeman, is attacked by Captain Nazi and suffers a spinal injury that requires him to walk with a crutch. Captain Marvel takes Freddy to Shazam, a powerful wizard who shows Captain Marvel how to pass some of his superpowers on to Freddy, allowing him to transform into Captain Marvel, Jr.

Captain Marvel Jr. (1942-1953)

Master Comics (1940s)

The Outsiders vol. 3 (2004-2005)

The Power of Shazam! nos. 3-13 (1995)

Shazam! (1972)

Teen Titans (1995-1998) and vol. 3 nos. 17–19 (2005)

Whiz Comics no. 25 (1941)

 

Cassandra Craft (Character, DC)

Cassandra Craft is blind and owns a magic shop.

Phantom Stranger vol 2 (1972)

Seven Soldiers: Zatanna vol 1 no.2 (2005)

 

Count Vertigo (Character, DC)

Count Werner Vertigo has a hereditary ear defect that affected his sense of balance. He has an implant that corrects the imbalance and he’s learned how to adjust the device to throw other people off balance. This version of his backstory is from the original not the new 52. Check ComicVine for the many appearances of Count Vertigo in various comics.

Daredevil (Marvel) (1964-)

Matt Murdock is blinded by a radioactive substance, enhancing his other senses to a superhuman level. He becomes a lawyer who also fights crime as the character Daredevil.

 

Doctor Mid-Nite (DC) (1941)

Doctor Charles McNider was blinded by a grenade while operating on a mob witness. He develops the ability to see in total darkness but not in light so he develops a special visor that blacks out all light, allowing him to see.     

All-American Comics nos. 25-102 (1941-48)

All-Star Comics nos. 6-45 (1941-49)

All-Star Squadron nos. 1-60 (1981-86)

Justice League of America (various issues)

Check ComicVine for more appearances.

 

Doom Patrol (DC) vol. 1 (1963-1968)

Niles Caulder, a.k.a. Chief, was implanted with explosives and lost his ability to walk. His wheelchair did not stop him from leading a team of heroes called, The Doom Patrol.

First appeared in My Greatest Adventure #80 (retitled Doom Patrol issues #86-121)

 

Echo (Character, Marvel)

Maya Lopez, a.k.a. Echo, is a deaf superhero.

Daredevil vol. 2 no. 9 (1999-),

New Avengers no. 11 (2005-)

 

El Deafo (Harry N. Abrams, 2014)

In this graphic novel memoir, Cece Bell shares tales of growing up deaf. Depicted as a bunny, Cece is able to harness the power of the Phonic Ear and become “El Deafo, Listener for All.”

 

Harper Lodge (Character, Archie Comics) (2014-)

Archie’s cousin Harper Lodge is in a wheelchair due to a car accident when she was a child. She’s a successful fashion designer, children’s book author and advice column writer.

Archie nos. 656, 665

Betty and Veronica Double Digest no. 230 (Designing Divas)

 

Hawkeye (Marvel)

Clint Barton Marvel, a.k.a. Hawkeye, uses hearing aids after losing 80% of his hearing. The story of how he lost his hearing is told in Hawkeye nos. 1-4 (1983).

 

Hepburn School for the Blind (Marvel)

Blind students assist the Avengers during an attack on New York.

First appearance in Thor vol. 1 no. 496 (1996)

 

Iron Man (Character, Marvel) (1963-)
Avenger, Tony Stark, uses a heart implant to keep shrapnel from killing him. Iron Man appears thousands of issues, most notably in his own title series and in Avengers comics.

Misty Knight (Character, Marvel)

NYPD officer, Misty Knight’s arm was amputated after a bomb attack. She wears a prosthetic bionic arm which gives her superhuman strength.

First appeared in Marvel Team-Up no. 1 (1972)

Power Man and Iron Fist various issues no. 50-125 (1978-86)

Iron Fist 1-15 (1975-77)

Heroes for Hire: Civil War no. 1-15 (2006-7)

Check ComicVine for more appearances.

 

The Movement (DC) (2013-14)

Teen, Drew Fisher, a.k.a. Vengeance Moth, has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair. She is able to transform into a moth that can fly.

 

Nick Fury Jr. (Character, Marvel)

Marcus Johnson is blind in one eye and wears an eye patch. As a member of S.H.I.E.L.D., he appears in many Avengers-related comics.

Secret Avengers 2013-

Wolverine/Deadpool 2013-

Check ComicVine for more appearances.

 

Silver Scorpion (Dynamite Entertainment/Liquid Comics/Open Hands Initiative, 2013)

Created in part by a group of disabled students from America and Syria. Arabic teenager, Bashir Bari, loses his legs in a tragic accident triggered by violent gangsters and becomes, the Silver Scorpion.

 

Stitches: A Memoir (W. W. Norton & Company, 2010)

This autobiographical graphic novel tells the story of David Small, who lost his vocal cords to cancer from repeated x-rays as a child.

 

Tamara Belson (Character, DC)

Belson, scientist and a paraplegic, appears in Titans vol. 2, nos 14 and 18 (2009).

 

Thor (Marvel)

To teach his son a lesson in humility, Odin sent Thor to Earth in the mortal body of a crippled medical student, Donald Blake. Blake discovers a magic cane that allows him to transform into Thor when needed. See the Marvel Database for the many appearances of Donald Blake/Thor.

 

X-Men (Marvel)

Charles Francis Xavier, a.k.a. Professor X is a paraplegic. He leads the X-Men.

United Spinal Association (2008). Disability etiquette: Tips on interacting with people with disabilities.

 

Cripping the Con. This annual symposium provides participants with the opportunity to engage in a broad array of reflective discussions about the representations of disability that exist “beneath the surface” and explicitly within mainstream popular cultures both nationally and internationally, particularly the popular culture phenomena that are comic books, graphic novels, and manga.

 

Foss, Gray, Whalen, eds. Disability in Comic Books and Graphic Narratives (Literary Disability Studies). Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. Borrow through ILL

 

Alaniz, José. Death, Disability, And The Superhero: The Silver Age And Beyond. Jackson, MS: UP of Mississippi, 2014. Find at SDSU

 

Alaniz, José. "Supercrip: Disability And The Marvel Silver Age Superhero." International Journal Of Comic Art 6.2 (2004): 304-324. Borrow through ILL

 

Irwin, Marilyn and Robin Moeller. “Seeing Different: Portrayals of Disability in Young Adult Graphic Novels.” School Library Research, Volume 13, 2010. Chicago: American Library Association.

 

Irwin, Marilyn and Moeller, Robin "Seeing the Same: A Follow-Up Study on the Portrayals of Disability in Graphic Novels Read by Young Adults." School Library Research, Volume 15, 2012.Chicago: American Library Association.

 

McGrail, Ewa and Alicja Rieger. “Increasing Disability Awareness through Comics Literature.” Electronic Journal for Inclusive Education, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Fall/Winter 2013). Online

 

Johnson, Jeffrey. "The Visualization Of The Twisted Tongue: Portrayals Of Stuttering In Film, Television, And Comic Books." In: Literature, Speech Disorders, and Disability: Talking Normal. 162-175. New York, NY: Routledge, 2014. Find in The Circuit

 

SDSU Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) has some, but not all, of the comics mentioned in this guide. Please contact us and we can pull the comics ahead of time for your use.

 

Location: SDSU Library & Information Access, Library Addition Room 4410
Phone: 619.594.6791
Email: askscua@mail.sdsu.edu