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Comic book Crips / 18 June 2015

cartoon of a male superhero head complete with wicked grin and red futuristic headpiece

Andrew Tunney worked with Laurence Clark for DaDaFest 2012, to produce a series of comic strip posters entitled Super Crip

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I watched a "kerpow" of Superhero movies the other night, mainly because I just didn’t fancy another evening of Francis Bacon and Foucault. That’s the way I roll, sublime to ridiculous in less than 24 hours. I noticed a few things about the superhero movies. It’s something that has long bugged me and now I’m going to bug you with it as well.

A handsome white male billionaire, in a Batsuit dispensing summary justice across a city according to his own value system = Superhero. 

A man falls into a tank of chemical waste it disfigures him and that disfigurement turns him into a psychotic madman. He’s locked away in an institution = Super-villain. 

Another handsome white male billionaire, this time in a Iron Suit also dispensing summary justice (when he’s not cavorting with supermodels and generally living it up) = Superhero

A child of a poor single mother suffering from depression who later contracts cancer forced through deprivation into a life of crime = Super-villain

Are you detecting trend here? I thought so. I have long been a bit of a comic book fan. I have owned at different times all of the Marvel Silver Surfer Series and a zillion 2000AD and Batman comics. The thing I always pondered as a child was why are the heroes always abled-bodied with extra-special powers and the villains so often Crips of some kind with the odd mutant power. 

Look at the Hulk, a heroic scientist that becomes a giant green learning disabled villain. The trope is that of the cripple as a sub human, a drain on society, a nuisance, or in some other indefinable way a threat. And perhaps we are, imagine what would happen if we gained super powers – what indeed Mr Duncan Smith? what indeed? I don’t wonder about this so much as an adult (I don’t consider myself a grown up). I can see the subtext; in fact all I see everywhere is subtext.

As with all corporate media it’s designed to promote the capitalist status quo and to perpetuate the myth of an inclusive society. In the case of DC and Marvel the idea it propagates is the one that the American dream is not a nightmare for most of it’s participants, but in fact the “White Male Billionaire” is the pinnacle of achievement and we should be grateful to these paragons of human virtue – they literally save the world. Bill Gates as Iron Man. Richard Branson as Batman, “howling hedge fund Robin” I feel safer already.

Ah but what of the lowly lunatic? He is but a Joker or the fat boy let’s call him a Penguin he can’t have any friends but birds. If there’s mental illness, poverty or disfigurement involved why, that will make you mad and bad and you need to be punished, imprisoned or it’s the asylum for you and make no mistakes about chucking away the key.

The cripple is a threat to the world or at least to the tidiness of the streets. In comics they are either villainous or pathetic, either way they need the attention of the white billionaires to save or savage them. I still love these ridiculous stories and films but I’m not ignorant of the contribution reading them as a child made to my own negative self image.

As for Captain America – I ‘m not going there…


Colin Hambrook

24 June 2015

thanks richard - will have a think about this and put a call-out in the Dao newsletter

Richard Rieser, Coordinator, UK Disability History Month

23 June 2015

An interesting article and exchange UKDHM this autumn is on the theme portrayal of disability : then and now. We would like people to draw our attention to any articles or resources which we can add to our website examining portrayal of disability and stereotypes . We will put a link to these two articles on stereotypes in comics.

Could all readers of DAO think about possible events you could organise in your locality or on line addressing this important theme and let us know.

Sara Dziadik

23 June 2015

What about Daredevil? The Marvel comic also includes deaf female hero Echo/Ronin.

It's also a new TV show now too, and currently having a resurgence in popularity...

Jo Verrent

19 June 2015

I think the X-Men series (both in book and film versions) have an interesting slant on difference and diversity - with both 'good', 'bad' and highly conflicted characters. I'm also a big fan of swamp thing as an eco-warrior and Halo Jones in relation to feminist cartoon perspectives. Think the genre has a real mix of elements - but agree the known big hitters fall into the stereotypical depictions - like most art forms, sadly. More work to do...

Colin Hambrook

18 June 2015

Back in 2012 DaDaFest commissioned Andrew Tunney to work with Laurence Clark to create a series of comic book characters that turned the usual stereotypes on their head. The work they created is hilarious and can be found on Tunney's blog at