Create

From Joker to Moon Knight: 10 Comic Characters with Mental Illness

Wasp, Sentry, Daredevil, and Joker (Images via Dc and Marvel Comics)
Wasp, Sentry, Daredevil, and Joker (Images via Dc and Marvel Comics)

Comics are far more than a way to just tell stories. It's easy to overlook the deeper meanings and lessons in the stories that so many associate with children. Make no mistake, the scribes of these picture books often have a deeper story they're telling and one common theme is mental illness.

Mental health issues are a serious matter, and some writers have taken the opportunity to tackle this topic in their stories. Bendis showed us Jessica Jones tackling post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and we watched Tony Stark deal with his alcoholism. Comics are an optimal format to discuss these issues because they reach a wide audience.


10 Characters with a mental illness in comics

1) Joker- Borderline Personality Disorder

The Joker (Image via DC Comics)
The Joker (Image via DC Comics)

It's no secret that Batman's Rogues Gallery represents various mental disorders. The Joker is no exception. In fact, fans and psychologists alike have claimed Joker has a slew of mental health issues. However, the most prominent disorder he suffers from is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

People with Borderline Personality Disorder have difficulty managing their emotions and behavior, and they also have a pattern of unhealthy relationships. Joker and Harley Quinn's relationship became toxic swiftly for this reason.

Joker also saw things in black and white, making first impressions important. He impulsively took action when he didn't like somebody. He has even killed people without warning simply for occupying his seat at Penguin's Club.


2) Legion/David Haller- Dissociative Identity Disorder

Legion (Image via Marvel Comics)
Legion (Image via Marvel Comics)

Not dissimilar to Marc Spector in Moon Knight, David Haller, or Legion, suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder (D.I.D.). David's affliction stems from the fact that he has multiple personas as a byproduct of his mutant power. He is able to manifest new powers at will, and he then creates a new persona to manage that power.

The dominant personality at any time is dependent on David's self-esteem, or self-confidence. The more confident he is in himself, the more control he has over his different personalities. The X-Men, and his father Professor Xavier, to keep David at an arm's length because of his unpredictability.


3) Riddler- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

The Riddler (Image via DC Comics)
The Riddler (Image via DC Comics)

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD makes people feel trapped, like something is going to go wrong if they don't complete a ritual. The Riddler compulsively sends a riddle after every crime he commits. Being smarter than Batman is a form of drug for Riddler. If he is unable to prove his intellect, Nigma remains unsatisfied. Riddler's obsession makes it difficult for him to see things clearly beyond it.


4) Polaris- Bipolar Disorder

Polaris (Image via Marvel Comics)
Polaris (Image via Marvel Comics)

Lorna Dane, a.k.a. Polaris, is the daughter of Magneto in the 616-Universe and shares his control over magnetism. She also suffers from bipolar disorder, which is characterized by extreme mood swings. She experiences emotional highs (mania) and severe lows (depression).

Polaris has gone through an emotional wringer throughout her publication history. One of her earliest experiences with trauma was during an argument between her mother and stepdad. Her desperation to end the argument manifested her magnetic powers, causing the plane to crash. Of the three passengers, Lorna was the only one to survive.


5) Firefly- Pyromania

Firefly (Image via DC Comics)
Firefly (Image via DC Comics)

Pyromania is a mental disorder that roughly 3% of people in the world experience. It is an impulse control disorder where people are unable to resist starting fires. Those suffering from pyromania have a sense of tension that builds up inside them, and the only way to relive that tension is by setting a fire.

Garfield Lynns, or Firefly, is a pyromaniac. He enjoys watching the flames rise and some comic issues have even shown his point of view. He sees beauty in fire and visualizes the flames as beautiful dancing women who he describes as angels.


6) Sentry- Schizophrenia

Sentry (Image via Marvel Comics)
Sentry (Image via Marvel Comics)

Bob Reynolds, otherwise known as Sentry, has a fractured psyche due to a troubled past. He's similar to Superman in that he flies, has superhuman strength, and is supposed to represent the best of humanity. Unfortunately, he also represents the worst because a dark entity known as The Void lives inside him which only wishes to cause harm.

In Sentry's interactions with The Void and the rest of the world, readers get a very real glimse at schizophrenia. The disorder can manifest itself in hallucinations, imaginary voices, and abnormal behavior.


7) Nadia Van Dyne- Bipolar Disorder

The Unstoppable Wasp (Image via Marvel Comics)
The Unstoppable Wasp (Image via Marvel Comics)

Nadia, the daughter of the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym, and his first wife, was kidnapped by Russian agents when she was young. She would eventually escape and take on an alter ego, The Wasp. Unlike a lot of stories, Nadia is very direct to the readers about her mental illness. In Issue #5 of her own title, she says: "I think I'm bipolar... and I don't think I can handle this alone."

In the story, Nadia recognized her mania that were followed by episodes of depression. Mental health was thus put at the forefront in a story about a superhero. The writer, Jeremy Whitley, did his research and consulted with psychologists because wanted the story to be treated with care. He hopes this aspect of the character continues since bipolar disorder can't be cured, but doesn't want it to dominate who she is.


8) Iron Man- Narcissistic personality disorder

Iron Man (Image via Marvel Comics)
Iron Man (Image via Marvel Comics)

While more prominent in the MCU, Tony Stark still exhibits narcissistic tendencies in the comics. Narcissism is characterized by thinking very highly of oneself, needing admiration, believing others are inferior, and lacking empathy for others. Comic book Tony Stark definitely meets a few of these criteria.

He turned the entire superhero community against each other by assuming that he was always right. He belonged to the secret society, The Illuminati, and thought he could solve mortality by creating a digital archive of his personality. He also lacked empathy for Peter Parker when his identity was revealed to the world after the events of Civil War.


9) Daredevil- Depression

Daredevil (Image via Marvel Comics)
Daredevil (Image via Marvel Comics)

Daredevil's depression is an important aspect of his character. His mental health is explored in storylines from Born Again and The Elektra Saga. While he might be a great superhero and a good lawyer in New York, his depression has gotten the better of him multiple times. He has even felt immobilized to the point of being unable to get out of bed to eat. Depression can hit like a ton of bricks and it is difficult to resume control of your emotions at that time.


10) Moon Knight- Dissociative Identity Disorder

Moon Knight (Image via Marvel Comics)
Moon Knight (Image via Marvel Comics)

Moon Knight is getting his time to shine because of Disney+. His Dissociative Identity Disorder (D.I.D.) causes him to have mutiple personalities. Marc Spector is the primary identity in the comics, with Steven Grant and Jake Lockley being his other two identities. It's accepted canon that Khonshu is a real god within the Marvel universe, but that wasn't always the case. He used to be a figment of Marc's imagination, making Moon Knight's mental illness more severe than audiences are seeing in the TV series.

Quick Links

Edited by Mohini Banerjee
Be the first one to comment