Another Mental Health Hero

I’m not usually asked why Batman – as in my favorite superhero – but IF I were the answer would be simple. We relate.

Except for his infinite wealth, good looks and peak physical and mental prowess, we relate.

See, Batman at least has PTSD. Batman and Psychology: A Dark And Stormy Night is a must-read for any Batman fan, especially those, like me, who appreciate the world of psychology.

A guy who dresses up as a bat clearly has issues. 

Let’s rewind though.

My dad loved the cheesy, campy Batman (internet required POW!) series from the 60s. I always enjoyed when the Caped Crusader showed up in episodes of Scooby Doo. My dad also took me to see 1989’s cinematic rebirth of Batman with Michael Keaton (and the ones that followed, with alternating actors, tight leather, nipples and Arnold). The thing that crystallized my worship of the Dark Knight was the seminal and iconic Batman: The Animated Series.

Batman TAS used the same audacious Danny Elfman music from the movies, it offered a pristine and timeless setting, and the voice acting, by Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill and more, was enthralling. There’s nothing to dislike about the series, except how it got fused into other animated DC properties in later seasons.

Then, mostly because of the reviled Batman and Robin, the character’s popularity went dormant for nearly a decade. I wasn’t a comic book reader either, and I’d been mostly focused on my radio career during the Dark Knight’s dismal years anyway.

In classic VerbosEric fashion, this is dragging, so let’s move…

Batman Begins happened in 2005, and after I saw it I rushed home and immediately clumsily pecked out a Myspace blog post about it!

The Knight’s Tale, The Patriot and Brokeback Mountain star was cast as the sequel’s Joker, and I hungered for every morsel of proto-Internet gossip I could read leading up to 2008’s The Dark Knight.

After it, and the midnight showing I was at THREE hours early for, I went to work. I needed to be on the air at 6am anyway, so why not get in around 4(!) and pound out a several thousand word primitive Think Piece about the movie I’d just been mesmerized by. It was mostly extolling how remarkable Heath Ledger’s performance was and how it was really a Joker movie more than a Batman one. I’m disappointed I never kept the piece; if for nothing more than to see how my writing has advanced in ten years. Uhh, I think it’s better!

Bruce Wayne’s parents were the impetus behind the creation of Batman. Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight was the same for my veneration for the character. And in some ways it (the character and what I was about to embark on) it magnified a dark shroud of depression I was about to encounter.

There’d been sensational Batman stories, arcs and graphic novels since Frank Miller’s transformative Year One run.

I caught up on almost all of them, quickly.

Most of them, thanks to Miller’s work, were bleak and grim. I relished that. Too much. Through some unusual literary osmosis, I adopted a lot of the traits I was reading about. After all, I knew I was bipolar at this point. And I knew the depression part of the disorder hit me like one of Batman’s fists. So hey, why not brood like Batman too!

Like I said, I felt like I could relate to Bruce Wayne/Batman. He was smart, successful, and poor (because of his night gig) at relationships and relatively speaking, so was I. It was mostly though, because he was two different people. Arrogant playboy and selfless vigilante for his city. Me, outgoing on air personality, but really an introvert who was borderline misanthropic. Still am, but I just manage it better. Get off the planet, you’re a dick! Just kidding. Some of you are though, for real!

In short, Batman resided in dark places physically and emotionally, and because of my own mental frailty at the time, I allowed the character I glorified to bring me down into the darkness too. You merely adopted the dark…

2005 was a the year I (enlighteningly) got a diagnosis. After all this Batman captivation, I began to think about suicide.

I’m still here though! And if you’ve followed my thoughts or journey, you know I’m presently in a good place. My outlook and mood are bright and hopeful like Superman’s Metropolis, rather than Batman’s dour depressing Gotham.

Your internal mouth is now asking if you there’s another point to this post. Yes! Yes, there is.

Moon Knight!

Usually I vividly recall how, why and even when, my infatuation with a superhero or villain began.

With this character, I think I just saw some cool art and read that he had similarities to Bruce Wayne/Batman and I was superficially and instantly interested. Actually read the comics?! Pffffft. Ridiculous. Slick desktop theme art and Wikipedia were enough for me!

Hold your Moonie hipster angst though. Since I’ve had Marvel Unlimited – a massive back catalog – I’ve done the required and enjoyable Moon Knight reading.

Then, just last week, there was Moon Knight news! Rewind three weeks, a vendor at Toledo’s Fantasticon suggested some MK titles to check out. And I think I found them just over the weekend.

They were written by Jeff Lemire, whose run on Green Arrow I was fond of.

And holy mental health woes Batman! Lemire made mental illness THE zeitgeist of his run with the character.

The first collected edition is called Lunatic. You know, in these discussions, I loathe the use of that word, for stigmatic reasons. A description of Lunatic from the Amazon link you just went past: Marc Spector (a.k.a. Moon Knight/Jake Lockley/Steven Grant) has been fighting criminals and keeping New York City safe for years… or has he? When he wakes up in an insane asylum with no powers and a lifetime’s worth of medical records, his whole identity (indentities) are called into question. Something is wrong, but is that something Marc Spector himself?

That’s DID. Disassociative Identity Disorder, or what it used to be, Multiple Personality Disorder.

It’s kind of a tacky callback to a practice of decades ago, but the end of the comics have Lemire answering Moon Missives. Even the name is alliteratively trite. Once I saw these…

mk2mk 1

I knew I had to put this on your mental health radar. Right besides, Batman and me.

500 Words On…A Chosen Superpower

What superhero or superpower would you most like to have?

I don’t know if we put enough thought into this question when we’re asked. I’ve almost always been enamored with Batman, so that’s the answer I’d blurt out.

Then, beginning in 2007, I began to experience unrelenting and mysterious strains and sprains. That was the impetus behind me changing my answer to the question above. And while THANKFULLY those things are gone, my answer remains the same. Which I’ll get to.

First, let’s run through the WHAT ABOUT exercise…

Superman – A single pebble of Kryptonite can fell him. Pass. BTW, an actor I enjoyed on Da Vinci’s Demons is playing a key role in the SyFy Superman prequel TV show.

Iceman – I hate winter and the cold.

Black Widow – What? You assumed this list would only be dudes?! She has no superpowers, so pass.

Green Lantern – Imaginative magical constructs thanks to a ring? Sorry, I don’t wear ever jewelry or even accessories often.

Optimus P…wrong list.

Punisher – Considering my consistent and adamant stance about mental health people and guns, absolutely not. Also, no superpowers.

Luke Cage – Unbreakable skin. This is kind of icky, but I like picking scabs sometimes.

Daredevil – The best non-social media app on my phone just updated for the 2018 season. The MLB At Bat app. I LOVE spending Sunday afternoons on the couch flipping around radio broadcasts from around the country…but I think being blind is a handicap I won’t accept. Not even for those incredible extra sensory skills Matt Murdock owns.

Wonder Woman – For the Lasso Of Truth alone this is almost the pick. But I assume I’d be as clumsy with it as I am a tie, and I’d wind up sharing every truth I’ve ever lived. No.

Magneto – Does stuff with metal. Always sounds dull. I’m always impressed in cinema, TV and comics just how powerful the villain with the most endearing back story in history actually is. I don’t want that Holocaust experience in my soul though. Pass.

Professor X – Can’t do the wheelchair, even if it’s to read the thoughts of all.

Jean Grey – She is the apex of mutant power. That’s too much for me. I’d be overwhelmed. Or lose my temper. Universe and existence destroyed. That’s bad.

Spider-Man – Speaking of responsibilities and powers. I’m not one much for heights.

Am I being too picky?

Hulk – Always needing new pants? No thanks. We all love finding those one or two pairs we wear till they disintegrate.

Thor – I’m terrible with tools. I cower just driving through a Home Depot or Lowe’s parking lot, so no Mjolnir for me.

Captain America – Toughest pass on the list. What’s to dislike. Still, there’s something specific I crave. Then again my frisbee skills have always been kinda wack.

The Flash – Hmmmm, I’ve never been fast, so this is intriguing. But…

Batman – I think he IS a superhero, but has no traditional superpowers. Just peak human physical and mental traits. And this…

Invisible Woman – More frequent loss of clothing, I think. No.

Silver Surfer – Very cool powers, I think woman would dig a surfer. But his existence seems lonely. I do NEED a couple of friends. No.

Iron Man – No powers.

Deadpool – His scarring is not worth the MAXIMUM EFFORT abilities. Plus, I’ve got the sarcasm and self awareness at optimal levels anyway.

Black Panther – As much as I think I can integrate almost anywhere, it’s unlikely I’m accepted. I’m white.

Doctor Strange – Interesting, again. I think could conceivably learn sorcerer’s spells on my own without having to wish for a superpower.

Beast – I could conceiveably be my own best friend! But how would the dogs act towards me. No.

Iron Fist – I think I’m in for Danny Rand’s powers, except I know whose powers I want. Yes. Powers. More than one.

After suffering for YEARS with strains and pains. Everywhere, just about every joint, tendon and ligament in my body ached, inexplicably. Dozens of scans performed, from x-rays to MRIs to CTs. Usually tendonitis was diagnosed. But, how? From what? Rheumatoid? Nope. None of the several rheumatologists I saw would go with RA.

Amid all this, my answer went from one kind of darkness to another kind. It was no more Batman as my answer to what superpowers would you want or who would you want to be.

I yearn to have Adamantium alloy lining my bones making me nearly indestructible. And if by some chance, a foe did topple me, my regenerative healing would mend me. Also, those Adamantium lined claws make opening cans of tuna – and people – much easier.