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…Black Panther

Once again Marvel Ultimate Alliance – on PS2 – keeps my from being a novice outside of comics’ usual heroes and rogues.

In that game in 2006 I learned about the screwy indecent world of Deadpool, but also more than I’d ever known before about Black Panther.

I cannot overstate the enormity of that game’s importance for my passion and acumen for so much in the Marvel universe.

There’s a notion in the sports gaming world that Super Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson is the most unstoppable force in digital existence. It’s true. For every comic book video game I’ve ever played, Wolverine is the Bo Jackson analog. Use him, or else make the game much more challenging than it needs to be. Black Panther is a reasonable facsimile for Wolverine though. He’s one potent clawful character in the gaming world.

This is a not a review of the movie. I haven’t seen it, until tonight. I’m sure it’ll be excellent. It takes a lot for me to be totally let down by a Marvel movie. Give Kevin Feige and his team this, they  have created apex level popcorn movies.

In 2015 when I was home with my mom as she was in hospice, I read through dozens of comics on the Marvel Unlimited app. I knew the movies well, I’d learned plenty through cartoons growing up (just watched this), and scouring through Wikipedia entries. But I’d not read some of the touchstone stories and arcs of characters I was too familiar with.

This was the first time I dove in on the must reads of T’Challa, the Black Panther.

To prepare for tonight I’ve gone back over them.

For a swift education on Black Panther and most things Wakanda, try this.

Here are some other highly suggested reads.

I’m currently working through Christopher Priest’s run on the character. From the very beginning.

From the Ringer

Priest’s run wasn’t fully appreciated in its own time, but he did revolutionize the character, creating the cool, dignified, master strategist we know today. New York Times best-selling author Ta-Nehisi Coates, whom you may have heard has his own Black Panther series now, considers Priest to have “the classic run on Black Panther, period, and that’s gonna be true for a long time.”

There is no higher praise than from Coates, and what he says. I tried his run back when he began, but I think my Panther history was lacking, so I missed the context of the story. I’ll go back.

So far the Priest run for me hasn’t been can’t put this down kind of stuff, but two reasons I’ve been fond of it so far. The art is quirky and not standard comic book stuff. And, it’s got a Deadpool-type of irreverence to it, thanks to the inept Agent Everett Ross – Martin Tyler’s MCU character – who acts as the stories’ narrator.

For instance, much of the storytelling takes place as Ross is having a friendly chat with the devil. About not having pants.

Were you expecting a more racially tinged take on Black Panther? Sorry. While this may be Marvel’s most socially important tale, I don’t take them for much more than REALLY good commercials for what’s after the one I’m watching. Like, get me to Thanos and Infinity War.

I’m no worshipper of all things Kendrick Lamar, but his track with the Weeknd, off the Panther soundtrack, totally has me!