Why I don’t (and wish to) see myself in comics…
Media can be transformative. Media can inspire. Both external change and internal change on the part of the consumer can and does happen when a story is conveyed. And as a form of storytelling/media, this can and does happen with comics. One of the best ways to do this is with characters the audience can relate to or connect with. This does happen, and the number of diverse peoples being represented by superheroes across DC, Marvel, and other publisher’s content is constantly growing. But I’ve yet to see myself represented.
A bit of background on myself, I”m (as of this writing) a twenty-eight-year-old caucasian man. So one might think there are a vast array of characters I see myself in while reading comics. After all, if there’s one ethnic group not wanting for representation in Marvel or DC stories it’s white men. But I don’t. I have Asperger’s Syndrome, a mild form of Autism that I was diagnosed with when I was nine years old. For two decades I” ve lived with the knowledge that I’m different from those around me. I don’t see the world the same way others might, and otherwise simple concepts like sarcasm can escape me. It makes communicating with others an almost daily struggle and leaves me feeling isolated from the rest of the world. On top of that? I’m also asexual. I’m not sexually attracted to any person or persons. And in a world where sex and sexual attraction are such a prominent part of seemingly all parts of culture and life around me, I’m further alienated.
All this being the case, seeing a hero being able to rush in, save the day, save lives, change fate for the better, a hero like me, in the comics I read would be indescribably powerful and liberating. But as long as I”’ve been reading comics, it’s not happened. Not to me anyway. There are no superheroes in Marvel or DC Comics consistently (and accurately) depicted as having Asperger’s Syndrome, and few if any regularly depicted as identifying as ace (the only immediate example coming to mind is DC’s Tremor from Secret Six/The Movement). And absolutely ZERO superheroes who have/are both.
This hurts to be aware of, it hurts to have to say. But as painful as it is for me to feel so underrepresented in my favourite storytelling medium, it hurts, even more, knowing that kids in the future won’t have this much-needed representation/inspiration either; that children growing up right now, and those yet to come, who also have Asperger’s Syndrome or identify as ace, will have to grow up feeling this alone, this unimportant to the Marvel or DC universes, such knowledge is more painful than any wound that could be inflicted upon me.
I never, ever want another kid to grow up feeling as unworthy, as freakish and self-loathed as I have in my life. So I fight for representation across the board. I fight not just for characters who are like me, but for those of different ethnicities, sexual orientations/preferences, for any and all possible lifestyles to have champions within these tales to represent them. This is why I fight so hard to see characters like DC’s Equinox or Marvel’s Sera to have more appearances & development (Native Americans and trans men and women being some of the most grossly-underrepresented demographics in North American fiction). It’s why I chose to write for this site so that comics that include diverse representation can receive the just recognition they deserve. It’s why I still ask creators about the possibility of including characters on the Autistic-spectrum, those with Asperger’s Syndrome, in their stories. Because who knows, maybe someday a kid will be able to pick up a comic and see that a character with Asperger’s Syndrome, can fly.