Spectrum X

by Jay Edidin

LookingDownTheTunnel

In Episode 61, we answered a listener’s question about Autistic1 characters and neurodiversity in X-canon, and I want to take a moment to elaborate on a couple things I brought up there. Nothing formal, mind: this is both a bit of a ramble and significantly more personal than I usually get here. Consider yourselves warned.

There are–as far as I recall–two named, explicitly Autistic-labeled2 characters in X-Men. Neither provides a particularly accurate or sympathetic representation of autism; and in Legion’s case, that label has been quietly dropped in more recent appearances.

IsHeAlwaysLikeThatI think I’ve mentioned before–and definitely mentioned in Episode 61–that I tend to interpret Cyclops as Autistic. I have no idea whether he’s ever been deliberately written or coded as such; I suspect not. He is, however, frequently written with a lot of traits commonly associated–individually and collectively–with the spectrum; and a number of incidental traits–i.e. a mutant power that makes eye contact impossible–that passively reinforce that association.

By the same token, friends have pointed out that my arguments for Cyclops as sympathetic–especially in context of interpersonal stuff, like the breakdown of his marriage to Madelyne Pryor3–make a lot more sense if you place him on the autism spectrum. Early X-Factor reads fairly differently if–for instance–you presuppose a Scott Summers who is excessively literal and who learned social skills largely by rote.4

x23_fleeingcomfortThe other X-characters who most often come to mind when I’m thinking about Autistic coding are Cypher, X-23, and Abigail Brand. Expand to the larger Marvel universe, and I’d definitely throw in Daredevil,5 and maybe Echo/Ronin (primarily as portrayed by David Mack) and Valeria Richards; with the qualifier that I’m familiar with the latter two only from fairly limited contexts.

You might have noticed that I tend to use language like “coding” and “interpret” a lot. I hesitate even to call what I wrote above headcanon, for reasons that are ultimately kind of tautological: I disproportionately prioritize precision, and I am incredibly uncomfortable speculating about other people’s creative intent. I’m okay with saying that Cyclops is often written with traits closely associated with the autism spectrum; and that those traits contribute significantly to my identification with him; but I won’t say that Cyclops is Autistic.

To borrow a phrase from the character in question: It’s good to be precise about these kinds of things.

(Are you with me so far? This is something that it’s often difficult for me to explain, and which has historically been difficult for people who aren’t coming to it with a fairly specific frame of reference to wrap their heads around. Your mileage is likely to vary.

And honestly, I’m not sure exactly where I’m going with all of this. It’s not a subject I write about a lot; or, rather, not one I tend to write about publicly. But it seems important to address in more depth than I had time for on the podcast proper.)

whatlanguageamiAnyway. Textual representation. When you have a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail; when you write in genre, it’s appealing to deck everything in genre trappings. X-Men does this with a lot of vectors of diversity, but particularly aggressively with anything related to neurodiversity or mental illness. Superhero comics do in general, to some extent; but the nature of mutation in the Marvel Universe makes it particularly well suited to custom tailor a power to fit any allegory.

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 12.02.34 PMThis isn’t always a bad idea, in and of itself. I love the hell out of Daredevil for a lot of reasons, but one of them is that Matt Murdock’s superpower is literally a sensory integration disorder, with all the snags and challenges that would bring. The Miller run includes the hands-down best, most accessible portrayal of the experience of overload and shutdown that I’ve ever encountered, in any medium. That’s huge, and in context of the character Matt Murdock and the book Daredevil, it works well to contextualize that coding around superpowers–largely because it’s just that one thing. Matt Murdock is still fucked up and divergent in a lot of very human ways that have very little to do with the radioactive stuff that spilled in his face–and that is often more salient and central to the story than his superpowers.

But then, there are the X-Men, and god, do they fall flat on this front. It’s just not there; or when it is, it’s supernatural; or when it’s not supernatural, it’s skimmed past in jarringly superficial ways. There are a few exceptions–again, I’ll go to the mat for Spurrier’s Legacy run any day of the week–but they’re rare outliers. Any given sequence at the Jean Grey school will feature a myriad of reasonable accommodations, sure–but all recontextualized around mutant powers.

So now I’m thinking about solutions, and coding, and representation; and in thinking about this, one of the things I keep coming back to is the fact that while I know that textual representation is really important, I tend to be very suspicious of it, because when you label a character, the label begins to define their portrayal rather than vice versa. It’s also a statement of intent in ways that matter.

To wit: When I think of good representations of autism in pop culture, I go straight to Community’s Abed Nadir. Abed is pretty definitely Autistic, but he’s never explicitly identified as such on the show. Abed ducks labels incredibly deliberately and persistently, in ways that are very relevant to his characterization; and the fact that the show doesn’t let other characters do so either reinforces that agency. Abed says it’s none of your business, so it’s none of your business.

I really like that.

earphones
And, I mean, look: In my personal life, I am generally with Abed on this. You will note, if you are a long-time listener, that I do not generally talk about this stuff on the podcast, even though it’s certainly something that informs the way I interact with the material I’m discussing (not to mention the baseline degree of granular obsession that making a career out of explaining the minutiae of X-Men continuity requires). If you know me outside of the podcast, ditto, unless you’re one of a very small handful of people. Note that, nearly 1000 words into a post that is literally about reading X-Men as an Autistic person, this sentence is the first in which I’ve formally labeled myself as such.

That is, I think, how it often goes. There are a lot of reasons for it, but the primary one is that labels are generally not part of our day-to-day interactions. Autism may mediate my day-to-day experiences, but it’s not germane to most of my day-to-day conversations or relationships.

notsureiseetheupsideAt the same time, once I concretely use a label, people start interacting with it instead of with me–which is the same reason I’m leery of seeing it applied textually to characters I care about. I associate labels with loss of agency, the right to self-definition. People read Autistic and see Claudette St. Croix or one of a dozen other facile pop-culture misrepresentations; or their six-year-old cousin who’s really into trucks; or John Elder Robinson, who seems like a neat dude but has about as much in common with me as Augusten Burroughs has with a random person who isn’t Autistic.

And I don’t want that. I mean, fuck, I’m Autistic: misinterpretation and assumptions about my intentions are nails on a blackboard. What I want is for you to interpret my text with the understanding that I’ve chosen these words with care, and a baseline understanding that while you may find points of intersection and identification, you will not come away with an exact understanding of how I feel, because we aren’t the same person. I want you to trust the validity of my perspective, even when you have textual evidence that it’s not wired the same way as yours. I want the freedom to define the terms in which you get to talk about me.

I want that for fictional characters, too. Obvious caveats apply: fictional characters are not people, and concepts like self-determination don’t apply to them the same ways they do to you or me. But it’s equally short-sighted to deny that the way we interact with and talk about fictional characters reflects and informs the way we interact with and talk about real people.

AnotherTwentyMinutesDownTheRoadAmbiguity has other values, too. I’ve talked and written a lot about the wild inconsistency that results from characters being portrayed by dozen of creative teams over decades, and how much I like the fact that that creates room for a dizzying range of interpretations and points of identification. My Cyclops is not your Cyclops, and that’s okay. That’s awesome.

It’s important to me to see characters with enough wiggle room to provide points of identification for multiple perspectives, because no matter how hard we try to make someone for everyone, everyone’s experiences are different, and there’s never really going to be enough. I want to be able to interpret Cyclops as Autistic and get what I need from that, and still have there be space within canon for Readers J and Q to see something entirely different and get what they need from that.

On the other hand:

boatI’m reading comics in a world where characters are popularly assumed to be a narrow and very specific default. There’s really no definitive textual evidence that Rogue is cisgender, or (pre-All-New #40) Iceman is straight; but posit otherwise, and you will get some deeply hostile pushback. In an ideal schema, I’d like to see that be the factor that changes; but the uncomfortable truth is that we live in a world where it’s a lot easier to change comics than to change society.

I don’t know if there’s a good answer here. I know what I like and look for: representations of Autism or queerness or other outside-the-narrow-default stuff I identify with that are casual and don’t involve labels but are also clearly intentional. Showing a character taking antidepressants as part of their routine, even if their depression is never discussed as a plot point; or casually using neutral pronouns. I want to see mantelpiece photos of unconventional families, and ASL interpreters in classrooms. What it comes down to, I think, is that I want canon representation whose legitimacy isn’t dependent on labels.

LoveYouGuysStaySafe

 


NOTES:

1. For folks to whom the semantics matter: I’m using descriptive rather than person-first language; and capitalizing autistic as a proper adjective when it refers to individuals or communities, but not in medical contexts. I say “not Autistic” rather than neurotypical or allistic for reasons that are about half semantic and half political. Using neurotypical to mean not Autistic is misleading and erases a lot of marginalized people; and allistic is jargon-y to an extent that makes it dubiously useful outside of specialized contexts.

That said: there is no standard style guide or usage for most of this. Do what works for you. (Except neurotypical; fuck that shit, seriously.)

2. I’m saying “labeled” instead of “diagnosed” here because both of those “diagnoses” were inaccurate, facile bullshit.

3. Pursuant to X-Factor #1: if someone I loved and respected and knew I’d let down told me “Never come back,” I would never go back; and I would genuinely believe that I was doing the right thing, in accordance with their explicitly stated wishes.

4. There are, of course, other entirely valid ways to interpret the text. For instance: Cyclops’s social stumbling blocks overlap considerably with developmental delays associated with early history of traumatic brain injury, which is totally canon but just about never offered as a mitigating or even relevant factor. Actually, it kind of surprises me in general that you don’t see more mention of repetitive TBI in superhero comics, but that’s a whole other conversation.

5. Confession: while Scott and Jean are very much Miles and my X-couple, this is my secret actual slightly-uncanny-comic-book-power-couple analogue for us:

thesedorks

 

 

28 comments

  1. Jeff Polier says:

    Thank you for sharing, Rachel.

  2. Ani says:

    Rachel, thanks for writing this. You points about wanting representation that is revealed in various ways without a label being necessary is so great. I’ve often found myself interpreting certain characters as part of various underrepresented demographics (including Rogue being non-cisgender). And I love your determination to be precise and in depth about these things.

  3. Becca Stareyes says:

    I suspect labels are needed at this point, because it’s assumed that you are default until stated otherwise. (I recall a book — Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312 — where a character is described as autistic once, and somehow I missed it until my third read-through because I’m so primed to assume that in fiction, folks don’t get to be autistic unless it’s the dramatic TV!Autism or they’re classic nerds*, not middle-aged diplomats with families back home.)

    I suspect one has to be blatantly obvious until we get to the point where we stop assuming things and revealing something like that doesn’t become a Big Fricken Deal.

    * And I remember when autism didn’t even mean this. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 1993, before it was well-known.

  4. David says:

    Oh, man. Cypher as some kind of autism representation makes too much sense. I don’t know if he’s ever actually been written as being on the spectrum as such, but he’s someone for whom understanding body language is literally a superpower. That’s some kind of metaphor.

  5. Andy Walsh says:

    Thanks for sharing.

    Quicksilver, particularly as written by Peter David, is another character that comes to mind when I think about neurodiversity representation in comics. Not all of his unique qualities map to autism, but he is written pretty explicitly as someone whose sensory perception is different and so consequently the way his mind approaches various situations is different as well. Of course, I could see his arrogance as off-putting when it comes to identifying with him — I certainly don’t wish to suggest that everything about him should be viewed through the lens of neurodiversity or autism.

  6. Cassey says:

    Thanks for sharing, and for a lesson on what to say. I think that we often struggle with what to say to folks when presented with something unfamiliar to our frame of reference. Mostly though, I’m with you that unless someone shares it’s none of my business.

  7. Andrew says:

    I’m touched by your honesty, and ability to express yourself so clearly. Thanks for your honesty.

  8. Thank you so much for sharing. Both my daughter and I are on the spectrum and one of the ways I’ve talked about her sensory issues is “you’re like Superman growing up on earth”. We both read comics quite a bit and it really helps to have accomplished folk like yourself talk openly about Autism. Thank you.

  9. LAndrew says:

    This was a wonderful article. Thank you.

  10. Gorm Nykreim says:

    Rachel, I deeply appreciate your precise and vulnerable comments on Spectrum issues relating to comics and to your own position on it. Self-Outing as ‘Spectrum’ is becoming more acceptable since geek culture has taken over in the computer age, but explicit discussion in fictional media is strangely absent (unlike the constant referral to overly dramatic depictions of multiple personality disorder.) 

    I actually like the “neurotypical/neuroatypical” lens, as being at the heart of the matter. Some people are close enough to the ‘norm’ to be able to “get it” with unconsciously instinctual “right-brain” nonverbal communication, a world in which little information must be passed back and forth explicitly because these “sheeple” all have nearly identical reactions to their environment. In contrast, others are “alien” from the norm, and need to consciously reason through every step of the process in an explicit left-brained fashion, since their most natural reactions are so unlike other people’s that “unspoken rules” can never be aquired at an instinctual level.

    Like ‘Mutants’, two people on the Spectrum might have in common that they are both far from the norm, but actually each be *further* apart from one another than they are from the norm, if their abnormalities diverge. Fortunately Fandom allows some individuals to merge their “obsessively focused interests in well-structured systems” onto similar topics, thus Bronies, Dungeons & Dragons, and comics.

    My older brother was originally a low functioning autistic who was brought up to the ‘Aspbergers’ range through intensive remediation by our mother, but I was much higher functioning, and only recently accepted my place on the Spectrum (Watching ‘The Big Bang Theory’ really helped, since I actually did literally study astrophysics at Caltech while collecting comics and being awkward with women!-)

    Cyclops’s problem with eye-contact, and his canon brain injury certainly do make an undeniable symbolic nod to the Spectrum, but they beg the question of his childhood before that with Alex (and Vulcan?-)

    Other non-mutant Marvel Autistics would be Reed Richards and Bruce Banner (maybe Pym), especially since their social cluelessness has been established since early childhood (although not Doom, who has always had an elegantly subtle understanding of the feelings of others, as well as complete contact with his own emotions… though he hasn’t wanted to reveal them since his scarring.)

    One thing I read recently about Spectrum Disorders is that the original theory that Autistics were deficient in mirror neurons and empathy seems to be the opposite of the truth; brain scans show *excessive* reaction to facial expressions, and so being unable to make eye contact seems related to overstimulus, rather than being oblivious. Thus having trouble learning to speak if every word you hear is screaming (as in Daredevil… whose obsessions in “well ordered systems” fixated on the Law and Martial Arts.)

    Well, I’m probably doing the characteristic monologging typical of Spectrum folks, rather than just expressing my emotions vulnerably: namely gratitude and sadness, given that my brother died accidently a decade ago, and we never really took the opportunity to discuss the implications of being alien to this world around us.

    Rachel, thank you again for stepping forward to start an explicit dialog on this subject, as well as to your listener who was brave enough to ask!-)

    • Rachel says:

      Popular usage of the “neurotypical” to specifically mean “not autistic” erases and marginalizes a large range of neurodiverse populations. The Autism spectrum is not and never has been the only vector of neurodiversity, and I am not okay with throwing other marginalized populations under the bus in the name of semantic convenience.

      Also, a) you’re running a lot of pretty inaccurate information about the relation of left/right brain processing to autism-spectrum disorders; and b) the term “sheeple” does not fly here, period.

      • Cate says:

        I’m going to try to elaborate on what Rachel said about autism, left/right brain processing, and the implications of the sentences that contained the word “sheeple.” As for the word itself, I have the following to say about it:

        When you, not just “you,” the original commentor, but “you,” the person who’s reading this, call people who are different from you “sheeple,” you sound like a suburban thirteen-year-old who’s trying to be edgy and dark, and talks about how society is bad in an abstract sense but doesn’t know (or care) about specific societal problems like institutionalized racism or compulsory heterosexuality, and sees themself as a rebellious outsider in a world of cookie-cutter clones who they may or may not also call “preps”, and also spends a lot of time in Hot Topic and doesn’t understand that the main character in The Catcher in the Rye is really into the idea of “phonies” because he’s an angry, disillusioned, bitter teenager who’s trying to work through some shit, not because he’s enlightened to the idea that everyone except him is fake and terrible. What I’m saying is, calling people “sheeple” makes you sound like a mall goth.

        A lot of ideas about right-brain/left-brain stuff was recently disproven. The right and left hemispheres of the brain are different, but the left side is not inherently logical and mathematical and rigid, and the right side is not inherently artistic and creative and instinctual. Also, it’s not true that artsy, free-spirit types all have dominant right hemispheres and analytical, logical types all have dominant left hemispheres. Furthermore, most people are not either exclusively logical or exclusively artsy, because people, and their brains, are very complicated, and their interests and how their brains work almost never fit that neatly into boxes. This seems like I’m going off on a tangent, but I do have a point, and it is this: being Autistic vs not being Autistic is not a left-brain vs right-brain thing. Understanding nonverbal communication also isn’t a right-brain vs left-brain thing, it has to do with how autism effects the areas of the brain that have to do with communication and understanding body language, and facial expressions, and those sorts of things. Also, going back to the thing about how people are complicated and rarely fit neatly into boxes, non-autistic people do not “all have nearly identical reactions to their environment.” That’s not how people work. That’s not how neurology works. That’s not how unconscious responses to environmental stimulus works. There are over seven billion people alive on this big, weird, space rock. Most of those people don’t fall anywhere on the Autism spectrum, and very, very few of them will have “nearly identical reactions to their environment.” I’m not saying there are zero people who will have reactions that are almost identical, because there’s so many people that there are probably at least a couple whose reactions would coincidentally line up almost perfectly, but it’s extremely unlikely.

        Every single autistic person does not have the same social problems as every other autistic person. My social skills are different than Rachel’s, and Rachel’s are different than Gorm Nykreim’s, and Gorm Nykreim’s are different than any one of the other autistic people in this comments section, and their social skills are different than each other’s, too. Autism is a spectrum, but it’s not a linear spectrum. It’s not a straight line of people who are more autistic or less autistic. It’s a spectrum like a color wheel spectrum. I just realized I’ve been speaking figuratively a lot here, and I maybe shouldn’t do that because I know a lot of autistic people have trouble understanding explanations that aren’t literal, but metaphors and similes are an important part of how I personally communicate and explain things. I’m saying this now because what I have to say next is basically one big simile, and it’s going to sound weird at first, but bear with me here.

        The autism spectrum is like a salad bar at a buffet, and the different toppings are like symptoms. There are lots of different topics, and not every salad is going to have the same toppings, or the same amount of each topping, and no salad’s going to have every single one because they wouldn’t taste good together. For example, some salads will have lots of shredded carrots, and some will have just a little, and some will have none. Similarly, not everyone’s Autism symptoms are the same, and people who have the same symptoms may not have them to the same severity, and nobody has all of them. Some people have fairly mild sensory processing problems, and some people have very strong sensory processing problems, although I think every autistic person has this particular symptom to some degree, but I might be wrong. Other things on the salad bar that aren’t lettuce or toppings, like cottage cheese or jello or chocolate pudding, are disorders and diseases that people often have as well as Autism, like ADHD or sleep disorders or Epilepsy. Also, some people at the buffet have just those cold side dishes and don’t get salad, just like some people have Epilepsy but aren’t autistic, which also kind of explains why “neurotypical” isn’t a good term to use when you’re specifically talking about autistic people vs non-autistic people. Autism is very complicated, and very few people’s Autism symptoms are identical. There are autistic people who don’t think in “an explicit left-brained fashion,” because that’s just not how their brains work. That’s not how a lot of people’s brains work, autistic or not.

        My overall point is that people, and their brains, are very complicated. Non-autistic people don’t experience the world the same way as autistic people, but they also don’t experience the world exactly the same way as each other, and vice-versa.

        This took a little over an hour to type, and this is the second night in a row I’ve stayed up way too late to write something long-winded about autism, which is very unusual for me.

        • Sarah says:

          Yes, yes, thank you.

          I mean, I’m a person who through nature/nurture is highly literate in social interactions, and it’s a blessing and a curse. I’m also extremely anxious, to the point that it has, at various points impeded my ability to earn, live, do stuff. And my autoimmune condition fucks with my brainchemistry on and off, yay me. BUT I am in no way saying I am worse off than people in different places on on the spectrum/colour wheel (love that metaphor) – far from it – but to choose to dismiss me as “sheeple”(ugh, I have such an aversion to that word) because I’m not like Gorm… how is that meant to make me a more understanding person?

          And hell, is my anxiety neurotypical? Is my SAD? Of course not! The fact I am fluent in some kinds of non-verbal languages doesn’t make me cookie-cutter in others, and it doesn’t make thoseon the edges of the colour wheel… better people, just like I hope I don’t judge my austistic friends in relation to me

  11. Kelvin says:

    Like the others, I want to congratulate you Rachel for coming forward on an issue so close to home. Thank you so much for your first hand perspective. Almost all of us know or love someone who is effected, and for people like me who have no medical background putting it in terms of comic books is a good relating point for the start of a conversation, both for me and my loved ones. That you trust us enough as a group to feel safe sharing this is very touching. So I also want to thank the R&M community here for making these boards a wecoming and un-judgementaly place where conversations like this can be had without fear of… well… the kind of vitrol you find everywhere ELSE on the internet. You’re all the best. I love it here.

  12. CarolD says:

    Thank you for your openess in this post. I was treated for sensory integration disorder all through elementary school but didn’t know why I was going to therapy or what I was doing. My mom finally told me about my official diagnosis a few weeks ago when I mentioned a friend’s daughter had been diagnosed. I’ve been a bit freaked out by that since, despite the fact that I’ve been doing fine recently – I know the things that are issue for me, and I’m generally pretty adept at avoiding them. Still, to be told there was a reason for everything has scared me, and reading this, especially the bit about Daredevil, has helped me in grounding things. I’ll definitely be looking up that comic and reading it.

    As a side, I adore the podcast, and you both do a wonderful job with it. It’s become something that I look forward to every week. Thanks so much for the time and energy you put into it.

    • Rachel says:

      Thank you–and yeah, I can see that being an incredibly jarring thing to learn in retrospect.

      The Daredevil issues I’m thinking of in particular are vol. 1 #186 and 187. This is a theme that pops up throughout the series (obviously), but the way Miller used SFX in those issues really struck me, both for how well it conveys the experience and for the fact that it’s not really something you could get across this clearly in any other medium:

      Page from Daredevil #186

      • CarolD says:

        I definitely see what you mean about the SFX in the panels you just shared. And thank you for letting me know the specific issues – I’ve already snagged them to read on my plane ride tomorrow. (Alongside the four X-Men paperbacks that I’ve been saving specifically to have something to look forward to about the plane ride.)

  13. Karlen says:

    Wow, this was incredibly well written, very precise, and very representative of the issue from most if not all angles. I honestly enjoyed reading this and am thankful for you sharing it. Truly thought provoking.

    On side note which may have nothing to do with anything, while reading it I kept imagining those X-Men 90s episodes where Jean and Xavier kept going to the Mindscape (I think that’s what it was called) where the minds of the people they were engaging with became some pseudo-reality representative of who they were. Based on this writing I just imagine Xavier hopping into your head and going “Hmm…well isn’t that interesting” and generally being fascinated with how your mind works.

    Cheers

  14. Icon_UK says:

    Powerful writing, and your frankness is, as always, appreciated, thank you.

    I’d never considered Doug Ramsey to be a character coded for autism, but I could see (given my very limited understanding of such a wide ranging condition) how that could work, and ties into an long held idea I’d have loved to see addressed; Doug can speak any language more or less automatically, but he wouldn’t get the cultural context and attachments to go with them. He could read a novel in Russian, or Japanese, or Kree, and be able to translate any joke in it, but he wouldn’t “get” the joke, because it might well relate to an aspect of humour which has nothing to do with the words and everything to do with a cultural context, more than just translation. Perceiving the world through it’s language, without being able to understand it’s context.

    Is that the sort of thing you meant, or is there more to it I’m missing (a very likely event)?

  15. Mike Loughlin says:

    Rachel, thanks for sharing! It took a lot of guts to open up the way you did, and it’s fantastic that others are sharing their experiences as well.

    I am not diagnosed with autism but I have taught students with autism for the past 16 years. I love working with the population. Most of my students have had severe cognitive disabilities in addition to being on the spectrum, and several have been functionally nonverbal. While comics don’t usually portray people with cognitive disabilities ( unless they’re monsters, saints, or unfortunate comic relief) there are two characters I thought worth mentioning.

    One appeared in Uncanny X-Men 360 and X-Men 80, the issues in which Nightcrawler, Colossus, & Kitty Pryde rejoined the team following Excalibur’s cancellation. I don’t remember the plot, but there were these fake X-Men who were amalgams of preexisting characters (Blob + Sabretooth = Landslide, for example). One was a combination of Legion and Havok called Chaos. Because the writers didn’t get the memo, he was portrayed as having “Legion’s autism” in addition to his powers. He spoke in one word non sequiturs before unleashing his energy powers. I don’t know if he ever appeared again but I thought the attempt at making a character with autism, a cognitive disability, and super-powers was interesting, if a bit off.

    There was a story in Legends of the Dark Knight 98 & 99 called Steps. Writter Paul Jenkins included a character who witnessed a murder who was a child with autism who was non-verbal. It remains the best portrayal of that form of autism I’ve seen in any fiction, and I recommend anyone who is interested in seeing autism portrayed in fiction seek it out.

    Also: I never thought of Matt Murdock as being on the spectrum (sensory integration issues aside) but I want to reread some Daredevil with that interpretation in mind. Actually, the Ann Nocenti issues could support that reading. Hmm… Likewise, I never thought of Cypher in that way before Zeb Wells wrote him (which didn’t fit with the Doug Ramsey I knew). I might have to go back to the Claremont issues to look for clues. I didn’t think of Cyclops as being on the spectrum until Grant Morrison got ahold of him. “Assault on Weapon Plus” gave me that impression big time. In fact, some members of the special class could be read as having autism, especially Ernst. Did you get the impression that Idie from Wolverine and the X-Men could have autism, too?

  16. tim says:

    thanks for this great piece of writing, both about autism and about characterization.

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  19. Sol says:

    Thank you for posting this, and thanks for putting the issue numbers of the Daredevil in the comments. (And sweet! They’re $1.99 on Comixology and it’s Klaus Janson art. Life is good.)

  20. Maki P says:

    I just wanted to say thank you for sharing this. As a self-diagnosed Asperger person, it means a lot to me to see other people in the spectrum being awesome; and talking about this things.
    Thank you

  21. Neil says:

    Firstly thank you for sharing Rachel. Secondly as a severely physically disabled individual I am equally pissed because we had ONE good physically disabled character with a non-cosmetic disability (I’m looking at you Daredevil and you can tell) and for five years now she hasn’t existed. Also Xavier is such a jerk.

    On a more personal note I totally get where you’re coming from where labels are concerned. People either assume I’m an inspiration for leaving my home, or ask to pray for me or avoid me because they’re uncomfortable around the cripple. Joke’s on them I’m a tremendously sarcastic snot. The thing is I would give my legs to be able to hide my disability because of the assumption that it must make me have a certain mood. People assign labels because that makes it easier to tell us weirdos apart from the Normies. We are the true mutants and Magneto has valid points xD

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