- 1Charles Francis Xavier (also known as "Professor X") is one of the world's most powerful mutants, a very effective telepath, as well as a scientific genius and globally respected expert on genetics and mutation. Xavier is typically depicted as a paraplegic confined to his iconic wheelchair, though the actual reasons for his disability are rarely discussed.
In the film "X-Men: First Class," a misdirected bullet into the spine fells Xavier and is the cause of his later handicap. However, in the comics, he is crippled by the alien Lucifer, who is on Earth while doing some scouting for a potential f*ture invasion. Which feels kind of clumsy for an invading alien race, sending individuals down ahead of the rest of the group to drop stones on powerful telepaths. Just stay on the mothership and nuke us from orbit, right? Who's with me?
- 2While trying to save a blind man from an oncoming truck, Matt Murdock is blinded by a radioactive substance that splashes on him. Let this be a lesson to all of you: never try to help people. Fortunately for Matt, though he could no longer see, the radiation heightened his other senses, giving him the human equivalent of a bat's sonar and making him fairly tough to kill in a fight, as a series of B-level Marvel Universe villains - including such kind of almost memorable adversaries as The Owl and Stilt-Man. (Has there ever been a less menacing-sounding comic villain than Stilt-Man? Shouldn't be too hard to knock him to the ground, right?)
Daredevil's blindness did cause him one enormous disadvantage, however - the inability to pick out a halfway-decent looking costume. He started fighting crime in his father's yellow-and-black boxing robes, looking more like "Bee-Man" than a Man Without Fear (as Daredevil would come to be known.) Later, he settled on this red leather number that makes him look kind of like a cartoon devil that ran off to join Cirque de Soleil. If Batman's persona is designed to strike fear into the hearts of villains, perhaps Daredevil's throws them off-guard by making them think they've stumbled into a fetish club? If so, mission accomplished.
BatgirlThe first DC Comics character to go by the name "Bat-Girl" (yeah, with that weird hyphen, I know...) was Betty Kane, the niece of the superhero "Batwoman" who has since fallen out of style. This gave rise to a truly ridiculous era in Batman comics, when the hero had an entire "Bat-Family," including Ace the Bat-Hound. Let's never speak of this again.
Bat-girl didn't return until a few years later when TV producer William Dozier needed a new female character for the "Batman" TV series, hoping to attract whatever remaining female audience hadn't already been won over by Adam West's dulcet baritone and Burt Ward's skintight leggings. Dozier asked Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino to create such a character for the comics. Thus, Barbara Gordon was born, and Alicia Silverstone was soon to win the role of a lifetime!
Barbara Gordon as Batgirl proved much more popular in both comics and on the classic TV show, and she has remained a central figure in the Batman Universe ever since. In 1988, in the highly acclaimed graphic novel "Batman: The Killing Joke," Gordon was shot in the spine by the Joker and was henceforth paralyzed, which can definitely cut into one's superheroing. Nevertheless, Gordon persevered, becoming the expert hacker and mercenary Oracle and founding the superhero collective known as "The Birds of Prey."
A new series featuring Gordon returning to her old Batgirl persona begins in September of 2011, as part of the larger DC Comics character reboot.
- 4Captain Marvel Jr. was introduced to the Marvel Family of superheroes in DC Comics back in the '40s. (Yes, he's a DC character named "Captain Marvel." Not to be confused with the Marvel Comics character "Captain Marvel." And they wonder why people who don't read a ton of comics sometimes find them inaccessible!)
Initially, he was a newsboy named Freddy Freeman who dreamed of one day moving to Santa Fe before starting a labor movement against the greedy Joseph Pulitzer. Actually, hang on, that's the plot of "Newsies." Freddy Freeman was a newsboy who, while on a fishing trip with his grandfather, got caught in the midst of a battle between the original Captain Marvel and Adolf Hitler's favorite superhero, Captain Nazi. (Can't imagine why THAT character ever faded into obscurity.) Interesting side note: there was also a character named Bulletman present at the time.
Anyway, grandad dies but Captain Marvel is able to save the now-crippled Freddy by taking him to see the wizard Shazam and transferring some of his powers into the boy. Freddy could now turn into the non-disabled superhero Captain Marvel Jr., though his Freddy persona never fully healed and walked with a limp for the rest of his life. Who knew Shazam was such a troll?
- 5Originally, Cable was introduced as a dangerous, shadowy figure without a past, drafted to join the New Mutants as part of their struggle against the Mutant Liberation Front. (Weird, I thought they were the People's Front of Judea...Or the Judean People's Front. One of those.) In the '90s, we got a bit more of a sense for his past, including that he was born Nathan Summers and was the son of one-time X-Men leader Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor.
But what was his disability, aside from a cripplingly complicated backstory? Well, Cable has a number of "techno-organic" body parts, you see, including a mechanical eye allowing him to see a wider range of light waves than normal humans and a robot arm. You know, like Daft Punk.
Unfortunately, he also from a "techno-organic virus" (as one does) which definitely hinders his ability to use his mutant powers, not to mention his general control over his own body. Perhaps this is why the installation of mechanical robot arms is not covered by most standard HMOs. Tragically, in 2010, Cable succumbed to the virus after straining himself to open up a time portal. So it goes.
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