10 Marvel Comics Accurately Depict Mental Health Conditions

Mental health often plays an important role in Marvel Comics, but not all depictions are accurate. In most cases, the villain is considered “crazy”, promptly defeated, and then locked away. Rarely do characters with mental health conditions accurately portray these conditions, with the intention of raising awareness. Fantasy in general has a complex relationship with psychology, and Marvel’s fantasy and science fiction plotlines sometimes reflect an outdated outlook.


Related: 10 must-read comics about mental health

Weakness is something delicate and uncommon for heroes. The negative stigma attached to mental health topics has prevented these topics from appearing in the comics, and many heroes have experienced decades of unhealthy behavior and trauma without much discussion of it. Fortunately, as science has advanced and access to information has become more refined, character-driven stories have been able to accurately portray mental health conditions in many Marvel comics.

10/10 The X-Men battled their pent-up fears

The X-Men reflect on their fears in X-Men Annual #11

Teams like the X-Men with rosters go through phases, constantly establishing trust with each other and fighting to prove themselves to the world. X-Men Annual #11 He takes on a new team formation and seeks to explore his heroes’ repressed motivations. When a villain called the Horde sends the team into a pocket world, they encounter carefully crafted illusions.

Psylocke’s skin falls off, Longshot loses his physical form, and Havok and Rogue are literally frozen by suspicion. Each is an accurate and poignant portrayal of the factors affecting a team’s mental health at all times. After Logan achieves and later rejects omnipotence, the team returns home to confront what they have learned about themselves.

9/10 Big Bertha’s behavior resembles bulimia

Big Bertha, a controversial character in Marvel Comics

Comic books have an unhealthy relationship with physical expectations, and Marvel’s Big Bertha was particularly problematic. With the ability to control the fatty tissue in her body, she has been loving a double life for a long time, battling with the Avengers as Big Berta and maintaining a modeling career as her day job.

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Bertha’s transformations require behaviors associated with bulimia. She doesn’t eat too much to grow, but she has to induce vomiting if she decides to get rid of a lump, which is always annoying and potentially painful. Before she was comfortable in the full-time role of Bertha, Ashley’s vomiting routine to maintain her beauty standard was strikingly similar to dysmorphic disorders, despite the drastic physical change she brought about.

8/10 A man without fear has other feelings

Daredevil Vol.  6 #2 from Marvel Comics

Matt Murdock may be the man without fear, but he has long suffered from depression. Daredevil volume 6Written by Chip Zdarsky, he sees his mental health deteriorating after a long recovery process. With the Kingpin serving as mayor and daring crooks galore, Daredevil struggles to regain his place in Hell’s Kitchen.

In keeping with depressive disorders, Matt has trouble concentrating and staying motivated. His self-talk is increasingly negative, and his agility is so crippled that street-level thieves are able to outsmart and evade him. His intense feelings of guilt and lack of self-concern cause him to accurately portray depressive states.

7/10 It is realistic for Ben Reilly to break up

Ben Reilly's Spider-Man 5 elusive

After everything Ben Reilly has been through and all the life he’s lived, his resilience has proven to be his greatest strength. With a mind filled with borrowed memories and constant uncertainty about his identity, he is a relatively accurate depiction of dissociative disorders.

in Ben Reilly: Spider-ManWritten by JM DeMatteis with art by David Balde, Ben’s biggest struggle is with his identity. He says he does not feel lonely but seems to refuse to make friends. Altered clones, Peter’s villains, and thoughts of loved ones he never knew lead Ben to question his motives as a superhero and his very identity.

6/10 Luke Cage suffered a temporary brain shock

Luke Cage Everyman #1 from Marvel Comics

The Harlem Home for Hire team champion is a beacon of justice and kindness, representing the good in everyone. He fights for peace, controls his temper, and always goes out of his way to set an example for the youth of his community. Luke Cage Marvel Digital Original #1-3 sees this change due to CTE.

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What the miniseries lacks in story it makes up for with thoughtful consideration of mental health and masculinity. Luke learns that years of fighting have damaged his brain beyond repair. The new erratic behavior leads to bouts of extreme self-doubt, which he hides from everyone, including his loved ones. The lackluster resolution undermines the message, but for the most part the series is very insightful.

5/10 Wolverine’s amnesia makes sense

Wolverine snarls in the rain in Marvel Comics

Wolverine is Marvel’s resident old man, and his struggle to remember his past paved the way for the MCU. There are many explanations for the walls in James “Logan” Howlett’s mind, from injuries and side effects to harmonic memory wipes. Or it could just be his age.

Human brains have unparalleled storage and processing capacity, but they do have limitations. Memory gets worse with age Wolverine: The OriginWritten by Paul Jenkins, Bill Jemas, and Joe Quesada with art by Andy Kubert, Logan’s birth takes place in the 1880s. For cognitive function to be retained after 140 years, it is “realistic” to assume that its healing factor has erased the oldest and most traumatic memories to make room for the future.

4/10 Sleepwalker was a sleepwalking disorder

Rick Sheridan is exhausted in Marvel's Sleepwalker #1

The so-called fearsome Marvel hero began his crime-fighting career on Earth in the body of Rick Sheridan. By day, Rick goes about his life as usual, but his dreams are haunted by a real alien. While Rick sleeps, the Sleeper takes to the streets to fight goofy villains.

None of this is cool for Rick. In the first few issues of sleepwalker, Written by Bob Budiansky with art by Brett Blevins, Rick presents all the signs of a serious sleep disorder. He falls in public but can’t get any real relief. The Sleepwalker isn’t to blame for Rick’s troubles, and many of his dreamscape conversations lead him to a degree of control that helps the duo take on some of Marvel’s smarter villains.

3/10 Hulk can’t smash all his problems

Doc Samson tries to cure Doctor Banner and the Hulks

Peter David ran Incredible Hulk He gave new life to Bruce Banner’s inner conflict when his personality split three ways according to Freud’s concepts of id, ego, and superego. Although it is not an accurate representation of how the subconscious mind works, it does have something important to say about mental health.

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Hulk’s condition defies real diagnoses but has similarities to dissociative identity disorder. As in some cases of DID, bringing his personalities together helps heal his dissociation, but this does not happen through violence. Not all of Hulk’s problems can be smashed. Instead, introspection, conversation, and vulnerabilities save the day, and while the Hulk’s actual condition may be problematic or inaccurate, the message that it’s okay to ask for help certainly isn’t.

2/10 Tony Stark fought alcoholism

Tony Stark in Demon in a Bottle

Demon in a bottle extends Iron Man #120-128, with story and art by David Michelin, Bob Layton, and John Romita Jr., a grounded and disturbing depiction of alcoholism. Tony Stark is a man without superpowers, who leads Stark Industries and the Avengers. The pressure was already building and Tony was rarely shown without a drink in hand when he was convincingly framed for murder.

What started as a few relaxing drinks has become a necessity. He could not work, think, or hold a conversation while sober. Fortunately, Tony’s loved ones supported him, prompting him to give up the drink. The pressures faced by the billionaire superhero are not universally quantifiable, but Tony’s path to alcoholism is a tragically realistic portrayal.

1/10 Spider-Man dealt with survivor’s guilt

Spider-Man fights Kraven's revenge in Marvel Comics

Several Marvel heroes have exhibited PTSD related behaviors, especially those who maintain civilian identities. Peter Parker has been Marvel’s poster boy alter ego for a long time, and the amount of death and pain that surrounds him is staggering. Spidey stays friendly through it all.

The Amazing Spider-Man: Soul HunterWritten by JM DeMatteis, with inks by Bob MacLeod and pencils by Mike Zeck, it’s more than just a ghost story. Peter’s funeral sends him into a spiral of survivor’s guilt that leads him to Craven’s grave. He faces his feelings and only then is he able to move beyond the blame he feels for the deaths of his friends and enemies.

Next: 10 DC comics that accurately depict mental health conditions

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