Proud comic book fans gathered in the winter cold of Washington, D.C. last weekend for Warner Bros’ “DC in D.C.” event at the Newseum. This event held several panel discussions that highlighted the cultural aspects of the DC comic book world, to include one on the military and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) titled “The Aftermath: Battle & Trauma in Comics.” IAVA’s very own Melissa Bryant moderated this panel which included Batman/Mister Miracle author and former CIA counter-terrorism operations officer, Tom King, Gotham star and Marine Corps combat veteran, J.W. Cortes, the 19th Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Vivek Murthy, DC Comics Exclusive Illustrator, Mitch Gerads, and DC All Access host and Army veteran, Jason Inman.
The panel highlighted the new monthly comic book on DC superhero “Mister Miracle” in which the hero grapples with post-traumatic stress disorder in ways that are not usually presented in entertainment. Departing from the often inaccurate depictions of those with post-traumatic stress as permanently broken figures, Mister Miracle attempts to portray a realistic vision that showcases the complexities of PTSD.
This new vision is largely due to Tom King relating his own experiences with post-traumatic stress onto the pages of the comic and telling the stories in more genuine ways. As King stated, “PTSD is very complicated for me. It’s not just what you did, but what you didn’t do…Then there’s this other level. There’s something enjoyable about war. Because you feel important. You feel like you’re at the tip of the spear…If you live long enough you realize those tramas, those horrible things that happened to you become part of you, and you think on paper you should be assumed of them, but you become proud of them…It becomes something you take strength from.” Dr. Murthy also weighed in by pointing out that in today’s society most people tend to think as emotions as a weakness, but that they can actually be a source of strength and that the story of Mister Miracle helps show that.
The panel ended with a lengthy and enthusiastic Q and A from fans. One of the fans, who was also an Army veteran, asked, “I’m concerned about the broken veteran narrative that keeps getting repeated. What advice would you give to content creators in getting away from that in writing a character that is dealing with trauma?” JW Cortes answered the question by saying that the entertainment industry needs to engage more with veterans adding “meeting veterans, visiting veterans, living with veterans, hiring veterans is a step in the right direction.”
Overall, the panelists and fans came away with a fresh perspective on military service and PTSD. A truly genuine and inspiring, conversation! A few pictures from the panel: