Disability Representation: Superheroes in DC and Marvel Comics

With Disability Pride Month upon us, I got to thinking about how many superhero characters with disabilities there are in what we call the “Big Two” aka Marvel Comics and DC Comics. I think the general public doesn’t think of characters with superpowers as disabled even if they are. Many well known superheroes acquire their powers or abilities through circumstances that also leave them disabled by societal standards.  

Daredevil aka Matt Murdock is blind after an accident splashed radioactive material into his eyes as a child. However, that material also gave him enhanced extra-sensory abilities. He “sees” through a sort of echolocation that allows him to move about the world mostly without any aids.

As shown above, artists often choose various ways to depict what Daredevil “sees”. This artist, Chris Samnee, depicts the other characters as almost faceless but with some features that could be picked out depending on how close Daredevil is to them. The same goes for the surrounding environment that fades as it goes further out-something that seems obvious but is a great detail included in the art.  

The Daredevil show that was featured on Netflix in 2015 showed not only Matt’s superpower and his use of it to seek justice but also the aids he uses to function in a world not built for him. Ironically, when the series debuted blind Netflix users were disappointed to find that Daredevil did not feature an audio description track. Thanks to an online campaign blind audiences can now access the series about a superhero with a lived experience like theirs.  

There have been many, many series starring Daredevil since his debut in 1964!  

Here are some in our collection you can check out: 

Here Comes... Daredevil, the Man Without Fear!


Another very famous disabled superhero is Barbara Gordon, or as most people would recognize her: the original Batgirl. Barbara Gordon went through a rough turn of events in the late 1980s when DC Comics wanted to move past “sidekick” characters. During a story arc that is seen as iconic amongst some readers, The Killing Joke, Barbara answers the door to find the Joker standing on the other side. He shoots her leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. Many things have been considered controversial about this story and about things that came after. 

In the aftermath of The Killing Joke, readers believed Barbara to be written out of the comics for good-afterall, how could Barbara be Batgirl if she’s paralyzed? Enter John Ostrander and Kim Yale who were writing the original Suicide Squad. Barbara Gordon didn’t get superpowers from her ordeal, she was brought to her lowest but we’re lucky Ostrander and Yale saw fit to give her a voice.  

There were no plans for her in the continuity at that time. We decided that if that happened, we weren’t just going to make her better magically — we wanted to explore what happened when someone like her was crippled and how she would respond.” 

-John Ostrander 

Instead of seeing Barbara as a weakened damsel no longer capable of fighting the good fight, they reimagined her as Oracle: an information broker and hacker working in the shadows to aid the other heroes.  By seeing her as a whole character and not just something like the girl sidekick that got hurt they completely reimagined what it meant to be a hero in the DC Universe. Oracle went on to be an invaluable hero including a member of the Birds of Prey-a team consisting of Black Canary, Huntress and, of course, Oracle.  

Barbara Gordon didn’t get superpowers from her ordeal, she was brought to her lowest but we’re lucky Ostrander and Yale saw fit to give her a voice.  

Though Oracle came to mean a lot to many DC fans she has since been returned to Batgirl and bounced back and forth between that identity and Oracle. Many argue that she should have remained wheelchair bound since many who become paralyzed don’t recover.  

Some recommended reading available in our collection:  

Birds of Prey

The Oracle Code

Another member of the Batman-family is Cassandra Cain who took on the mantle of Batgirl when Barbara became Oracle and has since gone by the moniker Orphan.  

Cassandra was raised to be an elite assassin and was deprived of human contact including speech as a child. This left her mute and illiterate but able to interpret body language. While writers have flip-flopped on how much Cassandra can/will speak for a large portion of her appearances she is silent.  

A great, fun read featuring both of these Batgirls in their new roles is Wayne Family Adventures featured on Webtoon, opens a new window and soon to be in print.

This leads us to Hawkeye aka Clint Barton of Avengers fame was revealed in the Disney+ series to be deaf. Many comic fans were already aware of his hearing loss that was caused by a fight during which he was stabbed in the ears with his own arrows, however in the MCU miniseries, he reveals that he has noise induced hearing loss stemming from his adventures with the Avengers.  

During writer Matt Fraction’s time on the Hawkeye comic series he didn’t shy away from the fact that Hawkeye had a hearing disability and even included an entire issue in sign language.  

Since Hawkeye has gained popularity other authors have also embraced Clint’s hearing loss in their stories. 

Recommended Hawkeye reading: 


Other notable superheroes with disabilities include: 

Professor X  

Professor Charles Xavier is a paraplegic and is wheelchair bound.  

Marvel Masterworks Presents The X-men

Moon Knight 

Moon Knight, opens a new window has dissociative identity disorder (DID) (incorrectly referred to as schizophrenia in some stories)

Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier who not only suffers from PTSD from his time as a Hydra agent but is also an amputee missing his left arm. 

Captain America

- blog by Kelly O. @ Shelton Timberland Library

Superheroes with Disabilities

List created by KOklerTRL


One of the most recent Daredevil comic runs by popular writer Chip Zdarsky.

A collection featuring the original Daredevil comics.

A small collection of Hawkeye adventures

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