Darkhawk: An Interview About Marvel's New Superhero With MS
When you think superhero, what usually comes to mind is a pretty intimidating power pose and hefty muscles that can make any villain a little uneasy. And what about those challenges that superheroes face? Cities in despair and a love interest trapped. Almost nothing like the challenges that those with MS face, though both challenges certainly take a level of superhuman strength.
Nevertheless, Kyle Higgins, a comic book writer, and film director has created a compelling revival of a classic character, Marvel's own, Darkhwawk. The setup? A senior in high school named Connor Young with his whole future ahead of him. After experiencing headaches, vertigo, and a bad fall, Connor is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
An interview with Kyle Higgins
That's right, a superhero diagnosed with and facing the unique challenges of MS. This is all before our protagonist comes across the amulet that will soon change his life. We had the incredible opportunity to ask Kyle some questions about this exciting new superhero and what it means for the MS community.
What is the history and overall description of the character, Darkhawk?
The original Darkhawk: Chris Powell debuted in 1991 and was created by Tom DeFalco, Danny Fingeroth, and Mike Manley. In some ways, he was very much a product of his time, a new hero with a dark edge, a cross-section of what had made characters like Spider-Man, Wolverine, and the Punisher work.
He also had his own number 1 issue, also during a time when it wasn’t that common for a new character to debut in their own number one. For many readers, this was a really exciting character to get in on the ground floor. He had all the markings of the next Marvel staple.
Conceptually, Darkhawk comes out of the transforming hero mold. Chris Powell found a cosmic amulet that transforms him into the armor cladded hero, Darkhawk. But in a bit of a twist, we learned fairly early on that Chris wasn’t actually transforming into Darkhawk. What happens is more akin to something like Marvelman (Miracleman) - his body instantaneously swaps places with an android form, which teleports in from somewhere called Null Space.
The initial series lasted 50 issues, and over the years, Darkhawk has had numerous appearances across the Marvel U, from his initial street-level fare to more cosmic dealings and mythology. Darkhawk is a character with a rich legacy. Which, now that we come upon the thirtieth anniversary of his creation, made it very exciting when Marvel asked if I would be interested in building a new teenager to take up the mantle.
What inspired this new series of Darkhawk, starring a superhero living with MS?
You know, it’s a little tough to pinpoint. It’s really a combination of several different factors. Chris Powell was an “everyman” teenager when he debuted in 1991. For Connor, I was interested in looking at a teenager in the 2020s. And then the question becomes, who is he? What’s his life like? What does he want? What is he struggling with?
I’m a really big sports fan, grew up playing myself, and have gotten to know a few professional athletes over the years. One of whom, Brad Guzan, I actually grew up with. I remember when Brad, who was the best athlete at every sport he played, decided to focus solely on soccer. I remember feeling like there was this inevitability that he was going to go on to bigger and better things and he certainly has. But what would happen if someone like that, who had prepared his whole life for something that seemed predestined - was given the news as Connor gets?
When we meet Connor, he’s a senior in high school in Woodlawn, a neighborhood in The Bronx, NY. Connor’s accepted a full-ride scholarship to ESU to play basketball, and a whole lot of analysts think he’ll go number 1 overall in the NBA draft in a year or two. But he has these headaches, some vertigo, and then after a fairly brutal fall, he’s diagnosed with MS.
I have several friends and family members who are living with MS. It’s something I’ve been fascinated with for a while now, and the more I’ve learned, the more questions I’ve had. In building Connor, I felt like this might be a really nice way to explore some of those questions through him, as he tries to figure out what his life is going to be like. And then there’s the superhero angle.
The other big inspiration, what brings all of this together, is the central concept of Darkhawk, the instantaneous body swap, and teleportation with the android form. When it happens, Connor’s body is transported outside of space and time (where to exactly, you’ll have to keep reading to find out!) But his consciousness still controls the android Darkhawk form that’s left in his place, through a synaptic link. Well, what does a synaptic link like this look like for someone with a neurodegenerative condition?
How do you envision this will impact the MS community? What are your hopes and goals?
The idea of second chances and the need to redefine yourself in the face of life-changing news and circumstances, at a fairly young age, was something that I was really interested in exploring. And the opportunity to create a new superhero, while also shining a light on a disease that is often quite misunderstood, felt like a really nice marriage of ideas and themes.
In building the series, as it related to Connor, his diagnosis, and learning to live with MS, my foremost goal was to make sure that we were approaching and handling this with respect. I’m not someone who enjoys the reductive, low-hanging fruit version of a concept. I’m interested in the subtleties, complexities, and nuances. And that’s something we’ll be looking to highlight as the book continues.
Why is it important for you and the Marvel team to include interviews and insights from actual people living with MS?
This was an idea that came about during conversations with my editor, Darren Shan. We felt like we had a unique opportunity to not only share others' stories but use the platform of a new number 1 Marvel Comic, to introduce some readers to a world they may not have known very much about before.
Facing human and superhuman challenges
We're so grateful for Kyle's time and for this exciting opportunity for the MS community. With representation comes validation. With validation comes confidence. Raising MS awareness helps eliminate stigma, improve research opportunities, and creates community. It allows those who live with this condition to take back control.
This revamped character will have many new unique challenges to face - a few of us non-superheroes are all too familiar with. That means, muscle weakness, muscle stiffness, dizziness, and other neurological symptoms. We're asking those who live with MS to weigh in. If you could take one of your MS symptoms and make it a superpower, what would it be? Click the blue-button below to share your answer.
MS can take a significant emotional and physical toll in so many areas of our daily life. Here at MultipleSclerosis.net, we are a community that offers a safe place for sharing, support, validation, and kindness. However you feel comfortable getting involved, we are here for you.
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