What Flavor is Your PTSD?

If you follow superhero canon and lore at all, you’re one of us and you know that superheroes have a long history of having something traumatic happen in their past, which is often during childhood. This goes on to shape their motivations and often drives them to change an unjust world. After all, part of being a hero is overcoming adversity. Superhero fans gathered at 5:30PM Saturday in the Marriott M301 for the “Super Therapy: What is Wrong with These People?” panel.  

While any superhero could likely benefit from therapy, panelists Alice Edwards, Victoria Wright, and Michelle Haddad only had an hour and focused on a few current heroes.  


No villains were analyzed during this panel. That would pose an ethical dilemma and spark the ultimate debate: Is Loki really the villain? Case in point, Harley Quinn. In the canon, Harley has a Ph.D. and treats the Joker. And look how that turned out for her. The power balance changed, and she found herself in an epically abusive relationship. As one panelist pointed out, don’t lick the science. 

Gamora and Nebula 

With Thanos as a “father,” there’s a lot to unpack there. On top of that, the sisters were also trapped in an abusive cycle with each other. Nebula was the scapegoat, and Gamora the golden child. During her arc, Gamora grew and began to acknowledge her responsibility in Nebula’s trauma. In the end, they were still hit hard emotionally with Thanos’s death, and while that may seem hard to believe, it’s common for the abused to truly love their abuser.  

Baby Groot 

Haddad said he’s the baby murder child. No need to evaluate further. 

Tony Stark 

There’s a lot of material here, but one of the most interesting evaluations is his arc during Captain America: Civil War. His sole motivation was revenge for his parents’ deaths and to kill the Winter Soldier. While T’Challa also sought revenge for the death of his father, he was able to remember who he really is in the end. 

Batman and Robin 

The death of his parents had a lasting and profound impact on Batman, and the panelists diagnosed him with prolonged grief disorder. He sees Robin going down the same path of revenge and reaches out to help him. Is this a healthy relationship and way of coping? While the mentoring aspect is healthy, the relationship isn’t in a lot of the canon.  

The panelists wanted everyone to keep in mind that, whether superhero or real life, not everyone responds to trauma in the same way. There’s no way to know how a significant event will affect an individual, and it will impact some people much more than others. A great example of this is to look at the fandom’s reaction to Tony Stark’s single-minded revenge. Some thought he majorly overreacted while others understood and empathized.  

One thing’s for sure though, being the therapist for a Groot and Rocket Raccoon group therapy session would be nigh impossible.  

Author of the article

Not everyone can say they watch television for homework, read novels for inspiration, and are paid to follow what’s trending. For Alicia Pack, it is all part of life as a writer and media enthusiast.  When she isn't lost in the world she is trying to create, you can find her with her nose in a book or catching up on her favorite supernatural shows.  She has a Master’s degree in Mass Communications and a Bachelor’s degree in Radio, Television, and Film.  Her nine years of diverse media experience include news writing, copywriting, website content management, social media, promotions, television production, and teaching.