Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Top 10 Disabled Fictional Characters

Oftentimes, in fiction, the disabilities of characters actually work in increasing their appeal, especially when they still roll and kick butt in spite of these handicaps.  Thus, such was the standard of how I assembled this list – picking my most favorite disabled fictional characters that haven’t been significantly limited by their disabilities, but in fact remained as competent and successful – or even more so – than non-disabled people. 

For this list, the category “disabled” is limited to the physical or sensory kind – blind, deaf, lame, and such.  Therefore, fictional characters with mental disabilities are reserved for a future list (if that ever happens).  Moreover, those characters whose disabilities are fixed by cybernetic enhancements are not considered (since they won’t really be “disabled” then).  However, characters that use superpowers to help them function while handicapped are still considered.             

Honorable Mentions: Dr. Strangelove, Madame Web, Kaname Tōsen


I understand that Lincoln Rhyme is originally a character from a novel series by Jeffrey Deaver.  I’ve never read the books, but I got to see The Bone Collector, the movie adaptation of the first book of the series.  In the movie, he was portrayed by the great Denzel Washington.

Rhyme was a brilliant forensics detective who became a bedridden quadriplegic after an accident involving a falling beam.  However, despite of being paralyzed from the neck down, his mind is still very much capable of solving crimes.  Lying on his bed in his apartment, he relies on a high-tech computer equipment and police officer Amelia Donaghy, who does the legwork for him and communicates with him through a headset.     

9.) YOMI

Yomi is a character from one of the best anime series ever, Yu Yu Hakushu.  Though not necessarily a straight-up antagonist (there was already a “good-evil ambiguity” element in the anime’s last arc, “The Three Kings Saga”), Yomi was the last opponent that main character Yusuke battled (during the “Demon World Tournament”) before the series ended. 

Yomi is one of the so-called “Three Kings”, the three powerful rulers of the Demon World that are in an impasse among themselves (if two engages in war, the third one would strike his weakened rivals, ensuing to his or her absolute rule).  Originally brash and reckless when he was young, he often got into trouble and had to rely on Kurama to bail him out.  Probably fed up with him, Kurama sent a demon assassin to attack Yomi, resulting to his loss of eyesight.  However, becoming blind actually made Yomi more powerful over time – Yomi’s sense of hearing exponentially became more potent (he even gained four more ears); he became a calmer and more calculating combatant; and his power levels became immense. 

When Yomi was already a king of the Demon World, he – ironically – still chose to make Kurama his second-in-command, despite of knowing the fact that he’s the reason why he became blind.  Being already more powerful than Kurama, he could have easily exacted his revenge.  However, Yomi acknowledged that what Kurama had done was for the best, which, in fact, it indeed was, for it made him more powerful.   

Here’s another blind badass who made the list (come to think of it, half of the spots went to blind characters).  Zatoichi is a fictional Japanese swordsman (I encountered this character after I’ve already written my lists on fictional samurais and swordsmen) from the late Edo period of Japan (1830’s-40’s).  The character was originally portrayed by actor Shintaro Katsu in a film series and a TV series.  But my encounter with the character was with the 2003 revival, The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi, in which the titular character was portrayed by Takeshi Tikano (who also wrote and directed the movie).      

Zatoichi spends his time and makes a living by roaming around, giving massages, providing acupuncture therapy, and by gambling with dice.  He lets himself have an initial appearance of a harmless, blind wanderer; but he unleashes his deadly swordsmanship skills whenever he encounters ruffians, bandits, or yakuza gangsters that oppresses or extorts the weak, innocent, and helpless.  In combat, his preference is extinguishing the candles that light the room and then using the darkness to his advantage in picking off his opponents.            

7.) ELI

The main protagonist of the film The Book of Eli is another Denzel Washington-portrayed character.  Living in a post-apocalyptic world, Eli gets by because of his all-around fighting and survival skills.  But what’s uncanny is that – which was heavily implied later in the movie – he’s actually blind!  Moreover – and more impressive still – is the fact that he had memorized the entire King James Version of the Bible.    


A serial killer once attempted to kill her by pushing her in front of the train.  She survived, but she lost her legs – putting her in a wheelchair for life.  

Susannah Dean was originally known as Odetta Holmes, who had a split personality named Detta Walker.  Odetta and Detta are extreme, “yin-yang” polar opposites of each other, and it was in their merging that formed Susannah. 

Susannah is one of Roland Deschain’s recruits for his ka-tet – companions drawn from different time periods of New York City in his quest for the Dark Tower.  Just like the others, she was trained by Roland in the ways of the gunslinger, which transformed her into a badass warrior.  Despite being dependent on a wheelchair, she is as sharp, capable, and dangerous as her comrades.  In the fifth Dark Tower book, Wolves of the Calla, she would even learn how to wield masterfully the deadly throwing iron plates (like a chakram) of the Calla women.      


Toph Beifong is a character from Avatar: The Last Airbender and its sequel, The Legend of Korra.  Even when still at a very young age, Toph was already a master earthbender.  In fact, she’s the one who taught Avatar Aang – who, at that time, could already bend wind, water, and fire, but not earth – to earthbend.  She is so immersed and in tune with her earthbending that she even got to invent metalbending – tracing and utilizing the earth components in metal to bend metal itself.  After the formation of Republic City, Toph served as its first Chief of Police, commanding an elite Metalbending Police Force.      

Blind from birth, Toph learned from badgermoles (these blind underground animals were the first creatures that mastered earthbending) how to use earthbending to sense the “vibration” in the ground allowing her to be extensively aware and sensitive of everything happening around her.   
4.) ECHO

Maya Lopez a.k.a. Echo is now currently deceased in the comics (killed by the Skrull impostor taking the appearance of Spider-Woman during “Secret Invasion”).  She is one of my most favorite female Avengers, and I really wish she’ll get resurrected already (maybe post-Secret Wars?). 

Echo is deaf, but she can read lips and easily catches visual cues and body languages.  Though she has no superpowers, she, however, has Olympic-level athleticism and “photographic reflexes”, which is the remarkable ability of perfectly and effortlessly mimicking other people’s movements by just watching them doing these movements (kind of like what the Taskmaster can do, as well as Eyeshield 21’s Agon Kongo).  Due to this ability, Echo was able to become a professional-level pianist (uncanny, considering the fact that she’s deaf), a proficient martial artist, an expert acrobat (from watching Daredevil), an able pilot, and an exceptional sharpshooter (from watching Bullseye).


Barbara Gordon is back as Batgirl now (due to the New 52 reboot), but I liked her more as Oracle.  During the “Killing Joke”, the Joker shot Barbara Gordon and left her paralyzed.  This ceased Barbara Gordon’s career as Batgirl (though, as said earlier, she is Batgirl once more at the present).  However, this was not the end of her as a crimefighter and heroine.  Despite being confined in a wheelchair, Barbara still has her genius intellect.  Adopting the codename “Oracle”, Barbara became a hacker and information broker for the superhero community.  Her assistance is so invaluable that she was even asked to join the Justice League.  Moreover, even with her movement limited by her disability, Barbara is still a capable combatant and can still hold her own when needed.    


Charles Xavier eventually regained his ability to walk, but he is more identified as a cripple sitting on a wheelchair (so he’s qualified for this list).  Prof. X is so popular already that there’s no need to introduce him at length. 

He is an extremely powerful telepath; the range and application of his telepathy is probably unmatched in fiction.  The character is defined and driven by his dream – the so-called “Xavier’s dream” – of a world where mutants and humans are co-existing harmoniously together.  To bring this about, he knows that he needs to protect humanity from evil mutants as well as provide purpose and safety for the persecuted mutants (especially the young ones).  Hence, he created Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters and the X-Men to help him realize his dream.     


My most favorite disabled fictional character is Matt Murdock a.k.a. Daredevil a.k.a. “the Man Without Fear.”  He is, no doubt, the most iconic blind fictional character ever. 

He lost his eyesight when he saved the life of a blind man from being hit by a truck.  The truck was carrying toxic substances and some spilled on Matt, hitting his eyes, living him blind for life.  However, due to this same radioactive exposure, the potency of Matt’s other senses heightened toward superhuman levels.  Hence, he is extremely more sensitive and alert of his surroundings than other people.  After his father was killed by gangsters, Matt Murdock adopted the identity of Daredevil to avenge him and became a masked crimefighter.         

Though unable to see, Daredevil is compensated with a “radar sense” – which is kind of similar with bats’ echolocation – that allows him to sort of “see” his environment via sound vibrations.  Another interesting application of his abilities is using his superhearing as a lie detector while listening to the heartbeat of the one he’s interrogating.

Aside from his superpowers, Daredevil also trained to become proficient in many martial arts disciplines and be a very athletic acrobat.  

No comments: