Kevin’s Comic Controversies, Part Two: Hooked on Comics Or ‘How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bottle’
*Author’s note- my family was? is? RIDDLED with this sort of thing, and my take on that may not be to your liking. We all cope in our own way. Mine often involves comics. And drinking. You’ve been warned.
Hooked on Comics
Or ‘How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bottle’
With the INCREDIBLY REAL dangers of four-color rainbow fentanyl now behind us, it seems like a good time to take a look at how some comics have addressed addiction. We’ll start with the social drinkers and move on to the bigger controversies. (I mean, you need a gateway drug, right?). People with a drinking problems often line up with some of the same situations in comics as in real life…um…I hear. What are they?
- They don’t want help.
- They don’t need help.
- They may not have help available when they realize they both want and need it because of how they’ve treated the people who addressed #s One and Two with them.
With that in mind, let’s look at some notable glass tippers:
Wolverine- Beer is Logan’s drink of choice. He’s often shown as the ‘fun’ drinker. He loves it so much it seems he’d qualify as a nominee for the Supreme Court. Many a Chris Claremont issue of the X-Men had him requesting a brew or two. His healing factor keeps him from being hung over. This allows him the beer drinker’s dream- bottomless intake and zero consequences in the morning. He CAN get drunk though, and absolutely sees alcohol as a solution. Is he an alcoholic though? Difficult to say. Prominent drinking issues include the majority of Claremont’s run on Uncanny where he had down time or a lesson to teach. I give him 1/5 Mugs.
Renee Montoya- Renee is one of Gotham City’s finest. That means she’s seen some stuff. Imagine you’re a regular cop working in a city where there is a percentage of people who die each year because a sad man with a wife in a tube owns a freeze gun. Renee is an up-front drinker. She knows what she likes, and she knows which bars or homes to go to get it. She does have enough insight to know that she’s not solving anything by drinking, so that’s something. This is really a permanent condition with Renee so if you find a comic with her you’re likely to find her with a drink after work. I give her 2/5 Mugs.
Carol Danvers- Carol is the kind of drinker who thinks no one sees them drinking, but they all do, and once you know it’s a condition to look out for, you see it everywhere. From her time in the Avengers, to her time quitting the Avengers because ‘YOU CAN’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO I’M FINE!’, her times all seemed to line up with a glass in her hand. She can get drunk, does not possess a healing factor, and absolutely had a bottom to hit beyond the one in the bottle she was pouring. She does end up getting on the straight and narrow with the help of another prominent Marvel alcoholic. We’ll get to him in a minute. Key issues include Avengers Annual #10, Avengers #4-7 (1998), the spectacular Quicksilver #10 (which must be read to be believed), and Invincible Iron Man v2 #14. She gets 3/5 Mugs.
Jessica Jones- Jessica is a super drinker. Super publicly, in Super quantities, while quietly Super powered. She uses alcohol to both mask and stomp on her feelings of inadequacy. Once she was on the path to being an Avenger. She then found herself on the path to the gutter. Fully reformed and a responsible mother, we can’t show her at her worst because she’s got some salty language at the best of times. Please enjoy these three safe panels. Prominent drinking issues include pretty much the whole run of her first book, Alias. She gets 4/5 mugs.
Tony Stark- Raise a glass to the man of the hour! Tony is the best drinker in comics. For all appearances, he seems cool and quippy and fun and, um, blippy. Sure, we’ll go with blippy. Those appearances are mostly in his head, as his drinking has never had an upside for him. From the outside, Tony had been drinking long enough that he had a cheering section when he’d skip just a single drink. His reality was so badly impacted that Rhodey (James Rhodes) had to take over as Iron Man a full year before Tony bottomed out.
A note to everyone out there, if you trade your winter coat in a snowstorm for a bottle of booze, you’ve got a problem. Tony is the first Marvel hero to end up in AA, and is even Carol Danvers’ sponsor now. Great to see him on the up and up! Key ‘cocktails with consequences’ issues include #128, 169, 170, and 182. He gets 5/5 Mugs.
(Ultimate Iron Man is another story, and we’ll let him finish his visit to the White House, Millar style.)
So, you’ve had a couple, and you start to wonder “Hey! Is there a way I can move more quickly closer to death?” There is, but you’ll have to flout the Comics Code Authority for one of those two major visits. In the 70’s, you were unlikely to be able to have a serious story get past the code, and addiction was no exception, until it wasn’t, ONE MONTH after it was. It didn’t matter if it was portrayed in a positive light (it never was) or a negative one (it always was), the CCA was there to make sure the kids were alright. Children can be ruined just by learning about the horrible nature of hard drugs (and vampires) you know, but there was a man who didn’t care, and that man was named Stan. In Amazing Spider-Man #96-98, Marvel did the unthinkable and published without going thru the CCA for approval.
Harry Osborn (friend to Peter Parker, part time Green Goblin) found himself needing solace from a dismissal by Mary Jane in the dating department. Because Harry is so very strong willed and from sound genetic stock, he decided the best way to deal with this was to start taking narcotics. So good at pill popping was he that he found himself well below the bottom of a bottle and fully over dosed. Now at the time, Norman Osborn (THE Green Goblin, accept no substitutes) was fully unaware that his son was dipping into drugs. These issues actually contain an important Spidey/GG story in addition to the ‘B’ or ‘D’ elements. Gobby is shocked back to some version of mental health when Spider-Man manages to get their fight in front of Harry upper story hospital room, where it turns out the secret ingredient actually IS love.
Please do not try and get Elon Musk on a glider by the window of your loved ones in recovery. This was a one-time success story.
Harry would continue to have mental health issues, but major drug use never ‘popped’ back up as an issue for him. I give him 5 Pills, and tell him to call me in the morning.
And then there was one-the most famous user in all of comics. SPEEDY! Green Arrow’s ward (they all had them back then) was caught by both Ollie and Hal using his arm for target practice, for a shooting gallery, you make your own up, they’re fun! Somehow, maybe because they were ‘ATTACKING YOUTHS’ GREATEST PROBLEM… DRUGS!’, DC got these issues past the CCA with their approval. Shocking. Someone must have been on something to let that happen. (Interesting that these issues were published the next month after the ASM story ended.) Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams present a terrific two issue yarn about Ollie investigating how thugs have been shooting him with his own arrows. Long story short, you CAN trade arrows for needles, and he is shocked to find Roy Harper has been making Speedy deliveries of heroin straight to his veins.
The belief in addiction/recovery being a matter of sheer willpower was still on display, as Roy simply stops taking heroin because it’s just that easy. We’ve certainly come a long way since then, but these were terribly progressive for their time. These were issues #85,86 of Green Lantern/Green Arrow, and they’ll cost you a pretty penny. I’d recommend the oversized ‘Hard Traveling Heroes’ hardcover for the best way to read them. Speedy gets 5 Syringes and a bonus shot of Naloxone for good measure.
So there you have it. These are some of the notable users and abusers in comics. Didn’t have your favorite one covered? Angered that we were too chicken to mention Starfox is addicted to love? In an uproar that there was no coverage of Typeface being hooked on phonics? Well, they’re still not happening. This is already a bit too long, and there’s only so much room. Maybe you can just relax…and have a drink.