Sometimes, having a disability can be hard. Believe me, as someone with a disability of my own, I KNOW it can be hard! Society will often look past the person that you are and just see you for the disability that you have, and some people will often focus on what you can't do rather than what you can do in spite of that disability. But then you have the media in where they'll show you that being disabled doesn't stop you from being able to do incredible things. These are the kinds of characters that we all love for their ability to kick ass and take names in spite of their disabilities. Missing a limb? Hardly slows them down. They're blind? Who needs eyes when you can beat people up without needing to see! They have some kind of mental problem? They only look that much stronger when they don't let their mind play tricks on them.
In honour of disabled people everywhere, this is a countdown where the handicapped turn said handicaps into strengths and don't let their problems stop them from being as awesome as they are, making them role models for disabled people the world over. I am the Media Man and these are my Top 10 Badass Disabled Characters...
Number 10: Oracle from the DC Universe
Ah Barbara Gordon...why did DC treat you the way it did? Crippling you for the sole means of shocking the audience and being used as a prop by The Joker as part of his plan to drive Commissioner Gordon mad. And yet despite being crippled by The Joker, that didn't keep her down. If anything, it just made her MORE awesome. XD
For those who may not know, Barbara Gordon was once the superheroine Batgirl in the DC Universe and often aided Batman and Robin in their crime-fighting capers. Unfortunately, a crippling shot at the hands of The Joker left her unable to walk anymore and thus her time as Batgirl had to be cut short. Did that stop her from being an awesome superheroine? Like hell it didn't! Barbara may not have been able to fight physically anymore, but as anyone can tell you, a superhero's greatest power isn't their superpowers or their ability to fight, but their brain power. Barbara is a computer expert and has an intellect that few others have matched. Adopting the name "Oracle", Barbara would use her skills in hacking and computer science to aid superheroes everywhere and keep villains on their toes. She's SO good at it that most people who encounter Oracle outright mistake her for an A.I., unaware that she's actually human! In fact, it was Barbara herself who once founded the Birds of Prey, a team of superheroines consisting of herself, Huntress and Black Canary. Even if Black Canary and Huntress had to do all the heavy lifting, Barbara was always helping them from behind the scenes as the team leader, proving that she didn't have to be out on the field in order to help them. And if she ever needs to fight, she's actually kept her upper body strength up just in case. So yeah, confined to a wheelchair and she becomes the leader of an ass-kicking team and becomes one of the best computer hackers in the DC Universe. If that's not awesome, then I'm Detective Chimp! XD
This portrayal carries over to other DC media where her handicap doesn't slow her down much. One example that comes to mind is Batman: Arkham Knight. While yes, she does get kidnapped there and is used to try and drive Batman off the deep end, she does get an awesome moment where she causes the Arkham Knight to crash and in spite of her being unable to use her legs, she manages to crawl away from the wreckage and throw something away for Batman to find so she can track her and the Knight down later on. When you consider the Arkham Knight is Jason Todd, a former Robin who was trained by Batman himself and Barbara was at least able to momentarily get the drop on him like that, you have to admit that's really impressive.
As cool as this sounds, I'm putting Barbara at the bottom of the list because of the fact in recent years, she has regained her ability to walk and is no longer disabled. Some fans like this, some fans don't as they feel it takes away one of the few examples of a handicapped superhero and it might come off as insulting to those who can't just "fix" their disabilities.
Still, whether she can walk or not, Oracle is an awesome superheroine regardless and proof that you don't need legs to be able to save the day in the DC Universe...
Number 9: Bumblebee from Transformers
It's funny being a Transformers fan in this day and age considering some of us are old enough to remember a time when Bumblebee wasn't everywhere and wasn't hogging the spotlight all the time. Yeah, remember when Optimus Prime used to be the main character in Transformers? I do too. Good times. My snark aside though, I think I can see why Bumblebee is as popular as he is nowadays. True it's his large appeal to kids, but I think the way the Michael Bay movies reinvented the character could also be another reason.
Before 2007 came and changed everything, Bumblebee used to be able to talk and didn't have any disabilities at all. But then Michael Bay gave us his first Transformers movie and now most interpretations of Bumblebee in this day and age follow that film's depiction of the character by making him mute, or at least able to communicate through other means like his car radio. Despite being unable to talk in continuities such as the Michael Bay movies, his own movie or Transformers Prime and also generally suffering from being rather small in height (though that's not really a disability as he isn't small because of a disability, he's just built that way), Bumblebee remains one of the most badass Autobots in the franchise's history. His small size hasn't stopped him from going toe-to-toe against some of the biggest and most powerful Decepticons in Transformers history. In the movies alone, he's been able to win fights against Barricade, Rampage and even Soundwave, one of Megatron's right-hand men and one of the deadliest Decepticons ever so yeah, being able to beat HIM in a fight is naturally a big deal. And then we have Bumblebee where he manages to survive against and even destroy Blitzwing, Dropkick and Shatter thanks to being quick-thinking and resourceful on the battlefield by using the environment to his advantage to gain the upper-hand against these much stronger and larger opponents.
But Transformers Prime tops it all in terms of Bumblebee being a badass by having him prove himself consistently capable on the battlefield and able to take names whenever he can. His crowning moment of awesome comes in the finale when he manages to kill Megatron by ramming the Star Saber through his torso. Let me repeat that:
If that's not an incredible achievement, then I don't know what is!
I imagine a lot of people who are probably mute or short in height find Bumblebee inspirational as a result and feel that they can be awesome like Bumblebee is. This little Autobot is proof that you don't need to say a word in order to be awesome.
Number 8: Hiccup and Toothless from How To Train Your Dragon
For this entry, we have a badass disabled duo, and probably two of the most iconic disabled characters of the modern era too.
Hiccup and Toothless are the stars of DreamWorks Animation's highly successful and beloved How To Train Your Dragon franchise and needless to say, the two go through a lot together over the course of the trilogy while also having some kind of handicap to work around. We have Toothless, a powerful Night Fury who struggles to fly properly thanks to losing a fin on the left side of his tail at the hands of one of Hiccup's devices that he used to successfully bring him down in the first movie. As a result, Hiccup helps him work around that handicap by giving Toothless a prosthetic fin that he's able to operate when riding on him and the fin is able to help Toothless fly again without crashing down to the ground. At the end of the movie, Hiccup loses a leg after the battle against the Red Death, which pretty much puts him and Toothless on equal grounds as both of them have lost a part of them that they now have to live with. And much like how Hiccup made the prosthetic fin for Toothless, he makes adjustments to his prosthetic leg to make it more to his needs and is able to adapt his dragon-flying and building skills around his fake limb.
These two are inspiring examples on how your disabilities shouldn't pull you down or stop you being able to do what you can and love to do. They're missing parts of their bodies and yet that didn't stop them from being able to carry on as they are and kick major ass all throughout the movies. Together, they defeat the Red Death, Drago Bludvist and his Bewilderbeast and Grimmel and his gang of Dragon Hunters all by the end of the trilogy and while I haven't seen the HTTYD Riders of Berk show, I'm willing to bet they had some incredible achievements there too. It says a lot when these two have become such a powerful team that defends the Island of Berk from any and all threats coming their way despite having to work with prosthetic limbs and it doesn't hinder their battle prowess in any way (though Toothless's fin being damaged can be trouble so they always have to look out for that).
Hiccup and Toothless. When it comes to badass disabled characters, we all could do with more of...this.
Hiccup: "You just gestured to all of me!"
Number 7: Quasimodo from Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Let's face it, Disney doesn't have a lot of disability rep in their movies, does it? If I asked you to name any disabled Disney characters, I bet the list would most likely begin with Quasimodo and then you'd struggle to list more than a couple of other examples outside of him. Now this isn't me begging for more disability rep in Disney movies, this is just an example of how unique Quasimodo is as a Disney protagonist with that in mind.
For those who have seen The Hunchback of Notre Dame or even read the original Victor Hugo novel, Quasimodo is...well, the titular hunchback and his disability speaks for itself. Hell, his name LITERALLY means "half-formed" as if Frollo just wanted to rub it in his face that he's deformed! Nice guy, am I right? (sarcasm) Anyway, Quasimodo may be deformed, but that doesn't hinder him as much as one may think. Throughout the movie, we're treated to many, many, MANY examples of his great talents in spite of his handicap. He's insanely strong (and by insanely, I mean he can hoist Phoebus off the floor with one arm and break freaking chains!), he's astonishingly acrobatic as Esmeralda so keenly notices when he helps her escape the cathedral, he's a fabulously talented wood carver as we see with his handmade wooden replica of Notre Dame Cathedral and its surroundings and he's also able to make accurate wood carvings of people even when he hasn't known them for long (like Esmeralda) and of course, he has one hell of a singing voice too. Honestly, I'd argue Quasimodo is capable of doing more things as he is now than most able-bodied people are!
After being raised by Frollo for 20 years, Quasimodo is taught to be ashamed of his appearance and that he needs to stay shut away from the world for his own sake as the world outside shows little pity for the deformed and the ugly. Yet when he meets Esmeralda, the first person other than his gargoyle friends who treats him like a person and not like a monster, he comes to see that he has nothing to be ashamed of and that it's not what's outside, but inside that makes the difference between monster and man, which makes him a perfect contrast to Frollo. Frollo is able-bodied and more "normal looking" yet he's the cruellest character in the movie while the deformed Quasimodo is far nicer and sweeter in nature. It's a great lesson in how not only should disabled people be applauded in their achievements in what they can do in spite of their handicap, but also that we shouldn't judge by outward appearances.
Quasimodo. He truly went out there to show that being deformed doesn't stop you from being awesome in your own way.
Number 6: Edalyn "Eda" Clawthorne from The Owl House
Funny we move from one Disney character to another, though this time we have one of their TV characters in the form of Edalyn Clawthorne, or "Eda" for short.
Also known as "The Owl Lady", Eda is the self-proclaimed "Best witch in all the Boiling Isles" and she can back it up too! With no ties to any covens, Eda is able to use any magic she wishes with no side-effects and as a result, is able to routinely kick ass whenever the situation calls for it. We even see that for ourselves when she's effortlessly able to keep up with and even stay on top of her sister Lilith. When she said that she's better than Lilith, she's not bluffing! She's constantly been on the run from the Emperor's Coven and hasn't been caught by his guards due to being as powerful and as cunning as she is. Yet she has only one thing holding her back...the curse. As we learn in the episode "The Intruder", Eda suffers from a curse that will turn her into a monstrous Owl Beast unless she drinks enough elixir to hold it back and as time goes on, the elixir starts becoming less effective in stopping the beast from coming out. Lilith even exploits this weakness of her's and that leads to her finally being captured for the Emperor's Coven and a series of events leads to Luz saving Eda and Lilith from being petrified into stone but as a result, Lilith shares Eda's curse and now Eda is left unable to use magic anymore. This really becomes a problem for Eda for around Season 2, she becomes shunned by the other citizens of the Isles for not being able to use magic, which I imagine some may relate to as there are people out there who were once really skilled at what they could do only to lose it all when something happens that cripples them and leaves them unable to do what they could do before.
These disabilities may seem like a big deal that would hold anyone back and as mentioned, she starts becoming shunned because of her inability to use magic anymore. But come Season 2, Eda has been working around her handicaps. With help from Luz, she's been learning glyph magic so she can use magic again in some way and with "Knock, Knock, Knockin' on Hooty's Door", Eda comes to learn not to fight the Owl Beast, but to embrace it and let it be a part of her instead. This results in her gaining a more powerful harpy form that she can use to great effect while also maintaining her sentience so she's no longer a savage beast when the curse happens. In the end, she's turned her curse into a blessing and this I imagine will be inspirational to many disabled people out there as it shows you shouldn't let your disabilities get you down and that there are ways to work around them and make them work for you or at least make living life easier. All this plus the fact Eda is not only looking after King, but is also pretty much acting as Luz's second mother while she's in the Boiling Isles while also juggling all that is pretty admirable and a testament to what a strong, hard-working woman Eda truly is.
Eda the Owl Lady: proof that even without magic, she is one awesome witch.
Number 5: Jessica Cruz from the DC Universe
I imagine most casual superhero fans still haven't heard of this character as she's a relatively new addition to the DC Universe, first appearing proper in 2014. Yet it didn't take long for her to start growing in popularity and start appearing in other medias outside of comics such as DC Superhero Girls and Justice League vs. The Fatal Five. I imagine a lot of her popularity and a lot of interest in the character is down to what a role model she's become for not just those who look up to superheroes generally for what they represent, but for those living with a phobia.
What made Jessica such an endearing and interesting character for me, and likely many others too, is that she's not like your typical superhero. She suffers from extreme agoraphobia, generally a fear of going outdoors, and is prone to panic attacks on occasion as a result of this phobia. We even see in the Justice League vs. The Fatal Five movie that she struggles to even leave her apartment to go about her day and has to practice deep-breathing to herself in front of the mirror. Now imagine having that kind of fear while BEING A MEMBER OF THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS! You know, the kind of superhero space police organization that requires you to fly through space and stop intergalactic crimes amongst the stars?! You can't get more outdoors than that and yet despite having this really big phobia, Jessica is still accepted and made a member of the corps because even someone like her can be full of great willpower! I think that really says a lot about how much braver she is than she thinks she may be when she's able to be a member of the Green Lantern corps and achieve great things like Hal, John and Kyle before her despite her anxieties. She's even been able to go up against the Red Lanterns alongside her partner-in-combat, Simon Baz, and pull through in spite of the threat they pose.
Jessica really is unlike any other superhero because not many superheroes actually have a disability like this (if they have any at all). If I asked you to name a superhero character with a phobia, I imagine you'd only be able to list Hawkgirl's claustrophobia from the Justice League cartoon and that's about it. This in turn made Jessica such a unique superhero and also shows another way that people can be "super". I mean being able to kick ass and take names despite suffering from agoraphobia and having anxieties to deal with, that's pretty damn super to me. I also related to her when reading her comics as around that time, I was suffering from my own anxieties back in the 2010s. Due to a fear of change, the unknown, changes to my body and moving to adulthood, I would frequently get panic attacks and worry that something was happening to me and I was done for. To read about a superhero that also suffered from anxiety...it really spoke to me and I just couldn't help but love Jessica as a result. She came in at the right time and helped me through my anxieties alongside other people who helped me through those tough times.
Jessica Cruz: If any Green Lantern is the perfect example of sheer willpower, it's easily her.
Number 4: General Amaya from The Dragon Prince
You know you're awesome when you're the general of an army and the fact you're deaf doesn't hinder your battle prowess in any way.
For those who haven't seen The Dragon Prince, General Amaya is in charge of the Standing Battalion, one of the strongest armies in Katolis and is also the younger sister of the late Queen Sarai and the aunt of our two young protagonists, Callum and Ezran. As mentioned earlier, she is deaf and communicates in sign language with her ever helpful translator, Gren, beside her. One would think being unable to hear would be an issue here, but General Amaya is such a badass that being deaf barely seems to be an inconvenience to her. When yo uconsider she's a GENERAL in spite of her handicap, that already speaks volumes about how incredible she is. Heck, in her first appearance in the show, she soundly and effortlessly defeats Rayla, and we already know that she's a skilled Moonshadow Elf assassin (that hasn't actually killed anyone) so the fact this army general who can't hear a thing manages to defeat her already shows how friggin' awesome she is! If it wasn't for the fact she thought Rayla was responsible for the disappearance of her nephews, she could've even killed her in the end.
Not only is she so far the only non-mage human character to win a fight against Rayla, but she also manages to hold her own decently against the Sunfire Elves before eventually being captured and even when in their custody, she's not afraid to snark at them whenever she can, particularly when she tells Janai about "an unusual way in which her body might accommodate her sword" if you catch my meaning. She's also not afraid to call Viren out on his crap either despite Viren being as dangerous as he can be. I'd say that's pretty awesome if you're able to throw shade at people despite either being in a perilous situation or the person in question is not to be taken lightly in any way. Also to further emphasize what a badass she is, General Amaya is a human. A perfectly ordinary human with no magic powers or enhanced abilities armed with only a giant shield, a sword and her fists. And yet she's able to fight on an even level with actual powerful beings like Moonshadow and Sunfire Elves. Being that kind of strong in a world full of elves, dragons and other mystical creatures really says a lot about how badass you are.
General Amaya. She doesn't need hearing to know how awesome she is.
Number 3: Daredevil from the Marvel Universe
When you think of disabled superheroes, who's usually the first person to come to mind? Chances are it's Daredevil, and for good reason! He's friggin' badass despite being blind!
Marvel has a few disabled superheroes with the fist example obviously being Professor X from The X-Men and just recently, they've given us Moon Knight, a show about a man with Dissociative Identity Disorder. But for me, I felt Daredevil deserved to be on the list above all others due to the fact he's probably one of the most iconic disabled superheroes ever and the fact his feats are more impressive when you take his disability into account. Thanks to a freak accident that happened to him as a child, Matt Murdock is completely blind and yet, that hasn't stopped him from becoming two big things in his life. First of all, he's a lawyer and a damn competent one at that. Thanks to his other senses being increased to compensate for the loss of his eyes, he's able to hear people's heartbeats to tell if they're lying or not which makes it easy for him to bust criminals in a court of law. Being a lawyer while blind is already impressive in its own right, but then you take in the second thing be became in life. With mentoring from a cantankerous and morally unjust man named Stick, Daredevil has become one of the Marvel Universe's most capable fighters and is able to hold his own against some of New York's worst criminals you can think of, especially The Kingpin who is just as much Daredevil's enemy as he is Spider-Man's.
When you take into account that Daredevil is not only a great lawyer, but also a great superhero, it really is inspiring and incredible to think that even without being able to see, he is capable of doing all this awesome stuff. Being able to take on The Kingpin and actually BEAT him is especially no easy feat considering that guy's as strong as an enraged gorilla! It's also very much like real life in where some people can be amazingly good at certain things despite being blind. If Daredevil can be awesome without needing to see, then you can as well and I think it's why he's such an iconic character for many. Blind yet as badass as character like Captain America, Thor or Spider-Man, it's no wonder Daredevil has become such a fan-favourite. It also helps he has his awesome Netflix show that really made him a complete badass and gave us one of his most epic depictions in all of media.
Daredevil: Even the blind can see that this guy is just plain badass.
Number 2: Toph Beifong from Avatar: The Last Airbender
Avatar is awesome, and Toph is one of the many awesome things that came out of the show. So why is she so awesome? Let's dive in...
Once again, we have another blind character on this list. So why is Toph higher than Daredevil? First of all, she's a lot younger than Daredevil, not even being a teen yet so her accomplishments feel more impressive compared to the adult Daredevil. I mean this is a kid who is completely blind and yet she's one of the strongest characters in the entire show. If that's not impressive to you than you frankly most be REALLY hard to please. Toph is an Earthbender, which gives her the ability to manipulate the earth to her will and do things with it like any other Earthbender can do. It's just Toph does all that while being unable to see, which of course puts her LEAGUES above all other Earthbenders in the show. I mean how do you top being an awesome Earthbender while being blind? If anything, Toph's disability makes her an even better Earthbender than the able-bodied ones because she has a stronger connection to the earth than the other Earthbenders and to make up for her lost sight, she relies on using her feet to "see" in a way. She can sense where people are through vibrations in the earth and thus always knows where they are when fighting them (unless she's on sandy ground or something like that) and she can even tell when people are lying (unless you're Azula and can lie flawlessly on a whim) because of this.
When we first see Toph in Season 2, she's the defending champion of the Earth Rumble tournament and as we watch in a hilarious few seconds, she defeats The Boulder and remains as the champion (until Aang unintentionally ends up beating her while trying to talk to her). After joining the Gaang, Toph goes on to be one of their most valuable assets due to her strength and skill in Earthbending and her seismic sense helping them find places or detect liars on more than one occasion. Some of her impressive feats include stopping the library from sinking in the sand so her friends can escape and also helping to slow down the giant drilling machine from digging through Ba Sing Se's protective outer wall. But of course, her most impressive feat is that she ends up inventing metal-bending while trying to escape a cage, and she succeeds on the first try no less. Yes, a blind twelve year old girl invented METAL-BENDING! And all because of her stronger connection to the earth as a result of her blindness! Who needs eyes when you can invent a whole new bending technique?! XD
Toph Beifong: She pulls her own weight and as a result, becomes one of the most badass handicapped characters around.
And the Number 1 Most Badass Disabled Character is....Cassandra Cain from the DC Universe
Who else was going to be Number 1 on this list? Let's be realistic here, who else deserves the top spot other than this asskicking assassin-turned-superheroine? It's no contest, Cassandra Cain deserves to be Number 1.
So why is this chick Number 1? A multitude of reasons. First of all, she was raised in "the language of violence" so to say. Her father, David Cain, never spoke to her and would only communicate with her through violent means. This method of raising her meant she is unable to read and has dyslexia as she was never taught to read and would have to be taught later in life how to. She also has mental disabilities, no doubt brought on by her horrific childhood, she has difficulty speaking and has a severe lack of social skills. Who can blame her when her father was as awful as David Cain was? And if you're watching Young Justice, she's straight-up mute in that show. So take all of this in while also acknowledging that she's ONE OF THE MOST CAPABLE MARTIAL ARTISTS IN THE DC UNIVERSE! How capable is she? She's the only fighter in the DC Universe who has been able to actually win a fight against Lady Shiva, who herself is the best martial artists in the DC Universe. Being able to defeat someone of that reputation, and her own mother no less, should already tell you how awesome this girl is. In fact, she's so skilled in battle that even Batman is no match for her, and we all know how much of a badass HE can be!
One of Cassandra's greatest strengths is that she can read body language, a skill her father taught her (and no doubt heavily regrets doing!) and as a result, she's able to anticipate people's movements and fight back accordingly. This is what makes her such a formidable fighter and a deadly combatant for many to go up against. She's also very fast and very strong to almost superhuman standards despite not being a metahuman and is even able to tank hits from bullets without flinching. As a result, Cassandra can hold her own against some of the best of the best in the DCU and all without being able to read well or speak very much. At her best, she tends to be near-unstoppable in combat and able to hold her own against large amounts of people at a time. Also take into account that this girl also took up the mantle of Batgirl for a time. Cass is such a badass that she once became the next Batgirl and naturally has proven herself one of the most competent people to wear the Batgirl costume in all the DC Universe.
But if you ask me what Cassandra's greatest strength is, it's the fact she is this trained assassin and knows multiple ways to kill people...yet ever since her first kill, she has made the vow never to kill again. Like with Batman, the mental restraint that one needs to not kill in spite of all the lethal martial arts skills you have at your disposal makes Cassandra one of the toughest people in all of superhero comics, not just physically but mentally too. I even found it rather beautiful and touching when I read that one comic that has Cassandra taking an interest in ballet. Trying to find something beautiful to do with her abilities in spite of being trained to kill is a great example of trying to find something good out of something bad and as I say, it was all really touching.
Skilled in combat, able to hold her own against the best of the best, able to do something good with her dangerous skills and all while never letting her disabilities define her or hold her back, it is no wonder as to why Cassandra Cain is the Number 1 Badass Disabled Character...
And that's all I've got for the Top 10 Badass Disabled Characters. I hope you enjoyed this countdown and I welcome you to share your thoughts in the comments below. Are there any badass disabled characters you love yourself and look up to and why? I'd love to hear it. And much like these characters, don't let your disabilities define you. Don't focus on what you can't do in spite of your handicaps, but what you CAN do instead. These guys can do it and achieve amazing things, and YOU can too!
Join me next week as I review an old Wacky Races game. See you then, media fans!
Cassandra Cain, Jessica Cruz and Barbara Gordon belong to DC Comics
Daredevil belongs to Marvel Comics
General Amaya belongs to Netflix
Toph Beifong belongs to Paramount Global
Quasimodo and Eda Clawthorne belong to Disney
Bumblebee belongs to Hasbro
Hiccup and Toothless belong to DreamWorks