The Marvel Universe is growing, and the company’s latest title “Darkhawk” features a titular hero living with multiple sclerosis (MS).
Fans of Marvel’s “Darkhawk” may be aware that the original hero’s journey ended in April in “Darkhawk: Heart of the Hawk,” in which the hero’s alter ego Chris Powell dies. Darkhawk first debuted in his own series in 1991, following the adventures of a 17-year-old Powell who finds an alien amulet that lets him harness a super-powered, armored mechanoid body. That series ran through 1995, after which Darkhawk has made cameos in various Marvel titles over the years. Following the original Darkhawk’s final battle in “Heart of the Hawk,” it was unclear whether Marvel would put the character to rest or revive it.
Marvel has answered the question, announcing a reboot of the “Darkhawk” series, with the first issue dropping on Aug. 25. This time around, the hero’s alter ego is a high-school senior named Connor Young who plans to attend college on a basketball scholarship. Those plans are upended by an MS diagnosis — following Young experiencing common MS symptoms including headaches, vertigo, and mobility challenges. With his future in question, Connor happens upon an alien amulet, granting him access to the armored android body that transforms him into Darkhawk.
Kyle Higgins, the writer behind the new version of the “Darkhawk” series, said it was important to him to authentically represent people with MS on the pages. To ensure he met that goal, he sat down with people who live with MS to get the character just right.
In a conversation with artist Brooke Pelczynski, who has MS, the pair touched on a few topics related to the condition. Pelczynski said her overarching excitement about the new Darkhawk involved seeing MS portrayed realistically and more broadly. “It’s very, very cool to see MS in the mainstream where it’s not portrayed as some super-debilitating disease,” Pelczynski told Higgins. “Because I watch television, and a character will come in with MS and they’ll have a wheelchair. And they’ll have a caregiver. And they’ll be very ill looking. And that is OK, because I do understand that down the line with MS, people do become very ill looking. And I do understand that with some people, that’s just the hand they’re dealt. But that’s not everybody with MS.”