I thought I’d share with you guys a kind of essay I put together a while ago concerning a popular fictional character. It’s being included as an appendage at the end of my upcoming book My Life A.S. Is: An Inside Look at Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome since it relates to a particular attitude I have about my condition.
In short, I recognize my autism as a part of what I’ve been given in this life, and I trust that God has a reason for that, but the temptation I can easily fall into is to make autism my identity, and minimize or disregard other aspects of my personality as if “autism” was the only thing you needed to know about me.
If you’d like to hear my story, stay tuned to my blog and I’ll be making an announcement when the book launches. In the meantime, here’s my essay.
The Wolverine Complex
Wolverine is a Marvel Comics superhero who is best known for his adamantium claws.
His alter-ego is Logan and he’s one of the X-Men. He’s probably the most popular
character in the whole Marvel universe next to Spider-Man.
I myself have been a fan of his from time to time—but something about him always bothered me. I noticed a recurring theme with this character that doesn’t add up. Whether in comics, movies, or TV, he’s always advertising. He’s always using his claws, even when he’s not fighting. He finds any and every excuse to bring his claws out, even in conversation. You can hardly talk to the guy without him bringing up his claws. It’s as if he’s afraid that if he doesn’t constantly remind you of their existence, you’ll forget he has them.
I wondered why this was, because Logan doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would need to do that. And then it hit me—identity.
Everyone needs an identity. Many of us don’t know ourselves well enough to say who we are, so we look for other sources of identity like our possessions, our relationships, or our occupations. Logan finds his identity in his claws. He feels that he needs his claws in order to be somebody, and without them he loses his sense of self.
This is actually quite common among superheroes, so I’m not singling him out. Wolverine, however, is unique in that he actually has multiple powers. Nonetheless, he only talks about the one.
The adamantium claws were forced upon him in a horrible, unnatural, and excruciating experiment. Most people don’t realize that he also has a super-human sense of smell, extreme stamina to the point that he’s never fatigued, and perhaps most importantly, instantaneous healing—gifts he’s had since before he can remember. But he never talks about them. There is a debate as to whether he had claws of bone before the experiment, and then had them coated in adamantium, but whenever he talks about his claws he is specifically proud of the unnatural steel.
All he wants to be known for is the adamantium claws. And if you ask people what his powers are, most of them will only talk about his claws. The majority aren’t even aware of his natural gift of healing!
Every other gift he was born with, a part of who he was naturally. The adamantium claws, however, were forced onto him by scientists. They’re unnatural. But Logan is unable to psychologically separate who he is naturally from what he has become through unnatural interference.
In summary, he’s more proud of the unnatural part of him than all of his other natural gifts combined, finding his identity in that alone. If that unnatural thing were ever taken away, he would sooner lose his identity completely than embrace his true power.
That is what I call the Wolverine Complex.